Disabled and cooking

Disabled means a lot of different things, since all it really means is that a person has lost some functionality that affects their day to day living.  It doesn’t mean that all disabled people are in wheelchairs by any means.

That means that many people with disabilities are cooking their own meals and baking too.

Unfortunately, there is little information about how to adapt to cooking with a disability, let alone in how to alter your kitchen to cope with a disability.   Maybe part of the reason is because of how unique each person’s disability can be?

So where does a newly disabled person go to find information on how to cope?

There is a huge void in this type of information.  Most of my own information comes from our own experiments.  One of my favorite?

Rolling out dough is amazingly challenging when you are limited with the use of your arms. That doesn’t mean it is impossible, but you may well think so the first time you drag out your old rolling pin and make an attempt.

I couldn’t manage a traditional rolling pin with ball bearings and two handles.  I had a fair amount of experience using a cylinder rolling pin for rolling tortillas, and that was where I turned next.  Since the cylinders were not available locally, we put on our thinking caps.

At the local lumber yard, we hit the dowels, purchasing the fattest dowel we could find (I think it’s between 1″-1 1/2″).  My spouse then cut the dowel down to fit a half sheet baking pan, with one to fit the short side, and one to fit the long side.  That left a short section which actually landed in our camping box, about 12″ long.  By using a half sheet baking pan, the dough is confined and can’t escape.  The dowels are able to be used to roll out any dough, from cookie dough to pie crust to biscuits, with just one hand, although I often use the “bad” hand to stabilize the dowel.  Then, the entire “counter” where I rolled out my dough can be easily moved to the sink for clean up.  I use the half sheet baking pans for kneading, mixing, decorating, and a million other things.  They are handy trays too!

The first thing I was forced to do is do away with the stoneware that had always been my preferred table ware.  It was just too heavy to manage, and stacks of it were completely impossible.  My replacement dining ware was Corelle, perfect for someone like me, as it is compact to stack, lightweight, break resistant (for the inevitable drops/falls) and came in plain white.  It takes up far less room in my cabinet too, as a place setting for eight takes up less space than a four piece place setting on the stoneware.  I highly recommend them for anyone who is faced with trouble managing heavy plates and bowls.  Changing from the heavy stoneware to the lighter Corelle was the answer to allowing me to do dishes, set the table, and carry dishes back to the sink…with a higher frequency of success than the heavier dishes.

On pots and pans, the weight is still a concern, but…as any good cook knows, thin & lightweight doesn’t make a good pan or pot.  Thin & lightweight often means it’s going to scorch no matter how careful  you are.  Here, we have to seek a balance between weight and functional.  Part of that program means I tend to cook smaller quantities, and even then, I invariably end up needing assistance with moving a full pot.  The only DIY solution is to divide the contents up into smaller quantities and manage it in smaller pieces.  My favorite skillets are cast iron ones, which can become incredibly heavy very quickly.  There is nothing that can be done about that–it simply means that if it’s too heavy…I have to ask for help.

Mixing and chopping and kneading are incredibly difficult tasks, and frustrating for someone who used to do those things very easily and quickly.  No matter how I tried, it was a painful and slow ordeal.  The solution?  Well, that KitchenAid stand mixer that had seen seldom use suddenly became my friend.  It can mix and knead easily, leaving me smiling.  While it’s too heavy for me to move, I either keep it on the counter or have to have help getting it there.

The small food processor is much lighter, and it too has become my friend.  It grates and chops easily.  I haven’t mastered the art of doing it where I end up with somewhat uniform shapes, but I hope to soon.  For grating cheese and vegetables, it simply can’t be beat.  I’m ecstatic to have a painful chore so easily completed.

It takes thought and a touch of creativity to find the solutions that work for each individual.   It’s not rocket science, and there is no reason why there are not more solutions available via the internet other than disabled people are not sharing their experiences.  I don’t think this omission is out of any desire to remain secretive, but rather because it hasn’t occurred to many that sharing their own solutions to problems might make the process easier for others, as well as provide a foundation for new solutions to other problems to be found.

Do you have ideas?  Have you found solutions?  Share them!

About giascott

Writer, blogger, cook, grandmother, mother, wife, radio personality, outdoor enthusiast, dog enthusiast, crafter, artist, and part-time nut~~I've earned a lot of t-shirts in my day! I'm one of those crazy independent women who can cut down a tree, build you a shed, sew you a dress, cook your dinner, make some soap, pitch a tent, build a fire, catch some fish, dig in the garden, chase a kid or two, write you a poem, paint you a picture, and a dozen other things...just don't ask me to sing! I'm also embarking on a relatively new portion of my life, one of being disabled. I'm learning some lessons along the way about a lot of things too.
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