Public Bakeovens



Cooking with Fire in Public Parks

Guest Baker May 17, 2011

Report by guest baker Yo Utano.

Riverdale Farm's first market of the 2011 season/oven visit

Too bad that it was raining, but apparently they had never had a non-rainy day on the first market of the season in past years. It's a tradition. Farmers and vendors were relaxed and friendly despite the weather, which made the rain feel rather nourishing.

I did a baking tryout here back in December. Three months later, Elizabeth Harris, the main force of Friends of Riverdale Farm, passed away. We planned another baking for the first market to honour Elizabeth who had loved the oven, but it didn't work out with the city's plan and a bit of mis-communication with the Friends. We were told that the chimney was getting fixed, so it couldn't get used until the day of the market.

I went to the back of the Farm Kitchen to find a little crowd watching the baker turn the pizza in the oven. The baker told me that the city would provide wood for their twice-a-week pizza day, but the key to the oven was still not in the bakers' hands. While talking, he pulled out the pizza that looked so worth waiting for in the rain. It was cut into generous slices and the happy crowd left. The oven and the Farm Kitchen closed before 5, long before the market ended, I assumed because of the weather.

My experience is minimal, but both in December and today I got an impression that the farm staff didn't like the oven. When Jutta came by to see the chimney whose crack we believed was no problem for baking, an in-charge Farm staff told her to go away. Often, the staff's goal seems to be to prevent the use of the oven, quite opposite from encouraging it. When a volunteer-based community activity is discouraged over an extended period of time, people get tired. On top of this, the Friends of Riverdale Farm have been hard hit by the loss of Elizabeth.

That is another reason why we thought we would bake, since our goal is to get the oven used. It would have been nice to have some bread baked especially because St. John's bakery, the only bread vendor, didn't make it to the market today.

But today, I met two bakers who clearly loved the oven. Again, friendly and enthusiastic people make everything nice. Oven, kitchen, and bakersóconditions for lively activities around the oven are there, it's just that the city has to trust the community and let nice things happen.

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Content last modified on October 15, 2014, at 02:59 PM EST