One of the skills Cody has been learning is cooking. Not only does he not mind it, he actually enjoys learning and performing culinary tasks. And he’s becoming quiet adept at it.
Normally when I have Cody help me in the kitchen, I assign him jobs such as stirring, using the electric mixer, adding premeasured ingredients and putting wrappers in the garbage. But this week I decided to step up his role as “sous chef.”
Originally Cody started off making simple foods. He has mastered sandwiches and soups. With prompts he can put together the ingredients for a cake mix, though adding the eggs is still a bit tricky for him. So Monday we brought out the cookbooks to find something that would challenge him further. Today he would be taking a much larger role in preparing dinner for the whole family.
I have always enjoyed cooking and I love to explore recipes from other cultures. As a result, Cody has grown up with a wide range of tastes and also knows that real meals take time and preparation because they are made from real foods such as fresh vegetables, meats, herbs and spices unlike the processed food that comes from a box. And I’ve taught him how unhealthy those processed foods can be. In going through our cookbooks, we found a recipe for the Caribbean version of peanut chicken and decided to try it.
While even some of Cody’s neurotypical peers might have looked at the list of ingredients and wrinkled up their noses, Cody is quite accustomed to seeing these items in our pantry. I wanted the process to be plain and clear, so I started off by writing all the ingredients in big bold letters on the dry erase board which hangs on our kitchen door.
We began by hand washing and talked about why to do so is important. Then it was time to gather all the ingredients we would need. I asked Cody to read the first item on the list and then had him pull it from the pantry or refrigerator and put it on our workspace on the counter. We did this with each item on the list until we had everything we needed. He even got to cut some fresh thyme from the plant on our patio. Now it was time to really get down to business.
Next I showed Cody how to properly hold the large knife I use for chopping and how to cut the tough ends off of the cloves of garlic. This required a lot of hand-over-hand help and close supervision from me. Next he learned how to crush and peel the cloves and add them to the mixing bowl. It took several prompts to get him to whack the side of the knife hard enough to crush the clove but he got the hang of it.
Adding the thyme was next. I showed him how to strip the small leaves from the stem into the bowl. He was rather intrigued by that process so that really didn’t take long. Adding the lemon juice, salt and pepper required little instruction from me. Next we added the chicken pieces and stirred it all up, covered the bowl, and left the mixture to marinate in the fridge for a few hours.
While that was going on, Cody and I went shopping for fresh plantains to fry and serve with the meal. He always enjoys going grocery shopping, but by the time we got home I could tell he was ready for a break. So I finished the rest up by myself.
All in all I was very proud of how well Cody did at learning and completing these new tasks and successfully making the marinade with relatively little help from me. Who knows? Perhaps one day these skills will lead to an occupation in the culinary profession for him … which would be just awesome.