Quest for fire: Part two

Set 80,000 years ago, the film, “Quest For Fire” follows several early human tribe members in their crusade to learn how to create fire after their carefully guarded flame is accidentally extinguished. Using only grunts and hand gestures to communicate to each other, the group successfully negotiates encounters with cannibals* and hungry tigers, just to name a few. Luckily for me, my quest for fire wouldn’t be quite as treacherous and I would only have to use a hand gesture once.

According to, igniting the DIY mini fire pit is as easy as lining a flower pot with foil, a few wads of foil on the bottom, top with charcoal and light ‘er up. If that doesn’t work she suggests, try newspaper and a few drops of lighter fluid. No additional tips if that didn’t work.

Which it didn’t. After multiple failed attempts at lighting my fire pit, all I had to show for my efforts were piles of newspaper ashes, sweaty frustration and cool to the touch charcoal. I’m not going to lie, in an effort to salvage the situation/my reputation, or commonly known as safety becomes secondary, I poured lighter fluid onto smoking coals. I’m also not going to lie, I did that in front of my daughters.

“Aaaaaahhhhh!” the girls screamed while running around the driveway waving their hands in the air. Were they panicking because a giant fire ball had exploded out of my fire pit due to my careless use of lighter fluid? No. Were they overcome with excitement that their mother had successfully lit the coals like a boss? No. They were freaking out because a June bug the size of a Volkswagen was buzzing around their heads. Anyway, to give you an idea of just how completely not-on-fire my charcoal was, when the lighter fluid hit the coals, nothing happened. Not even a spark. My mini fire pit was a big dud.

“This isn’t going to work,” I informed my terrified daughters. “But I’m not ready to give up. I have an idea but it’s too late to do it now. Let’s go inside and make s’mores over the stove.” Luckily they were eager to get inside and away from that June bug.

The handy chimney starter.

That was the extent of my good luck as the stove proved to be a bust as well. In the end (of that night at least) it was a stupid can of Sterno that came to the rescue. Sterno is really lame, in my opinion. It’s too easy to light and a person can’t properly roast a marshmallow over the stuff. It’s either burnt to a crisp or sushi. Sterno ought to be banned and Brian ought not to have suggested it as an alternative to my mini fire pit idea when I first pitched it. “Why don’t you just use Sterno? It’s so much safer,” he said. “Sterno is lame,” was my response then and what I repeated countless times as I choked down charred/raw marshmallows in my s’mores that night. Another “not going to lie” moment: it annoyed me that on my first mini fire pit try, Brian had kind of won…sort of.** But I wasn’t worried. I had an ace in the hole and it was coming out the next day.

Enter the handy chimney starter. Wadded up newspaper, a splash of lighter fluid on the charcoal (before lighting them) and in less than ten minutes my coals were hot, glowing and ready to pour into my mini fire pit. Done.

Fire! Muahahahaha!

It was cozy. Our marshmallows were perfectly toasty. My quest for fire was achieved and I’m not going to lie: I pointed at my fire pit, grunted and the girls knew exactly what that meant.

MINI FIRE PIT TIPS: 1. My initial vision for the fire pit included six-inch long sticks or “mini logs” in the charcoal for a campfire-like feel. This was a smoky mistake. All of the sticks had to be removed otherwise we would have died of smoke inhalation. Only use charcoal. 2. Don’t bother lining the pot with foil but I do recommend using wadded up foil under the charcoal. It helped with air circulation. 3. When you have finished enjoying your awesome mini fire pit, pour water over your coals. We wouldn’t want you setting the porch on fire.

*Turns out the cannibals teach them how to make fire. I’ll admit there were times in my quest I would have gladly taken a tip or two from a cannibal.

**I’ll give Brian credit. He never intervened in my quest with annoying suggestions (other than the Sterno) or “here’s what you’re doing wrong” type mansplaining. However, his “told you so” vibe as he lounged on the couch was loud and clear.

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