Eleanor Shimeall, 82, has spent nearly a quarter of a century cooking in a
cardboard box...and swears by it.
While her husband Clark, 83, taught at the University of the Pacific in
Stockton, Eleanor was an active member of the League of Women Voters. Her
experiences with the harsh realities for women in Guatemala caused her to
reassess her use of energy and raw materials.
"One of the things that really struck me was how much time and effort is
spent by women in villages gathering fuel and water to feed their families,"
she says, "not to mention the environmental impact of deforestation for that
Eleanor began experimenting with a solar oven, a diabolically simple
energy-saving device. In its simplest form, it's a cardboard box within a
larger cardboard box. Wadded newspaper is placed between the two for
insulation. A piece of glass is put on top of the box openings and a
tin-foil reflector is fastened to one side of the box. The reflector is
tilted depending upon the sun's location to increase the amount of rays
hitting the glass.
"The internal temperature gets up to about 250," says Eleanor, who moved
with Clark to Borrego Springs in San Diego County in 1996. "It's the same
principle as leaving a VW out in the sun with the windows rolled up."
Of course, the downside of a slow-cook oven is that nothing cooks quickly or
gets crisp. Nevertheless, Eleanor more than makes up for this by baking
bread and cooking turkeys, chicken and roasts. Although he's the grateful
recipient of his wife's cooking, Clark says his repertoire is somewhat
limited. "I just do nachos."