Three moms and their six lads retreated to the mountains outside Cape Town for some fresh air and rock pooling. They missed the Dads terribly. But no matter, it was an illuminating two days as a thing or two was learnt about the Dads, and about fires, and about men and fires.
The Moms fared really well on night one. Nats, the Mom with a plan, had the good sense to bring along firelighters and before long, the flames had settled into beautiful simmering coals, cooking the burgers to perfection (not underdone, not overdone).
Night two was pizza night. Buoyed by the success of the burgers, they pooh-poohed the regular oven and decided to give the outdoor pizza oven a bash. Nothing like the smoky taste of wood-fired pizza. Having earned her stripes on burger night, Nats was put in charge of the fire.
The team got to work. The lads collected kindling, Nats created a wood pile in the oven. The other Moms, Rosie and Zan, got to grating the cheese, slicing the avo, chopping the ham, getting the plates ready, sorting the drinks, checking on the kids.
Nats stayed put in front of the fire. She poked and prodded, adjusted the pile, cranked up the heat, distributed the heat. It was just about time to slide the pizzas in when it dawned on Nats, who’s a doer and loves to get stuck in, that she hadn’t done much to help the other Moms. It was, she said, as if wielding the tongs and lauding over the fire gave her permission to do jack shit.
And they got to wondering. Why is it that men never leave the fire, ever? Staring into the flames is mesmeric for sure. Our relationship with fire is deeply primal; we relied on it for cooking, warmth, protection, survival. It draws us in.
The fire was also where the tribe gathered to tell tales and catch up on the day’s gossip. We closed in and the circle grew tight and somewhat impenetrable as we went deep into hanna hanna mode.
Manning the fire is important work, we totally get that. We can do without the salad and the frills and the beautifully laid table but without the fire there would be no main event.
But it is okay to leave the fire, just for a few minutes, now and then, to toss a salad or pull your warring kids apart. We’ll totally have your back. We’ll swan in and spend a few hypnotic minutes wrapped in the warm glow of the coals, keeping an eye on the flames. We’ll even hold your beer.
It’s a gender bending world yet somehow when we cook our food on an open flame we revert to archaic roles where Man Make Fire and Woman Do Everything Else.
But, guys, the jig is up. You weren’t around so we snuck into your hallowed domain. We sussed it out and we’re calling bullshit on the free pass that is braai duty.
Let’s switch it up. What’s it gonna take to hand over the tongs?