A broken arm doesn’t mean cooking is off the table

First, let me tell you about the midwinter break I’d intended.

It was to be a quick getaway at a friend’s cabin Up North, a few days of cross-country skiing with nights by the fire. Along with winter gear, I’d packed what we’d need for chili, cookies, hot toddies and a breakfast bread pudding we’d planned to make.

When I was ready to leave early that morning, the light was crystalline bright, the air squeaky crisp. My puppy, Daisy, kept whining to get on the road. I tossed the last bag in the trunk and then … I stepped onto a patch of ice. I could hear the bone crack before I saw my wrist dangling, limping.

Sitting in urgent care, it dawned on me: I couldn’t move the fingers on the hand that I type my stories with, or swirl the wrist that stirs my pots; I had relied on my right hand my entire life. Looking at the good hand resting comfortably on my lap, I wondered if the left was up to the task.

The first week, Leftie wasn’t asked to do much. It could open the fridge and the cupboards, make coffee and mix a drink. Friends, along with my brother, sister-in-law and my sons, stopped by with gifts of flowers and beautiful dishes — vegetable curry, chicken soup in a rich bone broth, Irish beef stew, cherry hand pie. I’d forgotten how delicious other people’s food tastes when made from scratch and seasoned with love. Each meal was thoughtfully created with ingredients I could eat with my one good hand.

As the novelty of my condition wore off, I began to put Leftie to work. Is it true, I wondered, that using your non-dominant hand strengthens unused parts of the brain? Would frying an egg or editing an article lefthanded make me smarter, more creative? There were, of course, limits to my capacities as well as my time; even the simplest chore, such as opening the half-and-half container, took twice as long.

That first foray into the co-op, I focused on what I could make and what I might buy for ease and convenience. A rotisserie chicken was just the thing: easy to lift, reheat and serve with roasted potatoes and honey-glazed carrots from the hot bar. The next day, Leftie shredded the leftover chicken, layered it with spicy corn salsa over fresh corn tortillas, and topped it with pre-shredded Cheddar cheese and baked it until bubbling. Leftie was getting the drift.

Opening jars was a challenge, until I figured out to put them between my knees or under my right arm. If I leaned my cast on a loaf of bread, I could saw off chunks. The same with shopping carrots. My handwriting with Leftie evolved to look like that of a competent second-grader. To type articles, I employed Ms. Dictation, who resides in my computer. But she doesn’t spell or punctuate, so Leftie hunted and pecked the corrections.

It’s been five weeks. The cast is off and Rightie is getting back into shape, lifting light pots, opening cans, scrubbing dishes. And while I missed out on the magic of our northern woods, I’m calling these weeks my lucky break. Glimmers of grace and hope filled those uncertain days. There was the nurse who attached a lavender patch to my shoulder before surgery; its scent calmed my nerves. The kind and confident surgeon, Dr. Bohn (pronounced “bone”), assured me I’d be back to running, typing, cooking; in our post-op meeting, we talked about bread pudding.

I basked in the luxury of gifted meals and made quick, tasty use of prepared foods from our local makers — heritage corn tortillas, fresh salsa, crisp greens and scratch-made salad dressing, all of them better than anything I could whip up myself. I realized a good rotisserie chicken is better than two uncooked birds in the fridge.

I may not be smarter or more creative, but Leftie is stronger and perhaps I’m more balanced, ready to serve forth all the goodness I received.

Asian Chicken Salad

Serves 4.

Note: Crunchy and crisp, this salad relishes on pre-shredded cabbage and kale, tossed with Minnesota-made Salad Girl’s Toasted Sesame Ginger Vinaigrette, served on a bed of Midwest watercress, and topped with precut oranges and pineapple from the salad bar. It’s ready in seconds, even with just one hand. The chicken and cabbage may be dressed ahead and held for a couple of hours before completing the dish.

• 3 tbsp. pre-shredded cabbage and kale

• 2 tbsp. cooked, shredded chicken

• 2 to 3 tbsp. prepared Asian dressing, or more as needed

• 3 tbsp. watercress or spinach

• 1 C. diced fresh oranges and pineapple

• 1/4 tsp. corn nuts or toasted peanuts

Directions

In a large bowl, toss the cabbage and chicken with enough of the Asian dressing to lightly coat. Arrange the watercress or spinach on a platter or serving bowl and pile the chicken mixture on top. Scatter the fruit and corn nuts over all and serve immediately.

South of the Border Casserole

Serves 4.

Note: Easy and boldly seasoned, this casserole relishes on Aces & Eights gently spiced corn salsa from Double Take, super-fresh Nixta heritage corn tortillas and packaged, shredded cheese.

• 8 fresh corn tortillas

• 2 tbsp. cooked, shredded chicken, divided

• 1 C. corn salsa, divided

• 1/2 to 1 tbsp. finely shredded Mexican-style cheese

• Sour cream or Greek yogurt, for garnish

• Guacamole, for garnish

• Chopped cilantro, for garnish

• Fresh tomato salsa for garnish

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Arrange 4 tortillas in the bottom of a baking dish. Layer 1 cup of the shredded chicken on top of the tortillas and top with 1/2 cup of the salsa. Put another layer of the tortillas on top of the salsa and top with the remaining chicken and salsa. Scatter the cheese over it all.

Cover with a sheet of aluminum foil and bake until heated through and the cheese is melted, about 25 to 30 minutes. Remove the foil and continue baking to brown off the cheese. To serve, cut into squares and pass the garnishes alongside.

Beth Dooley is the author of “The Perennial Kitchen.” Find her at bethdooleyskitchen.coMr.

Leave a Comment