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Abigail Grotke
Silver Spring, MD
email: missabigail at missabigail dot com
twitter: @DearMissAbigail

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Miss Abigail has a collection of over 1,000 classic advice books, spanning from 1822 to 1978 and covering a variety of topics, from love and romance to etiquette and charm. The collection sparked the idea for this site, then a book, Miss Abigail's Guide to Dating, Mating, and Marriage, which has inspired an Off-Broadway production of the same name!


Building a Fire

collect the woodI admit it. I’m a camping snob. Thanks to trips as a youngster to a favorite spot by a pond near the Finger Lakes in New York State, I prefer real camping: the Grotke family tent, the roaring fire, wading in the creek, peeing against the trees. Alas, many urbanites are a bit fearful of the idea of so much closeness with nature. So while those friends who stay home contemplate what restaurant to visit this weekend, the brave ones among us will forage for wood in order to cook a feast over the campfire. Here are some tips I picked up from Beatrice Pierce’s book The Young Hostess for just such an activity. Pass the s’mores! I’m hungry!

1938: Building a Fire

Cooking out of doors is an art, but everyone enjoys the experience. It is important, of course, to know how to build a fire. There are different methods, but the principles are much the same. The thing to learn first is that you cannot cook over a roaring blaze. You must wait until the fire burns down and you have a nice bed of hot coals. It is best to use stones to confine your fire; and you should select a place that is sheltered from the wind. Preparations for an outdoor meal take a rather long time, so start early. The first job is to collect the wood, unless you have brought it from home. Where wood is scarce, charcoal bought from your grocer is an excellent substitute, clean, compact, and safe. Next, start your water boiling, if you need hot water for anything. A kettle set on a grid is one way. Another, in case you have no grid, is to cut a stick about two feet long, a fairly heavy one with a crotch at one end. Leave about two inches on each fork of the crotch. Sharpen the other end. Push it into the ground. Cut a four- to five-foot green pole; it must be green or it will catch fire. Cut a notch in one end. Rest this pole over the forked stick, the notched end over the fire, the other end resting on the ground. Hang a bucket or kettle on the notch, keep the fire going, and soon your water will be boiling merrily.

Source: Pierce, Beatrice. The Young Hostess. New York: Farrar & Rinehart, 1938.
~ pp. 180-81 ~

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