The Cooks Corner: Fire time

It’s that time of year again: the time of fire, usually caused by well meaning people doing a controlled burn that quickly gets out of control. A couple of weeks ago, one of our neighbors was burning a brush pile and a gust of wind took that fire right across a field towards his house and barns before it was extinguished by our local firefighters. Nevertheless, it can happen so fast and catch a person completely off guard.
My mom was an oxymoron. She was terrified of fire, yet a fire bug. She had been through two house fires, a barn fire, and all of the losses surrounding them, and so had a pretty good case of PTSD when it came to fire, yet she was guilty of tossing a match in certain ditches when the wind was right. She loved to see them burn. One of her favorites was the supply ditch to the farm from the highway south. It was safe to let that one roar because it couldn’t really go anywhere, there was nothing to support a fire away from the ditch, so it just burned up the ditch. If ever there was a good north wind, you could bet Mom would be tossing a match in that ditch.
The other thing we always enjoyed burning when I was younger was the “draw” on the old farm. It is a valley that is a bog in the bottom and brush on the sides. It is mostly spring-fed and the cattails clog up the drainage, so burning it off every few years kept things in check. We always tried to do it early enough so as to not disturb the nesting of the red-winged blackbirds, but a good north wind and we would start at the north end. It would send flames way above the sides of the hills and belch black smoke. It was very satisfying to watch, but it is not safe to do that anymore.
I have had a few mishaps myself when burning. I decided one year that I could burn the center ditch by myself on our property when the wind was coming out of the south, which I have learned is NOT a good time to burn. I started slowly down the ditch when a dust devil came through and my fire that was fully controlled was suddenly totally out of control and headed right for the hayrack full of hay. Fortunately, the hayrack wasn’t hurt. It had steel wheels and the grass under it was short. Rick showed up at just the right time and we got it all put out… we thought.
About 30 minutes later, the phone rang and Rick’s Dad was very excited telling me that a fire was ripping down the fence-line by the county road and the shop was in danger. Rick headed across the field on a run and I took off in the pickup. We got a back burn done to stop the fire, but it was terrifying:  the flames were shooting higher than the power poles.
Rick checked and rechecked the power poles that night to make sure the fire was all out around them, but the next morning one of the power poles was leaning severely into our pasture. It turns out, it burned off underground. Suffice to say, I haven’t been allowed to burn weeds much since.
I have had several requests for the recipe for these. They are naturally gluten-free and so good.

Brazilian Bread Puffs
- 2/3 cup milk
- 2/3 cup oil
- 2 eggs
- 1 tsp salt, scant
- 2 cups tapioca starch
- 1 Tbsp parmesan cheese
Blend together in blender. Fill the tins almost to the top. Bake in a well-sprayed mini muffin tins, about 20 minutes at 350ºF.
For those who are dairy-free: plant-based milks work, as does water., and the cheese can be left out completely, though the flavor won’t be as good. I have substituted nutritional yeast for a cheese taste. (I have also swapped other cheeses for the parmesan. Almost any cheese is good.)