Recipes For A Good Cook With Hearing Loss

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.

5. Enjoy.

 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.

Hard-Boiled Eggs

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.

Canola oil

Seasoned rice wine vinegar

Pinch of sugar

One chopped garlic clove

Fresh pepper

Sea salt

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!

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About Gael Hannan

Gael Hannan is a writer, speaker and advocate on hearing loss issues. In addition to her weekly blog for HearingHealthMatters.org, which has an international following, Gael wrote the acclaimed book "The Way I Hear It: A Life with Hearing Loss". She is regularly invited to present her uniquely humorous and insightful work to appreciative audiences around the world. Gael has received many awards for her work, which includes advocacy for a more inclusive society for people with hearing loss. She lives with her husband on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada.

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Phyllis sarto

Even though I am an avid baker and cook, I still need dicipline re leving the kitchen. Either I stay in the kitchen during procedures or carry the timer with me. I must stay off the computer until I’m through cooking or there’s trouble. I’ve burned gorgeous pecans, overcooked rice, and once in error put liquid soap in my dishwasher-(incredible results!!! )

Kenny Hynes

Would love to hire you as a caterer for Happy Hands deaf seniors group once a month in Northern Virginia.

Jacquie Reid

Here is my favourite Balsamic Vinaigrette:

1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp dark brown sugar
1/2 tsp salt (OR I use Herbamare because of my Meniere’s disease)
2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Shake the ingredients in a jar with a tight-fitting lid. Store in fridge so it’s always handy. You just need a dab to give your salad a nice touch. Bring it out of the fridge about 30 minutes before using.

Leon Mills

Hello Gael: I created a kitchen disaster last year after the cooking was done. Everyone had departed the house and I was cleaning up the kitchen. I turned the water on in the sink and then went to my computer on the dining room table and proceeded to forget about the running water. Well, about an hour and a half later, I got up from the table and looked into the kitchen (the sink was about 12 feet from where I was sitting). Needless to say, the F word could be heard about four doors down from my house. Water… Read more »

Kathy Evans

My step mother had been a fabulous cook then started having one disaster after another. She couldn’t “even bake cookies”. She needed you, Gael, or at least a good vibrating timer. Thanks for your fun insights that ring so true!

Cyril Peach

Excellent blog. I don’t usually hear my oven telling me that it has preheated, so I have to watch for that as well as the timer.