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How Do You Deal with Handicaps in the Kitchen?


Marlene
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Here is a previous discussion. There was also an EGCI course on cooking by the handicapped. 

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Anna Nielsen aka "Anna N"

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Husband has for several years warned of our need to make things easier in our "dotage".    His major thrust was moving the freezer and stored groceries from the basement to the heretofore "breakfast room" .   This required our getting rid of a piano and moving a monumental oak chest from breakfast room to piano's space.

 

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A fabulous team of movers (2) accomplished this,then brought the freezer, racking and groceries up from the basement.  

 

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A cookbook wall in the now pantry stays intact as does my bike, which greatly enhances knee flexibility

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I am practically giddy as I now "think" butter or tomatoes or sausage, and merely walk 10 paces to retrieve them as opposed to navigating our narrow, almost circular stairs to the basement.   

 

THE POINT OF THIS is that we eventually have to give up the familiar in order to accomplish the practical.

 

 

Edited by Margaret Pilgrim (log)
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21 minutes ago, Anna N said:

Here is a previous discussion. There was also an EGCI course on cooking by the handicapped. 

Thank you. There is a lot of good information here.

I would also like to hear about new ergonomic gadgets that are designed for those of us with arthritic hands. Also any shortcuts that you have come up with to make your time in the kitchen easier. I still like to eat the way that I used to but sometimes just the thought of putting that meal on the table makes my appetite go away.

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The one behavioral change I've made recently is a no-brainer, except for slow learners like me.     My biggest issue is lower back intolerance.    I can't stand at a counter and work for the time it takes to, say, peel enough apples for a pie.    So I now, duh, sit down!    I put a bowl in my lap and another bowl on the kitchen table and pare away.    Jobs seem to take much less time, although it's probably just that I'm not in increasing pain as while standing,    

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My issues are my dominant hand thumb (poorly healed tendon tear years ago) and neuropathy in my hands. I don't open many cans except coconut milk and tomato paste. but an electric opener may be in my future. It is tricky because I either feel nothing or feel pressure so intensely that I scream. So opening up a can with a tab is torture. I pushed the tab of the top of a plastic distilled vinegar jug into my hand the other day and it took 20 minutes to settle down the pain, so I need to be more conscious of what I am doing.  Pliers and flat screw driver are in the kitchen. Gripping/holding items for cutting is also a problem as is dexterity with knives. I may not feel the cut right away until I see the blood. I find letting go of expectation along with realizing I am usually only cooking for my self so "get over yourself Heidi". Counterintuitively perhaps I do better with my 2 serrated knives. The El Cheapo ones with black plastic handles - one like a bread knife and one thinner with a tapered blade. I keep the holding hand well back from the knife. Clumsily gripping those knives gets things cut up enough to work. Burns are my weekly oops as the nanosecond between touching something too hot to handle and my feeling it is enough for damage. My right hand between thumb and pointer finger is blotched with little surface burn scars.  Control is an issue with getting pans in and out of the oven as well as the heat feeling disconnect. I clear space on the island right across from oven door or on the burners adjacent to the oven so it is a quick shot to set down with BOTH hands. I've procrastinated on buying really good oven gloves that actually fit my smallish hands - not smart on my part. Since I cook every day I need to heed my own advice ;)

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I haven't had great right arm usage for the last decade or so - first tearing the rotator cuff and biceps, and then dealing with cervical spine surgery.  

 

So - I married someone 10 years my junior almost 25 years ago - that helps.

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Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

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10 minutes ago, heidih said:

I don't open many cans except coconut milk and tomato paste. but an electric opener may be in my future.

If you buy an electric can opener, take a can with you and make them show you how it works. I have one and I hate but I only use it maybe twice a year and I'm damned if I'm going to buy a new one just for that. It takes a lot of dexterity just to get it to hold onto the can to cut it.

 

14 minutes ago, heidih said:

So opening up a can with a tab is torture.

