Taco Monday: “Back” to the Kitchen (Alternative Subtitle: Learning How to Cook with the Help of My OT)

For weeks, my occupational therapist talked about getting me “back” to the kitchen. I explained to her at least thrice that I was never really in the kitchen to begin with, but she either didn’t want to believe me, thought that my memory was failing me, or had a faulty memory herself. And so yesterday I cooked.

She let me choose the recipe, which would’ve been great if there were things that I normally made. I asked her what patients usually select; her answer—that she’d assisted people in preparing everything from bread to goat stew—wasn’t helpful, though, in the narrowing-it-down process. In the end, I decided on tacos based on: a) my husband’s love of them (he keeps a package of small corn tortillas on hand and tacofies an impressive range of food items that I’d never consider as potential taco fillings but that seem to work quite well, or so he claims); b) the fact that I like them just fine (I mean, they’re no boiled turnip with parmesan cheese and mayo, but I’m willing to admit that my food preferences aren’t mainstream); c) my suspicion that preparing them would involve a variety of skills; d) the cuteness of the taco emoji; and e) my inability to think of anything else.

I briefly wondered if taco-time wasn’t meant to be. First, there was an inpatient-related delay. Next, there was an OT-switch since the one that I had when I started neuro rehab takes the summers off. But as soon as I was back to day hospital, my new OT and I rescheduled.

As previously stated, yesterday was the big day: armed with a backpack full of ingredients and the will to turn them into something resembling tacos, I was picked up by Wheel-Trans and set off for the hospital. While in my first few sessions, anticipation started to set in, along with insecurity about the anxiety gurgling within me. Who gets nervous about making one of the most basic of dishes, among the earliest mastered by many North American youngsters? (Me, that’s who.) I imagined myself cutting off a finger or two; I envisioned burnt tortillas, a kitchen on fire, for that matter. And then, I used my best CBT brain and reminded myself that I’d have a professional in the room with me to help as necessary, that I’d have prompt access to medical care in the unlikely case that I did cut myself, and that there’d be a fire extinguisher nearby that I could use if anything started flaming.

To make a long story short, and since it went by in a flash, taco-making was a success. It was a slow process, and some aspects of it—chopping, for example—weren’t as smooth as I’d have liked, but it was a great start, and I now feel motivated to try other recipes in the comfort of my own kitchen. It’ll be important to remind myself that I don’t need to, and shouldn’t, go from an assembler and microwaver to a master chef in the space of a few weeks, especially given the energy-conservation and safety considerations to be made (my OT and I are going to discuss these over the next while). That said, it’s a real development that the desire to do more than melt some cheese on a pita or heat up a pre-prepared meal is there at all.

I’m cooking, I’m cooking! (Yes, this is unconventional taco filling.)

I brought my tacos home to have with a friend who was coming over for dinner while my husband was at the dentist’s. Being able to share something that I’d cooked with someone I love made me truly proud. Apparently other people experience this relatively frequently; it was a pretty new sensation for me, and one I’d like to feel more often.

Next up: falafel.

Ready for consumption.




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