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Link to a July 24 garden fundraiser at the Artscape oven: Youtube clip. The sitting area by the oven is very inviting.
In summer and fall there were two Artscape parties in the garden at the artists' coop. In summer, local restaurants helped with a summer fundraiser, using the Artscape oven, for the Logie Place Community Garden across the lane way. In October, Gene Threndyle roasted squash in the oven for a big fall soup, and various people made focaccia to go with it.
Report by guest baker Yo Utano.
“How come you are not baking with our oven?” is what Gene Threndyle said when he heard about our project. So here we are at Artscape Artist Coop's garden.
Gene built this oven in 2005, and holds about 6 pizza parties every summer.
The oven fits in pleasantly with the garden that surrounds it, where daffodils and tulips are blooming out of stone edge beds.
There is a big dinner table underneath grape vines next to the barbecue place that Gene also built; a couple of tables by the oven make counter space to prepare food or to hang around the pizza fire...it's a very cozy space for outdoor gatherings.
Gene had started a fire at 9:30, and it was burned all white by the time I got there at 2. Sadly, it showered on and off throughout the afternoon.
We didn't like that, but what can you do? Gene cleaned the oven and we started prepping pizza toppings while waiting for the oven to cool down a little.
As far as bread is concerned, it was a good day. From the day before when I mixed the doughs, I could afford to dedicate my time and care to the bread because I didn't have much else to do.
Flexibility and mild spring temperatures made it possible for the dough to develop fully for both the first and the second rising.
The bread I made today was:
I like how they looked, and they tasted good too. The pure rye loaf sweetened with honey was almost like a dense cake.
Gene made a big pot of slow-cooked chickpea soup with lemon and olive oil. Onions, potatoes, green garlic and dandelion greens for pizza were cooked on the barbecue place.
The sky was getting lighter and by the time people came it had cleared up.
We enjoyed Gene's soup with fresh bread. Earlier showers kept some people from coming out and there was way too much food, but we decided to make a few pizzas.
Gene's pizza looked and tasted like one at a trendy restaurant -green garlic, dandelion greens, garlic & citrus infused goat cheese and sun-dried olives.
Different saltiness from the cheese and olives, different flavours of garlic, sourness from cheese, and bitter kick of dandelion all nicely mixed in my mouth. I wanted to chew more to taste it well, but I also had to talk. It's difficult to fully experience the food and socialize at the same time.
A friend of Gene's had made clafouti and it was about to go in when I left.
I hear that there is one tenant who is very unhappy about the oven for whatever reasons, but she didn't come out today and I got no story from her.
Other than that, this oven seems to be loved. One of the residents of the building told me how beautiful the oven looked in the snow.
The oven is in people's living space, which is a bit different than other ovens. Even though it doesn't get used that much, the oven greets the residents every morning, rain, shine or snow.
This was its first working day of the season, and I'm sure it hopes to work lots more over the summer.
Last February there was a fund-raiser Friday Night Supper at the rink house, for Gene Threndyle's Artscape Artists' Co-op bake-oven at Queen and Crawford. We raised $320, and Gene put that together with other funds and built an oven out in their yard. Their first pizza fire [October 22, 2005] was in the pouring rain, but well-attended. Here's Gene's account of the first fire:
In spite of Hurricane Wilma or who ever that constant rain was that only let up for a couple hours around midnight, we went ahead with our inaugural pizza night at 900 Queen West. We had been up late most nights that week trying to get the chimney finished so that we could do basic baking. It turns out that we do need insulation on top of the oven to do bread and I think we need more soft wood for our firing to get a quick hot heat. For pizza though, so far so good.
By 8pm a few hardcore souls were showing up and we had tables set up on the porch under the building's front canopy and we used the lobby as well. Another lesson learned from Dufferin Grove, use what ya got. There were about 12 people when the first pizza came out and that incredible cheese from the organic market was a huge hit. Dionisio who had run a take-out pizza place on Airport Road when he was 15 took over putting them together.
By the third pizza Bruno and Susan decided that we had to take one over to Marcello at Bar One because they had given us the dough. Bruno took off down the street running with a pizza on the bread peel straight through the bar and back to the kitchen where he demanded the staff all taste the pizza he'd baked.
Marcello seemed almost as amused as the rest of the staff but very thoughtfully ate our offering before passing judgement. "That tastes like my uncle's pizza in Italy" he said and we roared our approval.
When finally the rain let a little someone decided to light a small fire in our wet gravel courtyard. Well it wouldn't be an official outdoor oven inauguration without the fire department and within the hour they arrived sirens wailing.
They walked around our soggy, gravelly garden and decided that there was little danger of the fire spreading. A legal fire though in Toronto has to have a grill over it and be being used for the preparation of food. We showed the guys our oven and they seemed a bit impressed and left advising us to keep the fire only for the preparation of food or put it out.
Luckily Jungle Ling had made these superb grills from salvaged metal from the spit complete with wooden handles. We had intended to grill on them except for the rain. We revised our plan so that we could keep the fire going and we had some food grilling on them by the time the firefighters returned.
It seems that one tenant in our building who wished to remain anonymous and who did not wish to talk to the fire chief had again phoned 911 again about our fire. They did try to contact her and tell here that not only was there no danger but we were preparing food. They had just gotten back into their truck when once again Bruno took off into the night with a pizza on a peel for all the guys in the truck. Again we got praise all round.
So in spite of the cold and the damp and one unfriendly neighbour another offspring of the Dufferin Grove Oven has been inaugurated down on 900 Queen Street West. We can see that there are problems that we will have to address as we finish it but we are looking forward to many more opportunities to make food, it's preparation and eating in our garden a focal point of our neighbourhood.