One of my passions is food and I have always enjoyed the creativity of cooking. Before having a family I would sometimes spend my days off getting my head around a new, technically challenging, dish which I would then serve up to my friends.
Baking has never been my thing as it requires precision; my dexterity has led me to be more of a freestyle cook who throws things into pots. I have a weakness for unusual ingredients and can spend hours in the aisles of our nearest Asian Cash ‘n Carry. My finest hour was producing a dish of imperfectly formed, but delicious, dim sum!
Thanks to the combination of cerebral palsy and spinal stenosis my right hand is now permanently clenched and not a lot of help when it comes to peeling onions or crushing garlic. I have therefore had to learn to adapt and find ways of cheating so that I can still produce a dish worth eating.
I thought I would share some of these ‘cheats’ with you.
The basis of many dishes is chopped onions and garlic. I now buy frozen, chopped onions. The world food, frozen counter that some supermarkets now have, often stock pureed ice-cubed sized, garlic that is delicious. And it doesn’t stop there. There’re all kinds of frozen, pre-cut vegetables around – my staples are ginger, leeks, sweet potatoes and butternut squash. They obviously do cost more than the fresh equivalent but peeling, and then chopping, a butternut squash is a nightmare – and at least I’m not buying ready meals.
The few kitchen gadgets aimed at disabled people that I have bought in the past have never really done it for me. I still find the most effective way to open a jar is to bang the lid on the floor, and folded tea towels or a damp Jay cloth provides a stable base when mixing or stirring. If I have to drain a large saucepan of, say potatoes, I will now ‘drag’ it to the sink on a tea towel, rather than risk carrying it.
My favorite gizmo is a hand blender that you can buy for under twenty pounds. If you are making a soup or a sauce you can use it in the saucepan you’ve pre-cooked the ingredients in so there is no need to decanter it in and out of liquidisers or food processors.
In a bizarre way cooking has almost become a form of exercise for me. I can stand, and walk, but not without holding onto something. Leaning on the kitchen counter while I cook – which is the perfect height – means that I get to stretch my legs and walk around a bit.
I’m not sure what my family would say about the food I produce – but one thing is for sure. My dog loves it when I cook as there will always be something that ends up on the floor!