The Fourth of July is synonymous with BBQ and grilling. From camping trips, to beach parties, picnics in the park, all our celebratory venues involve the cooking of beloved hot dogs and hamburgers on the BBQ. Entire cooking network programs are devoted to the grill. Food Historian Dave Dewitt reports in his book The Founding Foodies, that BBQ is the quintessential American cooking method. But alas, like all things delicious, there are some health concerns associated with grilling, specifically with charcoal and such, as well as the fact that BBQ uses precious resources. Outdoor cooking is often the reason for devastating forest fires across our nation. Almost all of the deadly fires in California in the last 10 years have been started by people, usually with camp fires gone wrong.
Never fear, solar cooking is here!
I first met Jim La Joie from San Diego Solar Cooking Club in March of 2011. It was in the days after the Fukushima nuclear catastrophe in Japan. I felt doing a feel good show on food was not where I was emotionally, I certainly could not feature Japanese food, but when I got to thinking how could we prevent future disasters, and that so much of our energy needs are put into food production and cooking, I immediately thought of Solar Cooking. I looked around for local resources and the Solar Cooking meet up site came into view on my computer screen. He graciously gave an interview, and we planned of him to give a class for Slow Food Redlands.
Jim La Joie is one of the many reasons I remain hopeful and engaged through my work in sustainable food. The people are incredible and evidence that this is actually a very hopeful time on the planet. I continue to say we have a very bright future, and the new economy is based on the combination of appropriate technology and sustainable agriculture. So while the rest of the world is paying attention to really depressing things, I see people like Jim truly making a difference here and abroad. Jim did several demonstrations and classes for Slow Food Redlands, and inspired many a cook in the Inland Empire of Southern California with his enthusiasm and practical information.
Jim La Joie Solar Cooking Demonstration at the Grove School Farmers Market in Redlands, CA
People have been using the Sun to dry foods for centuries, but with advances in lenses and mirrors, the process became more focused. Solar Cookers have been with us in some form or another since the late 18th Century. Interest in Solar Cookers increased in the 30's in African and India when it was apparent that the burning of wood was depleting forests, and traditional use of soil or animal dung was also harming farm fertility. In the 1970's Solar Cookers became fashionable, as well as a resource for developing nations with burgeoning populations. They are inexpensive, and never really break down. Solar Cookers are also invaluable for water purification. United Methodist Women has had Solar Cookers as part of their missionary work for decades. http://www.gbgm-umc.org/solarovenshaiti/ check this out if you want to help someone acquire a solar cooker or learn how to use one.
Solar Cookers helped countless families in Haiti after the Earthquake with Water Purification
La Joie has several websites for educational and retail purposes. He conducts workshops and demonstrations in Southern California and is always available for email or a chat.
http://www.allseasonsolarcooker.info/ is a great site for all things solar cooking and to keep up with Jim and his offerings. I hear a cook book is in the making, so stay tuned for updates.
For a more international view check out http://www.solarcookers.org/index.html
As we scorch in the American Southwest, all signs point to sunshine for the foreseeable future. Jim's solar cooker is unique in that it allows you to have the entire day to cook. Check it out, and hear his interview http://www.blogtalkradio.com/real-food-empire/2013/07/04/solar-cooking-for-a-fabulous-fourth You don't have to wait for the next Fourth of July to enjoy the delicious power of the sun!