How to feel better about aging by making some homemade pizza
As a teenager, I used to make fun of my grandmother for hiding tissues up her sleeve. Two days ago, I grabbed a tissue for future use and realized I had no pockets. I shoved the tissue up the sleeve of my sweater and suddenly realized that I had become my grandmother. It was a bittersweet revelation.
Lately I like to have tissues on hand. Correction, I NEED to have tissues on hand, because I frequently have a runny nose. A long history of allergies has made me tolerant of a variety of conditions. I am used to ignoring headaches and stuffiness and occasional sneezing, but a runny nose is something new for me. I decided to complain to my resident physician and get some free medical advice. I fully expected Dinner Table Doctor to tell me that I probably needed to switch allergy meds or get some kind of test, since there had to be something out of the ordinary going on with my runny nose.
Medical Advice and Pizza
DTD and I had some left-over ingredients in the fridge that we wanted to get rid of, and he had the great idea of a pizza-making date night. We were on our own since our daughter was working, so for us it was a chance to connect and catch up on the week’s events while making the dough, deciding on toppings, and selecting the perfect bottle of wine. I used our time together for a brief medical consultation regarding my runny nose, but certainly wasn’t thrilled with his expert medical opinion, which was basically a reminder that I’m aging.
Aging and Nasal Fluid
While we were rummaging through our fridge figuring out what toppings we would like on our pizzas, I was regaling him with tales of my runny nose and tissue dependency. I feel perfectly healthy otherwise. Due to the COVID situation, I am somewhat embarrassed every time I need to run for a tissue. I don’t want others fearing that I’m contagious, and I’m often wearing a mask, which makes a runny nose a bit of an issue.
DTD assured me that I am probably suffering from allergies or irritants, but also explained that a runny nose is a common problem as people age. (He was talking about people MUCH older than me, of course! Grandmas and great grandmas!) Surprisingly, a runny nose is not always a sign of allergies or infection. The condition could be something called vasomotor rhinitis, which is not caused by environmental irritants, sinus issues, allergies or any type of infection, although it can be made worse by all of these issues.
As we age, our bodies change, and the nose is no exception. Cartilage becomes weaker, and a nose droops a little. Aging seems to cause problems with control of the auto-immune nervous system. Nasal airflow is a little constricted, causing some people to develop a geriatric rhinitis. Often seniors have a runny nose when they eat any foods, kind of like when younger people eat something really spicy.
What Can I do About a Runny Nose?
No matter what your age, you should see your doctor for a long-term problem with a runny nose to rule out any other condition. You would be surprised at all of the things that can cause a runny nose – from common chemical exposure, to allergies, or even stress! Your doctor can help you figure out what the cause is and make a treatment plan. Prescription medicines may be necessary, or your doctor might recommend an over-the-counter drug. Keep in mind that overuse of a decongestant spray will make the issue worse.
In the meantime, when you are having a runny nose issue, wear long sleeves and tuck some tissues up there. Grandmas are wise.
How Pizza Can Help
MMM…pizza. Pizza helps solve most of life’s problems. This is NOT a DTD-approved statement but come on – it is SO true! Delicious dough topped with all manner of yumminess just seems right and makes me feel better, even if I have a runny nose and am facing the second half of my life. Actually, that’s all the more reason to indulge in a pizza night!
The Beauty of Making Your Own Pizza
Ordering pizza from your favorite restaurant is always a treat, but making your own pizza is a way to enjoy the company of others while you’re creating the perfect pie. This is an especially great date night, because the process is long, but not excruciatingly so. It’s also simple and probably a bit healthier than takeout.
