Wonder Basket: Sustainable Cooking From The Heart Of Africa
No matter what is going on all around us, we need food. Too often lack of food is what is going on in certain parts of the world, while where there is plenty, we might enjoy a morsel on our own or with our neighbors, family, or friends.
I would like to ask you: what tools do you use to cook? Is it a kerosene or gas stove? Charcoal or electricity? A combination? If there was a way to cook your food using less energy, would you want to know about it? This post is all about that, so you are in the right place!
Bibi Saleha (Sally) Qazi is a Tanzanian woman who came up with a brilliant idea. We call her Bibi, a title of respect that means “grandmother”. Bibi Sally is my mother, which might make one question whether I am biased, but once you read on I believe you will see that it makes good sense.
The idea is the Wonder Basket.
So what is it?
The Wonder Basket is a cooking tool that is made with all* recycled materials. Use of the Wonder Basket helps with busy and lazy schedules, as you can use your stove of choice for a short time and turn it off (or use it for other foods). You then transfer your pot to the Wonder Basket to continue cooking without additional energy, using only the heat it has already gathered. The Wonder Basket saves energy, which is good for the planet, people, and the pocket.
Where may one find one of these amazing Baskets, and is the answer Africa? Well, as much as you are welcome to visit Tanzania (as you should) and attend a training session with Mama Sally, you can make a Wonder Basket on your own!
Speaking of bias, I’ll be honest… as her daughter and a woman who has always wanted to be financially independent, the fact that my mom freely shares this information sometimes bothers me Why? Because through this knowledge she could provide for herself, which is something that is needed. However, as a human being I am so thankful, humbled, and proud that she does freely share, and I hope that this universe will continue to provide for her all that she needs and more. My mom rocks as a human, as a woman and as a mom!
How Bibi Sally makes the Wonder Basket
The Wonder Basket is made using ten items:
1) A basket or large wooden box
2) Nylon sheeting large enough for two linings
3) Thin sponge mattress for insulation or enough large wood shavings for lining
4) A piece of sturdy cotton cloth to cover the nylon
5) A nylon bag for a cushion lid
6) Sponge for the lid
7) A pillow slip for cushion lid
8) Some string and big needle
9) A pair of scissors
10) A small square of cardboard to put under the pot in the basket
How to make it
Take a large basket or box (around 50cm x 50cm x 50cm).
Line it with the nylon sheet to insulate it.
Create a base 3–4 cm wide at the bottom.
Apply the second sheet of nylon to cover the base , and fill in the space between two nylon sheets to create a wall inside the basket or box, either with wood shavings or the sponge mattress.
Seal the wall which is 3-4 cm wide by folding the nylon sheet overlap.
Cover with the strong cotton cloth. I used a large pair of skintight pants as the elastic waist band covers the nylon wall perfectly and the legs can be folded into the central well.
The cloth can be arranged to cover the inside of the basket and overlap over the basket walls.
Give it a shape with the scissors or tuck it in and stitch with the string to hold it all together.
The pillow must not be rigid.
Fill the nylon bag with wood shavings or sponge; give it a shape to fit snugly into the well in the basket.
Cover it with the pillow or cushion slip and stitch it shut.
How to use the Wonder Basket
All cereals/grains and most foods cooked in water can be cooked in the basket!
Measure and clean the cereal/grain to be used, soak it until saturated.
Put it in a pot without salt and with enough water to cover it completely with 1 cm of water above it.
Bring it to a boil and stir. Cover and boil for one minute. Then transfer the pot to the insulated basket and cover it immediately with the cushion lid.
Make sure no hot air comes out or cold air goes into the covered basket.
The cooking time is the same as when you use the stove.
A note about rice
One cup of rice absorbs about two cups of water, sometimes a bit more for mature grains. Soak the clean rice for a few minutes. Then heat the necessary amount of water, salt it and bring to boil; you can put in some oil and spices if desired. When it boils, put in the strained rice, and stir. When it starts boiling properly, cover it and move the pan to the basket, and immediately put the cushion lid on.
Meat, potatoes, and cassava can be cut into inch-long pieces and cooked as desired. Then add a little boiling water, put the lidded pot in the basket, and cover instantly.
The basket will cook the food and keep it hot for a long time. You don’t need to watch it for fear that it may get burnt, as there is no flame or live fire. Don’t open the basket to check the food before passing the minimum cooking time has elapsed.
You cannot fry, grill or bake with this method. You can sterilize juice, food, and bottles in the basket. Take it on safari or picnic, or the office or the farm.
Bibi Sally has been an advocate for nutrition and nutrition education in her community for decades. She has always been passionate about women’s rights, human rights, children in poverty, self-reliance, and having a good hearty laugh! She is also a phenomenal translator, having translated many of the Baha’i Holy Writings from English to Kiswahili, as well as other independent translation assignments.
If you have any questions about the Wonder Basket, please do ask.
*all recycled materials: Sometimes you might have to buy the basket, box, or other materials.
This is an original post for World Moms Network by ThinkSayBe. Photo credit to the author.