I bought this years ago in a grocery store so I can't tell you where to find one but it has been a godsend. The round part opens bottle caps. I use the pointed end to pull the tabs on cans open. I lift the tap with a dinner knife, hook the opener in and just roll it back.

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18 minutes ago, heidih said:

Burns are my weekly oops

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I have oven issues, too. Because of back and strength issues, I was always burning myself. My lifesaver has been my countertop convection oven. I don't have to lean over to see what's going on or to take things out.

27 minutes ago, heidih said:

I've procrastinated on buying really good oven gloves that actually fit my smallish hands

 Again, this is something that you want to choose carefully. If control is an issue you don't want just the big padded gloves. I've never found a pair that doesn't make you clumsy and more accident-prone. They have silicone ones now that would give you more grip and probably more flexibility.

 

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4 minutes ago, weinoo said:

I haven't had great right arm usage for the last decade or so - first tearing the rotator cuff and biceps, and then dealing with cervical spine surgery.  

 

So - I married someone 10 years my junior almost 25 years ago - that helps.

At my age, if I married someone ten years younger he would also be older than dirt and that wouldn't help a bit.

Edited by Tropicalsenior (log)
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50 minutes ago, heidih said:

Burns are my weekly oops

Just had another thought. Down here I can buy coconut milk in bottles. Is that an option in your area? We also buy our tomato paste in the little plastic envelopes. Also something that you might consider is tomato paste in the tube. Then you would need no can opener.

Since you are only cooking for one most of the time, the convection oven would be a really good investment. I talked a friend of mine into buying one for her and her husband and she knocked more than $10 off her electric bill the first month. In 10 months it had completely paid for itself.

Edited by Tropicalsenior (log)
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My dad and his wife may be here a very long time as his doctors are all here. She is difficult and the countertop oven would not fly. I even keep my pots, pans, dishes etc in my room. Tons of cabinet/closet space but packed to the gills with stuff - not my stuff. I got a reference for gloves that would fit from @blue_dolphin Just need to pull the trigger while I have Amazon Prime. That bottle/tab opener looks more efficient than  my pliers and screwdriver ;)  I know and have seen tomato paste in tubes and bagged coconut milk - just not accessible to now though, like everyone else, I could order online.  Good to hear others struggles as makes one feel less burdened; it is just life. Oh! justt saw @Margaret Pilgrim's reply on the double potholder. Ordering in a sec. Thanks!!!

Edited by heidih (log)
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4 minutes ago, heidih said:

Oh! justt saw @Margaret Pilgrim's reply on the double potholder. Ordering in a sec.

Before you order them, talk to her about how she uses them. I have some and I don't feel that I have as much control with them. Since I dropped a beautiful glass casserole filled with some of the best scalloped potatoes I have ever made, they have been in the drawer.

Edited by Tropicalsenior (log)
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Just now, Tropicalsenior said:

Before you order them, talk to her about how she uses them. I have some and I don't feel that I have as much control with them. Since I dropped beautiful glass casserole filled with some of the best scalloped potatoes I have ever made, they have been in the drawer.

Good point!  My last big oven drop was about 20 years ago,- sheet pan pizza. Her + hot cheese. The scars have finally faded almost completely...

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1 minute ago, heidih said:

Good point!  My last big oven drop was about 20 years ago,- sheet pan pizza. Her + hot cheese. The scars have finally faded almost completely...

If you do decide to go that route maybe I can send you mine. I'll never use them again and just looking at them send chills up my spine.

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Here's an item from Lee Valley...which is in the States now also...which has proved to be very handy in opening things which are under vacuum seal.  

 

https://www.leevalley.com/en-ca/shop/kitchen/kitchen-tools/can-and-jar-openers/44271-lee-valley-jar-opener?item=50K4101

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Darienne

 

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4 minutes ago, Darienne said:

Here's an item from Lee Valley...which is in the States now also...which has proved to be very handy in opening things which are under vacuum seal.  

