Last week the Minister told me, “The women are having a hard time collecting enough fire wood to cook their meals. Can you help?”
In fact I noticed while we were making the solar lamps that the fire wood that the children brought over was only kindling. I wondered at it then.
I told the Minister about solar cookers and told him that I would research them on the internet. While I was at it I found with a different principle, Insulation cooking. The theory is that you heat the food to boiling and then insulate it so that it cooks with the retained heat. I remember my father talking about cooking this way and while looking things up on the internet I also found a report of an 800 year old insulation pot dug up in London so I figure that the method has withstood the test of time.
Yesterday afternoon I tried to teach a class to a few young men about solar cookers and this insulation cooker. This idea was met with great hilarity by all. You couldn’t possibly cook anything this way. So I decided to prove it them, which was pretty brave considering that I have never done it. We chose beans because they take 2 hours on the fire and only 15 minutes of fire cooking if you use insulation cooking.
We made an appointment to prepare beans at 8AM, and promptly at 9 AM everyone arrived. One of the young men presented me with a bag of beans, dry, unsoaked. I explained that beans need to be soaked overnight before being cooked. No one thought of that, including me. So, as a replacement we decided to cook rice. It doesn’t need soaking.
The pastor had an old cardboard box kicking around. We used that to contain the insulation. I walked with the young men to a stand of banana trees. As the young men told me, “We’ve got lots of bananas around here.
We stripped some dried leaves off of their stems and filled the box with them.
Then the entire community cooked a pot of rice. First we had to boil it for a few minutes on a wood fire. That is done in the cook house on a fire with the pot held up by 3 rocks.
This young man wisely did not enter the cook house. I have never seen a man in one. They’re smart. God, the smoke. They say those things are bad for you. It about killed me in the few minutes it took to give the rice its initial heating. The Pastor’s wife and the President of the Women’s group watched.
When the pot was boiling the Pastor and I brought it out and put it in the box. I couldn’t take a picture of myself. Besides, I was dieing of smoke inhalation.
The town English Teacher and town librarian held the aluminum foil at the ready. We used it since the pot didn’t have a proper top. Foil is an exotic item around here.l I brought it as a reflector for the solar oven that wasn’t built.
Mary, my fellow teacher who is working on this with me, and the Pastor from the next town watched the process.
And the men watched the box. The man seated on the left is the village leader, second from right is the Pastor. I have no idea what was with the man with the cloth folded over his head. He walked around like that all morning.
I have been laughing all day at the number of people who stood and watched a cardboard box do nothing for a half hour. It’s a good thing we didn’t cook beans. Those sit in the box for 4 hours. After a half hour of everyone watching the box with my sleeping bag over it we opened the box and 3 cheers, the rice was cooked. We all sampled a taste. It was rice. It needed salt.
Will the town adopt insulation cooking? I don’t know. This afternoon there seemed to be a fair amount of turning up of noses among the women. How can there be anything of value in an old card board box and dead banana leaves?