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A small flame works better on a campfire

It’s May, and time to get outdoors where the sun and warm breeze can chase away your winter blues and the virus.

My wife, Barb, and I have used much of our warm weather freedom to prepare our two small raised gardens for planting. Pulling out last year’s weeds is not my idea of fun, but it must be done if we hope to bite into a tangy, ripe tomato in July.

But, our time outdoors was not all work and we took time to roast a couple hot dogs over a small cooking fire. And yes we did follow the regulations and waited until well after 6 p.m. Also our fire was very small. It doesn’t take a roaring inferno to roast a hot dog.

Any time I light even a small fire I am exceedingly cautious. After a decade as a news photographer I have seen fire at its worst, and I never want to see that again. So I beseech you to be careful with fire. Fire can be a friend as your hot dog sizzles on the end of a stick, but it can also be your worst enemy if you open the gate and let it out unattended.

More than once I have camped outside where my only warmth was provided by a small campfire, but even there the key is to keep the fire small and well contained. The proper procedure is to build a small fire and sleep close, rather than a big fire where you need to sleep farther back. It just makes sense as you will need less fuel.

And if you are addicted to Louis L’Amour, you know that you should never stare into your fire or bad guys might sneak up on you. I try not to camp where there are bad guys, but why not be careful?

Cooking over a campfire, whether roasting wieners or making s’mores, demands that you keep any flame small, unless you like your wiener crispy black and your s’mores a gooey mess. I learned a lot about campfire cooking when I was no more than 11 years old.

My teacher was a neighbor boy a couple years older. Jerry taught me to use a garden trowel to dig a short shallow ditch just big enough to hold a few dry twigs. Our pans and plates consisted of a surplus GI cook kit and the utensils were our trusty pocket knives. Back then any boy who did not have a pocket knife was not fully dressed.

The same knives were used to peel a potato that we stirred in our skillet along with a full stick of butter. Not really a healthful meal, but when you have not even reached puberty, health is not a real concern. After our hearty lunch cleanup was accomplished with a garden hose and what remained was rubbed off on our jeans. The fire was smothered with the dirt from the cooking ditch.

I was still using Jerry’s cooking skills well into adulthood, but today we have a fire ring made from a large truck tire rim.

We still keep the fire small, and roast our snacks over the hot coals and not the open flame. Our utensils consist of long wiener sticks. We also often use cast iron pie makers for cooking dessert.

The pie makers are hinged so we can open them and place a slice of bread on the bottom half. Then we add some canned pie filling before adding a top slice of bread.

It is then simple to close the pie maker, cut off the access crust and toast your treat over the hot coals. As another treat substitute the pie filling with cheese or corned beef.

There is so much you can cook over a controlled campfire and the results are delicious. Just heed my advice and keep your fire small and observe all safety measures.

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