Tin Can Date
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“Tin Can Date,” New Era, July 1982, 44

Tin Can Date

Dating doesn’t have to cost a lot of money to be fun. In fact, some of the least expensive dates can be the most fun and memorable if you use a little creativity and imagination. Ever thought of taking your date for a tin can dinner?

Nothing could be more fun than watching a sunrise or sunset in the outdoors. To take advantage of the mood, why not add a giant-sized sizzling burger—or bacon and eggs crackling in the early morning air?

On a tin can stove, cooking is fun and easy to clean up. The stove is not only portable, it’s simple to make. To make a tin can stove, you’ll need a number 10 can or a one-gallon can, obtained at restaurants or any place where food is prepared in large quantities. You may also use potato flake or other food storage cans.

Use a pair of tinsnips to cut a door three inches wide and four inches high on the open rim of the can (the bottom of your “stove”). Then, along the rim at the top of the can opposite the door, punch a few holes with a can opener to complete your stove.

Next, make a buddy burner cooking element from an empty tuna-fish can, strips of cardboard, and paraffin or candle wax.

Cut the cardboard into strips the height of the can. (If it’s higher, the flames will be hard to control.) Roll up the cardboard and place it in the can.

Melt a chunk of wax about two inches by two inches into the cardboard by holding a match near the wax. The cardboard will soon catch fire and finish melting the wax. Continue melting chunks of wax until the can is about three-fourths full. This burner will burn from one to two hours when you need it.

To light your burner, turn it on its side and hold a match near the cardboard. Since wax burns at a lower temperature than cardboard, the wax will burn out, leaving the cardboard behind. You can refuel your burner by placing more chunks of wax over the flames to melt as the fire starts to burn low. To turn off your burner, cover the can with something that is not flammable.

Regulate the heat with a damper, made from the lid of a tuna-fish can and a wire pants hanger. After discarding the cardboard from the hanger, bend the wire ends together to form the shape of a large hairpin, then punch two holes in the can lid and attach the wire through them. Use your damper to cover your burner for low, medium, and high heat on your stove (the more of the burner covered, the lower the heat). A temporary damper can also be fashioned out of heavy-duty aluminum foil. With your stove, burner, and damper ready, you’re set to fry anything from bacon and eggs to giant hamburgers.

For that hamburger, roll out seasoned ground beef on a breadboard to one-fourth of an inch thickness. Cut the meat with your stove bottom for perfect-size patties, and then cook the patties on top of the stove. Top off your hamburger with slices of homemade bread, baked in a number 10 can. The result: a better than average quarter-pounder that beats anything you’ll get at a fast-food restaurant.

Here’s an idea for those who like breakfast-time variety. Place two strips of bacon on your stove to form a V-shape. When the bacon’s half done, turn and cover with a slice of bread from the center of which you’ve torn or cut out a two-inch hole. Drop an egg into the hole, scramble slightly, then spread some of the egg over the bread. Cook until the egg is partly cooked, then turn to finish cooking. You’ll sit down to a mouth-watering breakfast of crisp bacon, french toast, and delicious, campfire-flavored eggs.

Another early-morning idea is earmuff toast, guaranteed to warm your hands while you toast your bread. After your stove is hot and you are cooking on the top, hold commercial bread at the sides until it sticks to the hot can (you can keep your hands on the bread until they’re warm, too).

The best quality of your tin-can stove is its versatility. You can cook almost anything you and your date may want, even separate menus if your tastes differ. Winter or summer, in the park, woods, backyard, or apartment balcony, cooking together outdoors is a fun way to get to know your date.

Photos by Jed Clark