Thursday, October 31, 2013

How to improve on... FIRE!

    The control over fire has been key to the survival of mankind.  Able to gather embers, preserve and transport them to keep the home fires burning, mankind was able to cook food, defend the home and advance in ways the beasts of the field could not.  

    Fire safety was probably close to the next major invention for mankind.  Even to this day, no one really wants to walk through fire, so a stone circle or hole for a fire pit was created to contain the fire.  Stone circles kept children out of the flames.  Later, building a stone floor to place the fire on to create a hearth, made a safer upgrade for the fireplace.  The draw back was the stones were cold.  They did not keep the warmth and release it back into the room through the night. 
     As mankind evolved, or civilized, and fire came indoors it was pretty much the status quo for centuries.  Sure, fireplaces and braziers were developed to keep people from walking through the flames on the way to the door, but fire was pretty standard until Colonial American days.  This photo, left, shows the finest fireplace available to the Colonial American.  It was designed to function as a cook place, a heat source and a gathering center for the home.  Lucky was the child who found his sleeping place in the loft in the winter, but Woe be to he who had no place to sleep but above the fire in the summer!  Some improvement was needed.

     Enter, Benjamin Franklin!  Yes, Benjamin Franklin and the Franklin stove took the fire out of the exterior wall and placed it in the center of the room.  He designed a fireplace of wrought iron to contain the fire, absorb the heat and redirect it into the room.  His design of adding baffles to allow for air flow through the back allowed for a hotter fire with less fuel.

     We are more familiar with the image of the potbellied stove or the cook stove and we think that is all it was, a stove.  IT was a fireplace.  It was the new, improved fire.  
      IT's improvement over the basic Franklin  stove is the ability to vent to smoke from the fire up and out of the home.  This invention, as much as the basic control over fire, has improved the life of mankind by taking smoke out of the lungs and out of the home.  Cigarettes are not the only source of secondhand smoke. 

     Most of us have the rudimentary parts of Franklin's grand design.  Ever wonder what that flange on the side of the charcoal grill was for?  It's Franklin's air baffle!  

     So, fire is hot.  And having fire is good, but improving on fire for safety and use of less fuel for the same job is better.  Should cooking over an open fire become necessary, Add ingenuity to the chore for safety, quality and security. 
     You can use the top of a charcoal grill as a wind break, a fire wall, a fire cover when cooking over coals, redirect the heat.  Aluminum flashing works as well.  Most any wind screen will improve the fire over just two hot sticks!  

Plan your meals.  Cook red meat over flames as you turn the spit, simmer stews and coffee over coals when the flames die down.  Hang meat over the coals when food is done to dry leftovers for the future. 
     Keep the air flowing.  As much as you think the fire is hotter on the surface of the hot stick, placing a pot directly on the fire cuts off the air flow to the fire and then the fire flow to the pot.  In the one moment before the fire dies, your pot could boil over and an explosion occurs.  Water and fire make steam.  Even this crude pot stand made from branches keeps the pot off the flames and can later be put right into the flame. 
You don't need fancy pots and pans, you can cook on a rock!  Fish is great tasting when grilled on an oak or cedar plank.  So, you can cook on a stick!

   To make the heat of the cook fire work for you through the night, build the fire between fire bricks.  Dig a hole, place the hot brick in it.  Build a platform of branches over it.  Cover the platform with brush and have a warm night's sleep.  Ever want a hot bath on the trail?  Fill pot with water, add hot rocks or fire bricks with tongs or long sticks to convey the hot stones.  Careful your pot does not boil over or steam your skin!  You also want to be careful not to steam up the inside of the tent!  Water will cool and drip.  

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