Equal Opportunity Cooking and Eating

I learned to cook my first dish—an egg fried in butter—when I was in second or third grade. Decades later, I still remember the satisfaction of that newfound independence. I’d heat the stove, cut a hunk of butter and drop it onto the small frying pan, watch it sizzle and melt, and then crack the egg into the pan. I’d watch it cook up into something warm and tasty, and when it was finished, I’d slide it onto a plate and feed myself. We all need to eat to survive, but food preparation can be difficult for many people for a variety of reasons. Two books (one old, another new) make meal preparation accessible to people with disabilities or developmental challenges and also explore the rewards that come from cooking with others.

Special Day Cooking, A Life Skills Cookbook
By Beverly Worth Palomba (Special Day Publishing, 2013)

This excellent book grew out of Palomba’s long tenure developing and teaching a life-skills curriculum at San Ramon High School for people with developmental challenges making the transition into independent living. It will appeal to people with autism, Down syndrome, ADHD, ADD, and other disabilities, as well as young people who simply want to learn to cook on their own. All 60 recipes, presented in large type with concise, easy-to-follow instructions, can be prepared in one hour or less with only a microwave, toaster, or blender and a plastic knife.

Cooking with Leo:
An Allergen-Free Autism Family Cookbook

By Erica Daniels (Skyhorse Publishing, 2017)

Author Erica Daniels is the mother of Leo, a child who has autism. Leo is afflicted with a number of food allergies and gastrointestinal disease, which Daniels has addressed through diet. Her cookbook shares 60 recipes and explains how cooking has allowed her to connect with her hard-to-reach child. Through trial and error and with Leo’s assistance, Daniels has figured out how to prepare nourishing meals for her entire family without gluten, dairy, soy, nuts, additives, or GMOs. In the process, she has also been teaching her son important life skills.

Edible East Bay’s book editor Kristina Sepetys is eager to share her ideas and book recommendations with our readers.