Can Cook, Will Cook
10th October 2008
When I went to mainstream school, things still didn't improve. The home economics classes were held upstairs and the attitude from everyone was that since I was physically unable to lift a pan and would always need 24 hour assistance, it was unnecessary for me to know how to cook. I concurred.
I was, however, fascinated by other disabled people who like me, couldn't do the hands on business of cooking but who would direct their pa's to prepare a meal, "brown the chicken, season the vegetables and then stir in the stock please". What?! They may as well have been speaking in tongues for all I understood of their cookery code. It became clear that I had neither the knowledge nor the vocabulary to tell my pa's what to do in the kitchen so I didn't even try. Instead, I decided to cut out the middle woman, just tell my pa's what I wanted to eat and then leave them to cook it.
When we arrived, I noticed everyone else was towering above me, sitting on high stools at the counter. I felt that familiar pit of dread in my stomach and prepared for the battle ahead, but there was no need. The chef and teacher led us to a lower table, right in front of the demonstration area and next to our classmates. He began the course by introducing himself, reading out some health and safety information and then pointed out the location of the toilets, "ladies and gents are down that corridor and the handica... and ummmm the disabled toilet is just behind you." I relaxed - they were obviously trying hard to make Japanese food accessible for all.
Next, we were provided with a bamboo sushi rolling mat and a dish with many compartments filled with brightly coloured foods. For three hours, we molded sticky rice in our hands, folded dark green sheets of seaweed and then rolled all the ingredients together. This wasn't like cookery, this was more like an edible craft activity. I was rapt.
Since the course, I've been on a steep but tasty learning curve. I follow a strict daily diet of Masterchef, Ready Steady Cook and Come Dine With Me. My new best friends are Nigella, Gordon and Jamie. My previously empty fridge is now full of fresh herbs, pickled ginger and balsamic glaze. Every spare moment I get, I'm in the kitchen frying, fricasseeing and fonduing. Forget 'meals on wheels', it's now more a case of 'seared tuna steaks with a salsa verdi on a bed of rocket' on wheels.
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