Now would you believe it in one of my lives I used to be a cook/chef. Yep I wasn’t trained per se but I could cook well, thanks firstly to my Italian mother for teaching me, and for taking Domestic Science at school and passing my GCSE in the subject.
I loved cooking. I have cooked professionally in a few pubs up North when I lived in Wigan after my first husband came out of the Army.
Then later when I moved to Nailsworth in the eighties I worked for a Flambe chef in his new restaurant the Tamarind. I loved that job I have to say. I quite often did 40 covers on my own. I had the ability to organise and cook quickly, and cleanly.
Later don’t laugh but I also worked at our local Little Chef…..I mean how exciting was that. I managed the one close to my home and cooked well if you can call slapping burgers on a griddle cooking……. it was fun and I actually enjoyed it.
Working at the Little Chef you had to be quick as motorists would stop off and want to be served straight away and not kept waiting. I was the fastest griddler in the west……….ha. Also I catered for my daughters wedding, and her friends mothers wedding, and I really enjoyed it. Cooking I loved really it was so easy for me. Why am I telling you all this? Well sadly it is a thing of the past now for me.
Yes I can use a microwave but I do not use a stove or hob as it is too dangerous for me now. I noticed myself burning things, leaving pots on the stove and even bizarrely taking out baked potatoes without an oven glove with my BARE hands. I realised that sadly I just wasn’t safe to be cooking anymore from scratch.
Preparing vegetables became a thing of the past. Things again you take for granted can be taken from you.
It was one thing I really did miss. I always cooked a fantastic Christmas dinner for my family, and Mike and I would quite often have wonderful Bar B Qs in the garden.
We actually five years ago now had the best Christmas ever, when we did a Bar B Q on Christmas day to celebrate my family in Australia and I have to say it is one of my favorite memories. Even though I wasn’t well enough to participate in the hot cooking I still managed to put on a good meal for everyone, and I know it has been the highlight of many of my family. Mike with Conner our grandson cooking the Bar B Q.
So how can things change so drastically.
A skill I was probably born with taken away from me and having to improvise in order to make sure I ate well and healthy.
I would like to share with you some of the things I do which doesn’t require a heavy session cooking, and certainly doesn’t use up my valuable energy.
The essentials you must.
Must have. I even keep a spare just in case. In the UK you can buy food prepared by purchasing from companies such as Whiltshire Farm, or Oakhouse Food. They deliver balanced meals to your home. You just have to nuke them. Of course you can buy meals from supermarkets, but make sure they are a HEALTHY OPTION. I use mine also for heating up vegetables which I eat a lot of.
I love my Halogen oven. Well Mike loved it as much as me, he would cook all kinds of things in it. Basically its just a table top oven. You can see what your cooking, its easy to use, no bending down and so easy to keep clean. Minimal effort to cook a roast dinner and much safer.
If you like boiled eggs but are too scared to boil water use one of these. You simply put the required amount of eggs in the machine, and add a small amount of water as per instructions. You can do soft, medium or hard boiled with such a minimum effort and so much safer too. You can buy them easily off Ebay and they are really not expensive.
Every person with a chronic illness should have one of these. You can easily make a lovely meal with no effort. For example, turn it on high, put chicken pieces in and just snap open a jar of your favorite chicken sauce and leave it too cook for the morning. If you want it later then cook it on low. You can even cook a whole chicken in one or piece of beef or lamb. Simple’s. If you struggle with opening jars then you buy a special disabled tool for opening jars. (NOTE: IN THE UK YOU CAN BUY DISABLED AIDS FREE OF VAT IF YOU HAVE MS also other illnesses qualify).
If you like soup how easy is it to make. You can use up left over vegetables, buy veg already chopped, add what you like. Just add stock, follow the instructions and you have soup in about 20 minutes. Very healthy and very easy.
If you are not safe with a kettle you can get your care worker or companion to leave you with a full flask of boiled water to make yourself a hot drink. Not only that it saves you boiling the kettle more then once (saving those pennies). I have my flask and it goes by my side when i am sat down and my mug is ready for my cup of coffee. All I have to do is add my water. I love Cappuccino so it makes it better if you do it when you need it. Don’t forget it saves money on boiling kettle and cuts back risks of being scalded. I cant get on with the mobility tippers for kettles i actually found them more dangerous. An alternative is a water dispenser.
With a water dispenser you can also have it by your side and just make your drink when you want it, and its safer then a kettle.
The above appliances are what I use to make my life easier with my disability, but others may have things they use. I believe the idea of utensils is to make it easy and safe for us to use with minimum effort involved.
One full roast dinner in Halogen and Microwave, minimum effort. Total energy used about 5 minutes.
