Public Bakeovens



Cooking with Fire in Public Parks


Jumblies Picnic at Cedar Ridge Creative Centre, June 26, 2011

Report by guest baker Yo Utano

Jumblies Theatre is undertaking a multi-year residency at the Cedar Ridge Creative Centre, a gallery and studio space operated by the city of Toronto Cultural Service Department. It has run art programs of all kinds in the west Scarborough community for the past two years.

The company particularly reaches those with less opportunity to do art because of lack of money, transportation, or information. People also find that the door is open to anyone, and the program is always full with diverse participants.

Today is a special summer picnic day with some art making and performances, and we thought it would be nice to have a campfire at this beautiful location by the ravine. It is indeed an amazing place—the building is a restored family mansion built in 1912, surrounded by English-style gardens with a lot of green space.

From our previous roti production experience, we learned that the tawa had to be hot so the bread would be cooked before it got dried out. Also, when we have to make a lot in advance to feed more than 50 people, the bread cooked in the beginning tends to become tough. So here are our innovations:

  • Dough with more oil
  • More wood
  • Smaller (thus lower) trivet, so the tawa sits closer to the fire

The menu is:

  • A roti sandwich/wrap filled with: Kidney bean spread, tomato, cucumber and chick pea salad, and cheese
  • Rhubarb cake for dessert

In the morning, I made the filling with help from Marianne who is Jumblies' fabric artist but also an excellent cook. We also made fruit platters and prepared cold drinks, and everything was good to go when Mayssan arrived with all the campfire equipment. Cedar Ridge already has a fire location that is used for raku in the pottery class, and the Cultural Outreach Officer had got a fire permit from the Parks Department. Since the raised fire pit for raku must not be contaminated with food, we made the fire in a barrel beside it.

We were running behind, but once the fire was lit it went fast. Another artist and two young volunteers at the rolling table, and Mayssan and I at the tawa made an efficient production team. The tawa was so hot that the bread cooked in a few seconds on each side, leaving some with smokey flavour. Luckily, they got eaten almost right away and I had little time to worry that they might be too burned. It was also good because flat bread is best fresh, which often makes it stressful to arrange the timing. People got a bread from us and went to the food table for fillings. Some came back for a second or third, and every single bit of dough was eaten. Kids fought over who would roll out the last piece of dough.

After dinner, people watched performances in the green field. People of all ages and from all cultural groups sitting on the green grass watching a performance looked to me like art in itself. The planning, preparing, and anticipating the event, working with people and the conversations we had all make the last scene deeply beautiful. It is a sight satisfying enough to keep Jumblies going in the way they do, running around without time for themselves to eat. I was happy to be a part of this today, and hope to be again, even just to keep them fed.

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Content last modified on July 24, 2011, at 08:11 PM EST