 

https://www.leevalley.com/en-ca/shop/kitchen/kitchen-tools/can-and-jar-openers/44271-lee-valley-jar-opener?item=50K4101

50K4101-lee-valley-jar-opener-f-34.thumb.jpg.47bf18e00636407d052514c50d268c29.jpg

What a fantastic idea! I keep an old church key in my drawer just for that purpose but there are some lids that it just won't get under.

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31 minutes ago, heidih said:

My dad and his wife may be here a very long time

I forgot to mention one thing. On one of the other boards someone mentioned a Swiss or Swedish cutting board that has prongs on it to hold bread or other items that would slip. That might help you to hold things to cut but with your dad's wife there, it might be a big temptation to impale. It's a thought for later.

Edited by Tropicalsenior (log)
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38 minutes ago, Tropicalsenior said:

Before you order them, talk to her about how she uses them. I have some and I don't feel that I have as much control with them. Since I dropped a beautiful glass casserole filled with some of the best scalloped potatoes I have ever made, they have been in the drawer.

I use them to move 500degree Dutch Ovens out and into the oven, by their "ears" and by their bales.    For removing pies, cakes and cookie sheets from the oven    For moving pots of boiling water.    I often use them double rather than mitt, but mitt also at times.  We keep several sets in town, in the country and our son relies on his several sets.    BUT, listen to Tropicalsenior, as our mileage all varies.

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1 hour ago, Tropicalsenior said:

At my age, if I married someone ten years younger he would also be older than dirt and that wouldn't help a bit.

I take very good care of Dear Husband because the last thing I need in my life is a replacement who is age appropriate.

eGullet member #80.

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2 hours ago, Margaret Pilgrim said:

Husband has for several years warned of our need to make things easier in our "dotage".  

That is such an important idea. Too many times we keep living with something that really doesn't work for us because 'that's the way we've always done it'.

With the help of my housemate oh, Carlos, I have started rearranging my house. My dining space was a mess. I have a table for four in the kitchen, a dining room table in the dining room that will seat 14, and two tables for 6 on my back patio. If I have just five for dinner I have two choices. The table for 14 or carry everything to the back patio. I also have a huge living room that nobody ever sits in. My solution? I got rid of some of the seating in the living room, moved one of the tables for 6 from the back patio and made half of it into a dining room. It's closer to my kitchen and I no longer feel that it's completely wasted space. I also purged my supply of serving pieces and dinnerware that could serve 40 and gave it to a friend of mine who still entertains a lot. It hurt to let a lot of it go but I sure like the extra space.

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1 hour ago, Margaret Pilgrim said:

These heavy-duty double layer terry pot holder/mitts are my salvation. 

 

I've never used anything but DRY side towels, as we learned in (cooking) school. Folded over a few times, I find they give me the necessary control.

 

I noticed that I'd been having trouble with opening certain jars - age and trigger finger related I'm sure.

 

So I bought one of these (eG-friendly Amazon.com link) - the thing is awesome! Just don't get a scarf or tie or something caught in it, or you might end up strangling yourself.

 

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Edited by weinoo (log)
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Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

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4 minutes ago, weinoo said:

 

I've never used anything but DRY side towels, as we learned in (cooking) school. Folded over a few times, I find they give me the necessary control.

 

I noticed that I'd been having trouble with opening certain jars - age and trigger finger related I'm sure.

 

So I bought one of these (eG-friendly Amazon.com link) - the thing is awesome! Just don't get a scarf or tie or something caught in it, or you might end up strangling yourself.

 

image.thumb.png.8b50036e6cce5cfef06c2c69f4e48bde.png

That's what I usually do is grab a towel. And I like the fact that you emphasized dry. All it takes is once after you get a good steam burn from a wet one and you wind up in the 'I will never again' thread.

That is one great gadget for opening jars. And the price is certainly right. Thank you.

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