Friday, October 05, 2012

On fire


We're getting there.
I apologize for my absence. Our household seemed to be falling apart and I decided to devote 2 weeks to getting our lives in order and what that meant was very little cooking or blogging. I started volunteering at the middle school lunch counter, sawed down a small tree, bought earthquake insurance, finished our taxes, acquired a shredder, baked 2 birthday cakes, panned a novel that Janet Maslin loved, spent $40 on drawer organizers at the Container Store, organized drawers, paid delinquent bills, went to Naomi Duguid's talk at Omnivore Books (and bought her new book, Burma, which looks terrific), rewired 3 lamps, and "sold" my mother's car, which has languished in our driveway for the last 30 months. I waited so long to sell that sucker that Isabel grew up and in 65 days will be eligible for a driver's license so I am buying my sister out.

I also worked on our backyard oven. We left this riveting saga at the point where Owen and I had completed construction of a sturdy, well-insulated platform. Then we went to India. Then I went to Utah. Then I came back and, with the help of my neighbor Bill and his rock saw, built an elegant brick arch for the door.
Right about here, Owen lost all interest in the oven.
Once the mortar on the arch had set, I mounded damp sand behind it upon a layer of fire bricks.

harder than it looks
After collapsing repeatedly, the sand eventually held a dome shape. I did not enjoy this step and missed Owen's company.

The next day, I mixed a stiff dough of sand, clay, and, water to cover the sand dome. Mark helped with this part, as did Bill and his wife, Joan, and I am eternally grateful to the three of them because if I'd had to do this by myself, I might be in a wheelchair now. It was hard.
wet clay oven
Two days later, the clay dome felt firm to the touch, so I scooped out all the sand. The hollow dome dried some more. It cracked. I patched it up. It dried some more. This morning I built a fire inside and the dome grew fiercely hot and smoke (or steam?) started seeping out of hairline fissures. I'm not sure what to do about that, as the literature is vague on the topic. Cob oven literature is vague on many topics.

Tomorrow, I'm going to insulate the oven with a thick paste of clay and straw. After that: plaster. If all goes well,  I'll try to make pizza on Sunday. I sure hope it's delicious! Then I can cross this epic project off my to-do list and will really be caught up.

63 comments:

  1. Great to hear from you Tipsy! I'm all caught now after reading your blog obsessively like a crazy lady. It was like it was a really important assignment I was so devoted! I'm not used to having to wait for posts, but they're always worth the wait. I think it's better this way... Now there are pockets of time where I may as well do stuff because there's no new Tipsy entry to read! Thanks for keeping it real and real funny!

    Peace, Yukendra

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  2. Wow, I'm impressed. Sounds like you've been busy. I missed you, but figured you would be back with news. Too bad that Owen lost his interest, but I'm pretty amazed he hung in so long at his age. I am keeping my fingers crossed that your oven is a winner.

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  3. I am praying that Burma will be your next selection. I am intrigued by it but would love you to be forward scout. I'd also love it if you pick the "hot" titles more. Congrats on the oven, a mighty accomplishment! Glad you are back.

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  4. Great to have you back. Gosh, that oven has been an epic deal! I hope it rewards you with the best pizza ever! Owen is the same age as my Charlie whom I can sometimes interest in cooking projects. Amazing to me that Owen was involved as he was - good for you! Whilst you were rather busy, I busied myself reading “Make the Bread, Buy the Butter”: such fun! I've been following your blog for quite a while and loved the book. I was especially touched by the family stories surrounding recipes, etc. It made me realize how rich my own family foodie history is.

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  5. Wow, I am so impressed with your oven! Congratulations! I hope you've been enjoying some delicious pizza this weekend.

    I have Burma on my wish list - I look forward to your thoughts on it. I am glued to Japanese Farm Food (Nancy Singleton Hachisu) right now. It's stunning and one you might like, as well.

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  6. I bought Japanese Farm Food, too! Hopeless. I was looking at it last night trying to figure out if I want to cook from it or Burma or Vietnamese Home Cooking next.

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  7. I think the oven is wonderfully exciting and am hoping you can build me one in Marion.

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  8. Can't wait to see which book you choose - all three are terrific! My brother and his family just moved to Hanoi and we're going to visit next year, so I definitely need to find a good Vietnamese cookbook before we go (and then I'll need to get one there to bring home...any excuse to buy another cookbook!).

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  9. Have you figured out if you're breaking the law in any fashion with that oven? I think you should break as many dumb laws as possible on the way to your next book and call it: Breaking Bad: A Home Cook's Guide to Beating the System

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