Sunday, March 4, 2012

Weekender: The Cape Cod Firelighter

We were always told it was an "ale muller" when we were growing up, that shiny brass thing with the decorated rod sticking out of it.  It made sense too, as ale mulling was a popular way to drink a pint when you came in from the cold in Jolly Olde, and this thing appeared to fit the bill.  Alas, it isn't true.  What we really have here is a Cape Cod Firelighter.  (Our family's, pictured here, was made in Canada, and uses the 'HMS Victory' emblem on the top of the firelighting wand.)  Jefferson Kolle relates its use: "In the fall, my grandparent’s evening ritual on their farm in Rosemont, NJ, involved a small pitcher of Manhattans, a fire in the fireplace, and the nightly news on a black and white television. I still have the Cape Cod lighter that Pop used to get the flames going, and I used it last night. A Cape Cod lighter is made a short metal rod with a piece of absorbent soapstone peened onto the end. The rod rests in a little pot. (Mine is brass with a hinged lid.) You fill the pot with lamp oil (probably whale oil in the original ones) and when you want to start a fire you set the rod on the hearth and pile on the wood. Hold a match to the oil-soaked stone, sit back, and watch the flames build." (The Balf: apparently pumice was also used as the "stone" on the end of the rod.)  And from Molly Miller: "In my almost 70 years on the planet, Cape Cod lighters had kerosene as the fluid held by the pot. It is flammable, but not explosive, so it is not a hazard to store next to the fireplace. Of course, once hot and removed from the fire, do not put it back in the pot until cooled!"  I guess I'm still tempted to use mine to mull some ale, but I don't know what the kerosene residue might do to my innards!  Late-breaking:  The maker's mark, Mitchell, Canada, appears on the bottom of the tankard, which is made from an old 4" artillery shell casing!