Aquinas on Anger, VIII

I really wanted to get to Article VII because Aristotle here is quoted saying something that I think is badly argued. The question of the article is whether we can, or can't, have anger without having a relationship of justice with the object of our anger. 
I answer that, As stated above (Article 6), anger desires evil as being a means of just vengeance. 

This is a real problem, but we'll roll with it for now. A relationship of justice between you and whatever you're angry at (or vice versa) would seem to need to exist, because if there were no justice relationship you would presumably not be angry at having justice violated. That part is straightforward.

But what is a 'justice relationship'? Aristotle and I disagree about where justice arises in human relationships. For Aristotle it appears to arise at the level of politics, not at the level of family or individual relationships as between father and son. Indeed, Aquinas quotes him saying that in this article: "Further, "there is no justice towards oneself . . . nor is there justice towards one's own" (Ethic. v, 6)."

So here's what Aristotle says at Aquinas' 'link' to the EN: 

For justice exists only between men whose mutual relations are governed by law; and law exists for men between whom there is injustice; for legal justice is the discrimination of the just and the unjust. And between men between whom there is injustice there is also unjust action (though there is not injustice between all between whom there is unjust action), and this is assigning too much to oneself of things good in themselves and too little of things evil in themselves. This is why we do not allow a man to rule, but rational principle, because a man behaves thus in his own interests and becomes a tyrant. The magistrate on the other hand is the guardian of justice, and, if of justice, then of equality also. And since he is assumed to have no more than his share, if he is just (for he does not assign to himself more of what is good in itself, unless such a share is proportional to his merits-so that it is for others that he labours, and it is for this reason that men, as we stated previously, say that justice is 'another's good'), therefore a reward must be given him, and this is honour and privilege; but those for whom such things are not enough become tyrants.

The justice of a master and that of a father are not the same as the justice of citizens, though they are like it; for there can be no injustice in the unqualified sense towards thing that are one's own, but a man's chattel, and his child until it reaches a certain age and sets up for itself, are as it were part of himself, and no one chooses to hurt himself (for which reason there can be no injustice towards oneself). Therefore the justice or injustice of citizens is not manifested in these relations; for it was as we saw according to law, and between people naturally subject to law, and these as we saw' are people who have an equal share in ruling and being ruled. Hence justice can more truly be manifested towards a wife than towards children and chattels, for the former is household justice; but even this is different from political justice.

We should note immediately that most Americans -- at least -- would object to the formulation that a master cannot be unjust to his slave because the slave belongs to him. Most of us would argue that the master is already being unjust to the slave by pretending to own him. The Bible speaks of slavery a great deal, and does not categorically reject it as we; but in Aquinas' day the Church had moved to ban the practice between Christians as fundamentally unjust given the special equality Christians had as brother sons of God. 

Since you were supposed to try to save souls, if you encountered non-Christians you were supposed to convert them rather than enslave them. 

Also, I note that it is only at the level of politics coming to be that this kind of injustice is possible. There might be a natural capacity to enslave another, but there can't be a natural right to do it because the other has the same nature as you: a rational human being. If you have natural rights to freedom, he must as well. It is only the rise of positive law that creates this kind of injustice, and enshrines a 'right' to do this as a master and owner rather than just another free man. 

Therefore, I submit that Aristotle is wrong about where the justice relationship properly arises: that it arises not at the political level, but at the level of personal relationships. These are also, sadly, often the place where we most regularly and intensely experience anger. We may be unjust to each other there, too; but at least we do not have armies and towers and systems of justice standing over us and telling us that we must submit to a law that renders us a slave.

But set that aside: would we accept that a father cannot be unjust to his children? We would not accept that. There are many duties we think a father owes to his children, and failure to provide those things is an act of injustice. If you starve your children rather than feeding them, that is unjust. If you drink up the family wealth, you have acted unjustly and deprived your young sons of the standing they had a reason to hope to have when they became adults and masters of themselves.

For the purpose of the consequences of this bad argument, it is certainly not true that you cannot be angry with your children -- which would follow if we accepted Aristotle's argument. Since you cannot have a justice relationship with them -- and cannot be unjust to 'your own' -- it would therefore be impossible to be angry with them. This is manifestly untrue. I daresay no parent has ever raised a child without being angry at them, and vice versa. 

