seems a very innocuous material. A fundamental component of cooking, flour is seemingly nothing to be feared. But properly applied, flour can be a terrifying pyrotechnic surprise. After reading about spontaneous combustion
and the nature of fire
, I surmised the following:
- Flour is a complex sugar.
- Sugars are flammable. For example, wood, which is mostly cellulose, is quite flammable, but the same applies to Cheerios, table sugar, etc.
- The flammability of any material is highly dependent on its surface area, because a higher surface area:mass ratio permits more oxygen to react with the fuel at once, breaking it down and releasing energy.
- As many inexperienced cooks know, flour, undampened, can make a horrible fine cloud of powder all over the kitchen if a mixer is turned on.
And so I considered this knowledge. The natural conclusion of an adolescent male
In my backyard one evening we had a small fire. I surrepiticously obtained some flour from the kitchen. After some failed attempts at flame, I developed the HongPong recipe of Flour-Fireballery:
- Obtain about 1 cup of flour. Most any variety will do. However, it must be dry and fine. The finer, the better your results will be.
- Cup your hand in such a way that the end of your hand angles upwards, creating a streamlined dish shape.
- Fill your hand with the flour. Crouch low and aim towards a small to medium-sized campfire. (Perhaps act like you are warming your empty hand)
- Smile and talk with those around you. Suddenly ask, "Hey, what is that in the coals? It looks like a semiprecious stone! Look, right there!"
- Inhale deeply (without drawing in the flour!) and blow as hard as you can on your cupped hand. Optimally, try to angle the flour cloud upwards, above the flame.
- If you have done this correctly, a fine particulate mist will be over the fire. When the lowest particles catch fire (remember, flour's a sugar) it will spread rapidly, creating a fireball about 2 ft.^3 or so. The finer and wider the mist, the better your results will be.
- Enjoy a hearty laugh as those around you sputter in rage.