Thursday, April 19, 2012

Brick Oven Mentors

The concept of mentorship/apprenticeship goes back to the dawn of time.  Nobody studied Mammoth hunting without seeing a mammoth, dead or alive.  They didn't sit around in a cave nook discussing the abstract and moral pros and cons of eating mammoths.  Their shelters were made of mammoth hides and supported by mammoth ribs.  They tasted mammoth, smelled mammoth, lived mammoth.

Following my traditional education (and even during it), I have filled my life with in-the-field learning.  I owe most of what I know to the community of actors, writers, masons, gardeners, and bakers with whom I have shared interests.
I enjoy mentoring others and have seen a number of young people I've mentored follow in my profession.

In a sense, I mentor myself, or place myself in situations where I am compelled to learn at a pace and intensity that would not be offered in traditional education.  My Spanish was learned "a fuerzas", by force or necessity when I entered, by invitation, a  village in rural Mexico that no 'gringo' had ever been in and for two months I heard and spoke Spanish ten hours a day.  I take the opportunity to learn other languages when I travel. But I digress.

Brick ovens offer a unique opportunity as a project-based learning tool. The history, culture, and mythology of food and fire is wrapped in the very appealing crust of brick, mortar, smoke, and bread.  The goal is clear.  The memory of all that surrounds the actual oven gets embedded in that most deep sense: smell.

This spring,  I will be advising a group of students in the building and use of brick ovens.  I also offer a mentoring/mason option for owner-builders who want to have a hand in their own oven but would benefit from guidance and the tools I have.

We value most what we make.

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