Being a gear head is better than being an alcoholic, in that the gear is still there after you finish playing with it. This Optimus 45 is technically my Christmas present, but Melanie Jane wanted me to test it out before it got boxed up until December 24 (yes, we are both of German extraction, and Christmas Eve is when the celebration really happens).
All I did to this ancient Swedish made device was lube the pump, and soak the burner in mineral spirits. No repairs necessary. And boom! It was burning in no time. And does it ever burn.
The stove is primed using alky-hol, but is powered with inexpensive kerosene. In many places, this was more of a household than a camping item. Elizabeth David, while she worked in Egypt in the 1950’s, had a Greek chef who did all of his cooking on two of the practically identical Primus versions of this stove. A great design is timeless. Strangely enough, this stove is engraved in English, Swedish, and Arabic.
Alas, these are no longer made in Sweden, but ebay has loads of them. This design is also popular throughout Asia, and near identical copies are manufactured in India and Malaysia. I am considering buying one of the silent burners for this made in India, but right now, I just love to hear this thing make noise. They don’t call the burner a roarer burner for no reason.
In my endless quest to be the greatest gear head in history, I created my own mini Trangia set. I bought the mini Trangia setup, and hated the little fiddly base that came with it. I bought a triangle base and a kettle, and hiddy hiddy ho, I have a fantastic three piece cook set, with stove. The new triangle base is even better than this old one.
And then it all packs up in this little package. Minimalists, read it and weep. If I get any more simple than this, expect to see me on an episode of Naked and Afraid. That would be your worst nightmare.
There actually is a process involved in building and maintaining a fire in a brick oven. Begin with completely dry soft wood, and then add hardwood if you want to build up a bed of hot coals. Here I start with yellow pine, and then go to a pine/oak mixture. We might as well start at the beginning.
Aristotle said a good plot had a beginning, a middle, and an end, in his Poetics; a good brick oven fire begins in the front, is pushed to middle, and then to the back. This is especially true for all applications involving cooking meat or pizza.
TV chefs will bring out something dramatic to light a fire, like a propane blow torch. I use two cardboard egg cartons and one match. The results are the same–fire.
Time for a break now that the fire has been pushed to the middle of the oven. This tool keeps me in firewood.
That’s a 24 volt electric chainsaw. I liked it so much I bought a 24 volt weed whacker, and a 60 volt lawnmower to go with it. I charge up the batteries with a solar generator, which is in turn charged by a single 100 watt solar panel. I’m inching toward sustainability, and did I mention the thirty percent tax credit on solar panels and batteries?
Push the fire to the back, and sweep and mop for pizza. A pie with sliced Vidalia onions makes all the work worth it. And I get to play with matches, and a chainsaw.
The forecast for Sunday was for a high of only 93 degrees F, so I decided to build a 900 degree F fire, and cook a couple of pizzas. Why the hell not?
Fortunately, I spent most of my time indoors, making the crust and sauce. I will do a step by step explanation of this process in a series of posts, but here’s an outline of what to do. I will also give an alternative cooking method, for those who do not have a bakery-sized brick oven. The following is for a Pizza Margherita, one of the originals, and still the best.
Dough for two Pizza Crusts–1 1/2 cups OO Italian Flour, salt, water, yeast
Pizza Sauce, preferably made with Italian or locally grown Tomatoes
Italian Mozzarella Cheese
The basil goes on after the pizza comes out of the oven. It probably wouldn’t look too sporty, otherwise, after a couple of minutes of this.
Other than eating this, the best part is smelling the basil cook on top of the really really hot pizza, right out of the brick oven. Simple and complex–the heart of a good pizza.
Herr Orff, one of my German Professors at the University of Alabama, came to class one Monday, and said, “I had some of that food that you people eat every weekend. What do you call it? Pit-sa. It was very good.” That actually is the correct pronunciation of the word pizza-if you’re German. Good thing he didn’t eat one of these. He might never have gone back to Deutschland.