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The First Slow Cooker ...

The First Slow Cooker (circa 1920)

Although I’ve heard a lot of comparisons of this recession to the Great Depression, I have seen very little advice about real belt-tightening or a return to older ways of living. Suggestions are as frivolous as giving up your lattes or downgrading (or even turning off) your cable. Heck, cable is so bad, they should pay us to watch it.

In the interests of seeking out real advice that reflects true austerity, I turned to The Settlement Cook Book, picked up years ago in an antique store. Mine is so battered, it doesn’t have a cover. Originally published in 1901 to advise women on thrifty ways to feed two to forty, an inside advertisement depicting a flapper in a knee-length skirt indicates that this is an older version.

On page nineteen, I came across a truly revolutionary piece of advice: how to make a homemade fireless cooker. This would be essential in times when fuel is limited or perhaps when we are subject to rolling blackouts. The fireless cooker can cook anything from cereal to soup to a roast. You can even bake a cake in it.
Materials required:
A wooden butter tub, pail or any box with a cover
Newspapers (perhaps the rarest and most expensive item)
A seamless cooking kettle with a tight-fitting lid
An old kettle big enough to hold the cooking kettle
A flour sack or other cloth to make a pillow
For roasting, a “radiator” (looking for info on this)
The outside box must be big enough to allow two or three inches of space around the old kettle.
To use:
Heat your food in the cooking kettle, either boiling cereal or soup for five minutes or braising your roast. Heat the rack piping hot if roasting or baking.

Pack three inches of tightly balled newspapers in the bottom of the tub or pail. Place the old kettle exactly in the middle and pack more balls around it. Place the sizzling hot radiator in the old kettle first, if needed, or if not, just the cooking kettle with the meal.
Cover the pots with the paper-stuffed pillow.

Let sit for four or five hours for soup or cereal; three or four for a roast. Cakes “take longer” than in a conventional oven.

This could be a good method to use on these steamy hot summer nights or when camping.