THE BLOG

Shake, Tremor and Cook

17/10/2013 14:00 | Updated 23 January 2014

I have always loved to cook, and am passionate about using healthy fresh ingredients, serving food in an appetising manner, everything being home made, you can almost taste the love in every bite. Parkinson's slows me down considerably and I'm no longer able to whip up a quick meal as I once did. One of the first Parkinson's symptoms can be losing one's sense of smell, which happens gradually over a period of time, therefore often goes unnoticed till something occurs to bring it to your attention. Having lost my sense of smell, I rely heavily on a kitchen timer for I wouldn't know if something is burning. I used to be able to judge when a cake was ready just by the mouth-watering aroma, but now everything must be carefully watched and timed. Certain things are very difficult and frustrating, such as peeling a clove of garlic or a hard boiled egg. With poor dexterity in my fingers, I have become acutely aware of these simple actions, I once thought nothing of. I'm always on the look out for any gadgets or helpful tips that make cooking easier, not to mention safer.

Our kitchen was designed especially around my needs, is very comfortable and disabled friendly. The counter top has a small lip on the edge so that nothing rolls off onto the floor. This lip has saved in particular, many rebellious eggs from rolling off the counter when I'm not paying attention! I'm sure you'd agree, there's nothing more difficult to clear up than a slimy raw egg on the floor.

I love having a dog around, not only does she keep me company, but a canine friend can be highly therapeutic when ill. Over the years my dog's natural instincts have come into play and she has unwittingly taken on the role of an assistance dog. My dutiful dog, thinks part of her duties include being a four legged vacuum cleaner, for when I begin to cook, she comes and keeps me company in the kitchen. She settles down comfortably with her head resting on her paws, those large doleful eyes follow my every move as if willing me to drop a tasty morsel. Should something fall, within seconds she'll mop it up with her huge tongue, and the floor appears cleaner than before. A better kitchen aid I couldn't ask for!
I bought cutting boards with rubber bases, so they don't slip when I'm cutting vegetables or fruit, and a wonderful JarKey that easily opens all types of jars by releasing the vacuum. I have some silicon disks that come in bright colours which can be used as saucepan lids (extremely light weight and unbreakable) which also double-up as airtight lids to any dish, which is far easier than fiddling with the dreaded cling-wrap. Light weight saucepans are an important investment, for a pan is heavy enough when full, and dishes that aren't too fragile yet light enough to lift with no difficulty are helpful.

I've learnt from experience to never shake spices directly into a pot, for one shake too much can literally spoil the dish, especially if its chilli flakes or hot paprika. Instead I shake the salt, pepper or spice into a small saucer and then tip it into the pot. You can always add more, but once too much has accidentally been shaken - it's a little too late. I once made soup I'd unintentionally shaken too much black pepper into the bubbling pot. When I served my family later that evening, one could almost see steam coming out of their ears and the soup was so spicy we couldn't eat it. But don't fret, "Waste not, want not" as my mother always used to say and having close friends who like very spicy food, I found happy recipients who enjoyed my overly zealous peppered soup!

I highly recommend wearing an apron whilst cooking; although far from stylish, I have ruined many an outfit by spilling or splashing food down myself. I was melting chocolate for a ganache topping to cover a cake, and as British chef in "true Nigella Lawson style", (I'm sure you would too!), once the cake was finished, I couldn't resist licking the spatula and bowl. I made such a mess, I had chocolate on my chin, my nose and down the front of my T-shirt. It's amazing how a little chocolate seems to get simply everywhere!

There are occasions when I'm having a particularly bad "Parkie" day, as many fellow sufferers can relate to, and just can't manage to cook, or do anything. There's only one thing to do in such circumstances, scrap all the above advice, pick up the phone and order "takeaway"!

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