If there is one cooking instrument which unites practically all of the peoples of the earth, it is the oven. From bread to meat, fish and vegetables, the oven gives us delights of all types, savoury and sweet, cooking food in a healthy and simple manner.
In the Mediterranean area the first ovens date back to the times of ancient Egypt. Then they were cone shaped things made with clay bricks. The upper part, where the food was placed, was separated from the lower part, where the fire was kindled, by a large flat stone which absorbed the heat and in turn transmitted it to the food to be cooked. The Greeks inherited the art of oven construction from the Egyptians, and they perfected it inventing one with a cupola, getting rid of the separating stone slab and thus uniting the combustion area to the cooking area, all in one. The Romans, in turn, learned the art of bread making from the Greeks. It was a veritable alimentary and culinary revolution which in turn, thanks to Numa Pompilio, gave way to the “fornacalia” feasts celebrated yearly in the first half of February to honour Fornace, a goddess whose role was to assure the good functioning of the bread oven.
How many millions of loaves of bread, how many roasts, how many sweet smelling cakes have been baked in ovens to the delight of gourmands all over the world since then! Today technology gives us a hand: electric convection ovens have been enriched by grills to cook au gratin and to toast, humidifiers have been added to keep meat and fish tender. It has become almost impossible to cook badly!