But fire can also be dangerous, and serious, even on a soggy English November evening. Which brings me to something that happened a few nights ago, when I was invited by the South Aegean Region of Greece to a very unusual sounding press event.
We were to join the Greek Ambassador and the South Aegean's vice-governor, Mrs. Eleftheria Ftaklaki, plus two top chefs of the region, to cook up some traditional delicacies. What, really cook? These chefs are brave, I thought. I wouldn't do anything involving a hot stove with a group of journalists who have been sampling the local wines for a while.
In a generous gesture, the region had invited partners too, so T and I arrived at the appointed time to the venue. It's called Aveqia, it's in Blackfriars, and it specialises in corporate cookery courses. (The red carpet was for the ambassador, not for us)
First thing I noticed was that the company's designers had made a fantastic job of a very awkwardly shaped space in what seems to have once been a bank. The reception area overlooked an elegantly retro bar
which was serving wines from the South Aegean region.
plus interesting mezedes - the ones in the foreground were an upmarket version of the typical spinach pie
I was interested in the decor, a skilful jumble of 1950s and 1970s retro, with some original touches. Here's what was originally a long, dark corridor. The designers gave it a surreal, Scandinavian feel by the clever use of lighting and multi-wood flooring laminate on floors, walls and ceilings.
At the other end of the corridor was a beautiful dining room and demonstration kitchen, with chefs already preparing some of the ingredients for the meal.
So we all trooped in and had more wine.
After that there was an introduction to the region by the ambassador and short speeches by various dignitaries. Then we put on our aprons
and got started.
You have to hand it to them, with a large dinner to organise and lots of people "helping" by frying pitaroudia (chick pea fritters from Rhodes) in hot oil.....
But the journalists were very good, and nobody even dropped anything.
There were NO mishaps whatever. In fact it was all very convivial.
The meal was not only served on time, but it was really delicious.... So full marks the journalists and chefs.
and some truly wonderful fillet of lamb with bulgur and eggplants...
His brow darkened. I am notorious in our family for leaving stuff on the stove and burning it all, but usually the worst result is yet another burned pan. But at this moment, the house was empty and if the pan was boiling dry, it could be really serious.
Terrible visions filled my mind.
I rushed away from the table, hoping that I could rouse a neighbour with a key, only to be followed by Mrs.Eleftheria Ftaklaki who kindly came out to see if I was okay. I was impressed - here she was playing an official role at what was obviously a very expensive event, and she still wanted to help an idiot journalist who had messed up.
So, what happened? Well, thank goodness, I managed to rouse one of my neighbours who had a key. She got into the house, sorted things out and all was well. Feeling rather chastened, I thought as I rejoined the others, that I shouldn't have worried about them setting Avegia on fire. The only potential fire-raiser in that gathering was ME!