One thing which I really struggled to get my head around – and I still find a struggle – is cooking.
I was lucky growing up that my Mum took on the job of preparing and cooking us healthy meals 3 times a day. This meant that for a long time I didn’t have to face the task which I found so daunting.
However, I do enjoy and am good at baking. I find the recipies much easier to understand. Weigh each ingredient out as specified, then mix them all together and pop it in the oven – there’s not as much confusion involved when baking a cake.
In secondary school we had to take part in ‘food technology’ classes as part of the curriculum from the age of 13 to 15 years old. I dreaded these classes. I never understood what the recipe books were asking of me and always got myself in a mess. Most of my meals were burnt or were inedible in taste and my teachers were never helpful other than telling me to follow the recipe… which is what I was already trying to do to the best of my ability.
After a few failed attempts in my school lessons, my Mum started to teach me how to make basic meals. I remember the first time I made myself beans on toast – I was so proud that I had managed to put the meal together with no disasters.
Cooking is an important life skill which allows those on the spectrum to be independent. Since, moving into my own house I understand the importance of learning this skill and am grateful my parents took the time and patience to teach me. Unfortunately, not everyone will have this same support available to them. This is yet another sector where there is a lack of government funding and more campaigning is necessary.
My one success at beans on toast wasn’t a, ‘problem solved’ situation. Some of my more recent cooking failures include when my toast was wedged in the toaster… I put a knife in to get it out. Luckily for me, the electrics tripped off rather than me getting a nasty shock. It never occurred to me the danger in doing this, I was never told not to put metal in the toaster so I never knew not to – following this event and after lots of educating from my Dad, I now know where I can and can’t put certain items… oops. I’m still improving my cooking knowledge everyday. Even now, I sometimes have to Google search certain ingredients and words to check what the recipe is asking me to do. It’s important to remember to ask for help when you need it.
Another brilliant effort of mine is being asked to fill the kettle to the top. So… I literally filled it to the top – not to the indicated full line. As the kettle boiled the water exploded all over the kitchen counter, including the electrical sockets. My Autistic brain carried out the actions exactly as it was told to do and didn’t think about why the kettle may have a full line. This may seem like a ridiculous mistake to make for a neurotypical but this is where recipe books often fail us and why you must always be so careful in how you word your instructions towards us as we will often take everything literally.
Recipe books are not Autism friendly. There are often no, carefully worded, direct instructions and the jargon used can be very confusing if you have no cooking knowledge. I have attempted to write out my own recipes for the first 3 meals I ever learnt to make – you will find the recipes available for download at the bottom of this blog post. I have tired to be as direct as possible in my instructions and have also included pictures as a visual aid. I really hope they will be of some help to others. If it is your first time trying a recipe then maybe ask for some supervision from a family member, friend or carer; this may help make it all feel a little less overwhelming.
If you have an issue with any of the steps or feel an instruction could be clearer then please get in touch and I can edit them as suggested. If there are any other recipes you would like me to try and write out then please ask and I will be happy to do so.
My first 3 Recipes: