Yesterday, December 25, 2011, I had six friends over for Christmas dinner. A pitch in, as always! We’re all decent cooks….and a couple are really good….so it was great, also as always. After our meal of ham and sweet potato casserole and scalloped potatoes, Jello salad, broccoli casserole, and homemade rolls, we all went out onto the patio to chat and let the food digest for a while.
We broke up rather naturally into two or three groups and spoke of many things. And as the sun started to lower, Kathi suggested that it would be a fine idea of fire up [literally] the chimenea.
Back in February or March, I purchased the smallish chimenea from my friend Jan who had sold her house here and was moving back to Washington state in the US. Shortly after I bought it on behalf of my Canadian landlords, Nonie and David, the hot, dry season set in [early] and it never got used during that time, or through the warm, rainy season, or through what has been a rather warm fall.
But Christmas seemed like a time we might enjoy it, so last Wednesday I asked my friend and gardener/handyman if he could fix it up for our use. So while I was at the posada for the ancianos, Antonio lined the bottom with some bricks and brought over some wood that he picked up in his large garden and along the side of the road.
When I arrived home, he had a pile of wood in the chimenea, was crumpling up some paper, and throwing a little gasoline on the whole pile, while asking me for a lighter to get it started. Antonio, like lots of men I knew in the USA, apparently believes in “the faster, the better” school of fire starting.
I handed him the lighter and ducked into the house, hurriedly filling pitchers of water to douse what I expected to be a conflagration. But it wasn’t nearly as bad as I expected. And while we really didn’t need any heat during that afternoon when the temperature here had reached into the upper 70s, it was nice to see the little chimenea doing what it’s supposed to do…..burning brightly and giving off some heat.
According to Wikipedia, chimeneas were developed possibly thousands of years ago by indigenous peoples in Mexico to be used as both heaters and stoves. Their design of a clay pot belly and a chimney stack with a smallish O mouth means that it’s a fairly simple process to get a pretty good fire going quickly.
So on Christmas afternoon, as the sun started to descend, my friends Jonnie and Craig took upon themselves the duties of firestarters and tenders. Unlike Antonio, a self professed novice at such things, Jonnie and Craig were quite proficient at getting the fire going. A bit of tree bark and some wadded up paper got the chimenea going quite rapidly. No gasoline required! Then they added some kindling and then some larger pieces of wood. And in no time we had a nice little fire.
What amazed me was how much warmth the little thing put out! While I’m a hot blooded, fat mama who doesn’t need or want a lot of heat, my friend Kathi, who is always cold, was comfortable within a very short time, sitting three or four feet away from it.
So she and Sher and Craig settled themselves down by it with plates of James’ homemade cheesecake and Jonnie’s homemade pecan pie and enjoyed the rest of the afternoon.
So here in Mexico, we didn’t have chestnuts roasting on an open fire. But we had a great little chimenea heating its heart up for us. Now, if someone had only given me the memo about the black pants and red tops Christmas attire!
Hope your holiday was as good as ours, and that you have a warm little thing in your life!