Cooking with a Disability. I: Reasons for Cooking

I live in the East Village, so it’s like, BAAAAAAH I can eat anything I want by going to or or and just find it.  So I did.  And surprise of surprises, given my low salary and the high cost of food around here combined with my never-ending medical bills, I became totally broke.  And gained a lot of weight.  And my blood pressure went up.  Simultaneously, I became aware that MSG in moderate to large quantities was a major migraine trigger.  It was a logical conclusion that I should begin cooking my own meals.  When I lived alone I used to cook for myself, but that usually entailed making pasta and then putting butter and grated Pecorino Romano cheese all over it.  Yes that is really delicious but it isn’t exactly healthy (but good for a treat…).  I thought, okay FINE fine fine I’ll start cooking.  And it turned out to be one of the more pleasure-giving experiences of my time as of late.  Also I lost a few pounds.  Here is a picture of some homemade chicken penne soup (with homemade broth straight from heaven, I swear):


If you are disabled in any way, it is likely that cooking and/or baking will be a godsend to you.  Here are some (hopefully) convincing reasons why:

  1. It gets you physically moving and the blood circulating.  If you are immobile a lot of time, you know just how important moving around for a few minutes can be.  You’ll avoid blood clots and fight off muscle atrophy.
  2. It forces you to do something, thereby increasing your self-esteem and decreasing your feeling of being a useless slug.
  3. It affords you an opportunity to express yourself artistically (e.g., “I added an extra tablespoon of tarragon to the recipe and it’s delicious!  I’m a GENIUS!”).
  4. You will show up your able-bodied or -minded friends who are too lazy to cook or bake.
  5. It will almost always be more healthy because you have more portion control and a say over exactly what goes into your food.  This can’t be understated.  If you have an emotional issue, there are a number of reputable studies suggesting that a healthy diet (full of fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, grains, and few preservatives) help maintain your blood sugar levels, thus decreasing mood swings.  It will also help your body physically in that better foods in your body give it better nutrients, which will make your body work like the finely tuned machine you want it to be.  Everything from your digestion, cholesterol, immune system, and cardiovascular health can be dramatically altered by what you eat.  So essentially eating well and knowing exactly what you’re eating gives you a better shot at being the healthiest you can be with whatever physical condition you have.
  6. Over time, even if you cook with a lot of healthy produce like fruits and veggies, it will be less expensive than takeout unless you only eat fast food (which you really shouldn’t do often for health reasons anyway–you know I’m right), which means you’ll save money for those endless doctors’ bills… ugh.
  7. If you live with people, they will love you forever for it.
  8. If you don’t live with people, you can freeze leftovers and have easy meals to warm up in the future.
  9. You will taste more of what you eat and feel more connected to your meals, which adds joy to life.  I’m depressed often.  Squeezing out a little bit of happiness when I can is very important, and if cooking has this same impact on others as it has on me, please do it!
  10. Need to lose weight?  No problem.  Need to gain weight?  No problem.  Need to have a low-sodium diet or a gluten-free diet?  No problem.  Yaaay you get to control what you eat and I can tell you now from experience that it isn’t actually difficult to make low-fat food and low-sodium food taste amazing if you have the right spices, and I really mean that.  You can learn how to finagle your food to taste like normal food when, in fact, it’s gluten-free hippie low-fat low-salt food (or whatever you need).  And there are a number of ways to gain weight without eating unhealthy fats too often.  Nuts, avocados, and many fishes have good fat.  You can also buy oil to cook with that contains mostly or all good fats (my favorite is safflower oil, which is pretty much tasteless and can be used with nearly anything, or sesame oil for Chinese meals).  That’s something well worth looking into and there are many wonderful websites that list healthy oils and unhealthy oils.  This way if you’re trying to lose or maintain weight, you consume mostly good fat, and if you are trying to gain weight, you can do so with healthy fats that won’t clog your arteries.
  11. If you mess up, who cares… seriously, who cares?  It’s a learning process.  But if you make something amazing, totally take all the credit and force feed all around you so you can bask in the glory of your accomplishment.
  12. You don’t always have to “cook” to prepare a meal for yourself.  Once a week I have what I call a smorgasbord night where I just chop up some fresh organic fruits, vegetables, some yummy cheeses, some local bread, homemade salad dressing (not hard, I swear, I’ll post the recipe sometime) and some honey or preserves.  It’s easy and it’ll make you feel fancy.  See below for a plate of one of my last smorgasbord nights (pic of the bread not included).  This is a very filling and satisfying meal and you can throw in whatever you want, including any kind of pre-made salad or pickles or whatever.  Hey it’s your smorgasbord.  You do what you want!


I hope this will convince some of you to embark in the glory of cooking for yourself, become empowered, and take control over something in a healthy way.

P.S.  Don’t worry, I still order from sometimes.  I have to have Iggy’s Pizza on occasion or I might die.


4 responses

  1. I promise I will. 🙂 I will definitely post a recipe or two. I’m going to try to make a really good vegetable broth soon without adding an absurd amount of salt–if I am able I will definitely post that because in my experience it’s a hard stock to come by unless it’s full of salt. I’d rather not kill my blood pressure.

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