Friday, May 27, 2005

Baile Rochel #6 Lag B'Omer

Baile Rochel’s Back! #6
Eve of The 18th of Iyyar
May 26, 2005

Israeli Campfires and My Girl Scout Badge

Tonight is Lag B’Omer, and all good Israelis are stinking up the air with campfires, which they call “medurot.” Now I used to like campfires, and when I was a Girl Scout I even earned a “Campcraft Badge.”

You must be wondering why if I’m such an expert in cooking over open fire out of doors, why am I sitting here by the computer? Getting that badge required study and hard work. And even today I can still remember much of what I had learned decades ago in Girl Scout Camp.

First things first, you had to pick the right spot. The ground should be clear of dried leaves, to make sure that the fire can’t spread. It shouldn’t have over-hanging branches nor electric lines. Once you have the perfect location you have to decide what shape or style to construct your campfire. That’s right; it was like an engineering course, not even as creative as architecture. I admit that I don’t remember all the permitted shapes, just two. They are the “log cabin” and the “teepee.” The basic principles are the same for both.

I’ll describe how to make a “log cabin;” a “teepee” is just too American. First you need lots of sticks of various sizes and thickness; sort them by size. Start with the thickest, and build a four-sided structure; you lay two sticks parallel, and then two more parallel in the other direction to make a square. Continue, using thinner and thinner sticks and having the structure get smaller and smaller. Then you put some very thin dry wood, kindling wood, in the middle, filling it well, so it touches the “walls.”

Yes, I know I sound rather obsessive-compulsive about it being perfect, but that’s the way we were taught. And then we lit the kindling wood, and as it burned, the larger pieces caught, and we had a great fire for hotdogs, hamburgers and roasted marshmallows. Perfect of course.

Israelis don’t do it like that. Maybe it’s because the country’s so small, but the don’t scout around for the perfect site. They like to be close to home, under the shade tree, within stinking distance of my clothesline. As a sign of adolescence, kids get more adventurous and stakeout sites with the ingenuity and possessiveness of legendary American gold-miners and pioneers. Empty lots and hillsides are carefully marked and guarded by rivals for the perfect medura.

No Israeli would have gotten the badge, since I’ve never seen a “medura” of a recognizable shape. There’s another problem. We don’t have too many forests here, so collecting branches and twigs requires imagination, initiative and good old Israeli “chutzpah.” “Wood collection” begins during pre-Pesach cleaning when kids begin scouting around the neighborhood looking for items to hoard for their Lag B’Omer campfires. If you need old furniture removed from your home, you can get free labor, as long as they can keep it.
They also haunt the garbage for old chairs, wooden bed frames, broom handles, shelves—even if covered with Formica, since there’s wood underneath.

Some of you may already be sniffing, Formica? It’s plastic; doesn’t it smell? Yes, smell it does. It stinks! Even if I close the double windows, that horrid Lag B’Omer smell permeates my house. And that’s not the only thing. If you get closer to the campfires you’ll smell something else, something that we didn’t use in Girl Scout Camp—kerosene, lighter fluid, the viagrara of the campfire. (I hope that no ones’ offended. Is it better if I call it the silicon of the campfire?)

OK, I admit it. I’m a purist. I like my campfires sans the artificial and my falafel without French fries. The smell ruins my enjoyment. I don’t remember campfires smelling when I was a kid. Did they? Maybe I’m just an old fogy.

Nothing in these Lag B’Omer medurot attracts me. I admit that the twenty-five years of vegetarianism may have had a permanent influence. So I’m happily staying home, alternating blogging and needlepoint while watching some old TV detective shows on the VCR.

As soon as the air clears, I’ll hang the laundry.

Baile Rochel
Copyright©2005BatyaMedad, Contact me for publication permission; private distribution encouraged.

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