I’ve finished one of my academic classes, and the other one has only two weeks left (HALP!). I figure that means it’s about time to start working on Cooking With ADHD.
Amazingly, my project exploring ways to simplify cooking for those of us who are (among other things) planning-challenged begins with a plan. Ironic, amirite?
So here’s the plan. I’m going to start by testing a few recipes myself and asking my friend Robert to test them as well (if you’d like to suggest or test ADHD-friendly recipes, let me know! The more, the merrier!).
I’m still working on my list of testing criteria, but here’s what I’ve got so far:
1. Manageable Ingredients
Sometimes this might mean sticking to the basics; sometimes it might mean using ready-made blends (like “apple pie spice” or “taco seasoning”) instead of buying and blending lots of individual herbs and spices.
The shorter the list, the less stressful it will be to work through it without the fear of skipping something important (like flour — remind me to tell you about the time that I read the ingredients list for a cookie recipe three times to make sure there really wasn’t any flour, only to discover that I was wrooooooong).
Accessibility is also important. While I love all kinds of exotic flavors, I’m not going to create an ADHD cookbook that assumes we’re all organized enough to go find the rarest Golden-Crested Phoenix Eggs or Celestial Foofoo Stamens (PS, I’m not actually picking on saffron … much ;)). Likewise, I don’t want to incorporate a lot of stuff that’s going to be used once or twice, then sit around cluttering up the spice rack. Instead, the idea is to develop a small stable of versatile spices that can transcend culinary borders.
2. Doable Instructions
The best ADHD-friendly recipes will come with short sets of one-line-at-a-time instructions. Others, we’ll have to modify for usability. This may be the most important thing.
3. Not So Many Steps
This isn’t to say that I won’t include a few more complex recipes for special occasions — but everyday recipes don’t need to read like aircraft-assembly instructions! The fewer steps there are between concept and implementation, the better the results are likely to be.
4. Not So Much Specialized Equipment
Even with meds, I am not sufficiently organized to own an actual food processor. This means that I don’t make anything that requires one.
The idea is to test recipes using pretty basic technology — an oven, bowls and spoons, a spatula, knives, a whisk or two, a hand-powered egg beaters, pots and pans. I own a proper fancy stand mixer, but since I can’t lift it down from the top of the fridge, I don’t use it. Folks who have things like food processors can use them to speed up some of the steps; I’ll try to include sidebars for things like that whenever possible.
The less stuff we have to buy, store, find, use, and clean, the more successful we’re going to be!
So with that in mind, here’s a list of the first few recipes I plan to road-test:
1. Slow-Poached (In-Shell) Eggs.
Poached eggs! Can these possibly truly be ADHD-friendly? I guess we’ll find out! The fact that you poach them in their shells means you can make a bunch and pop them back in the fridge to eat later, just like you would with hard-boiled eggs.
2. Roasted Chicken (or Game Hens!)
I’m pretty sure this one will fit the bill. I make roasted chicken all the time. It looks impressive, but it’s easy, and you can walk away from it for an hour and a half or so in the middle, which makes it a great thing to prepare for company.
3. Freezer-Marinated Steaks or Chicken Thighs
These are my go-to weeknight meals. Easy to make, easy to thaw, but not too repetitive — the number of flavor combinations is nearly limitless. (Seriously: the chicken version has turned into everything from Mediterranean-inspired pita sandwiches to Buffalo chicken strips!)
4. Microwave Eggs
These don’t really need a recipe; people just need to know that they’re even possible. My Mom taught me how to make them last time we visited her and my Step-dad, and I don’t really know how I’ve survived this much ostensible adulthood without them.
5. Yes, You Can Bake Bread
I make bread all the time using a profoundly simple recipe based on classic pizza dough. Swap butter in place of olive oil, and you’ve got a lovely baguette platform. Add cinnamon-sugar and raisins, and you’ve got Heaven on a plate. May I suggest pairing this with roasted chicken the next time you have friends over? That way, you don’t have to resist the temptation to eat all of it yourself 😉
So there we have it — the first five recipes. I’ll also include some veggie instructions so these can be made into full meals.
Edited for clarity and to clean up some messy code that always shows up when I type these on my tablet.
Recently I’ve been trawling for ADHD-friendly cookbooks.
The only problem is that, in essence, when you combine the terms “ADHD” and “Cookbook,” what you generally get is some variant of “Feingold Diet.”
Not that there’s anything fundamentally wrong with the Feingold plan: it’s nutritionally sound and seems to work pretty well for some kids — but that’s where the problem comes in. Essentially every Feingold resource is designed for parents without ADHD who have kids with ADHD. The same goes for just about every cookbook that aligns itself with ADHD.
The problem is, ADHD isn’t just a problem for kids (the same can be said for related conditions, like autism). Kids with ADHD often grow into adults with ADHD — and then we’re kind of stuck, cookbook-wise.
Adhering to the Feingold diet and any number of similar plans requires, more or less, making everything from scratch, at home — and it’s more complicated than many of us adults with ADHD can easily manage on our own.
I keep envisioning a cookbook — maybe even a life-management book — based on the SQUIRREL! principle. If I can get distracted by the proverbial SQUIRREL! mid-page and still re-find my place within a second or two, a given resource will probably work for me. If I can’t, it won’t. End of story.
Here’s the thing, though: I’m not really a food writer (Though I could be! I like food, I like writing, and I’m passably decent at both, so why not?), and I don’t really think of myself as someone who’s terribly representative of ADHD. I am a complex tangle of neurological anomalies and their attendant diagnoses. I am still not really clear as to whether I’m more “Asperger’s with Hyperactivity” or “ADHD with Asperger’s” (technically, I’ve been diagnosed with both — but I’m not sure that makes sense; I suspect it’s a question of mistaking facets of one thing for whole,separate things, like the blind men with the elephant). And, of course, there’s the whole Bipolar thing, too.
I suspect, though, that diagnostic complexities might not really matter, in this case. I suspect the challenges that I face in the kitchen might be pretty universal for those of us who are easily distracted, are prone to procrastination, and can’t sit still. I have a feeling, even, that some of my strategies might work for people with difficulties similar to mine.
So now I’m pondering the idea of creating a cookbook, mostly so I can have a cookbook that works for me, but also so other people can benefit from it. Assuming there’s not one out there that already meets the need.
I plan keep looking for an existing “Cooking with SQUIRREL!” cookbook — but if I don’t find one, maybe I’ll create one. What do you think, Internet? Is this something the world actually needs?