Cooking with Fire – the Joys of Outdoor Cooking

submitted by Roots CFC Staff

One of the welcomed changes to the challenges COVID brought was the increased desire to get outside. Many of us took to the trails, met with friends in parks for a hot beverage or perhaps even cooked over an open fire. At Roots to Harvest, a local not-for-profit in Thunder Bay, we welcomed this opportunity to meet with people outside the office, kitchen, or classroom. We ventured to the great outdoors to make food over fires, in our backyard brick oven, and using a camp stove to find ways to connect with others doing what we do best, cooking delicious food together.

One of the biggest game changers for us at Roots was the building of our wood fired oven in our backyard garden. By having this space, we were able to welcome different groups such as the students from Science North camps, Indigenous youth programs, community members through Culture days programming and the Climate Action Field School to come and enjoy the outdoor cooking space. Here we made everything from freshly baked bread to delicious fire roasted pizza, and we were able to spend time with one another once again.

A favourite cooking day took place one Saturday afternoon this fall, as a part of the City of Thunder Bay Culture days. Roots ran an artful focaccia bread making workshop combined with learning how to colour icing with natural food dyes. In the backyard gazebo, participants sipped on warm cups of tea while cutting up vegetables to make designs on their bread, before baking them in the wood-fired oven. While the baking was happening, cupcakes were decorated with icing coloured with grated frozen strawberries, turmeric, lemon, matcha tea powder and black currants. At the end of the day, everyone came together to enjoy scrumptious treats and each other’s company.

When cooking with fire is not taking place in our backyard, it is being welcomed into different programs offered to students throughout schools in Thunder Bay. It’s as if the act of lighting a fire, setting up some food to cook and being outside allows for students to unwind and begin experimenting with what they are making. There is always something new that the students want to cook up, be it a fish fry with locally caught fish, moose stew over an open flame, or roasted vegetables to place on top of pizza. On many a fall day, you will find students in Thunder Bay cooking outside over an open fire on school property with portable fire pits, propane stoves and on our uuni portable pizza ovens.

“I can’t believe you are letting me cook over fire, no one ever lets me cook over the fire….”
Jessie, Student at Westgate Collegiate.

“There is nothing that beats the taste of a meal cooked over the fire, even the burnt food tastes good!”
Sam, Student at Superior Collegiate.

Out of all the opportunities cooking with fire brings, one that almost everyone enjoys is making your own pizza in  the wood fired oven. The oven is a great way to entice youth to the realm of cooking and expand their exploration.  Learning about wood heat, making dough and adding your favourite toppings in the sunshine, while exploring the  garden and learning about the science around food are all more fun when you are  outside. Why does pizza dough  rise? Is the oven really 700 degrees? Sharing memories over lighting fires and sitting  by campfires with your kokum  are all experiences had while lighting and cooking together with young people. We  are looking forward to more  memories and tasty food experiences around fires in our work at Roots to Harvest.