Ottawa has no shortage of gathering places, many of them located in parks. But people don't always have a reason to go to these spaces.
Well, back in 2012, residents starting up the Bayshore Park Community Garden decided they could use a community oven — and now that it's a reality, they couldn't be happier with the results.
Mete Pamir is one of the people who helped finally make the oven a reality two years ago.
"The best part has been baking very interesting food from all over the world," Pamir said. "Meeting very different folks from all around the globe, trying their different dishes, baking them and having conversations about them."
'Every bake day, we learn new things.' - Volunteer baker Tom Marcantonio
Volunteer oven operator Tom Marcantonio echoes Pamir's enthusiasm.
"Every bake day, we learn new things. We meet some new people. Some new recipes come in from another part of the world," Marcantonio said.
"One thing we're really trying to emphasize is teaching kids where food comes from and how to prepare it."
The oven, operated by a growing group volunteers, is ignited in the morning and reaches pizza baking temperatures around noon.
"We use a technique called top-down fire," he said, explaining once the optimal temperature is reached, flat breads can be baked. "Typically we bake flat breads for two hours, from 12 p.m. to 2 p.m.. And then we take the coals out — even out the temperature — and about an hour later, it's ready for bread baking."
On Saturday, the community will see the oven put to those uses during the group's Harvest Fair. In addition to live music, bocce ball and bouncy castles, there will also be a pizza baking competition at 12:30 p.m..
Later, at about 3 p.m., when the oven cools to bread-baking temperatures, competitors will turn their attention to crumbles, crisps, cobblers and pies.
If you're hoping to participate, it isn't too late to come armed with your best dough and toppings, Pamir said.
Pamir and Marcantonio are confident what began as a city-supported pilot project will spread to other parts of the city. And they're eager to share the lessons they've learned along the way.
Interested in a community oven? Here are Pamir and Marcantonio's tips:
- Start with a core group of enthusiasts who are really interested in wood fired ovens and baking.
- Be persistent in delivering your message to the city.
- Team up with people involved in community gardens, as they're already somewhat organized and it's a natural fit.
- Reach out to the Bayshore Community Garden and Oven volunteers for guidance on oven design, site planning and communication with city officials.