It is also not true, as Aristotle says and Aquinas endorses, that you cannot be angry with the dead.

"...according to the Philosopher (Rhet. ii, 3), 'it is impossible to be angry with insensible things, or with the dead': both because they feel no pain, which is, above all, what the angry man seeks in those with whom he is angry: and because there is no question of vengeance on them, since they can do us no harm."

This is another area disproven by human experience. Many times we are angry with the dead; although, unlike Aristotle, we are not obligated to imagine them as being free from all possibility of vengeance or pain. Yet even if we do so imagine them, often we are angry at them because of their tragic choices, and the harm and injustice they have done. This can certainly last well beyond the fact of their death.

In any case, this article strikes me as going wrong in a number of places. It relies on one of Aristotle's mistakes -- he was human, however great his mind, and made a few. That leads to bad consequences for our understanding.

Aquinas on Anger, VII

Article VI says that "anger desires evil." That is a very strange thing for Aristotle to say, because he defined the good in terms of desire: the good is what all things desire. (Aquinas followed him, and Avicenna, in the first part of the Summa which concerns the nature of God and thus goodness itself.) 
I answer that, Since goodness is that which all things desire, and since this has the aspect of an end, it is clear that goodness implies the aspect of an end.... Beauty and goodness in a thing are identical fundamentally; for they are based upon the same thing, namely, the form; and consequently goodness is praised as beauty. But they differ logically, for goodness properly relates to the appetite (goodness being what all things desire); and therefore it has the aspect of an end (the appetite being a kind of movement towards a thing).

So this is a real problem, because now evil is the object of desire -- and therefore a good to be pursued. But that can't be, Aquinas has already told us.  

No being can be spoken of as evil, formally as being, but only so far as it lacks being. Thus a man is said to be evil, because he lacks some virtue; and an eye is said to be evil, because it lacks the power to see well.

This is Augustine's point, which we were just discussing recently, and a place where Aquinas and Aristotle differ. Evil properly speaking can't exist for Aquinas; it is only a privation or a lack of something desirable, something beautiful, i.e. something good. To say that anger desires the lack of something desirable does not make sense. 

It especially does not make sense given that anger is associated here with justice, and has been said to be partially governed by reason and mercy. Justice is a good, not an evil. Injustice is an evil, because it is the lack of something desirable, i.e. justice. 

Human will, unlike God's, can be disordered and therefore sinful. If what anger desires is evil, though, it is very basically and radically disordered -- which is the opposite of what Aquinas has been arguing heretofore. 

Aquinas on Anger, VI

 Article V looks very dense, but its easy to sketch. The question is whether desire or anger is more natural to man. Aquinas references Aristotle's Physics II to say that things are 'natural' to us if they are things that arise from our own nature. This is Aristotle's answer to why things move in different ways: because they have different natures. If you drop a stone, which has the nature of earth, it will move toward the earth. If you pour out a bucket of water, which has the nature of water, it will move to a middle position -- the stone would fall through the lake, but the water will join it. Air naturally sits above them, and fire rises upwards. 

And if you turn loose of a bird, it will move through the air wherever it wants -- because it is free to follow its animal nature, and thus to move where it wants to move; but it will fly instead of crawling because of its specific nature, which is that of a bird rather than simply an animal generally. 

Desire is more natural in the general nature of man and all animals; all things want what they desire, and they desire the goods that allow them to continue their existence and that of their species. But specific creatures have specific natures too. Man's is that of a rational animal. Thus, anger -- which responds 'somewhat' to reason -- is more natural to him than desire. 

However, by the same argument reason is more proper to him yet; anger must be governed by reason to be fully in accord with his nature.

