You better cut the pizza in four pieces because I’m not hungry enough to eat six. – Yogi Berra
There is something unique and organic about firing a pizza with natural wood in an earthen oven… more than just the natural smoky flavor. Did you know that a wood fired pizza oven can cook a pizza in just five minutes? I didn’t know that either until I spoke with a salt-of-the-Earth chap by the name of Micah Frazier Elliott at last year’s Petaluma Art & Gardens Festival. Towards the back of the A Street parking lot I came across a very colorful pizza oven built on top of a trailer. I thought he was simply a pizza vendor until I noticed the elaborate pizza oven, and Micah’s enthusiasm to answer people’s questions regarding his extraordinary oven.
After a long and interesting conversation with Micah, I learned his pizza oven, named the “Chariot of Fire,” is made of a material called “cob.” Cob is a mixture of clay, sand, water, earth and straw, similar to the adobe used for constructing homes in our area for hundreds of years and dating back to the dawn of building in many regions of the world. Micah’s cob ovens can cook anything normally cooked in your regular oven, often in much less time and with an enhanced natural flavor. The ovens are quite affordable and are hand built to your specifications, both in size and design. Micah can build you anything from a basic pizza oven to an elaborate cooking set up with an attached bench, perfect for outdoor cooking and socializing. He even builds small structures to be used as saunas or meditation rooms, and can custom design both ovens and interiors to your specifications.
One of his most impressive works is the Butterfly Social Club in Chicago, where a continuous cob sculpture was used to create benches, tables, trees, arches and even the DJ booth.
His venture is called “Living Earth Structures.” According to his website, “The walls literally breathe, making them living organisms, taking on a character of their own, while being an excellent use of functional art, very pleasing to all senses.” Micah’s website is informative, easy to navigate, and includes a great selection of pictures and videos of his work, many of which can be viewed in person at local farms and co-ops. Check out minute 1:09 of his Green String Farm School video for a great example of a guy who truly enjoys what he is doing. Although based here in Petaluma, Micah is no foreigner to travel, so if you need a great pizza oven at your Tahoe house or a soothing sauna at your Mendo cabin, he can probably accommodate you. Best of all, these structures are easy to build, especially with Petaluma’s nearly perfect cob-making soil. So easy, in fact, that Micah will teach you how.
Don’t rule out working with your hands. It does not preclude using your head. ~ Andy Rooney
Join Micah this weekend for an Earthen Oven Sculpting workshop presented by Daily Acts. On Saturday, May 29 Micah hosts Oven Sculpting Building Techniques from 9am-5pm, with Creative Design & Weatherproofing to follow on Sunday, May 30. The cost is $80 for one day and $145 for both days, and is well worth the time and money. Learning to create functional structures with your own hands brings a great sense of pride, not to mention some great tasting eats. The second day of the workshop also includes great wood-fired oven recipes. Find more info at: www.dailyacts.org
Micah Frazier Elliott, a Petaluma native, was first drawn to earthen ovens as a child when he visited Petaluma’s own General Vallejo’s Old Adobe. As an adult, this fascination took Micah around the globe learning about and building earthen structures. His latest project was in the African village of Dogon, in the country of Mali, where he built an earthen dome music room.
Micah has brought back a 30-minute film about his experience working with the Dogon tribe, which will be screened at Aqus Café on Sunday, May 30th at 7pm, at 2nd and G Streets. (www.aquscafe.com) The event is free and even if Aqus didn’t have phenomenal food, meeting Micah is well worth the visit. Visiting with Micah is like getting a piece of your childhood back. He is energetic and imaginative and creates an air of optimism around him, which is nothing if not contagious.
You can bury a lot of troubles digging in the dirt. ~Author Unknown