It’s still winter here! We all want hot food. Maybe you’d love to make a nourishing soup or a big breakfast for yourself or your family. At the Carroll Center we have clients arriving every couple of weeks who haven’t cooked for several years. They feel – or their families feel – that cooking isn’t safe for them now.
This isn’t true. If you have always cooked, you already have hand skills and a lot of knowledge about how to cook that will continue to serve you well whether or not you can see. But there may be a period at the beginning of losing vision when you don’t feel ready for cooking on the stove with its open gas flame or red-hot discs. There are also lots of Americans who just never learned to cook past a bare minimum, and some who have grown up with vision loss where cooking just wasn’t on the agenda. In all of these circumstances there are three cooking appliances that are the most useful and safe to begin with.
But you have to mark the control panel with big bold letters or bump dots so you can use the appliances independently. Setting the control from memory might be fine when you are on top of your game. But the large print or raised markings are there so you can check what you are doing. This is especially important when you are distracted, stressed-out or sick. That’s when mistakes and accidents happen.
All these appliances are hard to knock over, they have switch-off timers or low heat settings, they are unlikely to burn you, and they can be used while you’re seated at a table.
Don’t rush out to buy a fancy model. You almost always want the simple basic model, because the expensive ones have too many settings, usually involving reading a screen.
1. Microwave Oven
For most people who have sight loss a regular microwave with a touch control panel will be fine, once you has put the markings on the touch controls.
Make sure you get very different markings or bump dots for the stop/clear control, the power control, and the 1-minute control or the number pad . And of course you need to know which is the start button.
A microwave oven is safest using microwave-safe ceramic or paper dishes. It defrosts and reheats most food very well. It isn’t so good for cooking foods from scratch except fish and – oddly – bacon.
2. Crock Pot or Slow Cooker
Buy any small crock pot with a dial. The big ones are usually too big and heavy. They don’t get used, but the small ones can be great. You can put the ingredients for your big soup, chili or stew together the evening before in the ceramic part of the crock pot. Stir everything together, put on the lid and leave it overnight in the refrigerator. In the morning you place the ceramic pot in the metal cooking container, and push the crock pot to the back of your counter so there’s no trailing electrical cord, plug it in and set the dial. You can put different markings to indicate the off, low and high heat positions. Some hours later you have a lovely hot meal, enough for two.
3. Induction Cooktop*
An induction cooktop needs particular kinds of pots and pans. You can only use stainless steel, cast iron or enameled pans. Copper and aluminum won’t work. The surface of an induction cooktop does not get hot – that’s right! Only the area directly under the pan gets hot as well as the food, of course. The food cooks in an ordinary way and you can cook anything just as you would on the stove top. There is usually a timer which switches off the cooktop – just as a microwave does, and it shuts down if you use the wrong kind of pot or no pot at all. Induction cooktops are getting popular and the settings more complicated. Here is one that is still simple. I haven’t tried it, but it’s a good brand.
Aroma single burner digital induction cooktop A-14024411, available at Target for $70.
Mark the settings with bold or raised markings, including the on/off, low, medium and high
* If you wear a pace-maker check with your doctor before you buy an induction unit.e
There’s a lot of background knowledge that anyone who hasn’t cooked needs to understand and work on. And there are new skills using touch and hearing instead of sight that you need to put in place. If you are thinking of living on your own, or are head of a household, you will benefit a great deal from a full training at somewhere like the Carroll Center to cover all the aspects of nutrition, shopping, cooking and food storage before you can be the head cook at your place.
Meanwhile, you can start cooking again and feel good about it.
What are your favorite cooking appliances? Do you want to add to these 3?