People often ask me if I cook for myself and, if so, how I do it.
The answer is yes, I do cook for myself, and, of course, I’m happy to tell you all about it. I’ll even share my favourite recipe with you (see below!). First of all, though, I ought to tell you how I learned to cook in the first place.
My culinary career had a very doubtful start. I don’t know what they’re called now, but in my day, cookery lessons at school were known as “domestic science”, or “DS”, and we had a particularly terrifying DS teacher at Chorleywood College, the special school for the visually impaired which I attended during my teenage years. She was disabled herself and, because she couldn’t move quickly, if one of her blind pupils was about to burn themselves, she would shout a warning across the classroom. Unfortunately, she often shouted completely the wrong name, leaving the specified pupil confused and the endangered pupil still at risk. She would then get more and more angry and het-up as the pupil in danger failed to react to her warning.
DS lessons could get quite stressful.
Our DS teacher also had a morbid fear of waste. I can recall kneeling down, scraping spilled suet up off the floor with a teaspoon in order to put into an apple Charlotte.
The most alarming incident, though, was in my first-year DS exam. I cut my finger on a tin and was too scared to say anything. I washed my finger under the tap and dried it. The teacher’s only remark was, “Next time you cut yourself, don’t wipe your hand on the towel. It will have to go to the laundry now.”
No offer of a plaster!
Later, when I went to college, I shared a kitchen with 11 other students. Students being students, it was always full of stacks of unwashed crockery and I remember having to sit on the floor on at least one occasion in order to mix up my scrambled eggs because there was not an inch of free workspace on which to put the pan.
And at least when I was at school, we had braille markings on the cookers. At college, I had to cook purely by guesswork.
Some food did burn.
Life changed for the better for me, though, when eventually I got access to a microwave. My cooking difficulties have always exacerbated by my arthritis and my inability to hold heavy pots and pans. A microwave situated on a convenient working surface allowed me to shunt containers in and out without bending, which was a terrific boon. Even better, the containers themselves were made of much lighter materials than conventional cookware. There were no naked flames or red-hot cooking rings, either, so, although I still had to be careful, especially when it came to avoiding scalding myself while lifting the lid off a newly microwaved dish, over all I was much less likely to burn myself.
And then, best of all, someone invented the talking microwave. That’s right, you can get microwaves that talk to you. You open the door, and it says, “Door open.” You opt for full power and it says, “Full power.” You set the timer for 5 minutes and it says… Well, you get the idea.
Armed, then, with a talking microwave, and with help and encouragement from my mum, I gradually got my confidence back. Together, we adapted recipes to make them more manageable, sometimes virtually re-writing them. Chicken and tomato risotto became prawn and pineapple risotto… It’s a long story!
(I think it tastes delicious, though, so I’ll give you the recipe at the end of this blog.)
Nowadays, I have a talking combination microwave and convection oven, which is wonderful. It even has an English accent! I also use talking kitchen scales and a talking measuring jug.
I do still have to be adaptable, though. I try to keep different types of tinned goods in separate places, with soup on the left, chickpeas on the right, and elastic bands round mince so I can distinguish it from stewing steak.
It mostly works, but sometimes the system goes wrong. If I open a tin and get a nasty surprise, I may have to quickly change my mind about what I’m going to have for dinner!
I also find it frustrating when I drop food on the floor. Radishes and tomatoes have a nasty habit of rolling away. I may talk about the frustration of losing things another time but, take it from me, even though an item may be quite near you, if you can’t see it, it might as well be on the other side of the room.
So there you have it: with the aid of experience and the help of technology, I do cook for myself. It’s true that I still sometimes cut and burn myself, but who doesn’t? It just goes with the territory. I’ll admit, too, that I’m not very ambitious. I do a lot of one-pot cooking and eat a lot of pasta with veg, or rice with veg, but I don’t go hungry and I do actually enjoy cooking now.
Oh yes, that recipe I promised you… Here it is!
Prawn and Pineapple Risotto
- 7 oz frozen prawns, defrosted
- 4 oz rice
- Tin pineapple chunks
- Tin garden peas
- 1 onion
- 3/4 pint fish stock
- 2 oz sultanas
Place the onion, rice and some oil in a bowl. Microwave on high for 3 mins.
Add the pineapple chunks and stock. Microwave on high for 6 mins. Stir and microwave on high for another 6 mins. Stir. Microwave on high for 3 mins.
Add the peas and prawns. Microwave on high for 3 mins. Stir. Cook for another three mins.
Stir in the sultanas and serve with grated Parmesan, if desired.