Cooking and baking can be difficult for many people, whether due to injury, cognitive issues, or physical disability. PW spoke with the authors of two spring titles that combat ableism in the kitchen, providing strategies that make it easier to prepare good meals at home.
“Everyone needs to eat; it’s a fundamental need,” says Jules Sherred, who blogs at Disabled Kitchen and Garden and is the debut author of Crip Up the Kitchen (TouchWood, May). “But the kitchen is the most ableist room in the house—a torture device.” The book’s 50 recipes rely on electric pressure cookers, air fryers, and bread machines—a tactic many enthusiastic home cooks dismiss as “not real cooking.” Sherred, who is disabled and neurodivergent, disagrees. “On social media, we’re met with, ‘You’re lazy,’ or ‘Why don’t you just try harder?’ ” he says, but “this isn’t something to overcome. What can I do to live with it and feed myself and not hurt myself in the process?”
Sherred’s dishes span a variety of cuisines influenced, he says, by his upbringing in diverse communities in British Columbia—think pressure cooker tahdig, air fryer Thai winter squash soup, and bread machine roti. Chapters group each recipe by the amount of effort required to get it on the table. “I want disabled and neurodivergent people to have enjoyment in the kitchen,” he says. “It’s also a bit of a social justice book—I want to challenge readers’ unconscious biases.”
America’s Test Kitchen collaborated with neurosurgeon Griffin Baum on The Healthy Back Kitchen (May), which likewise aims to improve kitchen accessibility through 125 recipes written to minimize prep time. “Almost every patient who comes through my practice says that their chronic pain keeps them from being able to cook for themselves, cook for their family, and entertain,” Baum says.
The book opens with a primer on back anatomy, then outlines best practices for an ergonomic kitchen, whether the cook works standing or seated. Recipes specify points in the process when the cook can take a break, and suggest shortcuts to reduce pain and fatigue, such as buying bagged florets for a broccoli, chickpea, and avocado salad or jarred roasted red peppers for steak tips with spicy cauliflower. “You can still make what you want,” Baum says, “but in such a way that it’s not going to set you back for the rest of the week.”
Chronic pain often sends people into isolation, and Baum hopes his readers “develop a sense of confidence when it comes to cooking, and then want to share that with their friends or their families or their loved ones,” he says. “I want the reader to feel seen; I want them to feel validated. You can cook and enjoy food, and you can do it in your own home on good days and bad days.”