And Now for Something Just a Little Bit Different —
A Reader Springs for the "Steamboat"
Love your articles on Paddling.net!
I'd like to introduce you to the "hot pot" or "steamboat," an age‑old cooking system that truly rivals the samovars you describe. India has been using these kinds of cookers for thousands of years, and you can buy similar pots at almost any Chinese grocery store for cheap (I've seen them for USD15). They're lightweight, simple, and efficient, and they pack very well. I've seen them for sale firsthand in Los Angeles and Fresno, California, as well as in Oklahoma City. They're also sold in Pier 1 stores in San Luis Obispo, California, and Tulsa, Oklahoma.
The first ones were made from clay many, many years ago and they have been found in digs all over the Middle East. The modern version is aluminum, of course. These are simply wonderful cookers and work very well on just a handful of dry grass — or even animal dung if that's all that's available. (Yes, dung is a traditional cooking fuel.)
Keep the great articles coming!
Thanks for letting us know about steamboats, Timothy — and thanks, too, for the kind words. A quick Web search yielded several images of steamboat cookers, and as you rightly observe, they, too, embody the samovar principle. Or should I say that the samovar embodies the steamboat principle? Either way, the modern steamboat looks to be a dead ringer for the ur‑samovar recently unearthed in Azerbaijan, which I mentioned in passing in my article. It's obvious that the enclosed‑chimney cooker has a long and distinguished lineage.
Their modern counterparts ought to be right at home in Canoe Country base camps, too, with the added advantage (if dung‑fired, at any rate) of nearly total recycling. In all seriousness — and as you note in your letter — dung has long been used as a fuel in many places where wood is scarce or costly. In fact, sun‑dried bison dung was widely used in cooking fires on the American Plains, by both Native peoples and homesteaders. So if you make your backcountry home where the buffalo roam…