Sunday, January 16, 2011

Quad Engineering: Making Mac & Cheese

The fact that I am taking the time to write a blog post about making Mac & Cheese makes me feel like I am twelve years old, yet at the same time the foregoing almost perfectly demonstrates a microcosm of my perpetual lack of even simple culinary skills on account of having paralyzed quadriplegic hands with no voluntary finger movement. Even at thirty-two years old, like any red blooded American, I can get some pretty mad hankerings for Kraft Macaroni & Cheese every now and again. I say Kraft brand Mac & Cheese because although my pallet has discriminated against the generic kinds less and less as I’ve gotten older, Kraft is still the best by far, and as much as possible that’s still the kind I’m eating.

But for the better part of a decade now I’ve been largely deprived of that good stuff because I haven’t been able to prepare it myself. The main culprit has always been the part of the preparation process that involves taking the pot with scalding hot water off the hot stove, moving it to the sink and pouring the hot contents it into a strainer, and then putting the hot pot and noodles back on the stove. It’s a key step that I haven’t been able to do on my own. If the sink is across the room from the stove, as was the case when I lived with my parents through college, then the only way I could strain the pot would be to carry it on my lap from one side of the room to the other. That’s not happening. Similarly, if the sink and stove share the same stretch of counter, as is the case in my current apartment, sliding the pot off the stove burner and down the counter to the sink still leaves my lap vulnerable to potential burns if the pot tips or water spills out. That aside, with very limited grasping ability the act of tilting the pot to dump out the water and noodles leaves my hands vulnerable to burns from the outer edge of the pot as well.

So making mac & cheese on my own has been a no go for over fourteen years. Instead, I’ve had to have family or PCAs do it for me, which has always felt very limiting. But all that changed a few months ago thanks to a little quad engineering. I was making something for dinner that involved scooping hot, wet food with a strainer spoon and suddenly it hit me that I could use that same spoon to scoop the mac & cheese noodles from the pot with the hot water to a second pot to finish the cooking process, thereby eliminating the need to move a hot pot of water over to the sink to strain the noodles. So I tried it and it worked pretty well, except for the highly tedious process of fishing noodles out of the pot with hot water spoonful by spoonful.

The second time I made it I used much less water to cook and soften the noodles so that made it a little bit less of a fight to fish the noodles out, but needing to use about twenty five total spoonfuls to transfer them all was still annoying. But I was actually making mac & cheese entirely on my own so I didn’t care. The third time I made it I couldn’t grab the big cooking pot out of the cabinet below my stove so I cut to the chase with the smaller pot I had been using just to mix the cheese, butter, and milk with the noodles in the second cooking phase. That pot was small enough to slide it safely across my counter from the burner to the sink, then I used the handle to tip the pot and pour out the hot water into my sink. Unlike my bigger cooking pot, which has two stubby hand holds on the sides, the longer handle on the smaller pot allows me to keep my hands away from the hot pot surface while I dump the water. Then I slid it back to the stove and finished the job. And that’s how I’ve been making mac & cheese ever since because it’s eliminated the strained spoon transfer step.

So just like that, with a little quad engineering making a meal that once seemed impossible to prepare on my own has suddenly become very routine. At the least, it’s been fun getting the chance to eat like a teenager much more often on my own terms. Next up: trying to figure out how to cook with the oven without burning myself. Then I’ll really start kicking some solo culinary ass.

1 comment:

  1. You'll be on Food Network before you know it!