Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Honduras, Roatan (Pizza nights) 2016-03-23

Over the last few months in between fixing the boat and playing with monkeys, we have been making pizza. Lots and lots of pizzza. More pizza than you can imagine.

It all started on Garth’s birthday in January. I asked him what he wanted, and the answer was pizza. Pizza and margaritas. That didn’t seem like too much of an ask, so I decided to throw a little party in the Tiki Palapa. We didn’t tell people we were having pizza, in case they all rocked up expecting a big meal. But I stocked up on all the ingredients, Pete gave us permission to use the Palapa as well as his big grill (we just had to replace his gas) and Debbie brought along a birthday cake. She even supplied a blender for the margaritas! It was a great night.

Garth spent all afternoon making pizza dough and then we took everything up to the Palapa for our pizza party. I chopped up all the ingredients and he went about casually rolling out the dough and sprinkling toppings on them. They were rectangular pizzas, made to fit on the top shelf of the grill. With the lid closed and the temperature cranked, it worked just like a pizza oven. They were done so quickly! The crust was crispy and the cheese was all gooey. I chopped up each pizza with a borrowed pizza cutter and passed it around. There was enough for us all to have a piece from each one, and they were all different flavours. There weren’t mass amounts of people around and it turned into a really fun, relaxed night. We even made friends with a few of the hotel guests who stopped by and joined in the celebrations.

And that was that. Except our friend Fred was planning on leaving Roatan for a while, and he asked us if we could do it again. Just once more before he left. Please more pizza!?

So we hesistantly decided to try it once more. Except we couldn’t afford to pay for all the ingredients again… so this time I figured we had to charge people if they wanted to join in. We both loved the whole concept of it… all you can eat, each pizza is different. If you don’t like what’s on one, you just wait five minutes for the next one to be passed around. On Garth’s birthday we were all stuffed by the end, completely unable to eat another bite. We both had a piece of each one as it came out, and the whole thing was a lot of fun.

But now people were paying for the food, we were both nervous. What if it wasn’t good enough? What if people didn’t get enough to eat? What if they didn’t come out fast enough? Neither of us has ever run a business before, although I’ve worked in the hospitality industry long enough to know what needs to be worried about. And there was a lot of worry. We were only really charging people because we wanted to eat pizza but couldn’t afford to feed anybody except ourselves… so we decided on an amount that converts to about $3usd if you brought along a pizza topping to contribute, and $5 if you didn’t. We figured that way it would cover the cheese, sauce, pepperoni and any other things I bought… and the extra toppings would be provided. And in case lots of people decided to just pay more and not bring anything, I came equipped with a huge bag of tins from our cupboards (olives, capers, sundried tomatoes… we really do have a lot of food onboard!). I had to invest in a pizza cutter, and without a rolling pin we just used a cold wine bottle out of the fridge to roll out the dough (it was the only rosè and had been there for a while – we removed the label, washed the bottle and it became our designated rolling pin each week. When I was packing up our apartment in Wellington our good friend Rebecca helped us downsize… she chucked out my rolling pin and declared that all we ever need is wine. This has since become standard practice!)

Garth rolling out the pizza dough with a wine bottle.

So it was a good plan. We were having pizza again! Except it quickly turned into a madhouse. Lots of people turned up, I panicked when I felt like people weren’t getting enough to eat, and there was a lot of stress. I think the difference was the first time we did it, Garth and I were both eating a piece from each pizza along with everybody else. There were leftovers from each one, so some people had two pieces before a new one came out. The pizzas came out at the right time so that we were never hungry and it was all very relaxed. This time I was cutting the pieces smaller and smaller so that there were enough to go around… we weren’t getting any at all. So we were starving. And I assumed everybody else was starving as well. How could they possibly be full from such tiny pieces!? Then we ran out of pizza dough. We had made twice as much as the time before, but there were lots more people. I had to run back to the boat and we ended up making the last few pizzas with dry pre-mix pizza dough packets. But everybody seemed to be full and happy. It quickly became evident that this wasn’t just a casual dinner – it was an event. You couldn’t just rock up for half an hour, eat and go home – it spread out over a few hours. Then the clean up at the end took about 40 minutes… the whole Palapa was covered in flour, there were food scraps everywhere, and there were a lot of dishes. We started the dough at around 1pm and finished the night at 10pm.

The end of the night… not much food left!

We were exhausted, and we had made about $20usd profit. We were pleased, considering we hadn’t been trying to make any money. But it was a lot of work. We were not going to do it again for $20. Pete had originally agreed to let us take over the Tiki Palapa if we split the profits with him, but after about 10 minutes of watching us run around like crazy people, he decided all he wanted from us was his gas refilled after we used it. Which we were super grateful for!

Sunset from the palapa

There was a lot of positive feedback after that night - people wanted pizza again. So we raised the price to something close to $5usd if you brought a pizza topping, and $7usd if you didn’t. Everybody told us we could legitimately charge more for the amount of work we were putting in (plus it was all you can eat, and there isn’t anywhere else around here to get food from – the closest place is way more than we could afford). But as cheap cruisers, we would go out for a $7 meal. $10 each was too much.