DTD and I used the pizza dough recipe from the King Arthur flour website, kingarthurbaking.com. The title alone tells you exactly why I selected their recipe: The Easiest Pizza You’ll Ever Make
This recipe makes a terrific “do-it-yourself-party.” The simple dough requires only 6 basic ingredients. You provide plenty of toppings and grated cheese; your guests will have fun creating the perfect personal pizza. King Arthur’s instructions yield three or four 12″ pizzas (depending on how thick you like the crust). For a larger party, you can easily double or triple it. Mixing the dough takes less than 15 minutes, but you do need to let it rise for at least an hour. If you’re planning a party, you could do this ahead of time so the dough is ready when your guests arrive.
PREP: 15 mins BAKE: 15 to 20 mins TOTAL 2 hrs. YIELD up to four 12″ pizzas
- 2 cups (454g) water, lukewarm
- 1 tablespoon (11g) granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon (9g) active dry yeast or instant yeast, or 1 packet active dry yeast
- 1 tablespoon (18g) salt
- 2 tablespoons (25g) olive oil, optional
- 5 1/2 to 6 cups (660g to 720g) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour or King Arthur Pizza Flour Blend, enough to make a soft, smooth dough
- 2 tablespoons (12g) King Arthur Pizza Dough Flavor, optional
This dough recipe was quick and yielded four pizzas. We did not use the optional pizza dough flavoring. We never even heard of such a thing, and the pizzas were still great. We only let it rise for an hour, but we do have a proofing mode on our oven, so that speeds up the process. If you want to speed up the rising time, but don’t have a proofing mode, you could do it the old-fashioned way and set the bowl of dough on a low temperature heating pad.
The Upsides of Aging
During the time it took the dough to rise, DTD and I had a glass of wine and talked about my nose and how we are both aging gracefully. I enthusiastically embraced certain aspects of aging years ago. It all began when we attended a Halloween party. DTD went as Andy Griffith. He wore his old Navy khaki uniform, and I made him a sheriff’s badge. I went as Aunt Bea, in a house dress, gray wig, and my favorite sweater. I vividly remember all the other women in sexy costumes with high heels. They looked cold and uncomfortable to me. I wore cozy loafers and had a fantastic time happily dancing the night away. Right then and there I decided I was transitioning to old lady clothes, because they were the best. I never looked back.
Of course, the comfort side of aging is a whole lot easier to accept than the physical deterioration. But you must take the good along with the bad and try to see the upside. Roomy old-lady sweaters can fit a whole lot of tissues up those sleeves!
Pizza Makes Everything Better
After we waxed philosophical and DTD shared his wisdom, we set to rolling out our dough and loading on our toppings. We lightly brushed each pizza with olive oil, then added the following toppings:
- Ricotta cheese, sliced figs, and pancetta, which we precooked in our toaster oven
- Passata (uncooked tomato purée that has been strained of seeds and skins), mozzarella cheese and anchovies
- Sundried tomatoes in oil, chopped salami, and a variety of leftover chopped cheeses, including mozzarella, Swiss, and basket cheese.
- Mozzarella cheese, fresh parsley, artichoke hearts, and cherry tomatoes
The beauty of pizza night is in the unlimited possibilities. Picky eaters can select the exact toppings they prefer, avoiding any unusual ingredients. For the more adventurous eaters, the sky is the limit. Vegetarians and carnivores are equally satisfied with the pizza of their choice.
A healthy salad and a good bottle of wine makes pizza night perfection. We had a bottle of La Posta Pizzella. This malbec from Argentina is very reasonably priced at around $14 and is the perfect paring for a casual pizza night. It’s a beautiful dark red and is surprisingly complex. It’s a crowd pleaser, so you can confidently serve it to guests if you’re having a make-your-own pizza party.
Aging is Always Better than the Alternative
If you find yourself dealing with one of the many annoying aspects of aging lately, such as a frequently runny nose, try not to get too concerned. Definitely see your doctor if you are experiencing any new symptoms or if you are feeling anxious or depressed. Also, continue to remind yourself that everyone ages. We are all in the same boat. With time and luck, we develop more wisdom and eventually become as smart as a grandma. Now when I see someone with tissues up their sleeve, I immediately assume they are an enlightened soul.
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