Thankfully, we had mild weather on October 31st, and Halloween was far from our minds. We gathered on this day with sponsors and community members alike to celebrate the opening of the cob oven in the Cherry Park neighbourhood. It stands in an extension of the Willow Green community garden.
The Cherry Park Neighbourhood Association (CPNA) hosted the event. When we arrived at the site, we were invited to have hot apple cider and coffee. The fire in the oven was lit and food was prepared for baking. There was space made for picnic tables and canopies were placed over them in case it rained.
Sponsors who were present included Mayor Berry Vrbanovic, City of Kitchener Counsellor Frank Etherington, and Steve Pomery from Pomery Concrete. Volunteers who participated in different stages of the build were also present. The most excited of them all seemed to be the children. They could hardly wait to eat!
Before the baking began, Shirley Gosselin from the CPNA offered these words to bless the oven:
As we have gathered for countless generations around a fire,
For warmth, for food, for light, for protection,
Community was born.
We shared the stories of our lives, of our journeys past,
And our hopes for the future.
We broke bread together,
And became family.
By sampling each other’s foods and trading recipes.
Through this oven we will reconnect
With our ancestors and their experiences.
We will build bridges with our neighbours,
By spending time outdoors away from clocks,
Life has its own organic rhythm –
Waiting for the oven to heat
Weeding and watering our gardens
Waiting for the dough to rise
Tending it while it bakes.
We enjoy the aroma of fresh baked bread
In the company of others
Who enjoy the same simple chores and pleasures.
And so we pray that this hearth will become the heart of our community. And all the people gathered said amen.
“Amen”, we all said.
We were touched by what we heard as it resonated with us. We had dreamed of building a cob oven that would be the heart of a community ever since we formed our group in 2013. The CPNA thanked TransitionKW and many other groups and individuals who contributed to the project. We were honoured to have been involved.
Then it was time to bake! The CPNA and a number of community members were generous with their food.
The CPNA prepared two trays of pretzels and three large vegetarian pizzas.
A community member from Iraq made three large and seven medium flatbreads. They had two toppings. One was a mixture of tomato, onion, and beef. The other was a mixture of sesame seeds, oregano, and olive oil. This is called “za’atar” in Middle Eastern countries.
Another community member made a pizza with pear and brie cheese. Her sister made a tray of apple scones.
Yet another community member made two large pizzas, one vegetarian and one with roasted chicken.
When the temperature of the oven had lowered, the CPNA cooked sweet potatoes covered in aluminum foil.
Those of us who remained until the end had a chance to roast marshmallows and indulge in s’mores.
Everything was delicious, and we appreciated the warmth of the food in the coolness of the wind.
As we parted, the CPNA offered all of the sponsors a gift basket that included a loaf of homemade bread, a jar of cherry jam, and photos of the build. It was a kind gesture. Our group decided to pass this on to our fellow volunteer Alfred Rempel. He was instrumental in both this project and the project at the Mill Courtland Community Centre. Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to join us for this celebration.
Thank you to the CPNA for their time in organizing this event and welcoming us. Also, thank you to all of the community members who shared their recipes and plates with us.