Well, I understand why Bill was hooked. It is a pretty cool stove, and works well with full sun. It is incredibly simple and easy to clean. I was also thrilled that I can use the pots as mixing bowls...something that I was lacking. They also serve well for overnight storage of food.
Why cook solar? The Solar Household Energy (SHE) webpage says:
Currently, more than half of the world’s population relies on biomass (wood, animal dung and crop residue) for cooking, according to the U.N.’s World Health Organization (WHO). This practice causes disease, economic hardship, and environmental degradation. Modern solar cooking ovens like SHE’s “HotPot” offer practical, affordable, long-term relief.
In our community here in Panamá there is evidence of families that suffer from smoke related illnesses. There is a high incidence of respritory illnesses and colds. A couple of the ladies that we work with have even been advised by their doctors that they should avoid cooking with leña (wood) because of the negative impacts of the smoke on their health.
Of course, we were excited to receive it...and so made bread with it the same day. The first 4 photos below are from our first attempt at bread. I made the dough for a white herbed onion and garlic bread. I covered the dough with oil and put it in the pot...
Within half an hour of putting it in the sun the glass was steamed up and the pot was really warm to the touch.
The bread turned out really well. It had good flavor and a rich dense even texture. I think that it will work better to let the bread rise more by not pointing it directly into the sun at first. The only problem that I had is that the stove lid catches the evaporation and sends it back into the pot...which is a good thing if cooking soup, a stew, or roasting something, but when cooking bread resulted in a soggy bottom crust.
Baco's also gave this casserole a good flavor boost.
Other things that I have cooked?
- rice (too sticky from long slow cooking),
- eggs (hardboiled well without water),
- brownies (my first failure as the sun clouded over about 45 min after putting out the stove...but I cooked them on the stove top as normal and did not mind the excuse to eat a little brownie batter)
- Zucinni / pumpkin bread (done 3 times now and a big hit with everyone who trys it)
- Water (heated to do laundry with hot water...best for the dirtiest clothing)
With direct hot sunlight things cook well, taking about 2 or 3 times as long as normal. This can be an issue if you need to go somewhere or the weather changes. Reheating foods is also possible and doesn't take terribly long. Wind, clouds and curious kids standing between it and the sun can all increase cooking time.
This stove offers a good alternative to fuel based cooking for some types of cooking. It is not a perfect alternative. Solar cooking is more suited to slow cooking foods and can not make fast cooking foods (can't fry with it for example). In our community here in Panama, this might mean that it would receive limited use...maybe for beans and soups and roasts, but it is too cool for frying and cooks rice so slowly that it is more sticky than most would like. It is not reasonable to think that people will change their traditional diet to use a new type of stove, when they still have access to the means to cook traditionally. In areas where the situation is more dire this stove would be more fully utilized out of necessity. Please do not interpret this to mean that my neighbors would not use it, rather it would be one of many cooking methods.
All in all, I am a fan of the solar stove and plan on continuing to try new foods. I particularly want to try to roast a whole chicken without oil or water like the directions book says you can...I think that that might just confirm my "wizard cooking abilities" in the minds of my nieghbors if it goes well. We like it so well that we plan on hauling it (even though it is HEAVY) to the next volunteer conference here in Panamá so other volunteers can see it too.
A big THANKS to Bill and his helpful couriers Linda and Tabassum for this wonderful and very appropriate gift. Our plan is to pass it along to another PVC when we finish here in Panamá so another volunteer (and their curious community) can enjoy it too.