Procrastinating as I think about walking a few blocks to a lunch appointment when it's almost 100 outside, I'm reminded of the last few times I've tried to get smart about sweltering.
In June of 2008, I willed myself into labor in a heatwave, spending two exhausting (but cool!) days in comfort at Virtua Hospital in Voorhees. In June of 2003, I turned my husband's Ford Ranger into an outdoor stove to show that if you have to work when it's scorching, you should at least try to have fun on the job.
So here, just in time for lunch (best eaten at your desk), a little light reading from the archives:
In the heat, preparing lunch on an open grille
So they say it's the first heat wave of the summer. You know what that means - time to cook in the car.
I'm hardly the first to try it. Years ago, a friend stuck a pack of crayons and a bunch of buttermilk biscuits in her backseat to liven up yet another "God, it's hot!" weather story.
When it's 90 degrees outside, you see, it's 160 inside a Dodge Neon.
Or, in the case of a navy-blue Ford Ranger pickup truck, a sizzling 172.
Which, it turns out, is a temperature that can steam broccoli (not that I'd recommend anyone try this at home).
Now, a project with such potentially messy and malodorous results requires careful planning.
By planning, I mean borrowing my husband's wheels.
My Subaru is still new, I plead. And your truck already stinks.
He's not amused.
"Try not to do any damage," he grunts. "Remember, it's paid for."
At times like these, it's nice to have neighbors rallying behind the cause.
Mine offer up many meltworthy suggestions, edible and otherwise.
"How 'bout butter?" says Baely, the 6-year-old next door.
(How 'bout it? Reduced to a yellow puddle in 40 minutes flat!)
Kim, who lives on the other side of me, has a house full of fun. Easy Mac. Frozen pizza. Slice-and-bake cookies.
"I like salmon," says her 5-year-old daughter, Savannah.
Who doesn't? But when cooking in a car, one must consider the olfactory offenses one might leave behind for the guy who'll be driving it afterward.
For the sake of my marriage, fish is simply out of the question.
Shortly after 11 a.m., I pull the truck into a choice spot in the parking lot of a Cherry Hill office complex.
Time to make a meal.
I place Lean Cuisine Cafe Classics Teriyaki Chicken and fresh broccoli in baking dishes on the dashboard.
For kicks, I throw in some tried-and-true test items.
A half-stick of unsalted butter.
A tube of Clinique Ripe Raisin lipstick that never did suit me.
A cup of peanut M&Ms, an unripe mango, a candle.
By 12:30 p.m., the truck, which I call Big Blue, registers 168 degrees.
The Lean Cuisine and broccoli look divine. The lipstick and candle do not.
Outside, it's scorching. Finally, time for al fresco cooking to commence.
I unwrap a slice of Ellio's frozen pizza, a Boca Burger, and a package of Toll House cookie dough.
I crack two eggs into a frying pan.
I stick them all on the roof.
The eggs solidify in no time, not that the glop they grow into resembles anything anyone would eat.
Don't just take my word on it.
Mike Rogers, 12, rides his bike through the parking lot during the experiment and stops to take a look.
"I wouldn't eat that," he says.
But the pizza? I eat it, reminded of the strange square slices I devoured in elementary school.
The Lean Cuisine? Tastes like it does at home. Though, I must say in the interest of full disclosure, the sun scorches the broccoli a bit.
The cookies, alas, don't cook.
In an oven, they take 10 to 12 minutes.
After four hours on the roof of my truck, they remain gooey and glistening.
Dessert marks the first of several failed experiments.
The mango never ripens. (It rots and oozes brown syrup.)
And the M&Ms? A major mystery, especially since the candy has the word melt in its slogan.
I ring up the manufacturer's hotline in Illinois.
Me: "I've had a cup of peanut M&Ms on my dashboard for five hours, and they just won't melt."
Helpful Heather: Laughter. "The coating is very tough," she says.
Me: "But the temperature in my car reached 172 degrees. And the inside of my mouth, which your ads suggest can melt an M&M, has never reached 172 degrees."
Heather: More laughter.
"I guess you could keep trying. They might melt eventually," she says.
"I've had some melt in my car," Heather adds, as if I might need some encouragement.
How long did it take?
(Photo credit: My intrepid colleague David Warren.)
- Monica Yant Kinney
(read more at philly.com/blinq)