Written onMay 26 , 2015
When they harnessed fire, by some accounts more than 1.5 million years ago, our distant ancestors changed the course of their evolution and, ultimately, ours. Not only was light and warmth brought into their lives, but the act of cooking food is thought to have increased brain size and put us on the path to becoming Homo Sapiens. Social interactions also flourished as we huddled around the fire telling our stories and sharing our thoughts.
Fire has indeed been a powerful force in shaping us, and we continue to enjoy an intimate relationship with it—just witness how people are drawn to wood stoves in winter. The ritual of an open fire still has the power to draw us in. What magic to sit around a campfire or backyard fire pit with the focal point the flame, sharing good food and good talk. Fire has the ability to connect us to our past while grounding us in the here and now.
In this issue we offer two articles that feature the element of fire. In the first (page 16) students from the Oyase Community School in Dummerston learn the communal skills needed to make a fire in the woods and discover their relationship to the food they cook over it. Our second article (page 17), offering a more hands on approach, takes you through the steps necessary to prepare a fresh, locally sourced meal on your next camping trip or maybe in your backyard fire pit.
And in a third article detailing the Abenaki seasonal summer traditions (page 12), food cooking over a fire pit offers a backdrop for the annual indigenous planting ceremony during which children spread cornmeal over newly planted soil.
To quote Wendell Barry, “Eating with the fullest pleasure—pleasure, that is, that does not depend on ignorance—is perhaps the profoundest enactment of our connection with the world. In this pleasure we experience and celebrate our dependence and our gratitude, for we are living from mystery, from creatures we did not make and powers we cannot comprehend.”
There is great mystery in fire, and we cannot necessarily comprehend its power. With this in mind, we intend to make a point of experiencing and taking pleasure in the transformative power of fire this summer, both to cook our food and to remind us of place, and time, and our world.