Article in The Record: The best pizza is cooked here

Our active KW Cobbers have made it into the local paper, The Record. The group was formed last winter after a showing of the film First Earth, and they have since built a cob oven at the Silver Lake Mennonite Camp.

They’re currently looking for locations for cob building, and they’re especially interested in cob ovens. Recently, they had a social event at an existing community oven at the Queen Street Community Garden, and a journalist from The Record was on hand to check the group out. Read the original article here. The re-post is below:

‘The best pizza is cooked here’

Outdoor oven gives community gardeners a chance to feast on summer’s bounty

By Claudia Carver

Lively conversation, a group of old and new friends, delicious wood-fired oven pizza — what’s not to love?

The gathering was around the Queens Green Community Garden oven, located at the corner of Queen and Mitchell streets in downtown Kitchener. At this time of year after a judicious mix of showers and sunshine, it’s a beautiful oasis of shared garden space with tomatoes, peppers, beans and other vegetables reaching maturity.

The wood-fired masonry oven sits in the middle of the garden. Established in 2003 through a grant from ACE Bakery, it was constructed by a small crew of volunteers and community garden members.

In preparation for last Saturday’s evening gathering, Alfred Rempel arrived in the middle of the afternoon to light and manage the fire. Rempel quips that he never was a boy scout, but his skill at fire building is readily apparent.

The party was planned for the Queens Green garden group as well as members of Transition KW’s Cob Committee, a small group of enthusiastic “cobbers” who are committed to the idea of building environmentally sustainable cob ovens composed of clay, sand, straw and water.

Both cob and masonry ovens are designed to channel all their heat into the baking chamber. Because little wood is needed, they’re very fuel efficient.

But the party was all about fellowship and food.

Patience is required for such a party as the fire takes about three hours to reach the right temperature for pita bread and pizza. By 6 p.m., hungry people had arrived with an abundance of pizza toppings, homemade sauce and a large bowl of hummus for the pita. They also brought iced tea, gazpacho, a raspberry custard dessert, watermelon and even some homemade wine and beer.

The nearby tomatoes haven’t ripened yet, but as much as possible was from the garden — herbs in the tomato sauce, zucchini, kale chips, raspberries all found their place at the food table.

By this time, the fire, which was started with kindling at the front of the oven, had been carefully shoved to the back so the pita and pizza could cook at the front. The same dough is used for both, so small bits for pita were pinched off the huge ball of dough, ready to be rolled flat and placed in the oven.

Almost instantaneously, the pitas were ready to be taken out and shared. Without a doubt the freshest and most delicious pita!

Then it was time to roll and stretch the dough for the pizza. Rempel had brought all the necessary tools and soon one after another was stretched, topped with sauce and slid into the oven.

“The best pizza is cooked here,” said Cheryl Schwartz, one of the garden members. With no slices left from the countless made, her comments rang true.

“I like it because it slows down our life,” noted Ana Gascon.

Rempel’s patience with the fire was rewarded as people enjoyed the camaraderie as well as the food, and were reluctant to leave for home.

By that time the oven would be the perfect temperature for baking loaves of bread, but that’s an event for another day, such as the Easter bread baking, which took place last April.

For now, recipes and garden tips were shared and Gascon threw out the possibility of having her post-wedding party here at the community oven, after her wedding in Spain.

Gascon, an architect working as an intern for the Ontario Architects Association, grew up in Spain and has memories of visiting the community ovens in her grandmothers’ villages. The dough would be made at home and then women would go to the ovens to bake it. She remembers “the gorgeous smell, and the taste — so good!”

Beyond his ability to build fires, Rempel — who has an honours degree in business from Wilfrid Laurier University — prefers to think of himself as a craftsperson.

He attended the Sheridan College Furniture Studio and enjoys working with metal, clay, glass, wood and leather.

He has led workshops on solar dehydrating and cooking, wine making, and willow twig construction.

And he is committed to building more cob ovens. Along with Gascon, Rempel recently worked at the Cherry Park Festival to demonstrate how a beehive-shaped cob oven can be built and to encourage the building of one at Cherry Park’s own community garden, Willow Green.

Claudia Carver lives in Kitchener.

About Sylvie Spraakman

Environmental engineer, environmental activist, and community volunteer. Loves KW!
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