Unnecessary Creating - Earth Oven
I recently realized that I have been unnecessarily creating my whole life. I think that as a creative having side "projects" is often innate, though sometimes one must be disciplined about developing this as a habit. Being curious and then acting out on those curiosities. Doing work for the sake of the work, the excitement of learning, and the joy of making.
The podcast "The Accidental Creative" by Todd Henry is a favorite of mine. Todd recently put out a podcast titled "How Unnecessary Creating Changes Everything" in which he interviewed Chad Allen. The podcast brings new light to something that many of us creatives often forget to do after we have done our craft for a while: we tend to stick to the ordinary and the paid work, forgetting to learn new things that broaden our skills and perspective. Unnecessary creating is creating on your own terms, not for pay, and often without a deadline. It often fuels new inspiration, creative ways of doing things, and broadens your depth of experience. "Unnecessary creating changes everything because it redeems useless time into time spent doing genuinely meaningful things for yourself and others"- Chad Allen
Between hearing this podcast and being slightly obsessed with Francis Mallmann and his style of cooking, I began a project that I have always dreamed of completing, a earth oven (cob oven). The beauty of the earth oven is that it is mainly constructed from soil, clay and sand - things that are readily accessible and relatively inexpensive. People have been making various styles and designs of earthen ovens for centuries. Some are simply holes beneath the ground - a recessed cavity, often used to hide your food for long periods of time with low maintenance while the cook was out and about for the day. I chose to build an above ground earth oven, with the main intention being to use it to make pizza and breads, but also meats, vegetables, and other baked treats.
The most beautiful thing to me about this style of cooking is the community it involves. The tradition of cooking in an earth oven is best taken on by at least two people. The process of building the oven is a creative endeavor that would be a tedious project to take on by yourself. I luckily had the help of my wife and several friends which enriched the process that much more. Since earth ovens take upward of 2-3 hours to get to baking temps, using them has traditionally been an all day event held on the weekends for the community to bring over their food, cook together and celebrate. The tradition of these feasts and the festive atmosphere have always intrigued me. I am trying to recreate it in my own unique way.
We finished up our oven several days ago, and tested it out with around 7 different pizzas. It was glorious, and the best pizza I have had to date.
I strongly suggest if you are creative that you set up some unnecessary creating projects of your own. You will truly benefit from it. If you are interested in building your own oven, I highly suggest starting with getting the book "Building Your Own Earth Oven" by Kiko Denzer.
"Experience hones your senses, senses hone your skills, and experience plus good sense = knowledge." - Kiko Denzer