Last year on the evening of October 31st, my sister, Ame, was in town for a visit. She and Tess and I decided we would celebrate the autumnal season by roasting some of the exceptionally abundant chestnuts that had fallen from trees in the Dunbar area. Each of us had memories of roasting chestnuts on a fire earlier in our youth.
We grabbed a bucket and started filling it. The supply seemed limitless. During the harvest it was noted that no one else seems to have helped themselves to this bounty. Odd, given how rad roasting chestnuts is.
Having collect enough chestnuts to sink a ship, we now needed a roasting method. The oven obviously would not create the ambiance we were seeking. We wanted to roast them on a fire. Really, only an open fire would do. The recent days had been relatively dry and windy. We found plenty of small dry(ish) twigs and small branches on the ground. We also found some old construction materials to add to the mix. Dry leaves were selected as our starter fuel.
We found a great spot in the alley. After creating a bit of a stone circle, we poured in our chestnuts and then piled our combustibles on top. It took a bit of coaxing but we had a pretty good alley fire in short order. A few minutes later the Dunbar Patrol showed up with their Hi-Vis vests and flashlights.
In retrospect we had a few things working against us. It was Halloween night. We had a fire. In the fire was moist stuff. Hot moist stuff gives off steam and smoke. Fire gives off a flickering light. Essentially we had built a column of reflective airborne particles with a flashing light source below it (and a street light above it).
The leader asked us to put out the fire. I replied that she was not making sense. She asked again. I told them all I didn’t think they had much experience roasting chestnuts – putting out the fire slows the process incredibly. She said fires are not allowed. I pointed out that chestnuts are a naturally occurring part of the neighbourhood and this is an important part of processing them – raw would probably taste funny. It is a food fire. The leader started trying to tackle my latest trolling deflection but was interrupted by one of her posse who had until then remained silent.
“Where did you get these?” he asked. Thinking I had won the battle of divergence, I gave him my attention. Hopefully the delay would let our snack roast a bit longer. A rambling tale ensued about how we had collected them from the surrounding area. “Those are horse-chestnuts,” he says. “You definitely don’t want to eat them.” What? Now he has my attention. “They are used to make rat poison.”
I suggested we put out the fire. They agreed.
This year we launched an investigation into where we might find chestnuts of the non-poisonous variety. We found some. Last night we picked a small bag’s worth from below two trees at Kits beach. Tonight we will roast them with my mummy and brother.