“The road trip, on the old two-lane highways a journey of serendipity, whimsy, and the chance to see something new, does not happen on the interstate, whose culture of hurtling speed punctuated by rest stops served by national chains provides a comforting conformity” – ‘The Highway and the City’
City by City – Dispatches From the American Metropolis is a collection of essays edited by Keith Gessen and Stephen Squibb, and published by Farrar, Staruss and Giroux. Each piece deals with a specific American urban space or an aspect relating to cities, such as the above quotation from an essay about highways. The essays are varied in scope, reflecting the complex nature of American society and its relationship to urban spaces.
Often, the essays are by natives of the cities in question. Indeed, it is the personal stories woven within certain pieces that, I believe, constitute the strongest aspect of the collection. Many of the essays delve beneath the surface of the cityscape and examine issues relating to race, politics, the environment and wealth. Particular favourites included the portrayals of Dallas, Chicago, and Reading (which included a rather amusing if slightly uncomfortable scene in a piercing parlour).
City by City is certainly interesting. Its varied perspectives offer an insight into different aspects of American life. Unfortunately, it seems that though the idea behind it is a good one, the project’s scope becomes too vast for containment within a single collection of essays. I felt the book lacked coherence at times and although the point was, perhaps, to demonstrate just how complex the American metropolis can be, there were moments when I thought an overarching mission statement was lost on the reader.
I read City by City over a period of summer weeks when I finally decided to brave making pizza dough from scratch. I had avoided it because any process involving yeast seemed totally alien to me. It wasn’t half as frightening as I imagined and the pizza turned out quite delicious. Below is my mum’s recipe which she coaxed out of a Roman colleague.
Pizza (makes an oven-sized tin of pizza Margherita)
For the dough:
500g plain flour
5g fresh yeast
1 teaspoon plain yoghurt or honey
For the topping:
5 tablespoons tomato sauce (passata)
2 sliced mozzarellas
1 tablespoon origano
1. Mix the flour, salt and yeast that has been dissolved in some of the water.
2. Incorporate the rest of the water and yoghurt or honey.
3. Once all the ingredients are thoroughly mixed, leave the dough in the bowl, cover it with a damp cloth and leave on the bottom shelf of the fridge for 24 hours.
4. Once the 12-hour mark is reached, remove the dough from the fridge, knead it for a few minutes and replace it in the bowl covering it with the damp cloth. Leave it in the fridge for the remaining 12 hours.
5. Preheat the oven to 220ºC with the tin inside. Once the dough is ready, dust the work surface with flour and begin to stretch the dough to fit the warm tin. Be sure never to use a rolling pin for this process.
6. Place the tin of dough in the oven for five minutes then remove and add the toppings starting with the tomato sauce. Leave the olive oil for after the cooking process.
7. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes then remove and drizzle with olive oil before slicing and serving.