Friday, April 2, 2010

Cooking (without) gasoline

I made a spring resolution this week, and as I live in close proximity to work have decided that I will try to ride to work whenever it’s feasible. This week, I’ve pedaled my way to campus every day except for one day when I had to attend an activity in Fulton at the start of the work day. This process has meant I’m now rifling through biking websites searching for new tires, a bottom bracket wrench, fenders for the rainy days, flash flag, rear view mirror, and a bike rack. Additionally, I have plans a la “” to build my own panniers and a bike rack box so that I can start cycling to the grocery store and on other local trips.

The upshot was that today, as I was working on a plan to conduct a sustainability experiment at work, you would find me cycling to work with a five gallon contractors bucket, a automotive sun shade, thermometer, non-stick pans, eggs and milk in a coffee thermos, and a box of Jiffy brand corn muffin mix straddled against my handlebars. Today, I decided, was Solar Cooker day, and utilizing a model found on the internet ( I attempted to cook corn muffin mix at work, with only a few handy home items and some reliance on the sun.

I decided I would make something simple like corn muffin mix in a pan rather than try individual muffins. I mixed the corn muffin mix in our staff lunch room, put it in a pan, and placed it in the cooker. For the next 2.5 hours, I watched as the temp climbed at one point to a max of around 200 degrees at 2:30 pm, and then held steady around 175 the rest of the time. As you can see I would consider it a moderate success; the muffin mix started to bake, and next time with a slightly more reflective shade, I think the muffins will completely cook.

The purpose, for me, and for others for this experiment was to underscore how with simple technology those that live in less developed conditions could use the sun cooker to cook their food. This frees them from searching for fuel, and being exposed to the harmful smoke from the fires. In Haiti, and other places suffering from natural disasters people can cook, and have safe drinking water with little need for fuel to burn. Overall, we can have less reliance on cooking fuels like gas and electricity.

-Thad Mantaro, SUNY Oswego

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