“Rich kids can always get Algebra or Calculus”

On Substack, Bari Weiss sums up the week's craziness, including California's decision to trap all 8th graders in pre-algebra in the interest of the usual murky goals. She quotes Freddie DeBoer's observation that families with extra cash will just hire tutors, so this equity-inclusion push will consign only the smart poor kids to the needlessly crummy education track. The truth is, though, that these days any kids can get decent algebra or calculus instruction with or without a tutor. Even the poor kids have some kind of access to the internet, where the educational resources are nearly endless. Any kid that was likely to be able to pick up calculus from high school lectures will be able to get it from internet lectures, if not from a book. You don't even have to be Isaac Newton, who, when he found he lacked this essential tool, simply created it during one of the Western World's more famous lockdowns.

On the other hand, the way things are going, will there still be colleges where you can go anywhere with higher math? I'd love to see aspiring young workers skip the whole thing, learn the math on their own, and get jobs in STEM industry, minus the political indoctrination.

The lockdown link by the way, is a windy attempt to explain why no one should feel bad about not doing world-changing work during lockdown because privilege or something. The problem certainly isn't just that we lack a one-in-a-billion talent! Probably any of us could have pulled it off if we had a Universal Basic Income and some domestic servants.


This fox made an appearance on my lurking neighbor's driveway:

Aquinas on Anger, V

I have time for a second round of this today, and I find I'm warming to the subject. So, Article 4: Does Anger require an act of reason? Passions usually don't, because --as mentioned -- they were thought to be things that you experience passively. They come upon you, and you experience them. 

Anger seems to be a passion, and thus it shouldn't require an act of reason. If that were true, it means several important things in the Aristotelian system. Most crucially, it means it is a lower thing that is more animal than human (this is raised directly in the article). Reason is the human quality; we share many sensations and passions with animals, but they were not thought to share our access to the order of reason. (This was held to be true through the Modern era, which in philosophy means the 18th century. There are strong reasons to doubt it now; but see the reply to objection 2, where even Aquinas creates some doubt.) 

Aquinas quotes Aristotle's discussion to show that anger is at least amenable to reason.  
...anger is a desire for vengeance. Now vengeance implies a comparison between the punishment to be inflicted and the hurt done; wherefore the Philosopher says (Ethic. vii, 6) that "anger, as if it had drawn the inference that it ought to quarrel with such a person, is therefore immediately exasperated." Now to compare and to draw an inference is an act of reason. Therefore anger, in a fashion, requires an act of reason.

That's a funny argument for Aristotelian psychology. Romantic love, the most canonical of passions, also seems to be amenable to reason in that way. You can (and we all do) reason about people you've fallen in love with, and if it's a really bad idea, you can often decide not to pursue your love. It doesn't make as good a novel, but it happens every day.

The answer to that objection is 'reply to objection one.' Aquinas has a part of the rational soul that was absent in Aristotle. The will -- which is Biblical and Christian rather than ancient Greek -- allows human beings to subject even their passions to reason. In that way it improves and perfects even the strongest passions, by making them subject to rational thought.

This cuts against the idea that anger and vengeance are per se good, however: if God gave you the capacity to moderate these feelings with reason, and if (as Aristotle had argued, and Aquinas agrees) reason is a higher faculty than sensitive emotions, then it is only proper to be angry if and insofar as reason agrees with anger. But reason is not a passion, but an activity; and it is not irrational, but rational by nature. A human being was given the faculty for a good cause, and it isn't wrong to experience anger or even to act upon it. Yet we see here why we are morally obligated to subject any sort of anger or desire for vengeance to our rational nature. 

Or, I suppose, we can go to Confession. As Captain Thomas Bartholomew Red said, "What do you think Confession's for?" That line, from a very immoral man's film about the very immoral business of piracy, always struck me as intensely pragmatically wise.

God Bless the American Jury

It’s the last stronghold of freedom. They just did it again. 

Aquinas on Anger, IV

This has been a deeply profitable, honorable and honest discussion which is almost entirely unlike the kind of useless talk we have so much of. Good for you. 

Article 3 gets us even into deeper Yoda territory: anger leads to hate, we are warned specifically in the second objection. It is a kind of desire, a longing of the sort that often leads to damnation. It mixes with sorrow, which is not itself bad -- it can sometimes be a very worthy emotion -- but how brightly that contrasts with the discussion of anger's beauty. 

