Monday, November 1, 2010

Clay Pot Heirlooms

Inspired by the looming "big" birthday of a dear friend-the talented chef Dana Tommasino of Woodward's Garden here in San Francisco--and her love and appreciation of anything culinary and quirky...I set out to make her a cooking pot to celebrate. Mainly in hopes that she would whip up something wonderful in it to share of course.
And as I was creating these cook pots, I really was taken with taking my art as function motivation even farther. After all, I had spent some years honing my ceramic skills in New Mexico with Native American potters from Santa Clara and Santo Domingo pueblos making micaceous bean pots. The history, the technique and the special way in which one must prepare the pot for cooking and then you have a bean pot for life--it all resonates deep.
Families pass these pots down generations and the older they get, the finer the beans and other aromatic feasts that emerge from their warmed clay bodies become.
The queen of clay pot cooking here in Northern California is Paula Wolfert--who collects clay pots mainly from Morocco. Her book Mediterranean Clay Pot Cooking--is a gem, and was a treasured gift from Dana. She says in the introduction "When I taste heirloom beans cooked in a clay pot on top of the stove, I find a special sweetness in them.  Just as food cooked in a wood-fired oven acquires the taste and aroma of wood, so food cooked in an unglazed clay pot acquires a taste and aroma I define as 'earthy'".
She goes on to quote a french man who offers this answer to the magic: "pottery has a kind of memory of the food it held, and only a clay pot can keep the memory of the love the cook put into it when preparing the dish".

And I would like to add to that memory the love put into creating the pot itself-----
So how lovely is that?

I just love the idea that hands can form the pot, hands can make the food and serve it and hands can make the plates to complete this intimate organic experience.
Hopefully, I will soon be able to post some images of what dana will create in her special gift. So stay tuned.