Jiko burnt a rhyme

Now, the sign of a jiko in front of a stall is a sure bet on my next kinda meal. Githeri, maharagwe, mandondo, mbaazi name it. I was attached to this creation long ago before it hit the streets. As I’ll narrate to you.

About the jikos… As long as I can remember, they had been the epicentre of the juakali industry in the 90s. It was a booming business with every artisan coming up with new shapes and sizes to enable our mamas cook better meals, quicker and safer… blah blah blah.

We often used charcoal stoves for cooking, Jiko. So my elder sister came up with a rhyming tease when assigning chores. She would say, Biko go light the Jiko. The musicality in her words seemed to lessen the drabness of this task. Then she started enjoying having the words in reverse: Jiko go light Biko! Of course this wasn’t a favourite joke! Na hapo ndio tulikosania. Lakini Fenny ni nani, I bet she loved the resentment even more. Overtime, the teasing weared off and lighting the charcoal stove became one of my skilled sets. Trust me, there are many ways to light a jiko!

Then the stoves found their way into our school syllabi. And also got experimented in science projects. Remember heat transmission? Wasn’t this the closest example to use to illustrate how heat was transmitted from a source to its environs? Finger crossed nothing could come close to clarify these processes to our African minds in the 90s.

Still, in our glory praise for jiko, our grandma detested it with all her heart. All she ever believed to cook fine ugali was kendo, the traditional three cooking stones. She had an even more bitter resentment for gas cookers. She went further to install an indoor ceramic meko in her kitchen when we persisted on using our jiko. Her artillery was a mass of heat! But the rest of us could never stand its smoke before it completely lit up except for our dear NyarUyoma, and just like that she dorminated the kitchen. In all this, her cut throat burgain was that the heat from our two sources couldn’t be matched to that of the firewood in her cooking stones. Many atimes our conversations around this matter ended in heated debates which I lost by the way.

Because I believed she was right to argue that food needed a certain amount of heat within a standard period of time to prepare into healthy meals. Have it go too fast and you come close to eating raw food. Have it take longer and you risk ruining your recipe. Simply, having a cooking technique that pays no regard to these considerations would result in serious consequences to our well being.

So, to convince grandma to adapt to our charcoal jikos, we had to bring home various models for her inspection. The earliest models of jiko boasted an hour glass shape, and a metallic casing. Which meant would get extremely hot on the sides. Then came those with moulded ceramic on the top half, with the bottom half being a collection box for ashes. The coals were placed inside a perforated ceramicinijg at the top. Despite reports of easy breakage, these are the common models in many households.

Another version, steadily getting popularity, is an improvement of the latter. This is wholly ceramic with an additionally shielding around the open circumference to withhold heat. Thus making it ideal for cooking over long hours at a maintained temperature. She turned it down like its ancestors.

Then came in jikokoa – a game changer from Burn Design Lab in partnership with Burn Manufacturing. Co, a social venture company. These guys took the jiko experiments seriously and invented something that uses less energy to cook under a high temperature. Plus it has less smoke, which translates to low carbon emissions and doesn’t get hot on the sides. Isn’t this the future of clean cooking? So my grandma eventually got to cook for as long as she wanted under minimal costs. As she can cook indoors comfortably, erokamano is all we say to the inventions of Burn.

“Ever since I got the JikokoaPro in my restaurant, cooking got easier faster and cheaper!”

Naomi Wambui, Tons Hotel Juja

Now all grown, am more grateful for my name being likened to such revolutionary discoveries on heat and energy. Using a simple concept of cooking and turning it into incredible appliances is not only taking bold steps with technology to improve how we cook, but also how we live.

So to say they have more in store. Their most recent work on an electric pressure cooker, eCoa, is an eye-catcher. Am yet to try thus one. Elsewhere, it gaining positive reviews!

“I was surprised to realize that my electricity bill has remained almost the same after buying the ecoa and cooking with it frequently. My budget has reduced by half because I no longer refill my gas every month or have to buy paraffin.”

Catherine Wanjiru, Kiganjo, Kenya

Meriam Webster had a prompted us to write something about a word that rhymes with your name. Here you have it.

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