Fire. Winter. They fit hand in hand as the chill nips your nose and toes and settles sometimes in the other parts of the body. But my quest for fire (pardon the movie rip) was a simple one. In my household, fire-making was a male activity. It is accompanied by mumblings, portions of flammable liquids, charcoal and alcohol. I marinated the steaks, fixed the accouterments and he made the fire. Usually fire-making was done in secret and its mysteries were not shared. Only the successes were, as in “Now that’s a good fire!” Its stages were announced incrementally: “I’ve got the fire going.” This was followed up by “The fire is good and hot now.” And finally, “I’m putting the steaks on the grill.” Fire-making intimidated me because I don’t care for flammable liquids in the presence of something already burning, especially the eerie ‘whooosh’ that went along with their implementation. I wanted to make a fire and cook a steak. We often grilled on Friday nights, as Shabbat dinner was a relaxing and enjoyable time. I have not made a grilled steak since my husband died. It was time.
Entering the mystical world of fire, formerly a man’s realm, was a little off-putting to me. I am the only female in the family in my generation. All the men in my family are master fire-makers. It is a BIG deal, this making of fire. Unfortunately, I never paid attention to the nuances. I was usually off doing one of two things: caring for the younger family members, or with my nose stuck in a book. Our primary fireside activities were fish fries and barbecues. But sometimes my grandfather had a fire just to have a fire. It was good for sitting by, and relishing a nip from the flask far away from grandmother’s watchful eye. Fireside was also the most often stage for the ‘pull-my-finger’ activity. It was probably far safer outside than within the walls of the house 🙂 It was also a place for scaring an already scaredy little girl with stories. And it once doubled as a good light by which to skin a coon by. My Grampy was a character, that’s for sure. As I matured (?), and married, the men continued to be the fire-makers. Most of the time it was by a propane grill in the early days. Not much to that one, turn on the tank and turn the knob. But J and I used charcoal only, usually natural cut hardwood. It smells heavenly, and makes little tinkling noises as it heats up. I love it. So today when I got up and saw the rain-turned-slush-turned-snow, I decided I would make fire. After all, wood fire and snow are a beautiful combination, right? I was also determined to eschew the use of flammable liquids. Sorry, they still frighten me. I figured people had been making fire and cooking over it long before the advent of lighter fluid. So I had a chat with our little round grill. I peered into its rusty recesses to see if there were any instructions, nope. Perhaps in the lid? Nada. I briefly considered setting it by the road in the hopes that someone would toss a cigarette and create a fire; that seems a primary successful methodology for starting a fire in places that you don’t want one. But since I wanted a fire, I figured that wouldn’t work anyway. Onward I pressed. I remembered that you want the fire to start hot and then make nice glowing coals. And I knew that charcoal doesn’t just ignite poof, like say, paper or whatnot. So I assembled my kindling, which consisted of newspaper twists, bits of cardboard from old boxes and some cherry tree twigs that had been drying in the house. It must have been beginner’s luck, because my little pyramid of charcoal was soon surrounded by hot fire, and shortly thereafter began to glow on the bottom. Yay!
It’s possible that the wine chilling in the
steel tub in the ambient temperature of 35 degrees did help though.