The steady burn
I grew up in an area where it was not uncommon to gather one’s excess brush into a big pile and make a bonfire. Except we rarely called them bonfires.
We called them weenie roasts, because big fire=cooking food on long sticks.
I’ve eaten many an ash-dipped scorched hot dog in my lifetime. Most of them I cooked myself, having skewered them onto the whittled point of the end of a long green stick. While I intentionally scorched them because I like them that way, the ash part was never on purpose. It’s just that when you’re waving a hot dog over a raging fire, you’re bound to hit something burning now and then. Ash isn’t the same as dirt, so you can eat it.
That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.
The best part came after the hot dogs. That is when someone would bring out the bags of large marshmallows. Sometimes we’d make s’mores, sometimes it would just be toasted marshmallows. I’m fine with either.
Roasting marshmallows is an art form. There were always people who’d shove several marshmallows onto the end of their stick and then head for the most vigorous flames they could find. In nothing flat they’d have flaming torch of burnt marshmallows which they’d quickly pull out of the fire and blow out, often just to put them back in again because they were burnt but not done. I know folks who claim to prefer their marshmallows burnt. Personally, I believe it’s probably because they were never patient enough to actually produce any other kind, and therefore it’s all they know. And to be fair, I’ve torched a few myself. It was never enough to make me not eat them. Nor was the ash they were inevitably dipped in during the furious stick retraction to blow out the flaming torch.
But we’ve already covered my position on ash.
But torching my marshmallows was never my first preference. No…I preferred to find an area of glowing hot embers with no visible flames. That is where one finds the most intense heat. If you put a marshmallow near that (but not too near) and slowly turn the stick, it will first begin to swell a little. It will then turn a pale beige…and then a soft tan. Then it will begin to develop golden sides as the outer layer of marshmallow dries in the heat and the inside melts into a pile of warm sticky goo. At this point the outside begins to threaten to slide off into the fire, leaving only a slick of goo on the stick. That, along with the golden brown color, is a sign that it’s done. Pull it off and be careful you don’t burn your mouth.
It’s no secret that I’m a bit of a firebug. I love the fury of the flames. But I don’t want to be like a torched marshmallow that ignites and burns out bright…but quickly. After all, there’s not enough fuel to keep that ‘shmallow burning for more than a minute or so.
I’d rather know that I can withstand the intensity of the heat with a glow that lasts.
I reckon it’s the difference between the brilliant flash of a shooting star and one parked in space, burning and burning and burning.
Heaven knows I don’t lack for things to burn.