Cooking with Parkinson’s

“In the past, I would cook nonstop for three days. It was a production. Now I trim the menu to what I know I’ll be able to do.”

Denise Coley

The other day, going through my emails, I saw one that stopped me in my tracks: A Food Lovers Guide to Cooking with Parkinson’s from Epicurious, a website known for its recipes, not articles about chronic diseases. I love Epicurious and use it all of the time. I had never seen anything like this on the website before, so of course, I had to check it out.

The very first sentence quotes a Parkinson’s friend of mine, Denise Coley. That meant I had to read the whole article, and I was glad I did. It was well researched and had a lot of good information. And it reminded me that I should probably make some of the modifications it suggested rather than continuing to think that I can climb onto a kitchen counter to reach something high up in a cabinet. The problem is that my brain still thinks it lives in a teen-aged body most of the time. It’s not my fault that I forget to take more precautions.

Every year, I say that I am not going to overdo it when cooking for a holiday. And then I find some interesting new recipes that I just have to try and I am back to overdoing it again. I know that I won’t be able to move for the next day or two. Sorry Denise, it is just too hard to keep it simple for the holidays. I give you credit for being able to do so.

Some of the most important points from the article:

  • Cooking is a complex task that helps keep your thinking sharp and your body moving
  • ALWAYS use a sturdy stool with a handle to hold onto (I love the handy little folding stools that my grandchildren use to reach the sink, but they really are not made for adults)
  • Use your kitchen table for food prep if it is lower than your counters
  • Reorganize things that you use most so that they are between shoulder and knee level. Things you rarely use can be stored other places.
  • If you have difficulty handling a knife, you can use a cut-resistant glove, or pull out your food processer.
  • Use memory foam bathmats instead of kitchen mats. As they say in a second accompanying article (7 Tools That Make Cooking With Parkinson’s Easier): “They’re cheaper and easier to clean”

Some of my own kitchen hacks:

My Challah for Rosh Hashana

  • If you are having difficulty using knives for food prep, enlist a family member or caregiver to be your sous chef. Mr. Twitchy always volunteers when he sees me trying to handle a big chef’s knife.
  • Get rid of those kitchen items you rarely use. If you haven’t used them in the last year, especially when stuck home because of the pandemic, you will probably never use them. And it will free up more storage space for the things you really need, like bags of Skinny Pop Popcorn
  • Don’t bother buying a claw grabber. Instead, use extra long tongs(preferably with rubber tips) mentioned in the companion article to reach high-up items while standing on your sturdy stool. (I learned this one from my daughter who is even shorter than I am.)
  • Use appliances such as food processors, stick blenders (the best for soups), mixers, choppers, etc. to help you. I use my bread machine almost every Friday to make Challah. I throw the ingredients in, come back two hours later and it is ready to braid and shape. It saves me time and energy, although kneading bread dough can be very therapeutic.
  • Let someone else do the clean up. After all, you have had a great time making the kitchen a total mess. Now you can rest. (We have a fairly rigorously-followed house rule that we made up a long time ago: the person who cooks does not have to clean.)

Seriously, though, we all need to look at how we can make necessary accommodations as Parkinson’s progresses. Read the entire Epicurious article and the article accompanying it for many more ideas about safety in the kitchen. We need to make sure that we can still enjoy cooking and baking under safe conditions so that we are able to continue to do so for a very long time.

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