“But but…what about the chopping part?” I asked my OT nervously as I sat in the rehab kitchen while an inpatient at rehab 18 years ago. She didn’t have a ton of options to give me back then, except to use a quad cuff (a sturdy piece of plastic that Velcros to the hand) to insert a “normal” knife or, or to use my tenodesis splint (see here for more). Ug.
So as you can see, I had to get creative. If you’ve used either of the above options, you would know my cooking wouldn’t be getting too far. Stubborn to find a better way, I’ve discovered several cool techniques and gadgets since that have enabled me to be nearly 100% independent, and this is without being able to move any of my fingers. Granted, I can still move my wrists, but my hands are near fists.
So let’s get on with it. Here are four of my absolute favorite ways to chop veggies, no one helping me, get-out-of-my-way, vamooosh. You get the idea. Enjoy!
Ninja Express Chop
Years ago I was dating a Sous chef. One Christmas he bought me a Slap Chop, a plastic chopping gadget that claims to chop vegetables with one fell swoop. The only problem is that it fell apart. Cheaply made, which is why the awesome Ninja Express Chop is that superior sibling to the Slap Chop. And it’s only $20.
Red and sleek, it works by placing a small amount of vegetables (it works best on onions, garlic, nuts, bacon and other smaller items) directly underneath it and then hitting the blade with your hand, or your elbow or whenever you can use. The blade moves up and down and can grind as well. It also doesn’t require electricity, and the blades are extremely sharp, meaning it chops your veggies pretty quick. Yes!
Last tip: Make sure you use a hard flat surface when using this chopper. This is super important so it doesn’t go flying.
A staple in most kitchens, a mandolin slicer is a lap-sized plastic table and slider, with a sharp blade affixed to the top, allowing one to easily slice their veggies on it by mainly moving their arms. All you need to do is wedge whenever you’re trying to slice into your hand and then move your arm back and forth until whatever you’re holding is sliced (cut and julienned are options too). And for as little as $11, you can’t beat it.
If you’re not afraid to hold a sharp knife and have figured out a way to still hold a knife in your hand like me, ceramic knives are great way to go. They are light, thin and very sharp, making them the perfect knife for someone with limited dexterity.
Even though I can’t use my fingers, I will wedge the handle of the knife in between two of my fingers so I can still hold onto it. It works, but I can only do this with this type of knife. Check out the following variety pack of ceramic knives for $18 on Amazon. I definitely recommend these fantastic pieces of cutlery. They have been my lifesavers.
It may seem like the obvious choice and well, it kind of is, but having a quality food processor in your kitchen is a must if you have paralyzed fingers. I have had only a few since I started to become really interested in cooking, so I don’t have the best first-hand advice to give on food processors.
But I do know that most chefs live and die by their food processor. It can speed prep times up by half. Now that is something when you’re trying to get dinner quickly on the table and your fingers are driving you crazy. I have found this Hamilton Beach one very easy to use.
Remember, whatever you are faced with after paralysis, don’t think you can’t do it. You’re just going to need a different gadget to get it done, just like with chopping. From your wheelchair to your food processor, it’s all the same. The key is being open to the idea of being different, and then thinking outside of the box will be a cinch.
What super easy chopping gadgets did I forget?
Photo courtesy of Flickr