My Sketchbook

Monday, August 2, 2010

Food for Thought

Today's EtsyMetal blog carnival topic is about food.

Well this could be a very long post, but I promise to keep it as short as I can. I love food, and love to cook. I feel very fortunate to live in the country, where we grow most of our food. We have an organic vegetable garden, a dairy cow, chickens, and bees. I live in Argentina, the world's leading beef consumer, so we do eat a lot of red meat, but since we've had more time to work on our vegetable garden we have been making it bigger and bigger each season we are slowly weaning out of meat, and we feel great. I love to do stir fries and one pot dishes. I don't like deep frying anything, and I find it difficult and boring to follow step-by-step recipes. I usually look at recipe pictures and get inspired with my own ingredients, flavors, and tastes. I rarely measure anything. My cooking is very creative and I am usually very resourceful.

But today I want to talk about our latest project: an adobe oven. These ovens are very old, and part of our tradition. Gauchos have been making and cooking on these ovens for centuries. This construction was inspired by a native bird we have in the pampas called the "Oven Bird", of course. These birds construct their nests out of mud and grass, because that is what was available before Europeans brought trees to the grasslands. 

Oven Bird Nest where the gauchos got the idea.
Using the string to measure the distance

As the wall gets taller, the string pulls the walls closer forming a dome
Mud is placed between half bricks.

Peter mixing the mud, straw and horse manure for stuccoing

There are different ways of constructing these, but in our case, my son, Peter was the architect and constructor. He decided to build it with bricks, mud, horse manure, and straw. He first bilt a wooden structure with wire mesh, to which he added the straw and mud. He then broke about 40 wine bottles to place on the bottom of the oven for better insulation. A brick floor was placed on top of the broken glass and a string was secured in the middle of this floor. The string was used during the laying of the briks to make it into a dome. As the oven got taller, it also got narrower. The bricks were layed with the mud, straw and manure mixture instead of mortar or cement. An old iron door and a vent (he used a clay pot with its bottom sawed off) was placed in the process. After the last brick was layed he smoothed out and gave it a little more volume to the walls with more of the mixture. The oven was left to dry for about a week, and then my husband cooked some homemade bread.
Before final stucco

Heating the oven with a fire
All fire must be extinguished, but bright coals must be hot.
Last week I made a homegrown pumpkin with a roast, potatoes and sweet potatoes. It was delicious!

For other food for thought stories, check out these Etsymetal member's blogs: 
nina gibson
victoria takahashi
stacey hansen
thomasin durgin
inbar bareket
lauren anabela beaudoin
maria whetman
beth cyr
ann Hartley
caitlyn davey


  1. This is fascinating! I would love to build one of these, although the horse manure would be a little tough to find. You have a wonderful sounding farm, thanks for the post!

  2. wow thats wonderful! you are very rescourcful!
    thank you for sharing the process you make it look so easy but i know it was not!
    happy cooking in your new oven!

  3. that is so impressive!! how cool that it was inspired by the bird nest!!

  4. Thank you for your comments!

    Ann: I guess you could make it without the manure too. The manure is added because it has natural chemicals in it that make the mud harden.

    Victoria: you are right. Looking at the pictures does seem very simple, but he did encounter some difficulties along the way (that I did not record, heh)

    Beth: not only this oven, but gauchos copied this system of construction/materials for building their own adobe shacks. But it is not so surprinsing considering how much we imitate nature in so many ways. Animals are so wise...I wish we would copy more from them!

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