Over the past few years with dyslexia in adults, I have noticed a trend around this time of year. It happens without fail and is hyper dyslexic-specific. Our whole community quite panics about not screwing up their holiday dinner.
Is this topic the most groundbreaking? No. However, it is the perfect micro example of what dyslexia looks like.
We try really hard
We mess something up
We freak out
No one actually cares about the mistake
We beat ourselves up for messing up
So this year, I am taking action! As a semi-professional dyslexic chef*, I am giving you all my tea on how I avoid the 3 most common dyslexic cooking mistakes.
Serving Overcooked Ham & Undercooked Turkey
Timing is EVERYTHING! Especially if you are cooking a whole feast for your family! I have 3 alpha tips to help you here. Note I have done all these and cast no judgment.
Plan, Plan, Plan! When you set up your holiday menu, create an excel doc and go to town on the planning. I am talking plan out what you need to buy, how long it takes to cook, who is bringing what, and EVERY DETAIL. This document is going to become your personality, your holiday survival sheet. If you want an example of my dyslexic-proof meal plan, here is a LINK (you are welcome to use it).
Cheat! Well, kind of. I am a big fan of skipping the fan fair of cooking and just ordering your holiday dinner ahead of time. In many grocery stores, you can order your holiday meal pre-cooked, and all you have to do is heat it before dinner. Crockpots are also superb for warming things up slowly throughout the day!
Just don't! There are so many options when it comes to avoiding cooking. Go to a family member's house and offer to bring a pie (that you buy at the store and re-plate). Have an anti-Christmas dinner and eat tacos or pasta. Go out to eat; there are still places open you just have to look (and make reservations in advance).
Forgetting All the THINGS
Hello again, working memory! I swear my working memory has more holes than a piece of swiss cheese! We're doing a quick rundown of commonly forgotten things and ways to, well, not forget them.
Lay out all your food the day before! Double-triple-check that you have all the ingredients (and amounts) you need to make each food. Make sure you check the day before; that way, you still have time to run to the store. My kitchen often looks like a food network cooking show the day before the holidays.
Get ready to google! Did you know you can use half & half and a little butter to replace your missing heavy whipping cream? Dinner is not ruined if you forget to buy gravy; simply google _____ substitute, and in most cases, you can find a replacement for what you are missing.
Set alarms and reminders on your smart speaker (and label them). "Alexa set a Turkey Timer for 3 Hours," followed by "Alexa remind me in 45 minutes to check the turkey," can change your LIFE!
No smart speaker- no problem! Use your cell phone to time the turkey, your stove timer for the ham, and your microwave timer for the potatoes. Pro-tip: write down what is being timed on each timer (I have forgotten).
Skip the frills! If you are feeding lots of people, opt for nicer-looking plastic cups, plates, and utensils. Buy more than you might need. Bonus points if you make everyone label their drinking cup.
Set up your table/serving station in advance (leave time to pop to the store last minute)! Fun hack, get some butcher paper, lay out your serving dishes (and utensils), then use a sharpie to trace out the plates & bowls. Then have someone with good handwriting label them (also cute is to let the kids label things)! Now you know where things go, and people know what everything is, and clean up is easy.
Mixing up Teaspoon & Tablespoon
Ok, so this one is more about mixing things up in general. I am guilty of putting salt in my cheesecake when I meant to put in sugar, and don't get me started on the time I tried to make meringues with 3 cups of sugar (the recipe only called for 1).
Don't even bother! Just buy pre-made food, re-plate it, and garnish it with fresh strawberries (or herbs). They'll never know.
Pre-measure your ingredients. Ok, so this one takes a special kind of crazy (I'm the crazy), but measure out your ingredients into containers in advance. Then before you add them all together, you can double-check that you measured the correct amount (yes, I have actually done this). It causes more dishes and fewer mistakes.
Cook slowly! Most of my mistakes come when I speed through the kitchen franticly, trying to do 10 things at once. We're dyslexic, and our strength is in mono-tasking, not multi-tasking.
We hope you have a fantastic holiday with your family and are planning to take some time off ourselves! If you found this helpful or have other tips for holiday meal planning, drop them in the comments below!
*I am not, in fact, a semi-professional dyslexic chef; I just really like to cook and pretend that I have skills in the kitchen.