Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Fireplace Feast

Cooking over a fireplace can be fun, but requires extra caution.

Growing up in South, I didn’t experience a lot of out and out blizzards. Instead, what we got was the occasional ice storm—the kind that freezes roads, snaps power lines and shuts down school for a week at a time. The shelves at the grocery store ran out of bread and milk before the first drop of sleet hit the ground, and then, when the power finally did go out, my father would march out to the woodpile with the ax to chop some logs while my mother dug out whatever weird canned goods she could from the back of the pantry.

Now, let me say right away: cooking in your fireplace is not always the best idea. Opening those fireplace doors and roasting a hotdog over the open flame can be dangerous business, and the Fireplace Decorating blospot does not endorse reckless fireplace behavior. But I’d also be lying to you if I said those family meals around the crackling hearth aren’t among my favorite childhood memories.

Whether we baked jacket potatoes in the ashes or heated a can of beef stew directly over the flames, we ate well, regardless of the weather. Usually, my mother could unearth a bag of stale marshmallows, too, and let me tell you—no matter how hard they might have become tucked away behind the Rice-A-Roni, once they hit the open flame they melted into such a crispy-brown confection we would have sworn she picked them up at the supermarket the minute the weatherman issued his doom-and-gloom prediction.

Of course, like I said, there’s an obvious danger in cooking over the fire, especially if you have small children or pets, or if you have an area rug up close to the fireplace’s foot. Nowadays, if you want to experience these sorts of family pleasures, you’re probably better off roasting your marshmallows and whatnot over an outdoor fireplace, positioned at a safe distance from the house. Even then, you still need to be careful, but the odds of burning down the house or catching the dog on fire are a heck of a lot lower. And if you’re smack dab in the middle of an ice storm? Don’t let that stop you. An extra sweater under your coat will keep you plenty warm while.

Cheers--and be safe.

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