With all the shenanigans on the political and abusive side of life in Australia last week, I am really ready for garlic prawns or a good solid potato bake, perhaps even both. The prawns as an entrée and the potato bake with just some tuna in between the thinly sliced potato layers with leeks, and some sun-dried tomatoes might just do the trick. Well, not strictly sun-dried. This our last jar of home bottled ‘pizza oven’ dried, not strictly ‘sun-dried’ tomatoes. It just sounds better. Let me explain.
While finally now on our last jar of those sun-dried tomatoes, it brought back memories. We left our farm in 2010. I should now heave, perhaps with a sigh, and question where all the years have gone? That’s what many people over seventy do. Don’t they? Agile readers might well remember the large pizza oven I built while living on the farm. It was huge, and one could at a pinch, even have slept in it, as well as making pizzas, although not at the same time. I would not be the first one to sleep in a pizza oven. In Russia, many a husband after coming home drunk would be refused the share of the matrimonial bed by his stout and possibly very formidable wife, and told to sleep off his stupor on top of the stove instead.
The first attempt at building the pizza oven was disastrous. I underpinned the arched brickwork with plastic tubing while laying the bricks. The mud-mortar was nice, with the cement, lime and bush-sand mixture of the right sloppy consistency. It sat nicely on the trowel. A joy to work with. As the arched brickwork reached towards the middle from both sides I noticed a slight but ominous wobble. I should have stopped then. Helvi and our daughter were sipping tea watching me at work. I felt justified in being proud. It could well have been the reason why I continued on, despite the structure with its wobble clearly telling me to stop and let it dry out till the next day.
We all know that arches are very strong. Look at Venice, nothing but arches where-ever one looks, from bridges to buildings. Even some people when ageing, form an arched back, allowing them to go on, despite life’s tragedies or because of it. It might have been my foolish pride in front of Helvi and our daughter (sipping tea in the Northern sun) that made me go on. It might also have been the challenge that, if I could reach the middle and close the gap between both arches coming together, there would not have been a chance in the world it could ever collapse. An arch in brickwork is almost indestructible
Alas, hundreds of bricks went a flying. The plastic tubes buckled. My immediate reaction was that of total dismay. I worked for days, cleaning the old bricks I had scavenged elsewhere. I had poured the concrete floor base on which were built the walls that would carry another concrete base that had to carry the actual pizza arched oven totally enclosed on four sides but allowing a small door for fire-wood to enter and the pizzas to be cooked. The secret of a good oven is the total insulation of all the walls including the floor. My pizza oven had two layers with generous insulation between each layer. Even the chimney consisted of inner and outer stainless steel pipes. Helvi thought it was a work of art. And it was.
After the collapse, the initial moments of dismay turned into unstoppable laughter. I knew Helvi was genuinely and lovingly concerned, but our combined love for the ridiculous always takes over. What was one to do? Call an ambulance or the cops? Just ride with it, was the only answer. I got stuck in building proper formwork the next day, and re-built the arches again.
It was a great pizza oven. It would be used for pizzas, roasts, sour-dough breads and drying those delicious small tomatoes that just about grew anywhere.
A lovely memory.