Updated: Sep 19, 2020
Meeting this Pizza Queen changed my life... who knew Pink Pizzas would be such a spiritual affair?
The first time I met Sharon, I knew there was something different about her: something authentic, freeing, and attractive in a refreshingly beautiful and healthy way.
When I asked her what she did, I never anticipated the answer I received... "I make pizzas" she said.
For some unfounded reason I expected "yoga instructor" or "humanitarian aid worker". But, there she sat in front of me - a vegetarian, animal-loving, gentle soul with a warm heart and a passion for doing what she can to make this earth we live on a better place... and her occupational ambition was to make "the best italian pizzas in the UK".
We were so different - I was a Vice Principal of a secondary, multi-academy trust; one with a penchant for boundaries, discipline, efficiency and effectiveness. And, there she was - a free, independent, pizza-making, reiki-practicing, meditating, recovered alcoholic, doing her best to lead a spiritual life... Whilst I was doing my best to win the race of corporate success, no matter the cost to my spiritual, emotional or psychological health.
The first time I watched Sharon make a Pizza (from start to finish) was like watching a child excitedly tear the christmas wrapping from a toy in one moment, and watching a chemical engineer in a laboratory the next. As I watched her precision and experimentation with measuring a range of organic, high-quality ingredients and timing the proofing of dough balls, I suddenly realised that what she was making was a far-stretch from the Dominos I had ordered the week before - this was quality italian art.
I've learnt a lot in the last couple of months: firstly, all dough is not made equal; secondly, flour must be 00 italian flour (I thought flour was flour); thirdly, salt must be himalayan (which as it turns out tastes pretty awesome); fourthly, san marzano tomatoes in a hand made sauce trumps anything I've had on pizza before; and finally, mozarella absolutely must be made from water buffalo milk! Who knew?
But the art of italian pizza is not the only thing I learned from this Pizza Queen. Watching her pure joy as she stretched out "the best dough she's ever made" taught me about relishing the joy of the present moment rather than always pushing forward to a pre-planned future, celebrating the self with a loving voice rather than a critical one, and caring immensely about what we put in the minds and mouths of others.
Whatever it was that this woman had, I knew I wanted some of it. She answers the phone at all times of the day and night to help Alcoholics in despair... she opens her home to them and feeds them healthy nutricious home made meals, whilst taking them through a process of enlightenment and recovery. And... she goes about it in a humbling, non-judgemental way - supporting those who seek change, rather than shoving it down the throats of those who don't.
Eventually, the inevitable happened... my curiousity surrounding the people that entered her house in despair, and left weeks later in a state of what can only be explained as enlightment or blissful awakening, made me wonder whether such a transformative experience could happen for myself. I began to explore programs of recovery (not for alcohol) but for workaholism and a range of other legal 'solutions' to the everyday burdens of life, and embarked on a spiritual journey of my own, inspired and supported by my loving Pizza Queen.
I'm not finished with my program yet, but already the metamorphosis has begun. When I was a child I would scurry away into corners and read for hours and hours; as a teenager I longed to be a writer or an artist or designer - as an adult I wanted to pay my bills, secure promotions, and keep everything under control. Watching Sharon's joyous inner child delightfully play with dough, inspired me to connect with my own inner child, and thus I picked up my writing pen (well... laptop) and designed this website and blog. I've also handed in my notice and started rolling dough (seriously therapeutic) and firing pizzas (and eating the seriously tasty profits)! Well... I'm a total food addict... and I told you I haven't finished my program yet. Plus, as it turns out, I don't have to be perfect, or controlled, or anything other than whatever makes me happy, and at the moment, that's making pizza and writing this blog!