While staying at a Buddhist monastery recently, I was told that the Abbott (the head of the monastery) liked pizza. So I set about to learn how to make pizza during my month long visit there. Fortunately, I had access to a state-of-the-art kitchen and everything necessary to do this task: a pizza stone, a peel, a proofing box, a Kitchen Aid mixer and a commercial gas range that could get hot enough to make a crispy crust. Also in the kitchen were six 30-something aspiring monks who might be able to assist me.
I connected with one in particular, a handsome young lad named Artem, who had been at the monastery for several months. We decided to undertake this project together and since neither one of us had any prior pizza making experience, we developed a methodical joint approach. I researched and ordered different kinds of flour: pizza, bread, artisan, and several kinds of all purpose. We watched YouTube videos; one had 20 million views.
For our first try, we diligently followed the instructions on the back of the pizza flour bag: combine the ingredients, mix together lightly, and stick the dough in the fridge for 24 hours. The dough was like a rubber band that would always pull back no matter how far we stretched it. The result was a big lump. On our second try, we followed the instructions in the YouTube video. We made two different pizzas exactly as instructed, but the result was a far cry from the perfect pizza. Oh-oh, another big, thick wad. Darn! Where on earth did we do wrong even though we tried our best and followed the instructions?
My time at the monastery was up and I was quite disappointed that I was unable to make perfect pizza for the Abbott. On my way home, I reflected on the experience. Our desired outcome did not happen but the journey along the way was immensely gratifying. We had so much laugher and fun playing with the dough. Here we were, confident that we would reach our goal of making a perfect pizza and then – we didn’t. On the surface, it seemed that our best efforts failed. But did they?
On the way out, I said goodbye to the Abbot. I told him that I gave pizza making my best shot, but failed, and I tried to explain why. He invited me back and underneath a very kind and gentle smile said “I’ll give you a second chance on the pizza”. Even though the end result was not a perfect pizza, the sharing of joy, heart, and connection with others was splendid. What could be better?