“El sol es mi amigo” (the sun is my friend), I tell Mexicans who wonder why I don’t scurry over to the shady side of the street like all the other old gringos here in San Miguel de Allende. It’s one of my many peculiarities, I know: I adore the sun. While others flee from it, as if even the slightest ray of sunshine is sure to cause them cancer, I embrace sunshine – because I feel it embraces me back. It’s one of the reasons I love living in Mexico now. Here, I have year-round sun smiling down on me, and hugging me I feel.
And now that I have my own, private little patio (see previous posts, “Penthouse,” March 12, and “Hummingbirds,” March 25), I can enjoy the sun to my heart’s – and my body’s – delight. I can sunbathe in my skimpiest bikini, putter over my pretty potted plants, and even cook. Not grill, but cook. I’m now cooking with el sol on my sweet patio.
WOW readers who have followed my posts for a while might recall that I spent the summer of 2015 in Guanajuato, Mexico, working on a solar-cooking book project for a friend whose husband designs and manufactures artistic, large-size, upscale solar ovens that the couple have christened “UiTzi,” after the Aztec sun god Uitzilopochtli. (Please see the website www.uitzi.com for much more on their one-of-a-kind solar oven. See also my WOW post “New View” of May 30, 2015.) As a result of that unique experience, I became a convert to solar cooking, but I was unable to follow through on my own until now.
To successfully cook using the sun’s energy, you need, to begin with, just two things: access to unobstructed sunshine for a good stretch of the day (which, God bless Mexico, is not a problema here), and a solar oven – either homemade or manufactured.
It’s possible to construct a simple little solar oven (destined to be short-lived) for under $20, using cardboard boxes, aluminum foil and duct tape (etc.), following plans downloaded from the Internet. On the other hand, the UiTzi solar oven, at the other end of the spectrum, is large, heavy, and sturdy, made of wrought iron, sheet metal, wood, high-quality glass and mirrors, and nontoxic insulation; it is made to last forever and is priced accordingly (over $2,000).
Even if I could afford one, and as magnificent as they are, a UiTzi wouldn’t fit on my tiny patio. And even though I like to think of myself as handy, and I enjoy making things, when I studied the online instructions for constructing a solar oven at home, my eyes rolled and I recoiled. I quickly hopped to Amazon.com to see what sort of solar oven I might afford to buy.
Success came for me in the form of a small, lightweight, easy to use and set up (designed for camping and hiking, it can fit in a backpack) mini solar oven made by Sunflair. It arrived in the mail here less than two weeks ago, and I’ve been using it to my great delight almost every day since.
I’ve made French-style beef stew, meatloaf, baked potatoes, ratatouille, and pasta sauce, among many other yummy things. Every dish, cooked in the sun, low and slow, over the course of the day while I’ve been out and about, has been deeply, sparklingly flavorful. Like the sun itself, I’m in love with this solar oven.
I also love the story behind it, which I learned in a letter, included in the packaging, from the creator, Melinda Seller. She writes: “Sunflair had its beginnings with the onset of the recession. My design work had been outsourced and my husband lost his job. Not long after, our oven failed. We couldn’t afford to repair or replace it.
“It was then I discovered that I could cook with the sun. Although it began out of necessity, I was surprised to find that the food tasted fantastic! And not only were we saving on the cost of a new oven, our utility bills were lower too.
“Now, solar cooking isn’t a new idea, but it was new to me, and I started thinking others might enjoy the experience as well. I wanted to come up with a kit that was light-weight and user friendly. So, with my husband and kids lending their support, I put my business and design expertise to work, and Sunflair was born.” (For more, go to www.Sunflair.net.)
This post is not a paid advertisement. Rather, it’s a success story – or two. This is what creative, resilient women can do. Anything under the beautiful, sparkling, embracing sun is possible.