I grew up going on camping trips, where we cooked over a Coleman stove, or more rarely, the fire. I always loved camping, though I didn’t always love doing the cooking.
I like campfires. I like staring into the flames and the glowing coals. Of course, like every other youngster I used to amuse myself by lighting the ends of sticks in the fire and then waving them around in the night to write, or bashing them against rocks to make sparks fly.
Campfires are undeniably romantic. When you build them right, as my father taught me how, they tend to burn hot and clean. But sometimes they smoke, and that smoke smell, though a perfume to some, is a stench to others. What’s more, as commonly done, they are most definitely not the most efficient way to cook: all that wood, all that flame! A campfire is a ritual communion with the primal element whose mastery made civilization possible. It’s a fine ritual for us over-civilized city-dwellers, and I enjoy it. Of course, there are those whose outdoor experiences are made much more enjoyable by *not* having their view interrupted by smoke which gets its tenacious scent into their hair and clothes. And of course there are several other reasons to go without a fire: park regulations, limited fuel available, the need to conserve weight and bulk carried on long hikes and so on.
Meanwhile billions of people cook their daily meals over an open fire, resulting in sickening numbers of sickness and death – daily – from inhaling particulates and fumes.
I (and it is likely, you) live in a post-industrial economy where my daily cooking needs are handled with a cleanliness and convenience that is astounding when you consider it: like magic. How exotic and romantic our electric ranges must appear to the housewives in the third world, crouched in front of their hearths where they burn either ruinously expensive and scarce wood or whatever other stuff they can scrounge, which smokes terribly in an open fire. That’s not romantic, that’s tragic.
So I’m heartened and inspired by all the efforts that people are making to make clean and efficient cookstoves available to kitchens in the Third World. But the convenience of our nifty electric stoves masks a surprising fact: they’re not even as efficient as even a well-tended open fire! A well-tended fire is even more efficient than a gas stove. This isn’t even mentioning the hidden infrastructure behind our modern conveniences, which we could bypass with more direct fuel sources.
That is what I am interested in. I don’t entertain delusions that I or the majority of middle-class Americans can easily throw out our modern stoves – or would be willing to. What I have set out to do is to learn how to use cooking methods that are ultimately more fuel efficient, and ultimately can reduce – or even reverse – my contribution to carbon emissions.
Thus this blog’s cute little title. This is a long quest, one that I have just begun. I hope you’ll join me, whoever and wherever you may be. In particular, I have seen many instructions on how to make and use efficient, smart (low)-tech stoves, but I have not seen very many recipes or specific cooking instructions for them. That is one area that I hope to focus on as I make my way along.
In the process, I’ll be including affiliate links to products that I and/or readers might find useful, helpful or just plain fun.
“Won’t you join me on the perennial quest
Reaching into the dark, retrieving light” – Chuck Schuldiner