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Peter’s Blog: What a Long, Strange Trip This Has Been: Transformation, Part One

Hi Everyone,

What can one say at a time like this? If you are reading this I hope it’s not just because you have (and not by choice) too much time on your hands. I wish it weren’t so. For me, as perhaps it’s been for you, it’s been a time of deepened reflection. I’d like to try to use my Peter’s Blog space during this and upcoming posts, to share those reflections and to offer you a forum to share yours as well. The easiest way to get your thoughts posted here will be to write to me at and I’ll post the best of them as we go forward.

I’m currently working on a new book concept that is only partially about food, though food, as always, serves as its primary metaphor and engine. Its a book about transformation and how it happens. Yet, even as I write it I struggle with the sense of the powerlessness many of us feel under this current crisis. Transformation is about nothing if it’s not about empowerment and yet there are times when we (or, from here on, I will say I) hit the wall and realize that we can, and do, feel powerless about some things. And when I feel powerless I realize that my faith in everything I hold dear is at stake. I hate feeling powerless and I hate feeling hate but, in this case, it’s like jump starting a stalled car by ramping up some form of momentum, whatever it takes, to get the engine going again. When we hit the wall my wife and I often use cooking as a way to ramp up our momentum — it not only keeps us busy and takes our minds off of the scary, demoralizing, and dis-empowering things going on around us, but the very act of cooking actually thrusts us into a participatory act of transformation that revs up our motors for a time.

By transformation, in this sense, I mean radically changing one thing into something new and different. In the past I have used bread as a metaphor for this act of radical change, so I won’t repeat that spiel here (you can see my TED Talk on this at ), but I refer to it as just one example of participatory empowerment. I heard on TV this morning some other examples that are helping many of us reclaim our sense of power, such helping seniors or shut-ins with errands, donating blood, virtual babysitting, Scott Wiener’s work with Slice Hunger where they provide free pizzas to front line medical workers, or simply sharing a smile with others — even if at a safe social distance.  Of course, there many other ways and actions that I’m sure you have each discovered, but I don’t want to get sidetracked here. I want, instead, to talk about transformation itself, so let me take a first, brief stab at it and keep chipping away in subsequent posts.

At times such as these there is an immediate critical need to retain our belief that goodness will prevail and triumph. I’ve been reading and watching a lot of books and films lately about the early years of World War II, especially as it impacted Great Britain (Foyles’s War is a brilliant Public Television mystery series, as is the inspirational Darkest Hour, with Gary Oldman as Winston Churchill, but there are many more. What are some of your favorites?). When Hitler was on the doorstep of England and it looked to many of their citizens like they were about to be invaded and conquered there was a brief period of division within that nation. Some folks began preparing to make their deals with the enemy and others decided to hold the fort. As a result of some heroic leadership, as well as good fortune (or, perhaps, grace or divine intervention — you decide), and especially due to more heroic actions by everyday citizens, they came together and held off the enemy until other nations (such as ours) joined the fight and, eventually, the allies prevailed. FDR’s notion that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself has become a truism and cliche over time, perhaps having lost its power and uplifting messaging, but truth is truth and the insight of that message is not only relevant today more than ever, but may also be one of the keys to how transformation occurs. Or, perhaps, how it doesn’t occur when fear rules the day. So, and this where I will end this post and pick it up in subsequent posts, one key question I hope we can all grapple with is, what are the essential elements required in overcoming fear? The short answer, and one I will leave you with is this: coming to grips with death. (Ooops, hope I haven’t lost you there.)

This is a deep subject, philosophical and theological for sure, which means it can also easily become abstract and, even worse, boring. This blog, after all, is called Pizza Quest, but Pizza Quest is also, as the subtitle  at the top of the home page suggests, “A journey of self-discovery through pizza.”  So my job and task, in the posts to follow, is to address some deep and powerful ideas — transformation, empowerment, and the overcoming of fear — even death — all through the lens of pizza as a journey of self-discovery. And, above all, to not be boring or abstract. Whew — I need to dig down and work on this so, in the meantime, we will also intersperse my posts with our usual recipes, guest columns, and webisodes while I chip away at the bigger mountain.

Again, I invite you into this conversation. Just write to me at and we’ll see what we can get going. Till then, I leave you with just a few of many images and friends from our Pizza Quest community (with more to come):

I love the look of fermenting dough in the morning!

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Pizza Quest is a site dedicated to the exploration of artisanship in all forms, wherever we find it, but especially through the literal and metaphorical image of pizza. As we share our own quest for the perfect pizza we invite all of you to join us and share your journeys too. We have discovered that you never know what engaging roads and side paths will reveal themselves on this quest, but we do know that there are many kindred spirits out there, passionate artisans, doing all sorts of amazing things. These are the stories we want to discover, and we invite you to jump on the proverbial bus and join us on this, our never ending pizza quest.

Peter’s Books

American Pie
Artisan Breads Every Day
The Bread Bakers Apprentice
Brother Junipers Bread Book
Crust and Crumb
Whole Grain Breads

...and other books by Peter Reinhart, available on