Sunday, September 30, 2012

Kitchen Skills, Gimmicks and Accessible Technology

Every day on FB, people post videos from Youtube. Some are cute, some are silly.

Today, I came across this video that shows how to use a empty water bottle to separate egg yolks from the whites. My oldest son leaned over my shoulder as I watched it, and let me know he thought it was cool. I thought so, too! I mean, I sure didn't think to use the suction capability of an empty water bottle to suck the egg  yolk up and deposit it in another container. Sounds simple and yet, I didn't think of it. Wow! Take a look and see for yourself.

However, a very good FB friend and fellow disability advocate chimed in to say that she didn't like gimmicks like this, and that it would be better to teach good kitchen skills instead. Being an accomplished chef and former restaurant owner, she naturally leans toward good technique and skill in the kitchen.

Although I agree with her for the most part, my son has autism and has never mastered the rocking the egg back and forth in the shell technique. I was happy he took such a liking to this. After all, in our house, we encourage cooking even if someone hasn't mastered all the traditional kitchen skills. Sometimes, it is more important to focus on making kitchen chores fun or learning how to be prepare a meal using a gadget or two rather than rely on Mom for food prep.

My son at 20, loves to cook in the kitchen. He first became responsible for meals when he was 9 and his brother was 4 and 1/2. At the time, I was dealing with severely limited mobility and after losing my only set of contact lenses, was legally blind. As a single parent, I found myself leaving dinner up to him. Of course, in the beginning, I sat nearby as long as I could sit, but as he became more and more accomplished, I would only listen in and use my sense of smell to supervise. With the typical limited fine motor skills many children with autism deal with, he did what he could handle, and used gadgets where it saved time and avoided adding confusion and frustration.

For example, he learned strong knife skills from making sure he had a sharp knife to how to hold a chef knife properly. Using the color-coded cutting board I had been given for my visual impairment, he learned how to cut onions, celery, etc. But, I also allowed him to use the food processor in order to speed up the dicing process or avoid dealing with knives if he felt uncomfortable or was excessively tired that day.

In fact, when it comes to separating egg yolks from whites, we already had a gadget. While strolling through one of my favorite kitchen accessory stores, Sur le Table, I found the gadget pictured to the left. My son loves it! This item allowed him to separate many eggs quickly and put the covered whites in the fridge for another use. We use this at least once a week. My young son who deals with memory deficits and has yet to master many cooking techniques uses it as well. With its color-coded cups and lids (the cups are different sizes as well, so I can feel the difference if need be) and simple measurements, this has been well worth the purchase.

I also thought about a recent Gadget Magic workshop I attended at Metrolina Association for the Blind. Many gadgets that were meant for other reasons were re-purposed to assist people with visual impairments and other impairments remain active in their kitchen.

So, in the end, I come away wanting to share with you ideas my friend had to help interest children in the cooking process while promoting good skills, but also want to remind you to have some fun! Do something unique! Look at the world a little differently and see how you can spark interest in the kitchen. Watch a video and experiment with gadgets with you children. Especially if you or your children are dealing with disabling conditions, getting comfortable in the kitchen is important, whether you can "rock the egg" or not.

Mia's suggestions:
  1. Teach the shell method as a magic trick and give prize to the one who does it with out breaking the yoke and dropping it into the bowl.
  2. Teach all cooking to kids as magic.
  3. Have toddlers dress up like the characters from Ratatouille the Movie or Merlin the Magician.
  4. When they are older,  use it a a science experiment.
  5. Have the little ones grow herbs in window boxes.
  6. Put seeds in egg containers, on damp cotton balls or put seedlings in toilet roll centers filled with soil. Teach them Seed to Plate Mentality. When you do, their IQ goes up, their health is better, and you have peace at meal-time because they are eating what they grew.
  7. Ask questions at the table (Q: What does a scientist call a vinaigrette? A: an emulsion!) and let the first one who gets it right choose what the family has for desert.
A Closing Word from Mia:
  • With morbid obesity killing our country, we must make food interesting smart and part of every day life.
I second that thought!

Now, it is your turn.  Do you use gadgets or "gimmicks" in the kitchen? What are some of your favorites? What are some tips and suggestions you can give families to promote interest in the kitchen?

No comments:

Post a Comment