To Land Park resident Linda Hayward, the joy of solar cooking lies in the thrill of cooking in a sustainable way. The retired Lisbon Elementary School teacher first became aware of solar cooking about 21 years ago by attending a workshop where the class made a box cooker from scratch, which included cardboard and newspaper for insulation.
“Who knew, we, modern advanced societies, could cook with free abundant clean energy from the sun? It seems like going backward is the answer to moving forward as we respond to the demands of our changing world. (Solar cooking) is one fun, gratifying way to do that.”
– Linda Hayward, Land Park resident
When she needed to be away all day at work, Linda would put a meal in her cooker and aim it in the direction of where the sun would be at midday. “I knew nothing would burn and the food was still warm for dinner or needing only minimal heating,” Linda said.
And, back then, when she taught at Lisbon, Linda regularly cooked with her class. In an interview with the Land Park News, Linda explained her work with the now-closed Pocket area school. “We would put a Cook-it (panel cooker) in the middle of the quad at Lisbon School. We had a ‘Solar Cake Lottery’ until each classroom in the school had won one of our cakes, eagerly delivered by the students,” she explained.
Just recently, a former student found Linda again by searching her name along with Solar Cookers International on the Internet, leading to their happy reunion. “We now correspond about cooking and other things. How rewarding is that,” Linda said.
As a retiree, Linda now has time to use her cooker almost every day during the summer. “I have minimal air-conditioning in my house, and letting the sun provide the energy keeps my kitchen cool,” she said.
Speaking on the environmental movement and popularization of solar cooking, Linda said people seem to be fascinated with the concept of solar cooking but few make the leap to “own” it. “I think we’re getting close to a time when many people see it as an alternative to wood, gas or electric cooking to minimize carbon output. Now that there are spiffy, efficient cookers available that are being sold in environmentally-savvy stores, it may catch on. I feel that the global impetus is gaining momentum and will show the way with positive results in desperate communities. Perhaps there is local appeal for learning the skill and having equipment available for disaster relief,” she said.
At home, she has four cookers, each she uses with a distinct purpose – her original box, which holds a big pan of lasagna; the simple, easy-to-take-along Cook-it; the SOS sport cooker, which is made from recycled plastic and holds two round black pots; and her most-used Sun Oven, which holds one pot, but can be tilted to capture the angles of the sun in the morning and earlier and later seasons of the year, and reaches temperatures slightly more than 300 degrees.
Rice, quinoa, sweet potatoes, potatoes and hard-cooked eggs for potato salad, summer squash, green beans, chili beans, pea soup, lasagna, steel cut oats, corn bread, spare ribs, chicken wings, chicken thighs, whole chicken, chicken broth from the bones, meatloaf, pot roast, pork shoulder for sliders, pasta sauce, taco filling, apple sauce, peach galette, cookies, and cake are all regular solar cooking menu items.
Linda has been involved with Solar Cooking International for more than 20 years. She remembers fondly the big cook-out she participated in on the west side of the Capitol many years ago with cookers covering the whole lawn. “It’s amazing how many box cookers were active in those days. Being a demonstrator at the California State Fair year after year was another highlight. For several years, I served as a volunteer coordinator for demonstration requests and bonded with many like-minded friends who were willing to give their time, often in full-sun, that way. We went to Earth Day events, the (Sacramento) Zoo, Davis Whole Earth Festival, SNFC (Sacramento Natural Foods Co-op), downtown businesses and state buildings, school campuses, etc. During these last few years, I helped by hosting gatherings in my backyard for the SCI family and making donations.”
Currently, Linda is gearing up for Solar Cooking International’s convention in Sacramento during the week of July 13. “The guests are from different parts of Africa. I’m looking forward to hearing about their African projects. Knowing that solar cooking can make a big impact on communities where fuel is scarce and water can be made safe for drinking by pasteurizing with the sun, is the biggest positive outcome for this simple low-technology of passive solar cooking,” she said.
The convention culminates in a daylong festival in William Land Park on Saturday, July 19 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. There will be solar cooking demonstrations by local and international chefs, solar cooking classes, a solar chef picnic, and kids’ activities. For more information, visit www.solarcookers.org/events/festival