Capture four square feet of sunshine

WHAT is a solar box cooker? It's an insulated box-within-a-box, 3 by 4 feet, large enough to capture four square feet of sunshine. Weighing about 16 pounds, it can be carried like a suitcase. A solar oven can be easily made from inexpensive materials, such as cardboard or wood, one sheet of glass, and aluminum foil. How does it work?

An adjustable reflector directs sunshine through a snug-fitting glass lid into the insulated box. Inside the oven, dark cooking pots absorb the sun's energy.

One oven can cook 15 pounds of food in from two to four hours. For those who like to eat late, food can be kept warm by placing a rock or brick inside the oven.

Where will a solar oven work?

It can be used year-round in the tropics and six to eight months of the year in most sunny areas of the world. Solar ovens can cook anything as long as there is 15 minutes of sunshine every hour.

Because solar cooking doesn't heat up the house, saves on utility bills, and is flexible, over 500 families in the Sacramento area use this efficient method of cooking.

``I even do gourmet cooking in mine,'' says Charlotte Walker, one resident.

How safe is it?

Food cooked in a solar cooker is safe: It doesn't have to be stirred; it will not burn; and most food can't be overcooked, because water isn't added. Also, most agree that the food tastes delicious and is more nutritious.

Also, a solar cooker can reduce or eliminate the bacterial contamination of food and can pasteurize water.

Robert Metcalf and his family have been cooking in a solar cooker for the last 10 years, using it in most seasons close to 200 days a year.

Using four solar box cookers, Dr. Metcalf and his family prepare dinners for 60 to 150 people - and it only takes one person to tend to them.

If you are interested in finding out more about solar cookers, send a stamped, self-addressed envelope to Solar Box Cookers International, 1823 11th Street, Sacramento, CA 95814.

You can obtain the plans to make your own solar oven by sending $1 to the above address.

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