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Early Newsletter Stories 2000-2001
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Early Newsletter Stories 2000-2001

GH Wood


[Sept.2000] Food:

Alan Scott Oven Workshop

On May 28-30 a new, smaller bake-oven was built near the rink house, funded through the kindness of the Maytree Foundation ($4660). Ten people paid to work with master oven-builder Alan Scott, who flew here from California to conduct the workshop. On the same weekend the Dover Gardens Nursery School ran a terrific fundraiser with home-made croissants, cappuccino, and a plant sale as well as the usual bargains from the garage. Also the Catalyst Centre organized an educational food fair about the global politics of food, called Fair Fare Fair. What a weekend that was!

[Oct.2000] the park's first-ever "Wood-fired-bread laboratory."

Sunday October 29 is the park's first-ever "Wood-fired-bread laboratory." Shannon Crossman, from the Spiral Garden (she was a participant in the Maytree oven-building workshop) will bring Spiral Garden's moveable wood-fired oven, and will bake flatbread (naan bread). Wendy Trussler, who organized the Bread Baking Boundaries festival at Healey Willan Park last June, will be baking cinnamon rolls in a dutch oven, and patterned flatbread on heated iron woodstove doors. (She learned these skills while cooking for 40 tree planters in the bush for nine years.) Jan Schallert, our baking instructor and Wendy Trussler's collaborator, will be working with Wendy to make a giant (six foot) braided challah, as well as baking breads with unusual flours such as spelt and kamut. Nadine Ijaz, another oven workshop participant from May, will be baking Flemish desem sourdough, as will Jutta Mason (rye version). Elizabeth Harris and Carol Ann Castleman will be demonstrating some of their antique baking tools. Many of the oven-building participants from May will be there to try out the oven they built.

Between 2.30 and 4.30 the larger bread oven will be at the right temperature for anyone from the neighbourhood to slip in a loaf or two they've brought from home. If you're a baker but you've never had the chance to try out the difference a wood-fired oven makes to your bread, this is your chance. The afternoon is also a good time to taste the different breads coming out of our park "laboratory."

[November 2000] Politics in the park:

The evening before Jan Schellert's first baking class, an assistant to Tooker Gomberg (candidate for mayor) called and asked if Mr.Gomberg could hold a press conference for World Food Day beside the bake oven. We said fine as long as the conference doesn't interfere with the baking class. But when Gomberg came, the reporters collected in front of the oven and the baking class was plenty mad because they couldn't get their bread into the oven fast enough, and it didn't bake up properly. Gomberg asked for a loaf to put in the oven, so the reporters could film him doing it. Afterwards there was an item on City TV that said Gomberg had spent the afternoon baking at this park with his supporters! This is what people running for office have to do to get media coverage. But we now know for certain that politics and baking don't mix, so please, politicians, don't ask to hold a press conference in front of the oven, because we won't let you do it again.

Sorry, Mr.Chretien.


[Jan.2001] Bread baking

Although lots of bread is being baked and served most days in the rink house, there are some problems. Public bread baking is not working out well. There's too much commotion inside the rink house to add a teaching table for those who want to try their hand at baking in the wood-oven. Jan Schallert came between Christmas and New Year's to make cinnamon buns and three kinds of bread. She's remarkably patient, and very happy to show people what she's doing, but even she said it was a zoo. Between the old men playing cards, the little kids playing checkers, the shinny players changing, the mothers reading to their kids by the fire, the rink guard applying an ice pack to a kid's bump on the head, the young guys arguing about girls - where's the space for show-and-tell baking? So we're declaring a break in public baking, until after the rink season is finished. In the meantime the CELOS library has acquired four new baking books plus a Portuguese cookbook, all available for study at the rink house. Would-be bakers can put their name on the baking list and, for now, get comfortable in front of the wood stove with one of the new books.

"No public baking" doesn't mean "no bread." We've been serving slices of wood-oven bread and butter all winter long. For 25 cents a slice, almost every kid can afford to eat some. Those kids who don't have a quarter can pick up some trash in the rink house or straighten out the game pieces, to earn their bread slice. All that skating and fresh air make you hungry, and thanks to the oven, we have bread. (Thanks, also, to the fire. The wood to heat the ovens is still provided free by Ali Hussein from his skid factory. He delivers it to Christie Pits for storage, and when we need more for our park, park supervisor Mike Hindle asks his staff to bring us some. Everybody helps.)

[Sept.2001] Poetic License:

Ann Bjornseth found this passage in Martin Sloane, a recent novel by Michael Redhill (page 89): "By the fall of 1999, I had been living in an apartment on Havelock Street in Toronto for almost seven years. My backyard looked over a park where mothers gathered every Tuesday to stoke a stone oven that had been built there by the city. They baked bread in the oven and made fresh pizza for their kids, and afterwards they all sang songs together, songs my own mother had sung to me." Singing? Novelists can make things up, it's allowed.

Pizza days: for September and October, in good weather, pizza days will be on Wednesdays from 11.30-1.30.

