People periodically pose the query: can I cook, and what types of food do I like to make? I quickly explain how things are now pre and post MS regarding my cooking skills. For example, I could cook very well pre MS, and I received many complimentary accolades every time I cooked. I shared how I prepared meals using the stove and oven from a young age and not merely assembled cold-cut sandwiches. I learned how cooking is like art, meaning if you dislike something, simply omit it from the pan. On the other hand, baking is like chemistry; it will not bake correctly if you do not add everything. From the age of thirteen, I was cooking for my mom, so she could simply sit and scarf, no fuss, no muss when she got home.
Since we did not have cable, I vigilantly viewed many cooking shows on public broadcasting television. I observed these shows, soaking up every drop of education they served, becoming an outstanding student. They educated me on the difference between making onions translucent and sauteing them and how to sear, stir-fry, and even when to bake versus broil. In addition, these instructors shared how to steam and not boil your veggies, as you should be able to eat them with a fork and not drink them through a straw. I learned so much about cooking as a young boy that I became pretty good at it. Cooking became second nature to me, meaning it was as easy as tying my shoes. I cooked not only for my mom and occasionally friends but also as other situations would arise. I was extremely good at cooking and baking, doing whatever the case demanded.
I was so creative with my provision preparations that it amazed others that a middle schooler cooked it. In the beginning, I made magical meals like an open-faced beef patty sandwich topped with broccoli and provolone cheese. I knew how to steam the broccoli, so it was hot but not mushy, and how to superbly season it with salt. Then, my favorite high school teacher got married, and as a fourteen-year-old boy, I made her a gift basket to celebrate the occasion. This offering had a loaf of my homemade zucchini bread, homemade chicken noodle soup, and a bottle of sparkling wine.
Mostly, my multiple sclerosis has eliminated the idea of actual cooking from my brain. Also, I do not want to put in any significant effort for cooking or cleanup because I am only one person. My multiple sclerosis put me in my charming chariot, making stovetop or oven use literally as well as figuratively out of reach. “So what, pray tell, do you eat?” was their query, and I explained it depends on how I am feeling, meaning how much energy I have. I have stepped up my eating game from the days of eating poorly since I had no money, and now I am in a much better place mentally and financially. I now use a hot plate when I need to cook my food just for the record. So let me give a few examples of some of my current go-to meals.
Go-to meal number one: soft chicken tacos. I take three flour tortilla shells and heat them in the microwave one at a time as needed for twelve seconds to soften them. Next, take a heated taco shell and place a line of chicken pieces and an onion and pepper blend in the middle. Next, add some shredded cheese and a spoon of salsa to taste and make a tasty Mexican-style soft taco entrée. I have all three with a can of seltzer water to make a satisfying meal complete, making more if I am extra hungry.
My second go-to meal is shrimp and pasta. I buy pre-cooked shrimp. I cook my choice of pasta in the microwave, although I usually use penne pasta for this meal. Once the pasta is ready, I place it in a bowl and add the amounts of my choosing of sun-dried tomatoes, black olives, Feta cheese, salt, and pre-cooked shrimp. Lastly, add Italian dressing and then place the bowl in the microwave and heat for a minute or two until it is your temperature preference. I serve it with a side of cold seltzer water, and I have a simple and flavorful meal, so I eat and enjoy it.
The next meal is chicken quesadillas. Again, I use my hot plate for this one. I put frozen chicken strips in a small bowl, add the pepper and onion blend, and microwave for one minute. Then I take one midsize tortilla shell and put it in the microwave for twelve seconds to soften it up. Leaving the skillet turned off, I immediately assembled the quesadilla in the pan. I place one tortilla shell in the skillet, and on one half, I lay sliced pieces of chicken and add some of the pepper and onion blend. Next, I add shredded cheese to my liking and several leaves of fresh cilantro on top of the cheese.
Keeping the unused side bare, I fold it over onto the other side and hold it down for a few seconds. I set the temperature at about medium and let it sit on the first side for seven minutes before I flip it. Once I flip it onto the second side, I let it go for another three to four minutes, as I like mine a bit more crispy than some. Once it is crisp enough for me, I put it on a plate and serve it with a bowl of salsa and seltzer water, completing another delicious Mexican-style meal.
Thanks to WOSU television, my cooking education was extensive and varied. I watched these Italian, Mexican, Japanese, and even southern chefs cook foods worldwide. My mom, of course, fed me well through my childhood, as I always had three meals every day. However, there were many times when she was still at work and would not come home simply to make me a snack, and that was abuse if you asked me. Nevertheless, I ate great goodies during those times because I had the needed skills to cook and the required appetite to eat. All of that WOSU food education affected my entire life when it came to mealtime, and I would not change it for the world.
If all else fails, there is always cold cereal.