One day last winter the girls and I made a “magic box”. I had been doing some research on basket cooking, or retained heat cooking—a method that saves fuel and firewood encouraged in many countries around the world–and wanted to give it a try at home. I explained to Belén and Susanna that we would be decorating a special box that would do a trick; it would cook our rice, soften our lentils and even tenderize kidney beans! The first time we did it I made a big deal out of bringing the food to a boil, quickly wrapping it in a towel, placing it in the magic box, covering it with blankets, and closing the lid. When we opened the box 5 or 6 hours later, with much pomp and circumstance, our food was cooked to perfection.
These days, I continue to use the magic box idea but we have lost the actual box and the pomp and circumstance looks more like this:
After a weekend away our suitcase quietly explodes on our kitchen floor. This usually goes on for days, but with the wonder of retained-heat cooking I can take advantage of all those clothes laying around. First I soak my Arikara beans, then I rinse them and bring them to a boil, in plenty of water, on my stove top. Next I wrap the pot in a clean kitchen towel, set it carefully in the box and throw whatever insulation I can find on top of it. Now I get to feel good about not cleaning up our clothes, and the fact that I am only using about 10% of the energy I would normally consume if I were going to let them cook on my stove!
Everytime I do this I still get excited about the first peek… will my food be cooked?
Yes, yes it will!
Check out this site for more info if this kind of thing turns your crank.
Of course, this is not new technology. Different people groups have been applying this principle for years (burying food underground or covering it with hay to cook). Posters and flyers describing this way of cooking were distributed around England during the war years to promote energy savings, and NGOs still encourage this practice in areas of the world where firewood and other resources are scarce.
While we personally can afford to cook with our stove as much as we want, I regularly cook this way because it’s so simple. And simplicity is elegance, even when it comes to beans!
Have a great Monday,