Introduction

Introduction

By
Lennox Hastie
Contains
0 recipes
Published by
Hardie Grant Books
ISBN
9781743793008

IN ONE WAY OR ANOTHER, I think we are all fascinated by fire. We’re mesmerised by the flames that flicker as wood crackles and snaps. There’s something about its colour and movement that comforts us to our core, and there’s a sense of security around the ethereal heat and energy it radiates. Fire can also be unpredictable and powerfully destructive; perhaps it’s this edge of danger that’s attractive. Fire commands our attention, it stirs our emotions and, ever eternal, it continues its story long after we are gone.

Fire forges a connection between people, as we sit around it and share its warmth. It pulls us in and creates common ground – it’s done this for millennia. Since man learned to harness fire for practical purposes, it’s been a beacon for our rituals. Communal feasting around a fire is as old as history itself, and cooking over it requires all the instincts of the cook as well as a respectful interaction with the fire. In this way, the simplicity of cooking with fire is deceptive.

The modern kitchen has tamed fire, giving us ways to cook that are entirely dependable; but these ways of cooking mute the immediacy of the ember and flame, and the way they interact with an ingredient, slowly and surely transforming it right before our eyes. When we harness fire, we understand the full story of the ingredient: the unlocking of nutrients, the smoky transformation from raw to cooked, the way we need to read the ingredient and assess when it’s ready to eat.

Cooking with fire is an extension of appreciating where our food comes from and a way to enhance our natural relationship with it. Like putting your hands in soil to harvest produce, using fire to cook is a way to rekindle our relationship with the natural cycles and, ultimately, with each other. It is elemental, it lays an ingredient bare; it makes cooking more intimate, more exciting and more enjoyable. It is also the hardest way to cook that I know. Fire’s many variables defy a consistent approach and because of this, it never lets you take it for granted. With its ability to enhance natural flavours in ways that are unique, it is compelling, primal and an essential part of who we traditionally are. I have become addicted to fire and to rediscovering the grace of the ingredient through it. But the journey of finding fire has only just begun.

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