Sam Burnham, Curator
From the dawn of time, from the days before people left written records of their ways and traditions, people have gathered around the fire. Thousands of years ago, the fire was life saving. The flames cooked food, provided the only source of essential heat on frigid evenings, and provided a level of security from predators.
As groups developed into tribes and civilizations the fire became cultural. This was where traditions were handed down, where stories and music were born. Without technology, books, or even a written language, evening firesides were the libraries of prehistory. Thousands of years of human culture survived because they were passed down in the warm glow of the fire. Many of those stories can still be told today and in more remote parts of the world they are still told in this fashion.
Closer to home the fireside offers similar opportunities. With friends and family gathered around the dancing flames, we share songs, stories, and laughter. Sometimes we share silence as just watching the flickering light transforming wood into heat and smoke has a therapeutic effect.
In a world of technology and haste it is nice to stop, go back to a simple, even primal activity. The fireside setting beneath the canopy of stars can be communal for a large group or romantic for a more intimate audience.
Dining can become an experience around the fire. Something as simple as roasting marshmallows for s’mores or a hot dog on a stick can be quite satisfying. This goes to another level when you upgrade the menu to meat, fish, or even deserts. Finding ancient methods of cooking opens new opportunities. Cast iron cookware offers opportunities for soup, chili, biscuits, cornbread, just about anything. Some of the best peach cobbler I’ve ever had was cooked in a cast iron Dutch oven on an open fire.
These cool nights of fall and winter in the South offer good opportunities to enjoy a good fire. Take advantage of this and allow yourself to get out. You can get back to the comfort of the heat pump by bedtime. Just be sure to follow safe practices and also acquire a burn permit where required.
Historian, self-proclaimed gentleman, agrarian-at-heart, & curator extraordinaire