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Hot and Bothered.

by Jill
(Calgary, Alberta)

I live in a place where it ranges from +30 degrees C to -30 degrees C. In the winter, we freeze and huddle inside near the fireplace and in the summer we're busy looking for a cool bit of shade. Hot cocoa and roasts in the winter with mashed potatoes and fresh bread. Summer? No one cares as long as you don't have to cook. Or move. Or blink.

Like this summer. It was hot. The kind of hot that had temperatures soaring above 30 degrees and the clothes coming off for weeks on end.. The kind of hot that made people hide in their basements hoping to finally be able to sleep without soaking the sheets. The kind of hot that made me wish I didn't have to get lunch for a very grouchy, teething toddler, who (by the way) was only eating pasta. Warm pasta. With cheese melted on it. Ugh. The thought of making my way over to the stove had me sweating already and I hadn't even moved. The dog looked at me hoping I'd toss him an ice cube on my way to the fridge to pull out the cheese. The toddler looked at me with a teething rage.

"Honey, what about some nice yogurt? It's cool and it would feel good on your gums!" I tried to spoon some strawberry yogurt in bowl while trying not to sweat in it. Didn't work.

"NO! Pa-ta!" The toddler threw the yogurt on the ground. The dog was thrilled.

"Ok, no yogurt. What about some COLD pasta? Try that hon!" I gingerlly placed the bowl of pasta salad in front of the glaring baby girl. "It's got tomato in it and corn and look! Cheese!" I turned around to get her a fork and heard the bowl hit the ground. Again, the dog was more than helpful.

"NO! Mama....PA-TA!!!" And the meltdown began.

For those of you who have never seen a toddler go nuclear, let me spare you the details. It's not a pretty site. The house was well over 30 degrees now, the baby was a sweaty ball of anger, I was a sweaty and exhausted mama and I had been housebound with her for too many hot days in a row. Something had to give.

"Alright hon, we're gonna try something." I picked her up out of her high chair, and we headed outside.

I had seen the plans for a DIY solar oven online and decided that today was the perfect day to do it. I put the little one on the ground with her sprinkler (instant success!) and I went and grabbed my silver windshield shade from the car, our black dutch oven and a baking rack. The little one was busy trying to drown her shoes in the water and I went to work making a sort of cone with the shade. I tore a strip of duct tape and secured the bottom, put the rack in the middle and set the whole thing on a bucket in the middle of the lawn. After mixing some pasta and water in the dutch oven, throwing it in a baking bag and putting it in the middle of the rack, I went to join the fun in the sprinkler.

The pasta was done in less than an hour. WHAT!?!? Where had this been all my life? I had read online that solar cooking can be almost as quick as conventional methods but I never believed it. I thought it was for hippies trying to heat up whatever they managed to scrounge up outside in the meadow. Not for desperate mama's looking for a way to keep the house somewhat cool on a scorching day.While I was playing in the water with a cutie and a mutt, the pasta was outside, heating up the backyard instead of my already unbearably hot house.

I drained the pasta, put in some sauce and sprinkled the cheese on top. Tossed it in the "solar oven" again for about 15 minutes and just as the toddler was starting to lose interest in the sprinkler and mud, it was ready. We had an amazing lunch alfresco on our back patio with pasta made in our dutch oven, tomatoes from the garden and fresh basil off our plant. It was perfection.

My little one went down for a nap, I went down for a nap and the mutt was already snoring. We were fed without having to wait four hours for cold water to go tepid (as I had mistakenly thought when I scoffed at this stuff) and my house was still somewhat cool. That night we surprised Daddy with quinoa cooked outside on the solar oven and we had a repeat of mud pies from earlier in the day. I've tried other edibles as well and everything turns out awesome!

My windshield shade solar cooker was sadly destroyed in a freak hail storm later in the summer and I haven't done up another one yet. But soon...oh soon. We'll see what it can do with some snow on the ground!


Greetings Jill and than you very much for your excellent narrative.
Who would have thought...Hot Summer Days in Canada?
You definitely discovered one of the principal reasons many of us use our solar cookers so much throughout the hot summer days, and that is to keep the heat out of the house while cooking.
I don't give up my favorite foods just because I don't want to turn the stove on in the house.

Thank you again for sharing.


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