I have to tell you: I really do like to cook. The thing is, if you leave me to cook dinner entirely by myself, you may well end up eating boxed macaroni and cheese or a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. It’s not that I can’t cook, it’s that there are certain aspects of the craft that require supervision such as cutting or using a stove or an oven.
I work with a college student who comes over twice a week to work with me on independent living and social skills. During this time, we usually make dinner together. She does things like chopping and cutting and putting things in the oven, but I will help her by doing other tasks like stirring and adding ingredients or sometimes fixing a side dish like a salad.
I may not be able to do the whole process on my own, but I am pretty good at knowing what types of flavors go well together, and I like experimenting. Also, one tool that has helped me become more confident and savvier in the kitchen is watching cooking shows on television.
I like to watch Food Network in my spare time.
I watch a lot of the techniques Food Network chefs use and pay close attention to the ingredients they mix into certain dishes or ethnic cuisines. I like a lot of spice, and I’m a big fan of things that are hot, to be quite honest: Thai, Mexican, and Indian. I eat plenty of food from any of those regions.
I really like cooking with another person because I feel like we’re a complementary team. We make up for one another’s weaknesses, and we challenge each other. She does more of the fine physical work, and I encourage her to try new flavors. I have taught her tips and tricks in the kitchen, like how half-and-half can be used as a thickener instead of having to run to the grocery for heavy cream. I’m thrilled to say she now eats hot sauce on eggs. That, ladies and gentlemen, is what you call a nutritious breakfast.
Tips for encouraging self-sufficiency and mealtime involvement:
- Designate specific tasks for each individual during meal prep such as adding ingredients, finding and laying out items on the counter, cracking the eggs, etc.
- Also, as children and teens grow, let them experiment with more freedom and new tasks in the kitchen as appropriate.
- Consider having the individual assist with not only the meal preparation but the shopping. Have them help make a list of necessary ingredients, then go shopping together to get everything. You can even make a fun activity out of going to the grocery by sending them to find specific items on the list. Note: In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, many families may be opting to have groceries delivered rather than going to the store. You can still teach life skills by breaking down the steps to ordering online and having the individual assist you.
- Have the individual choose a fruit or veggie for each meal.
- Accessible Chef Lots of visuals, actual recipes with photos, step-by-step recipes.
- Cooking with a Physical Disability Tips for planning, kitchen layout, and preparation.
- Inexpensive Tips for Cooking Accessibility Video with tips for kitchen accessibility, such as braille labels for stove knobs and spice jars, and demonstrations of easy-to-do adaptations for measuring cups and spoons and other equipment.
- Adaptive Tools for Independence: Cooking Tools In this video, cooks with disabilities make tacos using grippers, hands-free can openers, electric saltshakers, rocking knives, adaptive scissors, and more.