|Improved Cookstoves a Training Manual (Peace Corps, 1984)|
|Hypothetical stove design|
Taken from: Helping People in Poor Countries Develop Improved Cookstove Programs, GATE
When investigating culinary traditions, explore the range of foods, when they are prepared in the community and in individual households. When is the morning meal cooked? When is it eaten? What is eaten for other meals, snacks, special occasions? What is never eaten? Note staple foods as well as specialty items, baby food and medicines. Treats and foods sold on the street are worthy of special attention; a stove that can prepare these favorites may be more likely to become popular.
It is also important to find out what will ruin a meal and design stoves accordingly. It may me unthinkable to serve a mushy grain or tepid food. A Guatemalan sand/clay stove became thoroughly unpopular in one area because it had a habit of producing sandy tortillas -the local materials had not been properly analyzed to see if they were suitable.
You should become thoroughly familiar with the preparation of common foods. Remember that these are not necessarily the foods you are being served; it is the custom in many cultures to prepare a special dish for a guest. If you were invited to an American home you might well get the impression that all Americans eat barbequed steak and that cooking is done on a charcoal grill by the men. Where local etiquette permits it, learn how to prepare the staples in the traditional manner. This will teach you the important order of cooking steps how much heat or stirring is needed to cook without burning, and any special tricks to ensure that the dish will be just right. A stove design must fit these local cooking needs very closely.
Measure how long each dish takes to cook, and note what heating level is required.
Cooking Timeline #1 and #2 are examples of timelines you might observe somewhere in West Africa, but for different pot sizes. Note that the rice requires a much shorter cooking time than the sauce. Would the cook like the rice and the sauce to finish at the same time, while using only one fire? If so, a two-pot stove could be developed that places the sauce pot over the fire box and the rice pot next in line. In this way, the rice water heats up slowly while the sauce begins cooking and both will be done at about the same time.
What is warm water used for in the area? How much of it is needed daily, and at what times of the day? Are there seasonal variations? Even in the tropics, large quantities of hot water are sometimes used for bathing, consuming huge amounts of wood. A multi-pot stove, for example, might be designed to include a permanent hot water vessel to ensure a ready supply of hot water, heated without having to light a separate fire.
If cooking is done on an open fire, the cook will most likely squat, stoop or sit on a low stool. Find out if this is the preferred cooking position, or would standing make the task more comfortable? A stove does not have to be at ground level; it can accommodate individual or cultural preferences.
How large and heavy are the pots? In West Africa, where families are large, the biggest pots are 60 cm in diameter. Care should be taken in determining the best height for a stove that is to accommodate very big pots. If the stove is too high, it may be difficult to lift a pot full of food. The stove could also have additional surface area so food could be served without having to set the pot on the floor.