What is carvão? Why use it if you have an electric stove?
“Carvão” [car vow] is essentially charcoal. Mozambicans make it by placing a log in a hole in the ground, setting it on fire, and then covering the hole so the log sort of just smolders, creating a charcoal we call “carvão”. You can buy a huge sack about 5 feet high for just 100mts (about $3.33).
The process of cooking with carvão first begins with preparing your “fugão” [foo gow], or stove. Outside, I have a concrete table on which I place my fugão for cooking. On the top portion of the fugão, you place the carvão. Underneath, you assemble paper, cardboard, plastic bags, anything that will burn. Light a match, start a fire under the carvão, feed the fire until some of the carvão turns gray and is lit, use the lid of a pot to fan the carvão to heat it up faster, wait a few minutes and presto, it’s time to cook.
Yes it can be a pain, but now it only takes me a few minutes to light the carvão. It gets hotter and thus is better for cooking beans, rice, baking, and boiling drinking water. On a hot day, cooking inside on the stove can be awful and that kitchen gets too warm, so its can be a nice alternative to cook outside. Also, I don’t trust the electrical wiring in my house that much to use my stove too often, especially for things that need a while to cook.
What have I been eating lately? At the market yesterday, I bought my first pineapple of the season. Breakfast I’ve been having yogurt with homemade granola, a fried egg, or cereal with powdered milk. For lunch, I’ve been making sandwiches with a squash/zucchini type vegetable sautéed with onions and garlic. Dinner the past few nights was fried rice, then spaghetti, then black beans seasoned with taco seasoning. Due to a loving mother who sends me too many packages, I have quite a few American spices and seasoning packets, so I eat decently over here. It’s the fresh produce and dairy products that can be hard to come by. Since most of these meals are quick cooking, I’ve only been using my carvão to boil water which I then put in my water filters for clean drinking water. However, on those days when the power is out, carvão is the only option.