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With the exception of the flour all the ingredients are laid out on the table with measured precision, the warm water at just the right temperature to wake the yeast and begin Mickey’s delectable artistry.
As if he could feel them coming to life in the large stainless bowl the young baker now adds to their growth the water and oil, giving the microorganisms a couple of seconds to react before sprinkling atop them the natural Italian spices, which also come to life upon hitting the slick texture of the canola oil. This whole process is one of timing and layering, a few more seconds before taking his handful of flour and powdering it in equally, using his other hand to gently stir with a baking spoon.
The more the concoction thickens the more Mickey works the spoon, the ingredients pushing, pulling, getting to know each other through this sticky phase until enough flour has been showered in to where all of the ingredients are now working together not against each other, at this point Mickey only using his hands to knead…
Dust with flour…
Dust with flour…
Now it is time to put them to sleep, to allow all the ingredients to really become one. He seals the stainless steel bowl with plastic wrap before blanketing it with a thin kitchen towel, placing it in the unheated oven for an hour so the dough not only has time to rise, but also become acquainted with its host and vice versa, for each batch of dough, just like each oven, is a unique entity and therefore should be respected as such.
Mickey uses this time to prepare his filling, chicken curry. It is one of nine signature fillings he has mastered so far, this latest being a result of today’s mission. Potatoes, bell peppers, and more spices to arouse, they mingle, they simmer, until they are ready to meet their counterpart, signaling it’s time to preheat the oven.
Still about layering and timing, for it is always about such technique, Mickey uses the next few minutes of the curry cooling down to wake up what has now become full-fledged dough. He starts off with flouring his hands, then scooping up a handful and peppering it down before smoothing it out over his tabletop. Next is to flour his rolling pin before unsealing the stainless steel bowl and flipping it over to where the blob of dough, now double its size, is ready for the next transformation.
Until the texture tells Mickey’s hands perfection has been reached. Now time to flatten it out, each push accompanied with an exhale, each pull in alignment with an inhale, the Yin, the Yang, he becoming it, it becoming him.
Instinct tells Mickey when just the right thickness has been achieved, he now replacing the rolling pin with a knife and with fluid movements cuts the dough into perfect circles, each the size of his outstretched hand.
Like the wind his movements are fluid, uninterrupted, one going into the other as he now spoons in the chicken curry filling onto each disc of dough.
On to assembling, this is where speed is at its most important, bringing up the other half of the circle of dough to enclose it into the pocket it’s meant to be, using the tines of a fork to seal the ends together.
Mickey moves on to the excess dough, once again making quick use of the knife this time to carve out twelve miniature Shurikens, placing one atop each of the dozen calzones before piercing its center with a toothpick. This not only completes the look of the tiny throwing star, but adds ventilation to the pocket food as well.
Pocket food; what calzone was originally intended to be. Other than the over-eating culture the modern world has adapted, Mickey couldn’t understand why most restaurants out there misinterpreted this specialty food from Naples, making it as big as a small duffel bag when the name itself translates to pocket trouser, as in fitting in one’s pocket. Just one of many issues he had with how the world had come to butcher his favorite food. But then again, their ignorance was his gain, their inability to even realize that the outside should be just as good as the inside the reason why Mickey had the opportunity he was heading for today.
Nearly ready to slide his prized pockets into the oven Mickey strokes a brush of egg wash over each of them before adding his last touch, sprinkles of garlic salt. In they go until golden brown, the relationship he has with his trusted oven allowing him to dress with ease into a sharp and slick look, as the magic to his future bakes with perfection.
The building is a modern-day palace, not only a skyscraper but a link to the heavens above. The first couple of floors inhabited by luxury brands, the next ninety-eight stories are home to some of the richest people in the world. And then there’s the penthouse, the crown, high enough to see angels and maybe even the pearly gates.
With his insulated bag Mikey is escorted via the long elevator ride to the top, going over in his head what he has practiced countless times leading up to this point. The pitch that will not only decide his future, but his strongest of desires as well. It hadn’t been easy to track down the man who owned this building, his schedule almost as secretive as his personal life. But that’s just what Mickey had stumbled upon a few months back, believing he was trying to get the attention of the man himself when running down the chauffeured limousine and pelting its back window with pleading palms. But when the window came down the business tycoon was not the one who had been on the other side, instead being a young beauty who left Mickey at such a loss for words that all he could say was, “hi”.
Her smile back, how it helped crease her eyes with a look of undeniable interest enough to provide him with the words, “what’s your name?” “Yumiko,” she had replied with a voice which had left him feeling deliciously golden brown all over.
As absurd as it was, his next question had come from his heart, which meant there was no way to filter it. “Will you marry me?”
Yumiko’s laugh had come just as the chauffeur had hit the gas. It wasn’t a ‘yeah right’giggle, but rather one of flattery, and maybe even further interest. But distance was now separating them, and all she could do was look back as he outstretched his hand while sending the telepathic message I’ll find you.
This life-changing encounter had happened only a month ago, a very short period of time when you consider how normally hard it is to get the attention let alone a meeting with one of the richest men in the world. But the ocean of status which set the two apart was a journey Mickey had been determined to take, working every tip, every angle, until finally he had tracked down Mr. Hatsumi in a private airport restroom and used their supposed chance meeting to introduce himself and ask for a chance to pitch the Japanese businessman in an official meeting.
“Go ahead and give me the thirty-second version now, and if I feel it’s for me, you’ll have your official meeting soon,” he had offered.
Without a moment’s hesitation Mickey went right into it. “The world has never been more on the go than now. Sure, we’re more connected than ever, but all that swiping means we have less and less time for a decent meal. I make calzones. Not the unhealthy kind that are either mass produced and full of preservatives or made in restaurants with low quality ingredients. My calzones are healthy, made the traditional way in both size and quality. Pocket-sized hardiness, perfect for our on the go lifestyles. In fact, we’d be serving from walk-up windows, the ideal locations being shopping malls and airports.”
“High quality usually means high cost,” Hatsumi said. “Something most consumers on the go are not willing to fork up.”
“Again, this is where size comes in,” Mickey countered. “It only takes a few sprinkles to bring each calzone to life. We buy in bulk, make a good deal with someone like McCormick. The numbers will be on our side, and as for the product, unless you’ve been in my grandmother’s kitchen, you’ve never tasted anything like this before.”
“You’ve got yourself an official meeting, kid.” Hatsumi said, handing him a business card. “Come prepared, I’ll be ready to eat.”
And now here Mickey was, like the old ninjas of Japan who used to use mastered skills to infiltrate castles, who used to use psychological warfare to turn the tables in their favor. Sure he was here for the business opportunity, but above all else his persevering heart was set on the tycoon’s daughter.
The elevator door opens. There to greet him is the angel herself, a look of pleasant surprise brightening her face.
Mikey unzips his insulated bag, opens it up, and offers her the first foil-wrapped calzone. “Chicken curry filling. Your father’s favorite.”
“You really do your homework,” Yumiko says.
“To see you again I would have read every book in every library.” Something Mickey would not have said if his escort had not already been heading back down in the elevator.
“Well, it looks like you have quite a test in front of you right now. My father doesn’t say yes easily.”
“I’ve made it this far,” he says.
“You have,” Yumiko smiles.
She takes him into her father’s office, where Mickey doesn’t have to say much, his culinary genius seducing the tycoon so much so that the impression stealthily places itself into the wealthy man’s mind the thought of how wonderful it would be to have such a talented son-in-law.
And thus the calzone ninja had accomplished his mission.