Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Commence Operation "One-Handed Chef"

So, I never was a really great cook, even before the stroke made it necessary for me to become a one-handed chef.

When I was much, much younger, I liked to bake. I used to bake cookies after dinner in my elementary school days, before the homework load got to be too heavy. But I moved away from cooking and baking as recreation in high school, and in university I ate like most students do: simply, cheaply, and quickly.

Coaxing the One-Handed Chef  Out of Me...

Most people start their journey to one-handed chef slowly after a stroke. In Penetanguishene Rehab Centre, my occupational therapist suggested that preparing chicken fajitas was pretty ambitious for my return to the kitchen and that perhaps I might want to start with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. But I've always been kind of "no guts, no glory" with that sort of thing, so I pushed myself hard to make my favourite meal, got myself incredibly frustrated, and was too tired and sad to eat the damn things once they were done. My OT said that I had to eat them anyway, because it was a long time until dinner.

I've made them since. I've mastered the basics of being a one-handed chef. I've made eggs and toast. I make good salads. I made grilled cheese sandwiches for a boyfriend once, not realizing that there was something on the element, the burning of which set off the fire alarm first in my apartment then in my apartment building.  Some tenants still ask me when there's a fire drill, grinning, if I "set this one off". But the sandwiches were good, so I still count that as a success.

But I generally eat very simply - cereal, sandwiches, hard-boiled eggs, salads, the odd microwave dinner, yogurt, fruit, pasta with sauce and cheese. Apple slices and peanut butter are a favourite.  Occasionally I get more ambitious, but cooking is one area of living one-handed that I just haven't mastered. Being a one-handed chef takes far more planning (and one-handed chopping takes far more practice) than I've felt capable of doing on a regular basis without becoming completely overwhelmed, on top of the challenges inherent in cooking for only one person.

However...I'd like to become a better one-handed chef. I'd like to have some recipes for good, healthy meals that are easy to prepare with one hand, and I'd like to improve my skills in the kitchen. It'd be great to be able to bring a dish that I'd prepared myself to a potluck, instead of just buying a dessert from the grocery store. It'd make me feel really good to do that.

Operation One-Handed Chef: The Plan

So I'm going to make a commitment and write it down here, so that I'm accountable to all of you: I'm going to make it a goal to try one new recipe a week, in my quest to become a one-handed chef. I've already gathered some recipes that look appropriate, and I'd love it if you'd contribute any that you find. I'll put them up on a new section on the blog, and on the Facebook and Pinterest pages, and we'll develop an archive for everyone everywhere who wants to become a one-handed chef.

Hopefully the recipes that I've gathered will keep me busy until Christmas, when maybe Santa will bring me a couple of cookbooks that I've had my eye on...

I'm going to start next week, and I'll keep everyone updated on my progress. Anyone want to join me?? Let me know and I'll send you the recipe I've chosen at the beginning of each week!


  1. This sounds like a great idea! Mike was a pretty good cook before his stroke, but moving around the kitchen is extremely daunting to him now. I'm excited to read about what you end up making - maybe if I show him that other people cook one-handed (and don't even burn the kitchen down!), he'll be willing to give cooking another shot.

  2. Sorry, I can be of no experience is limited to 14 years of prep of highly pureed food in a Vitamix for my son ... just mix anything into the blender and on turn super high speed. Speed is so high it also warms the food to piping hot..

  3. Everything is possible in the kitchen - look for Michael Caines, 2 star Michelin chef at Gidleigh Park who lost an arm.

  4. My ex fell off a roof and still after many years has the use of only one hand. Cooking and chopping were his hardest things. But he has a wife to cook for him, so he's lucky. I applaud you for your efforts and wish we could see you out at writers' more often. Love...Margot