It takes about two hours and eight logs to get a nice bed of embers for cooking. We learned this when a glowing red and white-hot bed remained after another lazy holiday fire was fed log after log. Surely this glorious heat could be used to cook real food — not just chestnuts and s’mores, but a cast-iron skillet of sizzling chicken, roasted red peppers close to the embers for peeling and turning into a sweet-and-sour Italian salad, a pot of quick baked beans with hot dogs.
And so the fireplace at home became the cooking hearth for certain things. Equipment included a favorite cast- iron skillet found years ago at a flea market, a couple of old cake racks to set on the log stand, fireplace gloves, and long tongs. The daily experimentation began.