Monday, February 2, 2009

Passing On

Alan Scott died a few days ago on January 27. I am so disappointed that I never met him. I only exchanged one e-mail with him in November before communicating with his daughter, Lila only to find out that he was very ill. Who was Alan Scott? He was an artisan baker, a master oven builder, a teacher, an advocate of do-it-yourself community-oriented small business, and, from everything I have read, much more...

We will be building an Alan Scott style wood fired brick oven at Flying Squirrel Bakery Cafe. It has been a dream of mine to make amazing bread in a brick oven since I bought Scott's book (co-written with Daniel Wing), The Bread Builders, when it was published in 1999 during my last year working as a baker at Burlington, Vermont's Stone Soup. I always loved the idea that Mr. Scott would be available to answer all of our questions and encourage our project along the way. He has now passed on that task to his children. Here is a brief description from Scott's website, Ovencrafters, about his goals to spreading the word, the philosophy and the actual hands on techniques for ovenbuilding all around the world.

These ovens constitute a radical departure in building technique and use that has made it possible for the first time for small rural based home and village bakeries to be viable and competitive with the industry at any level. With the ongoing loss of middle class occupations throughout western societies, many with even moderate skills and capital can create an invaluable small business in their communities that will find ready support from them in return. Many are finding for the first time the joy of meaningful work in the bosom of their communities and free from the distant hidden grip of the corporate world at last. Ovencrafters' purpose is to earn a right livelihood for its staff guided by Gandhian principles, particularly; "Policy with principles, commerce with morality, wealth through work, and science with humanity". Ovencrafters' truly revolutionary oven designs and self building processes are inspiring a return to nourishing, handmade bread in the family home, and at a local level.
Alan Scott has passed on. But much more importantly, in his life and now surely after his death he and his children will continue the other kind of passing on: passing on of these meaningful skills, techniques, and philosophies. And from Scott's generous spirit, determined bakers around the world will nourish and nurture our communities making wonderful bread and building ovens that make wonderful bread. I can't wait to begin!

P.S. More on Alan Scott: New York Times obituary, a Blog Post from North Carolina Organic Bread Flour Project from two days ago and an article from the Point Reyes Light from 2006.

photos from, (Two Sisters Bakery in Homer, AK was lucky enough to have Scott come to Alaska in 2004 to assist in the building of their oven), and

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