Aquinas takes a bold strategy here: he simply makes a division. "On the contrary, The concupiscible is distinct from the irascible faculty. If, therefore, anger were in the concupiscible power, the irascible would not take its name from it."

That is to say, anger is too pure to be a kind of desire because anger is its own thing. And that's probably right. It ought to be, I guess, since it's included in the doctrine of the largest faith in human history. It's been true enough that we've accepted that argument for nigh a thousand years.

He actually gives more than a bald assertion. It's rooted in Aristotelian psychology, which you can give as much weight or not as you prefer.

"I answer that, As stated above (I-II:23:1), the passions of the irascible part differ from the passions of the concupiscible faculty, in that the objects of the concupiscible passions are good and evil absolutely considered, whereas the objects of the irascible passions are good and evil in a certain elevation or arduousness. Now it has been stated (Article 2) that anger regards two objects: viz. the vengeance that it seeks; and the person on whom it seeks vengeance; and in respect of both, anger requires a certain arduousness: for the movement of anger does not arise, unless there be some magnitude about both these objects; since "we make no ado about things that are naught or very minute," as the Philosopher observes (Rhet. ii, 2). It is therefore evident that anger is not in the concupiscible, but in the irascible faculty."

That may be hard to follow. Here's a helpful analogy, I hope: I said something very similar in the comments to the post on 1883. Yellowstone is like desire, what Aquinas is calling the 'concupiscible passions.' Yellowstone is about a man who loves his home, and wants to maintain it. Ultimately it means a lot to him, but in the end -- as people keep pointing out to him -- if he loses it won't be that bad. He'd just have to sell the land for a lot of money, and could go do something very similar somewhere else like Oklahoma.

1883 is high art. It's the best thing I've seen in years. 'The irascible passions are good and evil in a certain elevation or arduousness,' that's how Aquinas puts it. It's not just whether you cowboy here or there; it's life and death, good and evil, love and hate, the very highest things we know how to want as human beings. For Aquinas, that's so different from things like mere sexual passion as to be categorically different. It's literally not the same thing at all.


What we often call The Blizzard of ‘93 came in April, so it’s not like I have never see this before. I’ve seen it once. 


I am only a few episodes into this, but I cannot recommend it strongly enough. It’s a work of real, substantial beauty. 


That’s not a lute, exactly. It’s a theorbo, arguably the most beautiful musical instrument ever made by the hands of man. Almost the most beautiful instrument simpliciter, excepting only the sword. 

Aquinas on Anger, III

I'm going to move on to the second article: whether the object of anger is good or evil. It seems like anger is a bad thing; certainly our popular culture claims that it leads in bad directions. 

Aquinas says that's wrong. The argument he give is striking: "Augustine says (Confess. ii, 6) that "anger craves for revenge." But the desire for revenge is a desire for something good: since revenge belongs to justice. Therefore the object of anger is good."

Is that right? Is revenge good? You have here the authority of two canonized saints that it is.

You know, I'm just going to stop there for today. That's already plenty to discuss.

Voice of reason?

I'm less skeptical than many on the right about Ukraine, so Col. Douglas MacGregor is saying things in this interview that I don't like hearing. Nevertheless he's worth listening to. Obviously he has many views about the Trump and Biden administrations that line up very closely with my own prejudices.

All the Small Things

This is kind of the opposite of the 'old Country sound' post. This was never a beautiful song as a punk rock bit. Put in this context, and it suddenly is.

Somehow it's not even ironic that a guy in clown makeup is singing the thing straight, which the original band couldn't do. The irony of being a clown cancels out the irony of being sincere, owning the emotions honestly and expressing them truly. I have trouble doing that myself, sometimes. There's a huge weight. Maybe I'm getting better at being honest about my feelings; maybe. 

In the end the band stops playing after several renditions of "Carry me home," with the last one being incomplete. The band simply walks away, muted, sad. This is exactly how life leaves us: finally, home no longer exists. The home of my youth, which I dream about almost every night, has been washed away by time. There's no home to go to. 

So perhaps felt Chesterton, who sought another home in Mary.

