Just as air-conditioning has allowed affluent societies to expand into thermally hostile environments, it is now being looked to as a means of extending our current way of life into a thermally hostile future.
– Stan Cox, Losing Our Cool
A heat advisory was initially issued over 10 days ago now for Long Island and other areas of the northeast. Cooling centers were opened in several communities due to the high temperatures. What has made the heat worse is the infamous Long Island humidity, not to mention how long the heat and humidity have stayed around. People are retreating indoors. Interestingly, though, no one seems to realize that air conditioning isn't exactly good for you and is pretty bad for the environment, too. Numerous studies have been done, most of which are ignored because, hey, who doesn't want some relief from the heat? I remember years ago reading that, because of heating in the winter and air conditioning in the summer, people's bodies have lost the ability to adjust to temperature changes making heart attacks more likely. I tried looking that up again and also found that, due to the same combination of heating in the winter and AC in the summer, your body doesn't need to expend any energy in order to heat or cool itself so you end up with increased fat stores, which means, folks, weight gain. Yet another health related study states people are getting sick from the "unnatural coldness," and apparently air conditioners also create mold, which, once established, is hard to get rid of.
In 2008, Joe Klein wrote an interesting article entitled "Kill Your Air Conditioner" in which he laments "the unnecessary refrigeration of America has become a chronic disease." In a more scientific study, Stan Cox, a senior scientist at a nonprofit agricultural research institute, "documents how greenhouse emissions increased and ozone depletion skyrocketed once air conditioners became prevalent, and presents staggering statistics ... and some surprising information as he explores air conditioning as a potential spreader of contagions." More can be found on his Losing Our Cool Web site and blog. Or order his book Losing Our Cool: Uncomfortable Truths about Our Air-Conditioned World (and Finding New Ways to Get through the Summer). (I actually interlibrary loaned it—I love the library!)
And yes, we are air conditioner-less. I'm not sure how that explains my extra fat stores, but hopefully I'll have less summer colds and lessen my chances for a heart attack. And hopefully I'm doing my little bit for the planet also. And honestly, I'd rather be dripping sweat and feel connected to nature, be able to hear the birds and the sounds of other people, than be inside a closed up house.
On the bright side (pun intended) it was—and continues to be—hot and sunny. And sunny means solar cooking. If we didn't have the Sun Oven I think I would have skipped cooking all together this past week because the idea of turning the oven on in the house would be a form of insanity. Of course, just because it's been gorgeous solar cooking weather doesn't mean I'm always prepared. Rick tells me there's a certain sense of adventure in cooking whatever you can find in the fridge. It's the modern day form of foraging, I suppose. In a world where food prices are escalating and our income is plummeting I often stand in the kitchen at a loss, though, because I can't possibly stock half of what I would like to. No matter what I say about improvising, there are days—like these—when I'm hot and tired, can't think, don't want to think, and would love to open the freezer or cabinets and have on hand any ingredient imaginable.
So, yeah, it's hot, it's humid, and everyone is a tad bit grumpy. Rick snapped at me and when I asked why he said he didn't know. Erica has been knitting a sweater for a magazine submission and the yarn sitting on her lap makes hot days even hotter. Annalee is being totally hormonal and making no sense, although I don't think that's totally weather related. And I would love to crash someone's pool. But, like I said, we're still hungry.
For this particular dinner I had 3/4 lb. of beef top round cut thin for making braciole. With all four of us home for dinner I couldn't make braciole the usual way because there was only enough meat for two, so I cut those two pieces into eight smaller pieces and made it to go on top of pasta. The Italian name for the dish is Braciole alla Pizzaiola, which means pizza style. This was the version I came up with.
Braciole alla Pizzaiola
• Heat some olive oil in pot.
• Brown the braciole (thin cut, or pound thin) meat for a minute or two on each side
• Add 2 or 3 cloves of garlic, minced
• Add 1/2 medium onion, sliced super thin
• Add 1 28-ounce can, or 1 lb. fresh, coarsely chopped tomatoes
• Salt & pepper to taste.
• Sprinkle 1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano (or 2 teaspoons dried) on top
• Cover and place in solar oven.
|Braciole alla Pizzaiola on top of pasta|
If you're making this inside on the stovetop, bring to a boil then simmer on low for 20 or 30 minutes. But I left this in the solar oven until dinnertime, which I had positioned outside to stay at around 250º for about 4 hours. I served the meat on top of curly pasta, toasted some pita bread that I had seasoned with olive oil and garlic salt, and served with a salad on the side. A perfect, and simple dinner, for a hot summer evening.
Off to figure something out for tonight. Probably chicken, although I'm kind of liking the idea of just ice cream at this point.