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Today was the annual Winterfest put on by TCRC and Friends of Regent Park. It involved soccer and ball hockey, a bike rigged up to blend smoothies, a D.J., and food from the pizza oven (very tasty corn muffins with bits of jalapeno) and maple syrup taffy made with snow.
We heard that this mural was done earlier this year. Very nice.
The Regent Park CRC got a little grant to hold some teaching sessions for "oven animators." Seven people had three sessions to get ready to help oven programs this summer. On May 11, at their second session, they made bannock and focaccia.
On May 18, the third session, they expanded into many more kinds of food. Their cooking session is pictured here.
Earlier visits to Regent Park
The bakers reported that not only is the oven hearth quite small for doing community pizza days, but also when they try to rake out the ashes, there are gaps in the hearth tiles that get the rake stuck. Sometimes it's quite hard to get the rake out again. This is a design flaw that would not be expected in an oven -- the hearth is the main working part!
And yet the Regent Park Food Centre staff have been told that the City of Toronto plans to make all future ovens like this one. Hard to believe but possibly true.
The oven is located in the north wall of the new greenhouse/Parks storage building. It was hard to find a key to the building but it now looks as though the Food Centre staff have got a key. Happily there's a washroom, but so far no storage space for the oven equipment. There is also no indoor food-prep or washing-up space, so the Food Centre staff have to bring everything from a block away at their main kitchen. The greenhouse staff have problems with the building as well -- the room is too small to hold a school class and there is not cold-weather heating so the water is turned off during the winter -- not a good way to set up a greenhouse.
CELOS brought over a bin of pizza-making equipment to show how the things that are needed can be assembled in a small space. The Parks supervisor has recently agreed to bring over a storage shed for the oven equipment, so that there will be space to store equipment bins between uses. Cleaning up will continue to be a problem, however, evidently not thought of when the oven plans were made.
Wednesday is the "Taste of Regent Park" supper -- not always happening because of staff shortages but happening today. Zahrah, the Food Centre staff person, was training two staff from Dixon Hall so that they could use the oven sometime as well. They said they might train others from Dixon Hall in turn.
The task for Zahrah and the Dixon Hall visitors was to heat up a lot of pizzas for a special event put on by an organization called Food Forward at the Regent Park farmers' market. The event offered $3/a plate food offerings by various local caterers, as well as by the Community Food Centre. The CFC offering was a quarter slice pizza, an empanada, and salad -- a bargain for sure.
The Regent Park oven pizzas on this occasion were Halal pizza toppings on pita bread, choice of cheese pizza or pepperoni, heated in the oven so the cheese would melt. Not exactly pizza from scratch! And yet the short intense heat from the oven made the pizza taste delicious.
The official opening of the bake oven for public enjoyment. The day was cool but brilliantly sunny, and there were lots of curious people. Dale Howey from the Montgomery's Inn oven was there to help out.
The tandoor: Amna Malik and Nayssam Shujauddin came with the Dufferin Grove tandoor oven, to put on a little side show, with naan bread and lentil topping.
From oven staff Zahrah: "we didn’t have any caution tape this time! However, we made the workshop a bit more structured ( a station to roll out the dough, a station to put on toppings) to make it much more manageable. About 120 pizza’s were made and this time we had about 7 children (younger than 3) roll dough and it was priceless. I was too busy helping people with their dough to take a picture, but it was something that should have been captured. We also tried bread today with a recipe given to us by Dale [of Montgomery Inn oven] and it turned out AMAZING! I think working with dough is an art and you will only get better if you constantly practice. I’ve attached a photo from today."
"We are hopefully doing two more bake oven sessions for this year. One on Saturday October 17th and Wednesday October 21st. I think by next year, we should aim to operate the oven on a weekly basis starting in April/May."
The Regent Park oven is part of a very major revamp of the whole of Regent Park, including the park. There's big field that borders on Dundas Street to the south -- east of the field is the Aquatic Centre, and west of the centre is a small multi-purpose building that includes a greenhouse, a storage area for Parks Maintenance, and a wood-fired oven. Programming is the responsibility of the Regent Park Community Food Centre, working with eight other agencies, including most notably the TCRC. It appears, however, that these organizations were not influential in determining the design of either the oven or the greenhouse. The greenhouse is much smaller than was wanted. The oven was built without consultation with bakers.
At the time of our visit, there was still a construction fence around this multi-purpose building, but the fence was unlocked, so that it was possible to get close.
This was the official open house of the Regent Park Community Food Centre. From the Toronto Star: "The Regent Park Community Food Centre is a partnership between Community Food Centres Canada and CRC, a Christian organization with deep roots in the neighbourhood. The new, five-storey building has offices and programs on the ground floor, and “deeply affordable housing” on the upper floors."
The CRC community centre was filled with people, music, food, politicians, donours, gardeners, etc. The oven/greenhouse building showed little progress from July, and was still surrounded by a construction fence -- locked this time. The park was mostly empty. Since the oven could not be used for the celebration, a local restaurant had sent staff to make little pitas on a BBQ outside the community centre's front doors.