          And I thought, "I will go with you,
          As man with God has gone,
          And wander with a wandering star,
          The wandering heart of things that are,
          The fiery cross of love and war
          That like yourself, goes on."

          O go you onward; where you are
          Shall honour and laughter be,
          Past purpled forest and pearled foam,
          God's winged pavilion free to roam,
          Your face, that is a wandering home,
          A flying home for me.

          Ride through the silent earthquake lands,
          Wide as a waste is wide,
          Across these days like deserts, when
          Pride and a little scratching pen
          Have dried and split the hearts of men,
          Heart of the heroes, ride.

          Up through an empty house of stars,
          Being what heart you are,
          Up the inhuman steeps of space
          As on a staircase go in grace,
          Carrying the firelight on your face
          Beyond the loneliest star.

I make no apology for linking a punk rock song to punishing questions of metaphysics. It only proves that punk rock is a real form of art; it can be, at least, even if it needs the double-blind form of a painted clown singing it to make it clear.

Yankees Can’t Make Biscuits

The Atlantic explains

National Tartan Day

This is the Firefighter tartan, which I guess Tex and I can both wear. My father, were he living; my son, after me, who has also earned the right.

Aquinas on Anger, II

More needs to be said about the role of 'contraries.' This is a fundamental concept for Aristotelian philosophy. The basic explanation is in Physics I. For Aristotle, contraries explain the possibility of any kind of change or motion at all. This comes out of an inquiry into what is necessary for change or motion to be possible. By Aristotle's time this inquiry had been going on for a while, and he gives an account of what his predecessors had thought about the subject.

(Some of them thought that motion and change just weren't possible. Aristotle has an account of why Zeno et al were wrong, in his opinion.)

The basic idea is that change from one thing into another thing requires that there be two states that are opposed -- contrary -- to each other. A favored example is white and black. A thing can start out as white and eventually become black. But white can't become black: they're contraries. Thus, the universe must contain at least things that are contraries to each other, and also things that are substrates which can move between the contraries. This gives us the basic view of the universe: there are substances (substrates), and accidents (things which they happen to have, but could gain or lose or move between).

The problem that Aquinas is wrestling with in the first article is that anger doesn't seem to have a contrary
I answer that, The passion of anger is peculiar in this, that it cannot have a contrary, either according to approach and withdrawal, or according to the contrariety of good and evil. For anger is caused by a difficult evil already present: and when such an evil is present, the appetite must needs either succumb, so that it does not go beyond the limits of "sadness," which is a concupiscible passion; or else it has a movement of attack on the hurtful evil, which movement is that of "anger." But it cannot have a movement of withdrawal: because the evil is supposed to be already present or past. Thus no passion is contrary to anger according to contrariety of approach and withdrawal.

In like manner neither can there be according to contrariety of good and evil. Because the opposite of present evil is good obtained, which can be no longer have the aspect of arduousness or difficulty. Nor, when once good is obtained, does there remain any other movement, except the appetite's repose in the good obtained; which repose belongs to joy, which is a passion of the concupiscible faculty.

Accordingly no movement of the soul can be contrary to the movement of anger, and nothing else than cessation from its movement is contrary thereto; thus the Philosopher says (Rhet. ii, 3) that "calm is contrary to anger," by opposition not of contrariety but of negation or privation.
NB that "The Philosopher" in this work is always Aristotle, and "The Commentator" is Averroes (i.e. the Islamic Aristotelian philosopher Ibn Rushd). Avicenna, who is of fundamental importance to Aquinas, gets mentioned by name and only once.

This is a weird position, which you can see in part because of the rejection of it in the last paragraph. It would make perfect sense to talk about a movement from calm to anger, and then back to calm as a difficulty is worked out. The presence of the difficulty -- 'the hurtful evil' -- is supposed to produce anger naturally, and it is only by eliminating (or accepting) the evil that you eliminate the anger. 

This is further complicated by the fact that Aquinas has to work it out not in ancient Greek terms but in terms of St. Augustine's account of evil. According to Augustine, evil is a privation rather than something that really exists in its own right. (This is why God can be the all powerful force of Creation, and all Good, but apparent evils still haunt us here.) Thus, the presence of a 'real and hurtful evil' is a sort of impossibility, though one can speak that way about the absence of a longed-for good. 

