Once upon a time, we cooked over open fires. Then came hearths. Then gas and electric ovens. Then—eep—microwaves.
Oh, how we wish we could un-invent microwaves.
But let's not dwell on that. Because now there are solar ovens. Well, not exactly now (see smartypants Horace de Saussure, circa 1767), but they have finally come into their own. And people the world over (Hello, Africa) are using them to cook some serious yum.
Why? 1) After the initial materials cost, of roughly $15, they're free. 2) No fossil fuels. 3) Light on labor. 4) Healthful. 5) Portable. 6) Fun. And 7) Cooking with el sol connects you with el sol, supporter of almost all of the life on Earth.
There are three basic types of solar ovens, and two are easy to make at home in a single afternoon:
Type One, the solar box cooker, is basically an insulated box-within-a-box, with a glass lid that can be propped open to reflect the sun's rays into the dark pots used for cooking.
Type Two, the panel cooker, uses a reflective panel to, yes, reflect the sun's heat into those same dark-colored pots, in this case insulated by a transparent shell (say, a plastic bag), which traps the heat.
Type Three is slightly more complicated and a little dangerous and will not be discussed by us.
You can learn about each of these ovens, and how to make them, in the excellent Cooking with Sunshine, by Lorraine Anderson and Rick Palkovic. There are step-by-step instructions, plus 150 recipes for ultimate belly satisfaction—including quiche, frittata, enchiladas, and even Tandoori chicken.
Cook on the sunny side.