I am champing at the bit here … hating that I am not on the road but instead camped up in the back yard attending to all those pesky domestics of health, maintenance and fine tuning. Two weeks to go before we head out again on the wallaby and I am gathering together the wherewithal to get back out into a bush freecamp.
It will be a slightly different adventure this time around and I am looking forward to the newness off it all. The Man and I now generally live in our trusty caravan, the Grampie Flat and tour with the temperature, following the sun. It is autumn in Aus. at the moment and time to look north soon, leaving the colder States to our back. First though, we have a tour south again to catch up with family before we cross the continent for 18 months or so. We aren’t taking the Grampie Flat with us this time out … that will stay behind while we trip south with one of the Grandies in our swags on a forbie run through the forests and National Parks. While we open up a new world to one of the offsprings, offspring.
Our destination is Sydney, there we will peel back the layers of time and show newer eyes what is our history and heritage… I will take you with us on that adventure but for the moment our outlook is the back yard while we await the arrival of the Grandie who is coming down to join us from up north.
It is a good camp here… we really can’t complain as the back yard is exactly the environment we built while we waited for retirement. We love the outdoors and hate the constraints of urban life so we built about us things that would keep us settled during our wait. You know those years … where you wait for the kids to grow up. Those years where your life is not entirely your own and you don’t mind because it is a great present, and your busy building a good future … It is family life.
We have built over the years an outdoor family area in a bushy backyard and this now has become our lounge-room. Let me introduce you to our kitchen … the masonry oven and I love it! This little gem was built by The Man in preference to standing at the sacred site of the Aussie BBQ, where you turn all those pesky snags and flip the chops. A tedious business for someone, usually carried out in 40C+ but the essence of the Aussie weekend with friends and family.
With a large and accumulative family the Men’s business of flipping the snags, usually with a tinnie or a tallie in hand, became an epic in the attempt to keep up with the family numbers. After a few years of this, we tried a number of different methods to feed the hoards. There was the ‘spit’ day’s, a 40 gallon drum cut in half which sat inside a stand and held the coals while chickens and other items roasted slowly… delicious. But the bum burnt out of the drum in the end and it of necessity required a power point for the motor that took over the hand turning duties of who ever could be recruited. This all sits rusting down behind the man cave now, relieved of its past duties and acting as a stand for the stray plank of wood.
My favourite was the fire pit … a good Aussie turn that was. Designed to accommodate large numbers in a bush setting and particularly handy for camp-oven cooking you can feed hoards. It is essentially a pit, into which you build a fire and arrange a bar across the flames to hang camp ovens. There are a myriad of varieties, tripods, separate ember pits etc … All went well until the drought hit the urban environs and uncontained fires became a no-no.
We even tried the Kiwi hangi. Now that was fun! A pit dug into the ground and filled with heated stones or even old cut up bars of iron (like railway sleepers) upon which you layer your meat an veg to slowly steam/roast between palm leaves, banana leaves, leaves … the whole covered with wet hessian (if available) and buried. You dig it up a few hours later and wallah! Dinner is served. It helps if you live in the land of subterranean heat where you don’t have to heat the bricks … which we don’t, so that lasted a couple of rounds and we began to search for other methods.
Of course, while this is all going on we are revisiting the BBQ, the fire pit and the local Slappy Jacks or Tucky Duck when desperate … we persist.
It was a few decades before we happened upon the masonry oven of old European Design. The modern version is known as the pizza oven or dome and has a history buried in the Aussie bush as the stone oven of indiscriminate design, often found out the back and made of stone and mud with the fire beneath the oven floor. They even have the like in Bunnings now, though ours is truly a crematorium unlike the portable variety.
What inspired the choice for us was the sheer weight of numbers … four kids + the Out-Laws + ever increasing numbers of Grandies + family + friends all adds up. A Sunday lunch round could go to in excess of 20 people without even trying.
We once had a dinner party, which was planned for six, turn into a hilarious night of forty odd bods … but that his another story. Anyway, we hunted around and found just the crematorium for our brood and after much cement, bricks and vermiculite, much planning and much fun we had our masonry oven.
I love this thing! It has taken a revolution in cooking to get a grip on methodology and I have to admit that Son no.1, who is a chef, has provided any number of great cooking feats with his cheffy friends, which we have all enjoyed. To describe it as a pizza oven is like saying a terradactyl is a duck … so we won’t go there but I do enjoy having my fire oven at hand again and as I prepare for another round of friends today I thought I would just mention it. Every home should have one, especially if dealing with ever growing families … beats those damn gas BBQ’s every time, hands down.
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