Cooking in clay
The project FireKitchen came back to Brazil for a research trip and a participatory experimentation process on invitation by Goethe na Vila, a residency program by Goethe Institut SP. It took place inside the temporary cultural center Vila Itororó in São Paulo – the place of origin of the project: about three years ago during the first workshop at this place, I asked one participant, Reni from Bahia if he could cook the traditional Brazilian recipe ‘Moqueca de Peixe’ with us, which i love and used to prepare for many years. He decidedly refused to cook it, wich i understood only when he came back the next week with a large, black ‚panela de barro‘ (clay pot) and fish caught by his father who is a fisherman at the sea. These handmade and low burned clay pots are traditionally used for cooking fish dishes in the costal areas of Brazil.
This little story demonstrates one of the basic assumptions of FireKitchen: a good moqueca cannot be prepared without the right pot!
We are interested in understanding the relationship between the object and the recipe used to prepare a specific dish as well as the people involved in the preparation and the cultural environment providing the ingredients. FireKitchen tries to investigate these topics by an applied research and experimentation process.
Panela de Barro
The research trip through the central costal area of Brazil brought us to the APG (Associação das Paneleiras de Goiabeiras in Vitória, Espirito Santo), the known traditional manufacturing place of the „panela” in barro negro technique. Apart from other strong, beautiful and extreme impressions the country, its diversity of nature, people and cultures gave us, one of the most significant discoveries was the simplicity in which barro negro pots are produced and their strong local footage.
The clay is dug in the middle of a tropical mango forest inside a natural park. A nearby mediterranean mangrove forest is delivering the tannin necessary for blackening the pots. Both are connected to the association hall by a small brackwater river, crossed by simple long wooden boats. About 20 women are producing their panelas here independently, sharing inventory for production. Few tools are used for shaping the panelas, such as a piece of coconut shell for shaping and a river stone for polishing. At the fire place on the other side of the street the necessary temperature of 800°C for burning the sundried panelas is reached in short time through the continuous firing of discarded wood. When they reach this temperature, the panelas are picked with long sticks and sealed with the tannin liquid. This treatment evokes a chemical process inside the clay and gives them the typical black surface suitable for cooking.
Back in São Paulo, the experimental workshop took place at the temporary cultural center „canteiro aberto“ of Vila Itororó in the neighborhood of Bixiga. The history of the quarter is strongly influenced by togetherness and coexistence of different cultural backgrounds. Therefore a diversity of people with different knowledge, age, skills and interests were invited to take part.
The workshop was organized around 4 topics structuring the collective creation of a functioning kitchen: Drinking, Cooking, Stove and Shelter.
After extracting possible functions from traditional appliances and looking at the material logic of low burned clay, a collective goal was developed for each topic:
A recombinable system for serving, cooling and filtering water as well as preparing coffee or tee was developed.
Different cooking devices reinterpreted the specific characteristics of cooking in traditional clay pots such as the Moroccan Tajine which creates a steam atmosphere during the cooking process.
The pots were complemented each with a stove for cooking on wood fire after discussing various aspects like sustainability, efficiency, health, tradition etc.
Additionally, a simple narrow roof was constructed and covered with clay tiles, quoting the iconic roof portal as a symbolic invitation to guests.
During a 2 day process, all pieces were kilned in several different fire burnings on the basis of traditional techniques: a paper oven, a bucket oven, a pit fire, reduction burning etc.
Finally all participants and friends came back activating the commonly built kitchen, cooking, sharing and exchanging experiences and recipes during a 3-day feast.
Objects and Processes
Through a phenomenological research and related experimentation as a methodology, we are able to experience an exemplary production process from raw material to a usable kitchen:
from digging the clay, shaping of a complementary set of functional objects, burning them in wood fire with different techniques in order to obtain varying surfaces and material qualities, to finally testing them in the actual context. As this process is rather low complex, it can be repeated and understood without extensive knowledge or access. The sensual and archaic moments of putting the hands into the mud and setting a pit on fire are able to free the access to spontaneous acting, implicit knowledge and personal intuition.
The fireplace constitutes the center of communication, exchange and cultural production by its capacity of processing food and other materials.
Different types of clay pots can be found in all cultures around the world, well distinguished in their construction, function and use following to local appearances of materials and ingredients. This contextual sensibility results in sophisticated shapes refined for the preparation of ecologically reasonable and often well balanced recipes. Observing, understanding and learning from this vernacular intelligence, we are able to profit from an existing multitude of elaborate objects. Those can still be found in several places where a unique knowledge of production is passed on from generation to generation. In the uniform canon of industrially shaped product culture, we often loose this diversity as a reasonable connection to meaning and origins of dishes and utilities. Its specifically those qualities that we are interested in and want to foster and share through our work.
15. 9. – 15. 10. 2017
Goethe na Vila, Vila Itororó, São Paulo
Goethe Institut SP
11a Bienal de Arquitectura São Paulo
Biblioteca Mario de Andrade, R. da Consolação, 94, São Paulo
opening: november 4th 2017
Project Team: Johanna Dehio (Founder & Initiator), Mascha Fehse, David Moritz and Sophia Ramos
Participants and Friends: André Cherri, Claudia Medeiros, Dani Bedroll, Daniele Castro, Edivaldo, Eduardo Paiva, Fernanda Machado, Gabriel Zei, Guilherme Uyekita, Isadora Dalle Molle, Isadora Falcao, João Camillo Machado de Campos, Julio, Kiki Iizuka, Lina Amato, Luís Felipe Abbud, Mariana de Araujo Alves da Silva, Mariana Negrão Lorencato, Marina Klautau, Mario Cassettari, Melita Junqueira, Miki Hayashi, Norin Hafer, Rodrigo Lyra, Rodrigo Mergulhao, Rosemary Regusino, Sandra Tami, Sueli Castro, Tamiris Nascimento, Vanessa Dassoler.