I am very rarely seen in the kitchen. That is, unless I absently turned in the wrong direction looking for my bedroom. Then, maybe. Otherwise, you could say cooking is not my strong point. The closest I’ve come to braving the culinary world is a late night microwave meal in my dorm, and based on the half cooked bits of processed cheese on my pizza bagels, the results can only be described as tragic. However, let it be known that I ate them anyway, to avoid the indignity of informing one of my personal assistants that the three easy steps did not go as smoothly as it looked like they would on the box. So, you could say, after failing to make a snack mastered by most twelve year olds after a long day of middle school, I hung up my chef’s hat for a while. But today, on a hot summer day, something amazing happened. Weary of filling my head with obscure facts about household pets, and certain that there was truly nothing new on my Facebook newsfeed, I decided to bake. As my mother checks ingredients off her list, I embark on an epic quest to find the vanilla extract, feeling very empowered, independent, motivated, and all those other “disabled person doing something besides sitting” buzzwords. My glory is quickly crushed by the fact that among the many items on the shelf, the vanilla extract is on one of the shelves I can’t reach. Feeling dejected, I pace by the shelf until someone notices me, and places the bottle in my lap. After all the ingredients have been gathered and I’ve blocked a few shopping carts with my wheelchair, shopping, phase one is complete.
When I return home and begin putting the ingredients in the food processor for the raspberry tart, I am feeling high on life. My future children, I think, will eat something other than peanut butter and jelly. PB & J and raspberry tart isn’t the most varied menu in the world, but hey, it’s a start right? All is going smoothly. A little too smoothly. If I am seen by The Powers That Be preparing anything too successfully, surely my benefits will be reduced! Just as I am formulating my speech about how I did in fact fail that ADL* test, and failed it proudly, I may add, I am reminded why I crossed pastry chef off of my list of dream careers, and why my benefit check will be staying at just the same rate. In a spirited attempt to mix the batter, I hit the wrong button and disconnect the mixers from the rest of the machine. Oops! After reminding myself that I may need a little more work before throwing a soiree for all my friends, it’s on to the rolling pin! As soon as I begin rolling the dough, I can’t resist thinking that this is probably the closest thing to occupational therapy I have attempted since the last time I tried to make a friendship bracelet. Needless to say, one would assume, based on the bracelet, that the friendship represented was tumultuous…unraveling, you might say. As my rolling pin work out continues, I hope silently that the cobwebs residing in my crochety shoulder joint have not found their way into the dough. When the dough circle is determined to be the appropriate size, my mother dumps it from between the wax paper into the waiting tart pan. During the transfer, a few pieces of dough jump ship, and the edges of the part have a few holes. We do our best to patch them up, but I am secretly content with my slightly wonky crust. I am, after all, an inclusive baker.
While the tart bakes, I begin my second project, banana bread. Using a box of Pillsbury’s self proclaimed “Quick Bread”, I am once again full of hope. However, despite a recent dose of Botox in both arms, my attempt to open the bag fails, and I remember why I carry around a pair of green children’s scissors. In a cloud of banana scented fun, the mix is in the bowl, naturally with some of the powder finding its way onto my seatbelt and into the crevices of my wheelchair, probably to go unnoticed until five minutes before my next presentation at school. Cracking eggs proves harder than I remember from my days as a six year old pancake ninja. After hitting the edge of the measuring cup gingerly, I determine that cracking eggs is in fact, a startle trigger. I consider calling a friend to wave a mini American flag and sing the “Impossible Dream” for encouragement, but then decide I should let my mother crack the eggs, as generally speaking, baked goods taste better without egg shells. Soon, all is mixed together and ready to go. In a few days, I’m expecting an AOL reporter looking for a feel good story to pen “Disabled Girl Cooks Something Other Than Easy Mac”. But friends, I can’t get ahead of myself. Call off the press until I see what it all tastes like. If I don’t get salmonella from the droplet of batter I ate, you shall all be invited to my Palsied Chef” party very soon….