Many years ago I sailed into a tiny harbor in the Bahamas. Conch shells from ten generations of inhabitants were wind-rowed along the shore. The extended family that lived on the island baked bread for passing sailors. The four loaves we purchased from them never had a chance to cool off.
That is, we woofed them with generous slathering of butter...
Ten years ago the man shown below baked bread for his family. Remarkably, I have met elders in Italy, France, and the U.S. who take pleasure and give pleasure baking for their family.
Having an oven of my own, I may one day be known for that too.
Tuesday, December 23, 2003 news.ai
Bread from a Stone Oven
I had the pleasure of seeing the workings of one of the Caribbean's dying traditions in the village of North Hill...baking bread in a stone oven.
The stone oven is the predecessor of today's gas/electric oven, often cooking bread just as quickly (in 45 minutes to an hour) and definitely with more flavour. This stone oven is constructed of a thick layer of cement blocks and mortar on the exterior and bricks on the interior. The oven has a hole on the side which is lightly covered on the outside by some galvanized tin held up by sticks.
Wood is placed in the oven and lit and allowed to burn for some time...usually a couple of hours. Then after the oven is hot enough, the burning coals are discarded of through the hole on the side. The cleaning effort is done with pointed sticks of different lengths, dipped in water just before and just after pushing the coal out.
The oven needs to be clear of burning wood before the bread is put in or else this would lead to buring of the bread. The bread is placed in on flattened wood sticks, with the larger loaves set at the back, the part that retains the most heat. After the loaves are in, the front of the oven is shut with a piece of galvanized tin held up by pieces of wood on the exterior. An hour or so later, delicious loaves will make a treat for the baker's family and friends. (Not for sale commercially.)