Passive Cooking

I know that people talk of a Man Shed……….. in our home, it’s a Girl Shed! I love nothing better than pottering around in the shed, a couple of hand-tools to see me by and a stack of off-cut cedar kindling bits to hand. There is no power in the shed, so a solar-powered radio is as good as it gets! 

A while back, I’d had an idea for some time, to upgrade my WonderBox. “What’s that?” , I hear you ask.  In South Africa, in the townships, power is very expensive and unaffordable, so most cooking is done on a Primus Stove. The stove was invented in the late 1800’s and works with paraffin. The staple diet of beans and maize/dried corn takes much energy to cook, so a WonderBox does the cooking without using any  power or paraffin. Similar to the Hay box used during War time.


My WonderBox was bought for a grand sum of ZAR25 about 30 years ago. Current exchange rate puts that at NZ $5. The cardboard box had seen wear and tear and much reinforcing. I use it for cooking rice, sago pudding, soups, beans etc. where one needs an extended heat, without burning the food. It is big and bulky and could dominate my kitchen if it weren’t for the fact it fits neatly under my chopping block! Inside is 2 polystyrene ball-filled cushions which insulate the pot of food and allows the heat to continue cooking the food. The first step is to bring the pot to the boil and then put it into the box to continue cooking.  You can head off out the door and forget about it, it won’t boil over or burn, and will stay hot for at least 4 hours or more.

The Wonder-Box that's seen Better Days.
The Wonder-Box that’s seen Better Days.

So over 2 days in winter a couple of years ago, I holed myself up in our freezing shed, sawed and hammered, measured and sanded, till I had created another one of my famous box designs! (It just has four sides, a top and a bottom!  Easy!)   I love the challenge of figuring things out and making them work! It gives me as much pleasure as a day spent reading a good book! The plot! The suspense! The thrill!  The trickiest bit – figuring out how to attach the side panels to the bottom of the box.  But a few reinforcing corner bits and it started to shape up.

Step one: making the bottom and sides
Step one: making the bottom and sides

Step 3: Attaching the 3rd and 4th sides
Step 3: Attaching the 3rd and 4th sides

Looks like we have a box...........
Looks like we have a box………..

Checking to see if the polystyrene-filled cushions fit.
Checking to see if the polystyrene-filled cushions fit.

A coat of coconut oil to finish and protect the wood.
A coat of coconut oil to finish and protect the wood.

A pot of rice cooked to perfection.
A pot of rice cooked to perfection.

The WonderBox fits perfectly under our chopping block.
The WonderBox fits perfectly under our chopping block.

Now there is a few of you reading this who are wondering about the polystyrene-filled cushions.  I think the stuff should never have been invented BUT, I console myself with the fact that these polystyrene balls have been used for 30 years!  I am glad I insisted on keeping my WonderBox and could resurrect it to last another 30 years!  Every householder should be supplied with one of these to reduce energy consumption.   

Kapai!

Jizzy

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