25 YEARS AGO ON AMBERGRIS CAYE BY ANGEL NUÑEZ
A "fogon" or fire hearth is an apparatus used for cooking outdoors using some type of firewood as fuel. Of course you will not want to have one of these inside your tiled kitchen, but having one outdoors is a fun way of cooking many things and with advantages. Your neighbors might complain that the smoke of your fire hearth is bothering them, but you can easily solve that. Send your neighbor some cakes baked over the fogon, or a piece of fish roasted over the fire, or even a piece of meat smoked on a hot grill over the fogon.
The advantages of the fogon are numerous. You do not spend money on gas or electricity. You use any piece of wood that burns as fuel or coconut husks which is abundant. Another advantage is that the smoke flavor added to many foods is incomparable. Furthermore, slow cooking over the fogon is better than fast cooking because the high temperatures of the stove can cause cancer.
What are a few disadvantages? For one thing, the smoke irritates the eye. The neighbors might complain of the smoke you create in your fogon. Take for example in Corozal town the neighbors are closing down a bakery that uses firewood as fuel. The fogon consumes a little time in starting it up and if it is raining, then you have wet firewood to deal with.
Now how to build one? The first one you can build is a structure like a flat table on four legs. Then you build an edge around the flat top, about ten inches high. Next you fill the table top with sand, not all the way up, perhaps about six inches. Now locate two flat stones or concrete blocks and place them on both ends. Across the two stones, you place to pieces of steel or iron rods. In days gone by any piece of steel like an old bed frame worked quite well. It is on these iron rods that you place your cooking pots and pans. Under the rods you build the fire as seen in the illustration above.
Now you can take a steel drum and remove the top cover. Bore two holes through the sides and insert the two steel or iron rods. Fill the drum with sand leaving enough space under the iron rods for you to build up the fire. On the side you might use a cold chisel to cut a window type opening through which you can fill the fire with more wood for your fuel. This works fine too. And there you have it the fogon used in the past to do all the cooking outdoors, of course. Try it; it is romantic, it is practical and better than the barbecue grills. Next time I'll teach you to build the oven that you can use for baking over the fogon. It is better than a microwave oven.