Yes I cheat. Why not? Gone are the days when i cut, sliced and diced potatoes for roast dinners or mash. Now I simply buy frozen mash or roast potatoes. I NEVER USE MY COOKER OR THE TOP OF THE HOB. I am not safe to use my cooker i cant bend down and I never boil anything as its too dangerous as when I have done so I have forgotten I am boiling something or I have literally spilt it all over myself. So no BOILING for me.
I have a lovely gas range with glass top. It is used for storage and the top is down and I use it to keep my stereo on to listen to my music much better the sound of Barbra Streisand coming from my lovely cooker rather then the smell of a roast dinner lol.
All my vegetables are already prepared. I use Brussels sprouts which can be cooked in the microwave, straight from store to be pinged in the Microwave and they stay in their packet its so easy.
I use cauliflower cheese already made, and my favorite Swede and Mash from good old Aunt Bessie. To make a roast dinner is so easy.
I buy a small size chicken as there is only myself now. I cook it in my halogen for 40 minutes. Then I add my roast frozen potatoes, for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes I put my Aunt Bessie stuffing balls in for 10 minutes. Total cooking time 1.30 hrs. Whilst they are cooking alongside the chicken still, I zap all the vegetables in the microwave.
You see the way I do it is my energy levels are good first thing so I cook my meal first thing whatever it is. If its not a prepacked meal that is. So chicken and potatoes are cooked and the veg within one hour and 30 minutes, and plated up. I always make two meals one for Sunday and one for Monday. I rarely use my halogen during the week it is just my treat. Minimum effort honestly five minutes of my valuable energy. Nothing to chop or dice its all done for me. The hardest thing is really opening packets but you can buy aids for those and don’t forget to make sure you get them VAT free.
When I am ready for my lunch I make my gravy i just use boiled water from my flask and make a dried mix gravy easy peasy. Zap my dinner in the microwave for six minutes and I have a nourishing meal ready.
I bring it in on my trolley and that’s it done for the day. Obviously if I am having a very bad day i do not cook a meal like this. I always keep meals handy for the days all I can do is just use my microwave. If I am having a really bad day then my care worker will put me a meal up ready to eat it.
We don’t have to deny ourselves good food its just learning to eat without all that effort of cooking and to be honest now the frozen range is so good, and the prepared vegetable range is vast you can even buy carrot spaghetti now if you want to eat bolognese without Durham wheat pasta.
I stopped cooking and having my family over because well it was hard work, but now I have retrained myself and I am quite proud to be honest that finally after a long time my daughter and my grandsons came for Easter Lunch. It was going to be a challenge but my determination to create something good was really strong in me.
How does one prepare a full roast dinner, and pudding without using all my energy was a challenge.
Shopping Online. I used Iceland and bought:
2 boxes of cooked Lamb Shanks (4) – Frozen roast potatoes – Bag of Brussels sprouts – Bag of broccoli and cauliflower cheese – prepared swede & carrot – Aunt Bessie Apple Pie – Gluten free frozen Cheesecake – Tin custard.
I used up a tiny proportion of my valuable energy levels making this meal.
I added serving dishes and my perching stool.
Everything could be quickly cooked in my microwaves including the Lamb Shanks. I cooked the roast potatoes in my halogen 40 minutes you just snip the bag and put them in the halogen for recommend time and temperature.
Lamb Shanks, nuked in microwave, 8 minutes each they were full of lovely mint gravy, once cooked they were put on meat serving dish and covered. Vegetables nuked in microwave and placed in serving dishes and covered. The apple pie was baked in my other halogen (yes I know I am a two halogen oven kind of girl).
Total cooking time 1 hour, total energy time for me about 10 minutes maximum which was actually opening the packets. Oh and believe it all not all cooked by 9am as my energy levels are the highest first thing.
The verdict of this meal was well ask my daughter and the boys, the plates were empty and clean so I am assuming they enjoyed it.
You see it doesn’t have to be a chore to eat or care for yourself you just have to get imaginative.
I do think when we are disabled its much easier to allow our monkey chatter to tell us we cant do something rather then well maybe you cant do something but at least TRY, what is the worse that can happen………….…you spend an extra day resting to get over it but you have enjoyed yourself even for once in a long time.
Just enjoy trying, yes it is cheating but who really cares? We set such a high standard for ourselves and only the best will ever do, because we believe by not doing the best we are allowing our disability our MS to take something away from us.
BUT think about it, turn it around its not taking anything away from us, because we have got clever enough, strong enough, to DEFEAT it. We haven’t allowed its negativity to beat us because we have come out fighting and have found a way around its limitations, I mean really just how clever is that.
We have beaten the MS at its own game.