For me, and millions of others, the holiday season means a LOT of time in the kitchen preparing delectable food, treats, and sweets for family and guests.
A few years ago I was sequestered in the kitchen baking a triple batch of banana bread which was turning out to be a bit more challenging, and time-consuming, than I anticipated – or wanted. Suddenly it ‘dawned’ on me how a hearing loss impacts one’s life in ways we typically do not consider – like, in the kitchen. Now, I anticipate and have learned how to work around challenges the kitchen experience has taught me.
Here are a few of the challenges experienced over the years, along with hints of how to make your culinary experiences this time of year far more enjoyable, and tasty, for all.
Cooking and listening
I can’t do ANYTHING else while “listening.” This means, if someone comes into the kitchen and starts talking, I have to stop what I am doing and turn to have face-to-face contact with the person in order to read lips and ‘hear’ them. Unfortunately, having to do so now prevents me from finishing my tasks – some of which typically means the difference between edible and non-edible… or at least, tasty. I now explain – up front – to my guests (I’ve already hammered this into family members): “While I love the fact you wish to keep me company, it is best not visit me while I’m in the kitchen.” I appreciate the help, often welcome it; however, guests to my kitchen space are now tactfully requested to limit the conversation – or the food may never hit the table.
Water running in the sink isn’t as much of a problem now thanks to my cochlear implant. For most of my life I could not hear water running; even with hearing aids in my ears and turned on. It is a major miracle I haven’t flooded our home; yet, I’ve come close enough to doing so to realize I don’t have the luxury of quickly tending to something else while water is running in the sink. All cooks have a shortened attention span, especially when multitasking in the kitchen during holiday cooking. Patience is more than a virtue here – it’s necessary to focus on the task at hand when using the sink – or risk a flood. Water in a glass on the table is good; water is floating your dinner guests, along with the dinner table and the meal out the front door from an overflowing sink… not so good.
It doesn’t matter what type of timer it is; they are all nearly impossible to hear when they go off. Worse, if the timer is competing with other noise in the kitchen, it is guaranteed to be missed. Of course, there are consequences to this – such as ‘crispy,’ rather than chewy food when we miss the timer. When they invent one with an amplifier which has the volume of a Klaxon horn, we will all celebrate. (Note: A Klaxon enabled timer is not to be mixed with a souffle or Angel Food Cake… J).
During the eye-opening banana bread incident, I had three different sizes of bread requiring different baking times. After the first 30 minutes, I was enslaved to the oven, keeping an eye on the time to make sure I didn’t miss the sound of a timer and overbake the remaining bread. As I’m not quite adept enough with my phone to set a vibrating timer, and I don’t particularly like wearing my phone when in the kitchen, I learned to assign the task “timer listener” to someone else.
Help the cook
Hearing loss of any degree adds a dimension of complexity to everyday tasks; more so, to special ones like baking those holiday meals and treats. As a guest, whether you are hearing impaired or not, it is polite to ask the person doing the cooking if they’d like a company in the kitchen. If no, be okay with it; If yes, please remember these tips:
- -It is difficult to cook and talk at the same. Let the person with the hearing loss carry the conversation. Talk when they can watch you without slowing down their food preparation.
- -Listening for the timer or watching the water level as the sink, pots, or pans, fill are simple yet helpful tasks. Help is always much appreciated here.
- -Listen for other important sounds the chef might miss. Someone calling from the other room, perhaps? A glass breaking on the counter? A knife falling to the floor? Water boiling? Tea kettle whistling?
The happy ending is that all my banana bread came out just fine. Be aware; Be sensitive; Make modifications, and your holiday kitchen endeavors are sure to turn out with far less exasperating; not to mention-DELICIOUS!
Lastly, and more importantly, remember to kiss the cook.