That's the way to make sense of anger, anyway, according to this tradition. This is also why experiencing anger is appropriate when motivated by real injustice: you're talking about a natural reaction to the failure to live up to God's intent, which a just soul ought to find ugly and outrageous. 

Confederate Jews

Princeton canceled a celebration of 19th century Jewish art because the central figure — and one other — supported the Confederacy.
Ezekiel is a complicated historical figure who fought for the Confederacy and supported the Lost Cause, the idea that the Civil War was about the southern states defending themselves from northern aggression. A second artist whose work would have bee uh n part of the exhibition, Theodore Moise, also served in the Confederate Army. But of course, history is filled with flawed people who nevertheless made important contributions to literature, art, science, and philosophy.

Indeed there is no one else who made important contributions to literature, art, science, or philosophy. To say that any man is damnable is strictly orthodox, as Chesterton said.

Jews had good reason to embrace the Confederacy. The deep tension between the black and white population meant that all other tensions were lessened. George Washington addressed the Jewish community in Savannah, already firmly established. The Irish were welcomed in the South when they were subjected to significant prejudice in the North. Jews in the Antebellum South fought duels, which may not seem desirable until you realize that gentlemen only dueled with equals. If you’d let a Jew take a shot at you in a duel, you accepted him as just as good as you were, no better and no worse. 

It’s not too surprising to find respect being returned.  

Aquinas on Anger, I

This weekend I was busy with emergency vehicle qualification, so I didn't have time to respond at length to an anonymous comment* citing St. Thomas Aquinas on anger. Now Aquinas' discussion of anger is one of the least helpful, most dense things he ever wrote. It requires a Ph.D. in philosophy to understand what he's even talking about. 

Fortunately for you if you were interested in the question, I happen to have a Ph.D. in philosophy. I'm going to spend a few days working through this to try to make it sensible to a contemporary audience.

First, a general comment on reading the Summa Theologiae. The ST is written in a style that was unique to its age. Every single part of it begins not with a statement of doctrine, but with objections to the doctrine. You get the actual doctrine in the middle, and then replies to the objections. People think the Middle Ages was all about stoning heretics, but in fact it gave a lot of attention to considering their objections and replying to them thoughtfully. Objections to the doctrine of faith were centered, as the philosophy kids say today. 

Here we are in the second part of the first part of the ST, the first part of the first part dealing with God. Here we are dealing with God's principal creation, man. This is a proto-psychological reading of how the insides of a man work. Because it predates psychology by a long time, it may be a better or worse understanding than the ones that psychology itself has developed. I tend to be pretty suspicious of psychology as bad philosophy, but it's fair to argue either side here.

So, article one of question 46 asks "if anger is a special passion." What on earth does that mean?

It might be helpful to compare with fear, which also proves to be a "special passion." The contrast is with a "general passion," i.e., a passion that is overriding of everything else. Aquinas notes that all the passions are connected, though, through love: so you can still get an overriding special passion if it is intense enough.

Well, hold on: let's drop back. What is a passion? It is important to note the cognate between "passion" and "passive." In ancient and medieval philosophy, a passion is something that happens to you. You're not in charge of it, it acts upon  you. (The Irish speak this way: "Joy was on me," "Sadness was on me," "Anger came on me.")

Anger is confusing, because it is caused by contraries. You are angry because you hoped for something better, but are confronted by something worse. The arising of contrary emotions in the soul is disruptive (cf. cognitive dissonance theory in current psychology).

Note that Aquinas is defending the prospect that anger is a "special" and not a "general" passion, but in fact isn't really able to come down solidly on the point. "But, in a third way, anger may be called a general passion, inasmuch as it is caused by a concurrence of several passions."

He was a genius and a miracle, Aquinas, but not every single thing he said is going to prove out. We're going to see some more problems as we work through it.

* Hall rules require comments to be signed; the name can be a pen name, but we need to keep track of which person is talking. Fully anonymous comments are not allowed as a consequence.

