The first time I saw Alice Waters lovingly coddle an egg in her roaring kitchen fireplace, I thought she was crazy. But lo and behold, fireplace cooking is actually making a comeback, as witnessed by cooking equipment retailers, best-selling open-flame cookbooks, and a growing number of restaurants with live fires. I don't doubt the deliciousness of a flame-licked lamb chop or a charred slice of artisan bread, but growing up in humid Houston, TX, we mostly used our fireplace as decoration and storage. What about you — have you cooked out of a fireplace?
It's getting chilly enough in San Francisco that I'm thinking about getting my fireplace going soon. After years, I finally have one in my house, and it's a nice luxury. Do you build fires at home?
Made from brick, stone, or tile, a hearth is the area in front of a fireplace that acts as a buffer between the fire and the floor. Hearths are designed to prevent sparks and ash from escaping into the room.
They can be purely functional — say, simply a brick floor that extends out from the fireplace — or wildly decorative, with inlaid tile designs and wooden mantles. Used often in the expression "hearth and home," the hearth has also come to symbolize family life.