by Linda W. Arms
Many of us used to think that cooking was a fairly simple task. I thought so before my brain injury. Even though I was very busy with a demanding job and other things in my life, I enjoyed cooking. I was never one to follow recipes. I preferred getting ideas from meals I ate in restaurants and looking in food magazines. I liked to create my own things and made many complex dishes for my family and guests.
I don’t really care to cook that much anymore. It was one the things I immediately stopped doing after my brain injury because I didn’t have the physical or cognitive energy. My family took care of cooking for me, including the shopping and the cleaning up. I just couldn’t do it. I was very weak at the beginning. My motor skills were off. Stirring and other rotating hand motions made me nauseous and dizzy. My vision had a number of problems that weren’t yet fully diagnosed. The tasks involved in trying to cook a small meal were too overwhelming for my brain to process easily.
I just didn’t cook. It was just too hard and it made me feel worse. I tried many times to at least help by doing a few tasks but often that was too much for me. We just don’t realize how much is happening when we cook something. You have to decide what ingredients and dishes you need. You need to wash and cut things up. You need to figure out the order and timing of things. You need to use motor and visual skills as you use utensils and do other cooking tasks. You need to use memory. You need to process things and sounds that are around you in the kitchen; you need to tune those things out and focus on what you’re doing. I’m sure that’s just a small part of it. But you get the idea. Lots of stuff happening for our injured brain to process.
Over the last years I slowly expanded my cooking activities. I would do easy things at first. Someone in my family would help by cutting things up for me. Someone was also always standing by to save me. They also were quiet while I cooked. They knew that any talking; or having the TV or radio on would cause too many problems for me. I had to have silence and no distractions while I cooked. S..l..o..w..l..y over the last seven years, I am doing more cooking and even talk at the same time! It sounds silly but that’s how it is. I expect some of you can relate.
I don’t really enjoy cooking that much anymore. I still have to approach it differently than I did before. It’s a lot more work. I usually always burn one part of the meal. It’s kind of a joke these days. I’d like to also thank my husband for stepping in and cooking many of our dinners these days. He’s become a wonderful cook!