Wednesday, 20 July 2011

My Brain AVM Story: Now We're Cooking!

Should have kept it simple.
I've never been great cook. I was an even worse cook after my brain AVM surgery and stroke, when I only had one hand to work with.

One of These Things is Not Like the Others...

My mother was a great cook and a great baker. My sister Rachel has learned to make most of her recipes and does a lovely job of it. My father caught on to cooking for himself quite quickly after my mother's death, and can prepare anything he needs to, from a can of soup to a pot roast to a roast goose for the Christmas holidays.

And then there's me. Even before my stroke, my idea of preparing for a dinner party was to ask the guests, "What do you like on your pizza?" But I could feed myself, as long as I kept it simple and didn't stray too far from typical student fare.  My best dish was chicken fajitas; and when  Kate, my occupational therapist, broke it to me in Penatanguishene Rehabilitation Centre that the time had come for me try preparing my own lunch, I told that it was chicken fajitas that I wanted to make.

An Ambitious Choice

I always was an overachiever. It didn't even put me off when Kate told me that most people chose to make something easier, like a sandwich. I really think that I didn't have a clue just how difficult it was going to be with one hand, even with adapted cutting boards and utensils, to:

  • Chop vegetables

  • Chop and cook chicken

  • Shred cheese

  • Get everything arranged so that it was where it needed to be, when I needed it to be there.

  • Time the meal so that nothing ended up getting cold while I was preparing other things.

I started an hour before lunch...and worked right through lunch. Everyone was done by the time I got the dining room. I was exhausted, and I didn't even feel like eating.  One of the two other young people who passed through the Centre while I was there happened to be there that week; we didn't like each other, for a number of reasons. She walked through the dining room as I sat there staring at the fajitas that had taken every ounce of my energy to make, and said what was probably the only sincere thing she said to me the entire time she was there: "That looks really good."

I burst into tears.

"What did I say?" she demanded.  "What did I say?" she said to Kate, who had just walked in the room.

"She's tired and she needs to eat her lunch," Kate said. "Right, dear? Eat your lunch."

Fuck my lunch, I thought. I don't want to do this if it's always going to be this hard. 

Still Eating

Like everything, food prep got easier.  Like I said, adapted cutting boards and cutlery (knives especially) are available to help with cutting things. I usually just buy veggies pre-cut, though. as it still takes me so long to cut things, and the adapted boards just don't stabilize some things very well.  I still basically eat like a student: easy meals, cereal, sandwiches, some microwave meals. Every now and then I get ambitious and try something new and a little more complicated.

I do need to own that I've fallen down in this area of occupational therapy, though. If I just practiced cutting veggies more, I'd likely get better at it fairly quickly.  But making complicated meals was never a priority before, so it's not likely to become a priority now.

I don't make chicken fajitas very often anymore. But I have, since that day in PGH. They were really good, they only took 45 minutes, and I didn't cry. It was a good day.

Excuse me; I'm kind of hungry. I think I'll go make a sandwich.

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