Eight years into motherhood, I like to think that I’ve hit my stride. I’m not a perfect mother, but most days my family staggers through its routine without collapsing. Then as inevitable as laundry, I trip and fall – often taking my family with me. The most recent pothole in my path – gluten-free pizza.
Gluten-free pizza became my nemesis on a day that seemed ordinary until dinner. I put chicken in the crockpot late in the afternoon. At 5:30 it was time to roast vegetables. I opened a package of cut butternut squash and discovered that it had welcomed a new friend into its package–mold.
Since mold isn’t on the list of foods my daughters will actually eat, I threw it and the squash away. We couldn’t have a dinner of just chicken, so what to do? Plan B was to serve focaccia bread and broccoli as sides. I pulled both from the freezer and then piled the kids into the car and did a few errands.
I came home 30 minutes later expecting the chicken to be done and to quickly toast the bread and steam the broccoli. Lady Luck was mad at me. The chicken, which is always done in three hours, wasn’t cooked. Hmm. . . onto plan C.
After much digging I found an ancient frozen gluten-free pizza crust in the freezer. I spied a dusty jar of pizza sauce in the back of the pantry and there was mozzarella in the refrigerator. A few minutes later I placed a technically-edible pizza into the oven.
I discovered the true disaster of the evening when I opened the oven to check on our gourmet dinner. The pizza crust had crumbled and spilled mozzarella and sauce onto the bottom of the hot oven. Smoke billowed out of the oven and transformed the kitchen into a 90s nightclub. Not wanting to revisit my past, I quickly pulled the rack from the oven and watched the remaining pizza crumble onto the counter.
It really is a mystery why gluten-free bread products get a bad rap.
By that time my husband was in the kitchen trying to help. He put the oven on self-clean, which produced even more smoke. While my husband and I coughed and uttered muffled curses, my daughters came to investigate. They thought that the smoke was super interesting.
My night was deteriorating rapidly, but the girls’ night was on the upswing. They were thrilled to learn that they were going on an impromptu nighttime walk.
They spent the next 45 minutes walking around the neighborhood in their pjs with their mom waiting for the smoke to clear. Not to be deterred by the fact that our house was uninhabitable, we pretended that we were ghosts (or campers, depending on which girl was calling the shots at the moment) as we wandered through the night.
Eventually, we were able to enter the house without risking lung cancer. As they went to bed, the girls asked me if we could do this all again tomorrow.
I went to bed that night sure of two things. I had just been flattened by a ball of dough and that the next day I would dust myself off and once again try not trip. Because that is what mothers do.
Aloise Bozell Vansant is a writer, recovering attorney, and mother of two.