In the kitchen with RA
When I was twelve, I road my bike downtown with my mom’s green stamp book in my pocket. I road my bike back home with my first Betty Crocker Cookbook . I still have it. Now I have many recipe resources including the food section in the NY Times, All recipes and Martha Stewart emails, and King Arthur Baking Recipes.
Now I have Rheumatoid Arthritis and my life has added uphill challenges. Between RA pain and fatigue, doctor visits and drug complications, ambition frequently descends into the basic mode of required activity. That activity is as basic as getting dressed in the morning. Cooking? Is it really necessary anymore especially when you add the difficulties of RA to the mix? For some of us, it is. I like to cook. I like the taste of homemade meals. I like the fragrance of baking bread coming from the oven. I enjoy working with my tools and ingredients in my kitchen. Fresh fruit and veggies. Organic chicken. Cream, buttermilk, unsalted butter. Working in my kitchen is an activity I would not want to give up despite RA.
RA changes you forever. Change can be quick, but it also can be plodding and subtle. Dangerously so. So slow that you don’t notice the change in how you look at yourself. You don’t see that you are beginning to think like a victim. It is hard to see when you are sliding into a feeling of helplessness. It is very easy to do when you have a chronic disease. thinking like a victim or feeling that you are helpless. These are the feelings that send us on a downward spiral. We end up becoming stuck. We don’t want to land there. RA is forever. It won’t go away with time. It is necessary to learn how to live with it. If something in our life doesn’t work, we need to change it even though it’s not often easy. I enjoy making dinner for my son. Because of my RA, I’ve had to make changes to keep up my routine.
First, I do keep the freezer stocked with quick meals for those times when we need them. These are meals I buy. Most nights I prefer homemade variety. Tonight, we are having turkey burgers. I made the dough for the buns in my bread machine, shaped them and baked them. Easy for me. You might buy the buns. I mixed and refrigerated the ground turkey ingredients.
I function best with batching my tasks. All I have left is to cook the burgers and put out condiments. The burgers turned out to be quite good. The recipe is an old one from the NY Times. Later in the afternoon I usually start to feel fatigued. So, when I make parts of my dinner earlier in the day, dinner isn’t so hard to make.
My hands are deformed. Presently, I can use the pointer fingers from each hand to type. For a while I had one pointer finger in use. Hard to type with one finger. I do tend to drop items. And I’m aware of it. I hold on with more conscience deliberation when I’m working in the kitchen. Washing the meal prep dishes by hand with hot water running over those very hands feels quite nice.
It is important that as our circumstances change, we adjust and change to make life better for ourselves. I guess it is called adaptation. It is overwhelming if you look at it that way, but even if we didn’t have RA, we still will have to do it. With RA there is just more to it. Life is harder. Gadgets and time saving tools make life easier and less frustrating. I have a gadget called a reacher. I used it this morning to get a bag of coffee off a high shelf. Handy.
I love to bake. It is creative. It is even meditative. I found a wonderful book on baking called Flour. My son bought it for me. I learned amazing things like how to make the best ever scones and spicy molasses cookies. I learned how to weigh my ingredients and found it easier than using measuring cups. I learned to make crème fraiche and chocolate ganache. These are easy to make in spite of their sophisticated names. There is a certain joy to it all. It means the good things in our lives are available to us even though we have RA.