In our current society in the United States, it is not necessary to be able to cook beyond operating a microwave. Unfortunately, most of what you will get from experience will be unhealthy, expensive, revolting, or all three in some measure.
Cooking for Alice, in theory, has an additional challenge: no gluten, as she has Celiac disease which comes along with Down syndrome at a rate of 7-16%. In practice, it’s not that much of a challenge if you are prepared to read labels and to cook from scratch ingredients most of the time, which is something that we have done in our house anyway, so it’s not so much of a big deal.
Every couple of weeks, I try to do some cooking with Alice, usually from a recipe and at her current state of development, she can read a recipe if she concentrates but needs help following every step. So I give her the recipe and let her tell me what ingredients I need and I get them out. It’s not a complete mise-en-place, but it’s close enough. I think that in my copious spare time I could rewrite recipes to be more accessible for her, but sometimes you just have to work with what’s in front of you.
This time around, I saw a recipe from Alton Brown for oatmeal banana bread and it looked like it would be a good candidate for modification to make it gluten-free. The first thing to work with is the oats. Oats are in theory gluten free, but may be processed in a facility that also processes wheat and that’s no good. Also, be aware that some people with Celiac disaease also have problems with oats because of the gliadin protein. So we started with Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free Oats.
which will at least be free from cross-contamination. Then we set up my pseudo mise:
For most recipes, a mise-en-place doesn’t help me, but I’m not doing this. Alice is doing it and organization will set you free. Brown’s recipe calls for all-purpose flour, but we’re going to use Namaste gluten free flour. No GF flour will ever be a perfect substitute because of the missing proteins, but for this recipe it will work because banana bread is not bread. It’s cake. Cake has different requirements and textures and GF flour is closer to cake flour so it is what is.
I had Alice work through the steps and tried to get her to do as many of the steps as possible.
The food processor is a little scary because this is not a device that I want Alice to try to use on her own, but it requires 4 separate steps before it runs, so I’m pretty sure that she won’t be able to do this on her own.
I let Alice inspect the batter after each egg and let me know when it was all mixed in.
Here is where the rubber meets the road. Alice didn’t want to work her stroke-affected hand, but I’m sorry, she needed to peel the bananas with two hands (works so much better). And hey look, I chose the bowl with the handle on it because mashing bananas is fun and even better when you need to use two hands.
Batter goes in pan.
Loaf comes out of oven to cool.
And into slices.
And it’s nice when it gets served with a nice dollop of whipped cream.
In the end, Alice and I got to spend time together that was a positive learning experience for her and time when she’s not actively yelling at me. And it was delicious.