The next week we were a bit more prepared. People knew the system a bit more as well – the week before a lot of them who hadn’t gone to Garth’s birthday were a bit confused until they rocked up and saw how it worked. We got a routine going. Marty and Liz brought home cooked sauce, which kicked the pizzas up another notch (I would normally make my own, but the pizza dough was already enough work as it was). Garth figured out how to fit two pizzas onto the grill at a time, and we started getting into the swing of things. We ran out of dough AGAIN… but I raced back to the boat, grabbed flour, salt and yeast, and mixed up some flatbread that rose in half an hour. Nobody even noticed the difference.

We started making a decent profit! And it was a lot of fun. So week after week we continued. It’s been a big part of our week – after a while we started going through about $50USD of cheese a week. We were using 20lb of flour each time (that’s a big bag!) and Garth was making so much dough that we had to start perparing everything by around midday. Garth would mix up the dough and leave it to rise for a few hours. After a while our boat was just filled with pizza dough. Every bowl, pot or pan that could hold dough was balanced pecariously around the boat with cling wrap over the top. Because it’s so hot, they would rise very fast and we couldn’t slow them down by putting them all in our tiny fridge… so we spent a lot of time punching down dough so it wouldn’t explode. Eventually Pete just let us make the dough at the Palapa and fill his drinks fridge with all of our pizza stuff.

Pizza dough so stubborn that even glad wrap cannot contain it!

Everybody got really into it, and each week more and more people turned up. At the supermarket, people would excitedly tell me that they’d picked their topping for the week. And people started bringing really fun things, which Garth loved. He got really into creating different flavours with the different toppings. Two of the weirdest things we had were beetroot and dried figs (which our friend Anju had dried herself!). They were also the two toppings that people kept talking about and asking for more of! Everything that could be put on a pizza was, and we were having a great time. Once we got the dough amounts right, I even got garth into the habit of making me an extra pizza at the end so I could take it home for breakfast the next day (Garth and Pete usually took what was left of the last two pizzas before that – people were always still peckish at the end but not enough to eat more than a slice or two). We had garlic bread going at the beginning of the night as well, and people figured out not to rock up all at once. The people who were there from the start were full by about halfway through, so even though the place would be packed not everybody was eating at the same time which made it much less stressful. Pete was really good at keeping an eye on everybody and letting us know who had been waiting for a while and who had just rocked up and needed food immediately. We definitely couldn’t have done it without him!

Aussie Pete and our friend Shelley

Debbie and Steve left for Rio Dulce for a month, but when they came back Debbie was super helpful as well. They returned when the pizza nights were getting really busy and she helped pass the pizzas around while Garth and I were running around like crazy. We were getting around 40 people a night, which is a lot of mouths to feed and a lot of pizzas to make!

Debbie helping us hand out pizzas while it was quiet enough for me to take pics!

We even did a few individual pizzas once we got organised and had a routine going. One couple brought their own cheese every week so they could still have pizza without the dairy, and we had a few other legitimate food requirements that we could work around. We generally made one meat and then one vege, so we had a good variety for everybody.

They were so good that one week as I walked home with my breakfast pizza I came across a group of drunk Americans who had been out on the town. My pizza looked so delicious they convinced me to sell it to them for $20, which I did reluctantly (although I regretted it the next morning when there was no breakfast pizza!)

No time for breakfast anyway when there's monkeys around!

Apparently Garth’s hair is delicious...

My favourite night was a few weeks ago, when it was absolutely pouring with rain. Like torrential rain. We thought about cancelling pizza night, because the Palapa is pretty leaky and not really indoors (its just a shack with open walls). But the rain let up for a while and we decided to do it anyway. Then the rain started again. We managed to get the pizza toppings in a safe place away from the rain, but the BBQ was a few metres away from the Palapa. Not under cover. We couldn’t move it, so thanks to a generous soul who loaned us their giant umbrella, we transported pizzas between the Palapa and the BBQ very carefully with me holding the umbrella and Garth carrying the pizza. The BBQ had steam pouring off it all night as the rain came down on top of the lid.

We didn’t think many people would show up. We were wrong. People started flying towards the shore on their dinghies, like mice escaping a burning building. Most of the boats here are at anchor, but they all came in through the rain wearing full wet weather gear. I think every single cruiser at Fantasy Island came along that night (except our friend Ellen… she tried to come, but the path from her boat had been flooded and she couldn’t get to us!). Everybody was crowded under the leaky roof, laughing and drinking and having a great time amidst this crazy, torrential rain. It was really bizarre and really lovely. They really like our pizza!

As much fun as it’s been, we’ve had to put an end to all this pizza madness. We’ve got to get moving soon, and we still have things to do to the boat before we go. So no more pizza. On our last night everybody was especially amazing. Almost everybody paid us extra, and somebody even brought 2lb of huge prawns to put on the pizzas (they were SO GOOD!). So it was a really nice end to what has been a pretty fun adventure. I think it’s safe to say that if we wanted to, we could start up a little pizza shop somewhere. I think it was more fun just making whatever we wanted though, rather than having people put in orders. Plus it was great having a different flavour for every slice! We made enough money to pay for our boat to be at the dock, which is a big deal for us. So thank you to everybody at Fantasy Island who helped us out by eating our pizzas, offering a hand or just for being fabulous! I was expecting I’d be sick of pizzas by now, but I could totally go for just one more…

Xxx Monique

Click here for LOTS more pictures!

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