A few weeks ago I just received my copy of the new E4TV (UK) hit sitcom The Inbetweeners. I realize now that I found the series highly enjoyable not because of any innovative comedy (though it is quite funny with a few clunkers-- not bad for the current state of TV), but because I found that I actually began to care about what happens to the characters. And that's because I could relate to the main character, Will.
Will is forced to go to a comprehensive school for sixth form (what I imagine to be the British equivalent of junior high school), but unfortunately, he's a "posh twat." For his own sanity, he sticks around 3 other guys who are not really geeks, but are not so cool to be unattainable, either. Like a cheesy commercial jingle that sticks in your head, Will works his way into the lives of his new friends, and you can actually see the evolution of their friendship from when they just tolerated Will to be nice up until the point where they realize that with Will's help, they've all grown up a little.
It was a little bit like that for me moving from high school (where I was stuck with 42 other desperados for 4 years) to college. Only four of us from my high school class wanted to be doctors, and we ended up all taking BS Biology as our premed (though one was sidetracked). So that is the story of how I got stuck with 2 guys with whom I shared nothing in common. What made me particularly freaked was that I was an outsider in my high school class for the most part and the other two could already bond over quoting lines from Jerry Maguire and memorizing dumb Third Eye Blind song lyrics.
But the worst part was the word. I'm sure your dialect has one-- chief, dude, brav, bra, bro, jefe, pare, tol-- the list goes on and on. If you've been reading for a while you'll know how awkward it is for me to actually say these things. I'm not a guy's guy for the most part. I was the resident nerd among the three of us and I was foolish to think that I could pretend to be someone else, even for a little while.
"Quit using that word. ("Quan"), that's my word!" I remember one of them using that quote from Jerry Maguire on me. Felt like a hot knife in my sternum. Even now that we're stuck together, it seems like I was stuck with the loosest of adhesives, a Post-It. Much like Will (but without his determination), I felt just tolerated but not accepted.
Upset, I told one of my close (female) friends about it, but she advised me to stick with the program. She thought it was pretty amazing how we balanced each other out and that friendship is more than these superficialities. Now, after 10 years of not compromising who I am, I see the friendship we had much more clearly.
What sticks out in my mind most (amid the countless hours spent hanging out with them at home, in my friend's pick-up truck, thinking up stupid knock-knock jokes and cursing awful teachers) is Reserved Corps Military Training, which was mandatory for two years in all male college students. I was nowhere near physically fit to carry that accursed M1 Garan rifle and mindless marching and (ugh) push-ups, but somehow, having these two around really lifted my spirits and allowed me to pull it off. I think they could tell that it was a time I really needed support, and it was automatic for them. I wasn't just tolerated-- I was (still am?) really a part of something. And I like to think we helped each other grow a lot too in the process.
There's nothing that screams "friend" food to me more than pizza, and incidentally I served this to a group of friends, one of them among the friends I mentioned above. The other one is working as an Ophthalmology resident.
(Dear people in my life: I won't stop till I've associated a food item with every single one of you. Ha ha ha.)
Barbecue Chicken Pizza
I quite like sweet sauces, so Barbecue Chicken Pizza is a no-brainer. Next time, though, in proportion to the smallish crusts I usually make, I'd cut up the chicken smaller as well. Use a great barbecue sauce that's not too sweet-- pairing it up with pizza dough will magnify this. Go for a deep, smoky one instead.
Pizza dough recipe is here.
In a large skillet, saute the chicken cubes in the olive oil over medium heat until just cooked through, about 5-6 minutes. Park the cooked chicken in a bowl and toss in the 2 tablespoons barbecue sauce and set aside in the fridge.
Place a baking stone at the oven floor and preheat the oven to 260°C (500°F) for at least 15 minutes. Stretch out two pizza dough balls to make 10-12 inch rounds. Spread each of the rounds with a quarter-cup of the barbecue sauce each and sprinkle each with the shredded cheeses. Distribute the chicken cubes and the onion over each round. Slip the pizza into the oven and bake until the crust is golden, about 10 minutes. Remove the pizza from the oven and dress with the cilantro.