Are you focaccia kiddin’ me?

There’s a first time for everything. In this case, focaccia wasn’t the only thing getting a rise.

The dough:
2 teaspoons sugar (8.4g)
1 teaspoon active dry yeast (3.1g)
2 1/2 cups lukewarm water (600g)
5 1/3 cup all purpose flour (800g)
2 tablespoons kosher salt (18g)
1/4 cup olive oil (50 g)

The brine:
11/2 teaspoons kosher salt (5g)
1/3 cup lukewarm water (80g)

Stir yeast and sugar into the 2 1/2 cups lukewarm water.

Whisk flour and kosher salt in big bowl until combined.

Stir in water mixture into the flour mixture.

Stir in 1/4 cup olive oil (some will not fully mix into the dough).

Put plastic wrap over bowl and let rest for 12-14 hours.

After 12-14 hours:
Add 2-3 tablespoons olive oil to pan. I use a 12x17 pan.

Gently release the dough from the bowl on to the pan.

Stretch the dough out to the end of the pan and for the next 30 minutes if the dough retracts keep stretching it out to the end of the pan.

Make dimples in the bread with your fingers.

Make the brine (dissolve salt in water).

Pour over focaccia and brine for 45 minutes.

30 minutes into the brine preheat oven to 450F.

Cook focaccia for 22-25 minutes.

Remove focaccia from oven and let rest for 15-20 minutes.

“Oh sorry Alex, I just didn’t think you hugged boys.”

You’ve got to focaccia be kidding me if you think I would ever forget this moment.

Let me set the scene—seventh grade. A true time to be alive and transitioning through puberty. Like clockwork, at the end of the school day my group of gal-pals and I were saying goodbye to the boys in our friend group. I stood in the back, timid for a lad to come over and give me a hug, and to my surprise...nope, wait, no one did. As one of my best friends (since everyone was in the seventh grade) questioned this boy who neglected to give me a goodbye, he responded with “Oh sorry Alex, I just didn’t think you hugged boys.”

Like what the hell is that supposed to mean? Sure I wasn’t hugging people all over the place but I hugged people! Boys and girls. I was certainly no hug prude. Maybe no one was offering. Maybe I was shy. Maybe this kid could see something I actually couldn’t.

Let me digress for the sake of context.

I spent a lot of time growing up questioning why I didn’t feel the way my friends felt. Throughout middle school I had a group of gal pals that I love with all my heart, the same group of gals mentioned above. We were a fearless pack in the midst of Junior High and puberty. Well…I should say their puberty. I rocked the flat chest, baby fat, and mouth full of braces look for far too long.

As we started to navigate the dating pool, I followed their lead. I found a boy to be my “boyfriend.” We barely spoke in public, would text until the wee hours of the night, and I say I love you 50 times a day. THIS WAS REAL LOVE. Kidding. I was trying, but it always felt like I was going through the motions. Boys doing ollies and wearing snapbacks just did not do it for me as it did for my friends. The boys noticed it too. Hence the “I just didn’t think you hugged boys.”

I kept trying. I felt like I had to keep trying. I’ll even admit that part of me kept trying well into my college years.

Why would it never work out? Was I just weird? What was keeping me from being a “regular” teenager?

Oh right, it was Kate Walsh.

Grey’s Anatomy was hitting the peak of TV greatness. Seasons 1-3 peak, you know? During the summer months, I would watch the discs on my portable DVD player until the wee hours of the morning. My pubescent eyes were glued to the little screen as the season one finale revealed that Derek had a wife (yeah, yeah, yeah spoiler alert but if you haven’t watched this by now I have no sympathy).

But not just any wife, world-class neonatal surgeon with board certifications in obstetrics, gynecology and maternal and fetal medicine, Dr. Addison Montgomery. When she walked on screen in that black gucci dress with absolute confidence and badassness, I was a GONER.

What was this sudden and new? Why did I feel like my heart was going to collapse at any moment? I finally felt what I wanted, but it would take a while for me to feel comfortable with that. There’s an endless list of things out in the world that question perceptions of normalcy. And for the most part, it’s easy to see that you don’t fit. But soon you’ll see that the people in my life helped me create my own box.

When I think about that phrase “Oh sorry Alex, I just didn’t think you hugged boys” really all makes sense. You’ve gotta be focaccia kidding me...its because of Kate Walsh of course.

©The Anol Vegan 2021