Sunday, July 22, 2007

The Old Baked Bean

When I graduated from high school, a girl that I liked a lot wrote in my year book not to put my head in an oven and I would never have a baked bean. Or words to that effect. It was good advice I suppose, although at the time I was hoping for something that promised or at least hinted at future intimacies.

But after yesterday and last week, I feel like the ultimate baked bean. The song says that it's 'summertime, and the livin' is easy', which is probably more or less true, but I am getting tired of the heat.

The Mother Earth News had a helpful (but not revelatory) article on how to keep you house cool. I am glad that we could comply with the part that advised large shade trees, and very glad that I wasn't planting little sticks with hope for the future. There was a long discussion on how to site a house to take advantage of any stray breeze, which breezes are sort of a hard wind or a dead calm in this little town in the desert.

One fairly practical piece of advice that they gave was not to heat up your house with various appliances. Our house has been moderately cool due to the shade trees and swamp cooler. Parts of the house become uncomfortable during the day and we have an elaborate system of box fans to move the swamp cooler air around the house. This helps not only to cool the house but distributes the moisture that the swamp cooler injects into the house. But our elaborate system is a fragile system that can be over powered by the heat from the dryer (in-house venting), the oven, a long, hot shower or even several loads of wash or a big dinner cooked on the stove.

The dryer and oven use are fairly obvious and we have avoided them mostly during the warm summer. Since I read the article I have been trying to cook with the dutch ovens and BBQ grill outside, and I think it has helped.

Our house is both sprawling and labyrinthian, and has many dark nooks and crannies that need illumination. Most of our lighting is incandescent lighting which is to say mini-space heaters. Annie and I are pretty good at turning of the lights, but it is easy to be in a hurry and forget. If we have the equivalent of 10- one hundred watt bulbs on, it is about the same as if we had a 1000 watt space heater going and trying to overcome that heat source. And that is just with the lights. Anything that uses electricity produces heat, and if produces light and heat, the light will be absorbed and will become heat. If the appliance produces coolness and isn't vented outside, it actually heats your house. So standing by the open refrigerator door is the same as standing near a very well disguised and unconventional space heater. You might get the cool right now, but the compressor kicks on and pumps the heat out of the interior of the fridge, and into the hot coils that are either in the side walls, or in the back. Strange to think about. All this might not even be noticeable if you have an exposed west wall that has poor insulation and/or lots of glass.

This morning it seemed like a biscuits would go well with some gravy that was leftover from dinner last night. The idea if heating the oven up to 400 degrees in a day that would be a scorcher seemed pretty stupid. I also had already showered and was mostly ready for church and didn't want to fool around with the charcoal and dutch oven. Then I remembered that Annie had given me a Coleman oven.... thats right, a collapsible oven that can be used over a gasoline or propane stove. So I put it over the grill and went back inside to make up the dough. It didn't get as hot as I would have liked it to get, only about 320 deg. or so. I don't know if that is because it was over the grill and not over a stove or if that is about all the hotter that it gets. No matter, it did bake the biscuits. I piled them into a pie tin, and that was probably a mistake since it was such a cool oven. The biscuits on the edge got done, but the ones in the middle needed some more time. If you decide to try this, keep the biscuits separate so the hot air gets all around them. I baked them for 30 minutes or so. They didn't get wonderfully brown or anything like that, but were edible and the kitchen didn't get hot.

So that is about it. Nothing too exciting here. It is almost Monsoon season here. There is some cooler air that might be here on Monday or Tuesday, so relief is in sight. The garden is enjoying the heat and the sun, and I almost have Guitar Boy's car back together, so he will be spreading his wings soon. Hope all is well with all of you.


AnnieOfBlueGables said...

Sailor, I am glad she wrote about Baked Beans and nothing about a future.

Mike said...

WOW! Those comments put things in perspective.