X. COOKING AND ENTERTAINING
Lots of men, not just quads, expect or let the women in their lives do all the cooking. This is unfair and stupid, and a recipe for making the women in your life resentful and unhappy. An unhappy woman in your life is not good, and being a quad is no excuse for behaving that way.
In addition, dinner parties are one of the great joys in life. As quadriplegia takes quite a few of the joys of life away, its worth learning how to host a dinner party so you gain one to balance against some of those you have lost.
I have lived alone for about half the time I have been a quad. This not only suits my personality it has also given me time, space and motivation to learn how to cook as a quad.
In addition, I have been lucky enough to have had some great cooks and entertainers in my life. So I have been able to learn from watching them how to move from preparing survival food, to preparing entertaining, celebration food.
There are only a few requirements for quad cooking:
- Preparation area – you need a space to assemble ingredients, chop things, and mix things. Ideally this is a kitchen bench space with knee room underneath, and is seamlessly connected to your cook top, bench top oven, sink and serving area. I designed my kitchen like this so I can slide rather than lift chopping boards to the cook top or oven to put them in pots/dishes for cooking, I can also slide dishes/pots from the cook top or oven to the sink or serving area after cooking. Sliding is much faster, easier and safer than lifting.
- Knife – I buy knives and get the handles replaced with a handle that is at right angles to the blade. I then get a leather strap made which has a pouch custom made so the new handle fits into it extremely tightly, and velcro fastenings. With this I can, chop mix, stir, poke, prod, stir etc. I have recently found that very high quality knives make everything much easier. With ordinary knives I always found onions and sweet potato and other very hard vegetables difficult to cut. Now that I have an expensive high quality knife all those vegetables have become easy to chop.
- Microwave/combination oven – As they use plastic containers, sit on the bench top and involve less risk of burning I find that microwaves are the way to go. I now have a combination one that is a microwave, conventional oven and grill all in one, which is perfect. I had a microwave only for many years and it was great in many ways but it did restrict my options quite a bit, so the new combination ovens are much better.
- Cook top with knee room – I have a gas cook top with knee room underneath. It is beside my preparation area and sink, so its easy to put ingredients in pots, easy to stir them, and easy to drag pots on and off the cook top to either the bench or the sink. This means I don’t have to lift any pots, which would be very dangerous, not to mention impossible for me to do.
- Cooking vessels – On the cook top I use commercially available heavy pots with insulated D handles on each side. The weight means they are much better for cooking with and it means they don’t move when I stir their contents. The insulated D handles means I can drag them around easily and I don’t get burnt. Their lids also have insulated D handles so I can put them on and off easily. In the microwave I use plastic because its light and there is a low risk of burning. When doing combination cooking I use pyrex. I only have 2 pots, 2 pyrex and a hand full of plastic microwave containers. With these and a few salad bowls I can easily do dinner parties for 8 or so.
- Carrying tray – I also use a little wooden tray that fits on my lap. It helps me carry stuff from fridge to bench, and kitchen to table without dropping anything or getting burnt.
- Jar loosener and can opener – I also use two very simple cheap gadgets to solve the jar/can opening problem. The jar one is just a lever with a catch that gets between the lid and the jar and allows you to bend the edge of the lid out thereby loosening the lid which you can then more easily twist off. The can opener is also just a lever. It is designed to use with cans that have ring pulls. So whenever I buy canned anything I only buy cans with ring pulls.
There are many many more gadgets available. Many of them are shown in the link below to the NSW Independent Living Centre. I have tried quite a lot of them. I find that they are either hard to use or hard to clean so I now stick with the simple gear described above.
I have found that with the equipment above I can do more than enough to feed myself and anyone else in my life. I avoid super complicated stuff that requires fiddly arrangements, precise timing, or enormous amounts of chopping, stirring or kneading. This does not restrict my cooking much. Complicated recipes of that kind are only a small part of the gastronomic universe.
With the above equipment and approach I regularly host dinner parties at my place and I am one of the main cooks at gatherings of my extended family. I have found this very rewarding because there isn’t much else I can contribute to family gatherings, so its great to feel I have done my bit and made a contribution like everyone else.
My cook top and pots on the left, combination oven and preparation area in the centre, and sink on the right – all within arms length
Here’s what the experts say
cooking for C6s is not really a priority for the experts
CLICK HERE for a video by quad cook Cory whose kitchen is much the same as mine, but whose knife is quite different from mine
CLICK HERE for more quad cooking videos
CLICK HERE for a long list of kitchen gadgets from the NSW Independent Living Centre
Rule number 24 – Cooking and sharing a meal with friends is as good as it gets