Friday, November 4, 2011

The art of cooking with multiple sclerosis

I’ve long preached the importance of pursuing your active passions with multiple sclerosis, but “active” can mean different things to different people. To some it might mean swimming up the Nile dodging crocodiles and hippos; to others it means just doing what you love to do, at least when it takes more effort than lifting your right arm to down a beer. (Or for you southpaws, your left arm.)

One of my personal passions is cooking—I am an unabashed foodie—yet for the past two years I’ve deftly avoided hosting dinner parties. Too much work and stress, I reasoned. But lately I’d been more Balsa Wood Chef than Iron Chef, even though I regularly cook up a storm for Laura. (Literally. The kitchen post-Dave always looks like a typhoon of feral cats roared through.) But after being the dinner guest one too many times at the homes of friends, I realized it was time to throw down and chef it up. So this past weekend I decided to cook an over-the-top, use-every-dish-and-glass-in-the-house six-course extravaganza for eight. When I do something, I do it right. What the hell was I thinking?

The menu was as ambitious as an eight-year-old on Halloween lugging both a wagon and a pillowcase to haul the goods. An Italian cheese and olive plate to start, followed by an arugula salad with shaved Parmigiano Reggiano, a white bean Tuscan soup with pancetta and rosemary, a palate-cleansing lemon sorbet, then a shitake/cremini mushroom pasta alongside sliced filet mignon (cooked rare) drizzled with extra virgin olive oil and a squeeze of lemon. For desert: a decadent chocolate pot de crème with fresh raspberries and vanilla-infused whipped cream. Beverage courses: sparkling Prosecco, a bright Vermentino, a rich Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, and a potent grappa.

It went flawlessly—and I spent most of my time chatting instead of sweating in the kitchen. How? Spreading out the work, sitting down at every opportunity, and enlisting help (aka, better half). Shopping was done on Wednesday. The soup and dessert were made on Thursday. The house was picked up and the table set on Friday. The only dishes that needed preparing on Saturday were the steak and mushrooms, both of which were based on relatively easy recipes. Before guests arrived, cheese was plated, the lemon/olive oil vinaigrette was whisked, and the soup was warming.

To my fellow MS cooks out there, as the threat of holiday entertaining rolls around, know that if a gimp like me can get his chef on, there's a good chance you can, too. And eating extravagantly at home won’t destroy your budget like a meal out. Without the alcohol, it was all affordable, less than $100. Just remember, keep capturing that kitchen passion with patience, prep, and props (e.g., a well-placed chair). But for goodness sakes, recruit someone to do dishes. I only recently got rid of my ungodly feral cat infestation!

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Me too, love to cook but my dishes must fit into steps.
Gather ingredients, rest.
Dice, chop, prep, rest.
Combine, cook, rest, cook, rest.
Serve, eat and rest.
One caveat, DW and I cannot occupy the same kitchen at the same time, it's fire and water.

Also love to bake bread. Bread baking is perfect for a MSer.
Gather, measure, mix ingredients and set aside to rise (rest).
Turn out raised dough, portion, shape and set aside to proof (rest).
Bake and rest.
There is nothing better than warm bread fresh from the oven.

Art to Shirt said...

Thanks Dave I do love food, since I gave up my Rock and Roll lifestyle...lol

Dave Bexfield said...

I think it is critical to cook in steps. I definitely need my rest! I keep my DW out of the kitchen, too, except in cases like a dinner party or for b-fast. She does a mean waffle. Folks can ping me with an e-mail if you want to contribute to a cooking tips & tricks article for ActiveMSers.

Anonymous said...

um, Dave...who do I see about getting an invitation to your next dinner party?
Jstlookn

Linda Thomas said...

For people living with MS, figuring out what's causing the problem is often the first step toward finding an appropriate treatment. If you are experiencing signs of depression or another emotional issue, consult your doctor.