Rim Stoves: Cooking MamaPut Goodness

I love street food. Everywhere I go, from street markets in Russia, to back alleys of Beijing to side streets in Skopje, to the boulevards of Bamako, I make it a point to eat as many meals from roadside stands as possible. Ghana and Nigeria are no exception. In fact, I love me a MamaPut.

Its only where Mama herself is there to put more of her good eats on your plate, that I really feel I’m getting a good meal. Why? Because I can see ever step of its preparation, talk with the chief personally, and share the transcending bond of food with my fellow man and woman.

Now I wouldn’t call myself a street food expert – I’m not discerning enough for that title, but I am observant in the different styles of edibles vendors. In West Africa, I’m particularly impressed by the stock street food cooking apparatus. Simple, cheap, and recycled, I present to you the “Rim Stove”.

.rim stove in action rim stove charcoal.

Using the steel rim off a car wheel as the basic starting point, three metal legs are wielded to the outside of the rim. Inside, a metal grate is added to the bottom to hold in the coals, and some form of pan or kettle stand is wielded to the top.

I’ve seen several variations on this theme, but the basics are always the same – the Rim Stove burns charcoal that’s been ignited in the middle of the rim, fed by air from the bottom and heating a cooking container sitting either on the pot stand or the coals themselves.

During on extending brainstorming session, I even tried to think of improvements to the Rim Stove – how it might burn hotter with less customization. My only solution? Make sure a Rim Stove is cooking chips for your fresh grilled fish.

Togolese Bottle Opener Simplicity

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Togolese inebriation innovation

I love African beer. I really do. Even when bad Nigerian beer knocks me down for a week, I am always back for more.

Maybe it’s the efficiency of drinking from 1/2 liter bottles or the romance of relaxing beer-in-hand while watching Simba sex. Either way, a cold Club, Tusker, or White Cap is the only way to end a day.

That’s why I’ve always noticed how beers are opened in Africa. My preference is for the minimalist method of using one bottle to open another, a trick I use to constant amazement in the lower 48.

However, most African restaurants and bars employ boring commercial bottle openers, plain and unassuming in form and function. You have to really be on the lookout to find creative beer release mechanisms – and recently I was rewarded for my vigilance.

Having a cold beer after Togo’s National Run to the Border Day sprint to the Ghanaian border, I noticed that my server was using a non-standard bottle opener.

A first in my observance, she employed two screws in a wooden peg to pop the bottle cap on my Guinness. What simplicity, ingenuity, practicality!

I was in awe until I had a thought: What if she could use only one screw?

African bottle opener

[See more images like this on the AfriGadget Flickr group.]

Wayan Vota is part of Inveneo, a non-profit social enterprise whose mission is to get the tools of ICT into the hands of organizations and people who need them most: those in remote and rural communities in the developing world.