Last weekend I wanted to have some roast bananas so I asked my gardener if by chance the rare banana had any ripen banana. We planted this old style banana called ‘hak-mook’ over a year ago. This type of bananas should be eaten by roasting or grilling on charcoal stoves. The other way was to fried them like potato crisps, which could be cooked when still raw. But the grilled bananas would taste very sweet and soft when they were already ripen.
So, we had to bring out one of the charcoal stoves and brought out the charcoals. My gardener got some small pieces of branches for me as I wanted to test the new rocket stove. I bought this survival stove long time ago and completely forgot about it. I thought we ought to be prepared for worse case scenario of total chaos or broken supply chains. The supply of electricity and gas could disappeared or be unaffordable in the near future. I told my gardener that we needed to be easily adaptable to difficult situations if we had to live with economic collapse or a world war.
That’s why I had bought three different sizes of charcoal stoves during the last two years. Good charcoal stoves were quite hard to find as most people have been using gas or electric cooking stoves. Older generations of traditional stove craftsmen gradually disappeared from our society. I could recall my mother called these old Chinese stove makers to repair the charcoal stove in the kitchen. Charcoal stoves were quite fancy and nicely designed as a set of two stoves, just like modern gas or electric cooking stoves. People were very skillful at cooking with charcoals until am about sixty years ago. The invasion of electric rice cooker was the beginning of many changes in the kitchen.
It took me a while to assemble the rocket stove as there was no instruction manual. I was told that you could use this stove to burn freshly cut branches, leaves and charcoals. The heat was supposed to be very high and there shouldn’t be any smoke. So, I decided to test the stove and practice some survival techniques. The charcoal stove had a very good start; my gardener could lit up the fire very fast and started to put some bananas on the grill.
I was quite clumsy and couldn’t start a fire with freshly cut branches. It took more than five minutes to get the fire going. But the white smoke from fresh branches was just incredible. I thought I was doing smoke signals to some red Indians on the other side of the river! I thought I was scammed by online vendors. After twenty minutes’ experiment, I found out that I should put in a lot more branches to start a big fire. Then the smoke would just disappeared as secondary burning could take place.
I had to keep feeding more pieces of branches into the stove. Meanwhile my gardener had successfully burnt most of the banana skins! But it took almost thirty minutes to cook these raw bananas. I took three bananas to try out the new stove. The charcoal stove was much more efficient and faster for roasting bananas. But we needed a stove for burning pieces of wood or fresh branches or dry leaves as we could run out of charcoals. I was quite surprised by the heat from the rocket stove once the fire got bigger with more sticks. My experiment was very entertaining and I learned a lot from my experience. I shouldn’t be afraid of building up a big fire from the beginning.
However, the roast bananas didn’t come up to my standard for acceptance; the bananas should be allowed to ripe before grilling. These bananas were still very hard though they had turned yellow inside. My gardener told me that villagers preferred these hardened bananas. So, these bananas would be distributed to people at the local temple. We often donated fruits, flowers and vegetables to the village temple.
Next time I would try cooking with rocket stove so I could estimate how much wood I would need for cooking properly. Perhaps this stove could be used to warm the house during cold winter days. We don’t have heating system in our culture but some modern houses in mountainous areas do have fireplace with chimney! As the mini ice age had just started, the winter seemed to get colder and last longer. I never thought I would want to have a fire place inside the house one day. I think everyone should be thinking about preparing for worse case scenario in the future.
Wishing you peace, good health and prosperity.
Stay strong and cheerful.