Paula Marcoux is an archeologist and food historian who has studied ancient food preparation at remote sites in the middle east and the Nordic countries. She visited Healthy Living Market a few weeks ago and talked about fire roasting and fire baking—the latter possible wherever there were three rocks of even size and a flat surface to place over them such as a sheet of metal or improvised skillet. (On digs, you can recognize the ancient fire pits by the presence of rocks which have been cracked by heat.) Paula was here to promote her new book, Cooking with Fire, which I recommend. It’s a historical journey as much as a cookbook, and it progresses from very simple fire-starting and roasting food on a stick at the beginning to baking in a clay oven you can build in your back yard. There are excellent photos, both of the finished dishes and step-by-step techniques.
Several of the attendees at the demo had family traditions (from grandmothers and the like) of fire-cooked flatbreads and it was interesting to discuss how the universal techniques and cooking vessels translate to Scandinavia (where flatbreads were hung from the rafters to keep them from molding in the moist air) to eastern Europe and Asia. We made a Chinese-style chive pancake which was rolled and re-formed many times to give it a phyllo-like flakiness, and then a borek which made its appearance in several guises including a “campfire baklava” for which she was kind enough to share the recipe.
Paula’s book is available on Amazon… or, if you’re lucky enough to live near Healthy Living Market in Saratoga or Burlington, you can pick it up in their book section.