Dear Tom and Ray: When I pick up my teenage son from school, he is so ravenous that I worry he'll eat one of his younger siblings when I'm not looking. So we're forced to stop and get him a jumbo quesadilla, which is the cheapest of the five things he currently will eat. I'm spending half of my paycheck -- yes, I'm unemployed -- on quesadillas that I could make at home, but of course they'd be cold and hard by the time they reached him. Hence, my question: Is it possible to wrap the quesadillas in foil and cook them on the engine on the way to his school? If so, how many could I cook this way? His school is 50 minutes from home, but it takes three buses and three hours to get home, so his fellow passengers would be in danger of being eaten if he took the bus. Please help. -- Inner City Mom
RAY: You absolutely can do this. In fact, there have been several books written about engine cooking, the most famous of which is "Manifold Destiny," by Chris Maynard and Bill Scheller.
TOM: The book includes instructions, recipes and tips. Since the car's exhaust manifold typically heats up to 800 degrees or so, there's more than enough heat in the engine compartment to cook anything you want.
RAY: The trick is finding the right spot in the engine and figuring out the timing. You need to find a spot where you can nestle a tinfoil-wrapped package of food so it won't become dislodged during the drive, and where it won't ooze melted sharp cheddar all over your fuse box.
TOM: I've always thought that those wire-mesh vegetable-grilling baskets they sell for use on barbecues would be great for this.
RAY: And then you need to experiment to get the timing right. But I think quesadillas could be a perfect food for engine cooking.
TOM: In fact, I think you should cook a whole bunch of 'em and sell them to the other parents picking up kids. It could be not only a solution to your son's hunger problem, but it could be your next job, too! Good luck.