Back in the 1970s, people discovered food again. We started growing vast vegetable gardens, tried homesteading, canning and baking, and eating immature milkweed pods, inspired by Euell Gibbons and other proponents of the back to the land movement. We tied macrame and embroidery and tried to get in touch with nature and our inner selves. It was a heady and optimistic time, even as we thought we were preparing for Armageddon.
Inspired by the younger generation, my folks had someone make some wooden covers for the bake ovens in the former kitchen hearth, and my mother experimented with baking in the ovens a few times. I was mostly living elsewhere, so I don’t know how successful she was, but I do know that it didn’t become a compelling pastime for her. The wooden covers fell into disuse and collected dust in the nether regions of the fireplace.
Then came the great snows of 2011. My kids had moved to more exciting environments, and I found myself spending a lot of time in front of the fire, enjoying its warmth, light and the soothing smell of wood smoke. As the snows fell and fell and fell, it almost seemed as if Armageddon had indeed arrived. My friend Charlie is a great bread baker, and so it seemed like a cool idea to try to bake some bread. I had a few vague recollections of hearing how it’s done and I went online for some confirmation, and with the optimism of eternal youth we forged ahead.
The bread oven was experimented with three times in the late winter, early spring of 2011. The first time was the most successful. The next two times the bread didn’t get cooked all the way through. I’m thinking that we might have replicated my mother’s experience, but perhaps I’ll try again in the snows of 2012.