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Early Newsletter Stories 2002-2004
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Early Newsletter Stories 2002-2004


[Jan.2002] A fantasy oven:

The Discovery Channel is filming a series about flatbread, and they heard that there's a public oven at our park. They sent over a cameraman to film the crowd of people bringing their flatbread to bake on winter Sundays. Of course, these people don't exist. We were puzzled how they would get the idea that people in the neighbourhood all come and bake together in the winter. No one who uses the oven has ever claimed that we always use the oven in a bunch. But the way the movies work (including the movies in people's imagination), "community oven" means something like one might see in an old picture taken in Sicily. It's a kind of fantasy formula of community, existing nowhere. The cameraman said, no worries. We'll just get a few people who happen to be around, and we'll put a bread pan in their hand and on our film it will look as though they've come to bake.

But he's wrong. We won't do that. Why build a television fantasy when reality is so much more interesting? The producer agreed, so they'll be filming some REAL oven scenes on Sunday January 13.

[March 2002] Bread:

Jake Mitchell has been baking sourdough. Jake bakes like a scientist would, with exact measurements of ingredients that he weighs on a sensitive electronic scale, and any recipe changes made with the help of a calculator. Jake grinds his organic wheat seeds on our park grain mill, then painstakingly sifts the ground flour to a finer consistency. The last time he baked, he decided to do a second batch around two a.m., with the help of a friend. (The energy of youth!) He has to bake so many loaves, he said, because all his friends want them, and so they're all gone too fast.

And no wonder. Jake's sourdough loaves are light and delicious. As well as his skill as a baker, another important ingredient is the park's sourdough starter, made from the grape skins of the grapes that <b>Ben Figueiredo</b> grows up the chain link fence by the oven. Anyone who wants to have some of this sourdough starter to bake their own bread can get it for free at the park clubhouse.

On Friday February 15, we brought a basket of park bread over to Ossington Old Orchard Public School at lunchtime. The whole school was in rehearsal of Shakespeare's Midsummer Night's Dream. Parents and teachers and friends of the school were working with the students of every class (various scenes from this play will be performed on March 6 and 7). The school's lunch room was full of familiar faces from the park. In the auditorium, some people were putting the finishing touches on an enormous papier mache tree, others were painting backdrops. Every classroom had kids rehearsing or working on costumes or dance steps or songs. As we left, the principal, Agnes Adams, was in the front hallway painting a giant cardboard "wedding cake," with the help of the school caretaker and a young student. It all looked very exciting.

On February 23, Sally Dundas, Gail Carr, John Botelho, and Barb Kerr came to bake two Portuguese specialties in the outdoor bake-oven: bread with sardines baked right into it, and another kind of bread with sausage baked right in. Sally returned a few days later to bake a bread containing not only sausage but also chicken and a Portuguese kind of bacon. All four of these friends work in films, and share an interest in slow food cooked in the bake oven.

PIZZA-MAKING: On February 27, the rink staff forgot to look at the appointment book, and so they were quite surprised when a class from Howard Public School turned up with their teacher Warren Ringler, planning to spend the day skating and making pizza. Nothing was prepared for them, but it turned out okay. One of the fathers who came along with the class for the day was Nigel Dean, the contractor who built our big park oven and part of our small one. One of the mothers who came along was Donna Bartolini, who was working in the test kitchen at Canadian Living Magazine when we built our first oven. Donna taught us the park cookie recipe, and she baked bread in the oven right at the beginning. So for this class visit she stepped up and helped make the pizza dough and worked the oven while everyone else put out the pizza ingredients and Nigel helped supervise the kids making the pizzas. Who needs staff when such visiting experts are on hand?

COOKIES: On that same day, students from Ursula Franklin School had their third and final "skate and bake" day. They baked cookies with the help of rink staff person (and best cookie maker) Nada Basur.

CAMPFIRES: Also on the same day, Dawne MacFarlane brought a whole class from the Toronto Waldorf School, to skate and have hot cider over a campfire. In all the activity, no one could find the fire stand for the pot to stand on. But as Dawne's son Sam said: "who cares? We just drank cold cider by the campfire, and we skated and had fun. We were hot anyway from skating fast."

For future reference, though, for anyone who uses the friends-of-the-park fire permit for a campfire: the fire stand for the pot is in the green shed by the garage, hung up on a hook on the left side. (The fire permit is available on two days' notice, $10 and try to bring some scrap firewood; call the park at 416/392-0913.)

SOUP: Donations for the winter soup in February: we got vegetables from Cathy Meckes and Ann Bjornseth, and soup bones again from Longo's Grocery. (And Judy Simutis donated - not soup ingredients - but Valentine's Day cookies, which we gave out to the school kids who came skating on February 14, along with baby marshmallows donated by Councillor Mario Silva's office.)</p>


[Nov.2003] The Farmers' Market Tasting Fair, Oct.19:

Although the farmers' market is doing very well, it seemed like a good idea to try and get some media coverage to let even more people know of its existence. So the park cooks devised a fair at which chefs would be paired with farmers to show a variety of the delicious things that could be made with the farmers' produce. Plans were made, menus were set, and press releases were sent out. But NO media people wanted to come and do a story, not even one reporter. They said that Dufferin Grove Park is old news, and so are farmers' markets. So we had to rely on posters and word of mouth and e-mail lists to let people know about the fair. A small turnout would not have surprised the farmers or the chefs. But the huge turnout startled everyone: about 1700 food tickets were sold at $2 each, enough to cover all the materials and park staffing, and even to give the chefs small honoraria for all their work. The different foods were wonderful, and all afternoon the food booths were swarming with recreational eaters. So - who needs the media? It's more fun without them.

[Nov.2003] Wood Donations:

Since we put out our wood S.O.S. last winter, people have been very generous with bringing clean wood over for us to burn in the bake ovens. Now we have a new problem: we need more wood for the inside woodstove for the winter. If you have sections of a tree trunk that are dry, we can split it. (But we can't pick it up.) If you have a way to get the wood to the park, just drive up to the rink garage and put the wood there any time - we'll take it inside as soon as we find it. And the next time you come to the market, identify yourself and pick up your free bread. This also means that all campfire permits for the rest of the season have to bring their own split campfire wood - we can't spare any.


[March-April 2004] Gatherings

-- Saturday March 27: a pre-demonstration pancake breakfast put on by the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty. Demonstrators will go on to Rexdale by bus after breakfast, to protest the renovation of the Heritage Inn into a larger long-term detention centre, for immigrants whose papers are not in order. Five friends of our park are volunteer cooks for this event. For more information you can call 416 925-6939, or go to their web site at

-- Sunday March 28: the date of the seventh annual matzo making at the park oven. Run by Annie Hurwitz and Ron Paley as always (with park staff support), beginning at one p.m. and ending at 4p.m.. The big oven will be kosher and all the materials and tools for making kosher Passover matzo will be available. This has become a wonderful get-together for families to make unleavened bread and exchange lore about the Passover traditions. (Riddle: how many minutes can elapse between the rolling of the dough and the baking, until the matzo is no longer considered unleavened? Ask Ron.) For more information about March 28, e-mail Annie at

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