It is neither much fun nor particularly easy, but the results of cooking from a wheelchair can be as satisfying as a gourmet meal.
When I first became an occupant of a wheelchair, everything seemed difficult, but gradually I learned the easiest and most convenient ways to do most things, especially cooking. I found that I did things too fast, and like many others, I was disorganized. So I proceeded more slowly and I became so organized that I even surprised myself.
Like others suffering from multiple sclerosis, I became exhausted so fast that I seldom completed a recipe all at once. Instead, I planned two, or possibly three, sessions. I bought convenience items such as an almost-up-to-the-elbow oven mitt, a wooden spoon with an extra long handle and an easily held spatula. I already had an electric can opener, a toaster-oven, a blender and an electric skillet.
Selecting the recipe was very important. I rejected all recipes that called for more than a few ingredients. I also discarded any recipes that called for the chopping or slicing or more than a few items. In other words, I was continually seeking something easy. My budget also required economical dishes, and my good sense called for nutritious ideas. And I demanded good taste and something attractive. These were the things I looked for before I was cooking from a sitting position, so why not now?
I found that one-dish meals were about the best suggestions. Another requirement I has was little dish washing. If I cooked a main course, vegetable, starch, salad and dessert in different containers, the sink full of dishes was not only depressing but promised a lot of work. Everything cooked in one pot would be easy, I decided, and even the salad could be as simple as sliced cucumbers and/or tomatoes. Dessert might be a chocolate mousse, prepared ahead and frozen.
Beef and spinach rice skillet was my choice for a main course. I decided to use my electric skillet to make it easier. I got something organized in the morning, measuring whatever I could. What had to be refrigerated was. It stayed there until my final cooking session. Since getting foods out of the regrigerator is slow and careful, this, too, has to be planned.
My apartment is accessible to someone in a wheelchair, which means that counters are at wheelchair height and I can wheel my chair under the sink. I can't wheel the chair under the cooking surface units or the counters, so I simply cook sidesaddle.
Much to my surprise, one of the diners who ate the beef and spinach rice has a paralyzed arm, and felt she could prepare the recipe. The most difficult thing for her, she said, would be to open the can of tomatoes. But she solved the problem. She explained that she could use her electric can opener, place the can on the opener with her good hand and press down the can-opener lever with her chin.
When I told a few friends who are not handicapped about the recipe and showed them a copy, almost all had the same comment: "I'll copy that recipe. It's the kind I like." BEEF AND SPINACH RICE SKILLET (4 to 6 servings) 1 pound ground beef 1 can (1 pound) tomatoes 1 package (10 ounces) frozen chopped spinach, thawed 1 cup rice 1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, cubed
Brown meat in 10-inch skillet; drain. Drain tomatoes, reserving juice. Add water as needed to make 2 1/2 cups liquid. Add liquid, tomatoes, spinach, rice and garlic salt to beef; stir. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and cook over low heat ntil all liquid is absorbed (about 25 minutes). At end of cooking, stir in cream cheese; cover ad allow to heat. Serve hot.