It cannot be decided, a desire for embers. It comes like that. Like when she takes our hand to capsize us. It all comes from afar. Fire and guts. So far that we sometimes doubt it. Like the day we were deflowered to the tune of Nature training by Nina Hagen. We spare you the table because here it is a question of embers and not of fucking.
Dispatches from Dijon
The first flame dates back to early childhood. Pampered like Jesus, we were exempt from leaves, this puppy in the shape of a wooden guitar that sat enthroned at the edge of the garden and where the Dispatches from Dijon acted as PQ by anchoring the foundation to you. It was a virtuous circle: eat = pee poo = fertilizer for the garden = potatoes, carrots and cabbage = eat. And that I give you a token every year to empty the leaves in the vegetable garden. But we were entitled to a royal throne to lay down the turd. Or an azure blue enamel bucket placed in front of the stove. We watched the embers glow while doing the small and large commission. The mouth on fire, the ass a little less, it was only happiness.
Later, we were initiated into the flame by the Old Man in this republic of men that was affouage. Either the right to cut wood in the town where we lived. It was preferably the days when it was freezing to split stone. We were only allowed to shut it down when the men started their chainsaws and grabbed their axes with Moldovan pornographic rage.
To tell the truth, it was a squad which started the day at the café married to the hooch before handling the merlin. And it wasn’t about calling them biturins. For them, brandy was the oxidizer of life. Not like the pouches which lit up white on the zinc so as not to tremble in the morning. The Old Man despised these rascals. One day that occupational medicine was told about his case, hairy pockmarked by the 14-18 shrapnel, invisible derailleur of Boches trains between 39-45, smoker like a big ass locomotive, morning drinker applied with booze and despite everything familiar with the 85 banks, touching his feet without bending the knees, the Faculty answered us most calmly: “It’s natural selection.”
Mikado of wood
“Natural selection” had no equal when it comes to driving a wedge into an oak block and splitting it, the firebreaker at the corner of the beak while blowing us: “Go get some twig to start the fire.” For us, it was not an order, it was a mission to constitute a mikado of kindling on a crumpled page of the Good public. Formally, the Old Man twisted his nose while snapping his brass lighter: “There is too much green in your pile, it will smoke” he was growling. Indeed acrid curls stung our eyes while we kept rummaging through the undergrowth in search of dry twigs. Our hearts were pounding with fear of seeing this dawning fire go out.
Centuries later, this echo reached us when we first read the words of Jack London in Build a fire where his hero must tame the flame so as not to die of cold. He spoke of the flame obtained “By applying a match to a piece of birch bark which he took out of his pocket, and which ignited even more willingly than paper.” After placing it on the logs, he fed the small flame with pinches of dried grass and tiny twigs. ” Jack London writes again: “Whether this flame lived or died out, it meant to him either life or death. He could feel the blood withdrawing more and more from the outside part of his body and he felt a tremor which only made his clumsiness worse. “
There is no such stake in our childhood fire. The Old Man was watching. Adding logs to make “Good embers” as he said. In “good”, there was already the project of tastes to come: obviously the potato baked under the ashes. But also the puff, this whole salted and smoked herring that we skinned while burning our fingers. And then there was always a hand to this to throw on the embers a branch of juniper which smelled of Morteau sausage simply roasted between four stones. Finally, the ultimate childhood happiness: permission to grill a slice of bread covered with a thick layer of cancoillotte on the fire and skewered on a branch of hazelnut.
The Old Man had never feared the flames of hell. He had known him in Verdun. He did not yearn for the delights of paradise either, for he knew the fleeting embers of hope. So when we light the oven and its grill, just to give ourselves the illusion of a kitchen enveloped in flames, we think of this keeper of the fire, lost in his thoughts, when he made us savor the taste of the embers perfuming a potato in foil.
For the record, here is the recipe for potatoes under the ash as given in 1935 by Edouard de Pomiane, doctor, researcher and keen on gastronomy in his Outdoor cooking (1) : “Wash ten potatoes. Wipe them off. Place them under the ash of the wood hearth. Leave them under these ashes, right next to the fireplace, for thirty-five minutes. Remove a potato. Explore its degree of doneness by pricking it with a pocket knife. If it is cooked, remove all others. Wipe them off. Serve them, as is, with butter and salt. The crispy cuticle is a treat. ” You can of course do the same in your oven by wrapping the potatoes in foil.
To keep the flame alive in the kitchen, you can also try Edouard de Pomiane’s crêpes flambées: “In a bowl, place two beaten eggs, three pinches of salt, 250 grams of flour. Mix with a whisk, adding little by little cold milk. When the mixture acquires the consistency of a very fluid cream, stop. Wrap a large knob of butter in a piece of cloth. Place the pan on the heat. Heat it up. Place the knot on the bottom. The metal gets greasy. With the ladle, pour the dough on the pan, tilting the latter so as to distribute the dough very quickly over the entire surface. Heat by shaking the pan. The pancake peels off in a minute. Turn it over with your fingers, or by popping it. Heat for one minute. The pancake is ready. Place it on a dish. Do so, ten to twelve pancakes. Reserve them. When ready to serve, brush them with jam. Roll them up, melt 40 grams of butter in the pan. Place all the rolled pancakes. Heat for two minutes. Turn them over. Heat for one minute. The pancakes are hot hash browns. Place them on a dish. Sprinkle with sugar. Sprinkle with brandy or rum that you have slightly heated in a small saucepan. Ignite. Let it burn. Serve immediately. ”
(1) The outdoor kitchen by Edouard de Pomiane (ed. Menu Fretin, 2019, 18 euros)