Ever since I read a post on Under the High Chair that mentioned using a brick to make panini, I’ve been longing for a kitchen brick of my very own. When you live in an apartment, however, bricks aren’t so easy to come by. And when you don’t have a car, it’s hard to get to the nearest big-box DIY store. That’s if they even sell bricks. And assuming they would let you buy just one.
In any case, I decided I would have to scrounge for one, and started keeping my eyes open for any unemployed bricks that might be lying around. I don’t know if it was coincidence, or just that I hadn’t been paying attention, but it wasn’t long before I started seeing them everywhere: a pile outside a house; stacked crookedly inside a fenced-off section of pavement being repaired; even one that had fallen out of someone's front wall.
Each of these presented its own ethical dilemma. After all, there is a difference between salvaging an otherwise unwanted piece of masonry, and plain old stealing. And there never seemed to be anyone around who was connected to the bricks that I could ask.
Today I got lucky. Miss B and I were walking home from preschool when I noticed some large, white bricks scattered on the grass verge outside one of the classic old Canberra houses that we regularly admire. As I was examining the bricks, trying to decide if they had been abandoned or what, I heard the sounds of someone doing stonework nearby. I peered over the high hedge and saw a man kneeling in the garden, obviously engaged in laying a brick path. I decided to rebel against my Bostonian training, and engage a stranger in conversation.
“Excuse me,” I said timidly. The man looked up from his work, realized that I was addressing him, and raised his eyebrows inquiringly. “Are these bricks out here available for the taking…?”
He got up hurriedly and came towards the gate. “No, no, they’re not. They were out there to weigh something down, I hadn’t realized they were still out there.” Noticing my crestfallen expression, he said, “I’m sorry, but they’re special fire bricks….”
“Oh, no, that’s okay,” I said. “I wasn’t interested in any particular bricks. I’m just on the hunt for a brick….I only need one.”
Tactfully refraining from asking what anyone needs only one brick for, he said, “Well, if you just need a brick, you can have one of these,” and, leading the way back through the gate, picked up a brick that was sitting near the wall of the house. “It’s a real old Canberra brick…from 1927.”
So it turns out he was the owner of this beautiful old house (not a contractor, as I had originally thought), and he cheerfully gave me an antique brick. Miss B, having none of my reticence about conversations with strangers, told him why I wanted the brick, admired the brick path that led out back (which I’m sure he had also built), and generally charmed him into giving us a tour of his garden, which was as wonderful as the house. She particularly admired the collection of pottery, ceramic, and metal ducks scattered around; I was more interested in his plantings, particularly the line of flourishing citrus trees (tangelo, lime, grapefruit and more) growing along the sunny north wall of the house.
Eventually we let him get back to his work, with many thanks, and continued on our way. We’d had an adventure, met a neighbor, and acquired a brick. Thus proving that virtue is in fact its own reward.
Things to do in the kitchen with a brick
- Weight down your cabbage for Croatian cole slaw
- Make a very flat tuna melt
- Cook chicken under a brick (I haven’t done this yet, but I’ve been wanting to for ages and now I can!)