You’re in the Niger Delta, one of the most fuel-rich areas in the world, with oil rigs every 10 kilometers pumping 2.15 million barrels a day. Unfortunately, you can’t use any of it: 99 percent is exported†, and locals not only have to import gasoline, they also have to drink water and irrigate crops from rivers poisoned by 50 years of oil spills. Then there are the natural gas flares – a byproduct of the oil-extraction process – that flame from broken pipelines and holes in the ground. The gas burned in these flares could satisfy the energy demands of a third of Africans, but it is wasted instead. You can’t collect it, but you can put it to good use.
The diet here is based around tapioca flour. This is made by beating cassava then leaving it out in the sun for days. But you don’t have to wait this long. Find a flare, spread your mashed cassava on a mat, and dry it next to the burning gas to cut production time to a mere 24 hours. What you don’t eat you can sell for US$1.20 a day, more than the wage of 70 percent of your neighbors in the delta.
Sure, a sudden explosion might kill you or you might contract leukemia from the chemicals you inhale. But it may be worth the risk, for as long as it lasts. Nigerian oil reserves are predicted to run out in half a century, and already the world is struggling to match oil supply to demand. In the not-so-distant future, you may not even have a gas flare to cook on.
† Ten percent of Nigeria’s daily oil exports are stolen every day. Unlike Somali pirates who hold crews to ransom, West African oil pirates usually board tankers just to siphon off the cargo for sale on the black market.
How to cookClick to enlarge
In the Niger Delta, locals spread their tapioca on wooden mats, then dry it out on flaming gas flares from oil pipelines. It’s free and simple, but may add zinc, copper and toxic cadmium to your meal.
All you need is time. Follow the Icelandic method for preparing otherwise poisonous basking sharks: bury the carcass, pile stones on it, then wait for 12 weeks for the fluids to be squeezed out. You’ll gag at the smell, but you won’t go hungry.
Find yourself somewhere sunny, line a large bowl with something reflective (old potato-chip packets are perfect), hang your cooking pot above the center and let the sun’s rays cook at up to 165ºC.
Mix yellow mud with salt and margarine, shape into a disc, dry in the sun and eat. Since the 2010 earthquake, Gato Te mud cakes have been available to buy for 5 gourdes (US$0.13) each in Haiti’s Cité Soleil slum.
Start your Hawaiian lava oven with a shovelful of 1,100ºC molten rock. Throw a banana leaf-wrapped chicken on top of the blob, then shovel on more lava. Wait 20 minutes for the oven to harden into solid stone. Crack it open and eat.
Cooking in a hot spring adds minerals to your food, and if you’re lucky, salt to taste. Villagers in Whakarewarewa, New Zealand, immerse their food in hot springs using mesh bags, either anchored to dry land with a heavy rock or suspended from a fallen tree.
Before your next car trip, wrap hotdogs in aluminum or puncture a can of soup, place the food on your car’s exhaust manifold, then drive. Even short journeys work – a 30-kilometer trip is enough to cook shrimp.
Hot enough, anything can burn. In Kibera slum, Nairobi, Kenya, residents feed plastic, rubber, rotten food, rags and even excrement into an 800ºC community incinerator and cook their meals on top.
From the pages of COLORS #84 - APOCALYPSE.