Women in my town have a time-consuming trifecta of tasks that take up the bulk of their day: cooking, cleaning, and weaving. These are in addition to ongoing childcare, which is no small thing in any family, and is particularly impressive where families with upwards of 10 children are not uncommon. In this post I'll tackle Cooking.
|One of the "estufas mejoradas" that many international aid organizations help to get into communities around Guatemala.|
Since I've already spent some time on food in other posts, I won't delve into what the women in my town cook, but I thought I'd look a bit at how they cook it. First of all, the majority of cooking happens over wood fired stoves here in my site. My host family has a gas stove they use as well as fire, but most families have just a wood stove.
In other areas of the country there are families cook over an open fire, which is terribly inefficient as far as wood usage goes, and leads to loads of respiratory illness in families, particularly in infants strapped to their mothers' backs while the daily cooking gets done. Most families in my town have an estufa mejorada (improved stove), which really increased the burning efficiency of the stove, and decreases the amount of smoke and pollution inside the house.
|Grilling outdoors, more for tradition than taste, in this case. This was a soup for Day of the Dead and so even though it was in a pot and probably didn't absorb much flavor from the flame, it just couldn't be done indoors on a gas range.|
|This is one of the places that sells firewood in town... this pile gets brought in and then mostly decimated on a weekly basis. Notice the wheelbarrow in front of the stack... it might help give a sense of scale.|
So, I'd say that cooking is time intensive for the women, health intensive for the families, and resource intensive for the land. Obviously there are downsides to cooking with natural gas or electricity as well, but it seems that the forests in Guatemala have not been managed with sustainability in mind. My knowledge of land use policies in Guatemala is very limited, so I'm speaking strictly from my own observations. However, it appears that what could be a renewable resource here is being used faster than it can be replenished.