War on Grass

The Mongols had it down. 

How to Get That Old Country Sound

Last we heard Buddy Brown here he didn't fare so well. He's an openly conservative country musician with a sense of humor, but he's playing contemporary country and it sounds like all the rest on the radio today.

Now he's put out an album in an early 70s style. This quick video explains all the stuff he did to try to get that sound. I'm not that familiar with everything that goes into making an album, so it was interesting for me. It explains why it's hard to put out songs like Merle's today.

Here's one of the songs from the album:

If you don't mind some bawdy language, here's a fun one:

Smoked Chicken Sunday

Not as artful as Tex, but I’ll bet it will be tasty. 


We tried pizza in the outdoor bread oven for the first time last night. We started with a quick (8-hour) dough recipe made for a medium-hot oven, around 500-600 degrees, and baked about 10 smallish pizzas for the 8 of us, with a variety of toppings. The crust came out amazingly well: crisp with a well-developed flavor.

Since we had several dough balls left over in the fridge, I tried again using the indoor oven today for lunch and found that worked pretty well, too, even though I can't get my oven much above 500. At that temperature, with refrigerated but not frozen dough, it baked in 8 minutes. Apparently the refrigerated balls of dough will last perfectly well in the fridge for several days, and in the freezer for several weeks. Unrefrigerated, they're good for several hours after they've reached their recommended fermentation stage. Pizza dough, unlike bread dough, has an extremely brief first rise followed by a longer second rise. You can finish the whole process in 6-8 hours if you can keep the dough at 80-90 degrees. If you rush it a bit, it will still taste good, but will be a bit springy when you try to stretch it out into a suitably large round. That doesn't turn out to be much of a problem. None of our crusts were thick enough to fail in crispness, and no one minded the wavy perimeters.

We'll definitely be doing this again. If we were going to shoot for a larger crowd, we'd have to use a wetter recipe calibrated for a much hotter oven, so we could cycle the pies faster. They say a Neapolitan pizza bakes in 90 seconds at 900 degrees. We can definitely get the wood-fired outdoor oven up that high, though I'm not sure how easy it will be to hold it there. We'll have to see how much harder it is to work with a wetter, softer dough.

My favorite turned out to be the extremely simple Margherita: a little fresh tomato sauce, mozzarella, and fresh basil leaves. I was surprised to find that the ordinary all-purpose flour version was a little tastier than the fancy Anson Mills pizza flour. So that's lucky, because the local grocery store stocks a good King Arthur AP flour. It can also usually be counted on to carry some fresh basil out of season. For tomatoes, we used a high-quality canned San Marzano brand that we order online by the case year-round, but the grocery store's hydroponic fresh tomatoes have been quite good in the last few years, too. The tomato industry has figured out how to transport a fresh tomato with flavor. The tomato sauce is really just an instant puree; no need to cook it down unless your tomato source is too watery.

We oversupplied ourselves with a wide variety of other toppings, such as onions, mushrooms, bell peppers, olives, sausage, feta, and Alfredo sauce, but another time I may not bother, considering how tasty the Margherita was. The volume of toppings was vastly more than necesssary, as well, but most of the leftover veg went into some excellent omelettes this morning for us and our two houseguests. (Last night we were joined by four neighbors.)

Here's the indoor slice from today, which had a decent crust, though not as crisp as the outdoor pies from last night:

Emergency Vehicle Driving

This weekend is the annual recertification exercise for driving big fire trucks and such. The over the road exercises are fine, as is most of the obstacle course, with the exception of the serpentine event. There you have to weave the vehicle through a series of cones, which is fine; but then you have to back it through the cones in the opposite direction from how you went forward. Everyone eventually passed it, but there were numerous second tries. 

By coincidence the exercise coincided with the 50th birthday of a member. Thus, a surprise party. 

Less happily it also coincided with a benefit barbecue by a neighbor county for a firefighter who was burned in a recent emergency. We sent the birthday boy over to pick up some Boston butts from their benefit, which also gave us time to set up the surprise party. 

There’s a lot of value in these civic organizations. Even apart from the rescue and fire protection, the community is stronger and better because of these common efforts.