Bread in the back yard
On a too-hot day a few weeks ago, we helped build a wood-fired oven for a friend in his back yard, mixing mud and sand with our bare feet, hand-shaping mud bricks and slapping them onto the wet sand dome that, when removed, would leave an oven cavity beneath an adobe shell. The process was simple enough to inspire dreams of my own. He's thinking pizza - the best he can imagine, with crisp and tender crusts blistered to black here and there - and I'm thinking deeply flavored loaves of bread, slow-cooked stews, grilled vegetables and meats.
Our shared book of inspiration is a dog-eared copy of "Build Your Own Earth Oven," (third edition), by Kiko Denzer with Hannah Field, with a clear counterculture feel to it:
What happens when you make bread in a wood-fired oven? Plants transform the energy of the sun into fiber, food or fuel; fire transforms fuel into energy; water dissolves and lubricates stony soil, creating the clay that you model into a massive oven; the oven absorbs and holds the energy of the sun released by burning wood. After a couple of hours, the oven is so hot you can remove what's left of the fire and bake the dough you made from sun-ripened seeds, living sourdough culture and water. The hot, dense earth radiates heat at a steady rate (like the sun) so you can cook not just bread, but and also beans, meat, potatoes, soup, vegetables, pies, cakes, cookies, scald milk for yogurt, and finally, dry out the wood for your next fire...
I'm thinking more about creating community around the hearth - sending aromas across fences, drawing friends to our back yard to share meals and time together.
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