Open oven (hot, about 375 F): available for anyone on Tuesday and Friday 4-8 p.m. The "cook-your-own-dinner" program has been quite successful - recently, people have cooked a whole salmon, a roast, chicken, various breads, vegetables, a pie, even biscotti. On Tuesday August 28 Judy Simutis invited dog owners (about 30 came) for a dog meatloaf she baked in the oven, as well as homemade olive bread.

Open oven, (warm, about 250 F): Wednesday nights and Saturday daytime during the fall. This works for slow stews, which can go in for about 5-10 hours depending on the recipe. Anyone wishing to bake a slow stew overnight please call the clubhouse at 392-0913, to arrange for your own oven key. Stews and casseroles done in this traditional way taste different than the ones you do in a stove or a slow cooker - try it.

[October 2001] September 11:

On the morning when the two towers of the World Trade Centre in New York City came down, the Tuesday mother's exercise group was working out in the park. As the news came in they eventually just stopped moving. Who could believe this? Jutta Mason and Larry Lewis were baking at the park ovens for the Riverdale Organic Farmers' Market. Jutta wanted to throw the rising dough into the trash but wiser counsels said: people still have to eat bread. And then, every night for the first weeks the basketball regulars could be heard in heated discussion, turning over every possibility of who might have done this and how to deal with it. Many of these youth have relatives in New York but none was near the Manhattan business district and so none was hurt.

[October 2001] New uses for the park's outdoor bake-oven:

--a prop for photo shoots: On the last Friday in September a big group of women and men gathered in front of the larger bake-oven, with a photographer. It turned out they were from the Working Women's Community Centre on Gladstone. None of them had ever used the oven but they're publishing a cookbook. Since many of the people using the Centre are immigrants, they were just using the oven, they said, as a suitable (traditional) prop.

Move over, Casa Loma and High Park Formal Gardens. Dufferin Park's bake-oven has arrived as a prestige photo-shoot backdrop.

-- a feather-warmer for chilly small birds: as soon as the temperature dropped, the same sparrows that have been stealing Ben Figueiredo's grapes all August started hanging out in from of the oven doors, as close to the heat as they could get. Sometimes there's just one, sometimes six of them in the doorway. It means we have to scrape the front of the hearth before we bake. But the sparrows look pretty pleased with themselves.

-- a test kitchen: for the second month now, every Tuesday both bake-ovens have been in production, for bread and now cinnamon buns, for the Riverdale Organic Farmers' Market (held at Riverdale Farm on Tuesday afternoons from 3.30 on). Jutta Mason and Kate Cayley are trying to find out how many loaves (80?100?120?more?) can be made in six hours, and Larry Lewis has got up to 102 cinnamon buns. Baking in quantity in a wood-fired bread oven that has no dials to adjust the heat is a wicked challenge. But the organic bread and cinnamon buns are so popular that they never last longer than an hour at the market. We think this is a very interesting piece of market research for a future youth project at the park. In the past, our park's "odd jobs for youth" programs have often been very light work, not preparing youth for much. There is nothing light about baking: when fifty loaves are rising, and the next forty loaves are ready to bake, there is never a minute to waste. It's a demanding, challenging kind of work that accepts no excuses, and the park is a pretty good source for youth who need to stop making excuses. The G.H.Wood Foundation has said they are interested in this idea, and are helping us explore it.

[Nov.2001] Food in the park:

Although the ovens are still available for cooking dinner every Friday night between 4 and 8 p.m., few people have made use of them this past month. Fall is a quiet time in the park in the evenings. When winter comes, though, the ovens will be available often, and every Sunday will be a big baking day. Fresh, hot loaves of bread will be for sale right from the oven. There will be a campfire with soup and hot chocolate near the snow hill. Inside at the snack bar there will be <b>Larry Lewis'</b> wood-oven cinnamon buns, in addition to the usual menu. One oven will always have space for cooking your own dinner: you can bring the family to skate, throw a chicken in the oven, and go home later with your dinner cooked. No trouble.

[December 2001] Loblaws comes to Dufferin Grove Park:

Last month, 13 employees of Loblaws' President's Choice Division came to have a baking day at the park. Some of them work for Loblaws' organic foods section, and they were interested in seeing how our ovens worked for bread-baking, as a fun field trip for their staff. (Arie Kamp, the park seed man and gardener, thought that we might get a contract with Loblaws to bake bread for them. They told Arie that a huge food corporation like Loblaws buys its inventory not by the pound or the ton but by the field, or by whole farms. Baking bread for Loblaws in a wood-fired bread oven would be like trying to supply retail clothing to Wal-mart with a spinning wheel.)

The visitors worked with great cheerfulness and baked 40 loaves of very good bread. Elizabeth Harris, the oven-builder at Riverdale Farm who started their succesful organic farmers' market this past summer, had prepared a tasty soup, and the visit ended with a big lunch of soup and bread for all the bakers. They made a donation to both our park and Riverdale. Afterwards, one of the Loblaws staff, Leslie Landry, came by with a big box full of parchment paper (used for baking) as another gift.

The fact is, we use Loblaws Organic All-Purpose Flour as one ingredient in our park bread dough. It seems to work out better than any other organic flour we've tried so far. We would welcome alternative leads to good flour.

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