I’m a reasonably good cook, nothing fussy or time-consuming, but I do make a wicked vinaigrette. While browsing the internet for recipes, I found these fundamentals of what makes a good cook – not a world-class chef, just a good cook:
1. Creativity combined with ability to follow a recipe
2. Sharp knives
3. Fresh ingredients
But, for the hard of hearing cook, I would like to add an important rule: Do not, under any circumstances, leave the kitchen until the recipe is completed.
Like anyone who pulls regular kitchen duty, I’ve had my share of cooking disasters. Nothing major – I have never burned down the kitchen and or blown up the oven. But I have turned out inedible desserts (it’s impossible to get the beyond-bitter taste of coffee-butterscotch cake out of my mouth’s memory) and I am challenged when trying to have all my dinner dishes ready at the same time. Peas with your apple pie, anyone?
But in my own defense, some of my culinary mishaps are directly linked to my hearing loss.
The delights of food and its preparation involve all five of our senses – taste, sight, smell, touch and hearing. Yes, hearing – have you ever considered the sounds associated with food? The simple sounds produced by preparing or eating food such as cereal’s snap-crackle-and-pop, the crunchy bite of celery and apples, the gurgling of orange juice being poured into a glass, or a fork scraping up the last bit of cake and icing on a plate. (Let’s not mention the sounds of open-mouthed mastication.)
But I’m also talking about the important noises of the cooking process that alert the cook that it’s time for the next step in the recipe:
Water bubbling into a boil
Steam hissing from a pot
The splat of spaghetti sauce exploding in the microwave
The incessant dinging of a timer
High-frequency, high-decibel stir-fry sizzling that puts my hearing aids into compression
I don’t always hear these sounds unless I’m reasonably close and can see the activity. (And tomato sauce rocketing around the microwave is actually quite pretty.)
The hearing cooks can leave the kitchen, wander about the house, and still hear those warning signs that those of us with hearing loss do not, especially when there’s background noise of any sort. If I go upstairs to my office – just for a moment – my focus can easily shift from dinner to something else, this blog for example. And when that happens, there’s absolutely no way I’m going to hear a boil gone berserk, eggs cooking to a molten mass in a pot boiled dry, water left running in the sink, or that ding-dingity-dinger screaming that something is done, over-done or burnt to a crisp.
So take my advice and sharpen your knives, gather your ingredients – and stay in the kitchen. And while you’re confined to quarters, enjoy yourself. Turn on the kitchen TV and watch the captioned news. Sip on a glass of wine. Every once in a while, throw a splash into your creation on the stove and enjoy the sizzle.
Follow these guidelines, people with hearing loss, and you will be a good cook with fewer disasters. And now here are a couple of basic recipes for the person with hearing loss, triple-tested in my kitchen.
How to Enjoy a Good Cup of Coffee
1. Use a DRIP coffee maker.
2. Prepare coffee the way you like it – weak or strong, milk, cream or sugar
4. Hold cup carefully so as not to burn your hands.
The key point here, for the drinker with hearing loss, is do NOT under any circumstances use a percolator, even though I think coffee tastes better that way. But if you must, please make sure the lid is on before starting.
When I was a teenager, I made a pot of coffee in our trusty electric percolator, but forgot the bit about the lid. I sat four feet away at the kitchen table, immersed in a book. My mother entered the kitchen and yelled, “Gahhhh!!” As I looked up, a hot splash hit me on the cheek. The coffee was percolating noisily all over the kitchen, and I hadn’t heard a thing. (Or felt anything, obviously.)
This is a true story that proves people with hearing loss should use automatic drip coffee makers.
1. Cover eggs with cold water, cover and bring to boil.
2. Remove immediately from heat.
3. Set timer for 15 minutes.
4. Sit on a kitchen chair and don’t take your eyes off timer, or you may not hear it go off.
5. Rinse eggs with cold water and enjoy.
Everybody has their own way to hard-boil eggs, but this works best for me. For years before adding the fourth step, I would wander off and forget about the eggs, ending up with a pile of rubbery white rocks. If you must leave the room, carry your cell phone as a timer; when your pocket vibrates, run like mad and cold-rinse those eggs!
Gael’s Sound-Free Vinaigrette
I love this one because it’s simple and involves absolutely no warning sounds.
Seasoned rice wine vinegar
Pinch of sugar
One chopped garlic clove
Combine in a glass jar and allow flavors to blend for a few minutes. As we say in Canada, délicieux!
If anyone would like to share their Recipes for the Hard of Hearing Cook, please do!