Cooking With One Hand Behind Her Back
By: Janelle LoBello
Name: Erin Poyle
At age 35, living with quadriplegia for 18 years, Erin Poyle is a self-taught chef who finds cooking to be an outlet for her. "When I don't feel well, I cook," says Poyle, who is living with a C5 spinal cord injury after a motor vehicle accident in 1991. "It's therapeutic. It takes my mind off things."
In high school, Poyle would "sit on the sidelines" and watch her dad cook. "My dad was one of those 'Out of my kitchen' type of guys," jokes Poyle, who has most of her mobility only in her non-dominant left hand. Though, cooking and baking were part of her physical therapy after her accident, nothing had "sparked" right away, says Poyle.
Moving from Michigan to Colorado in 2001 by herself, Poyle would mostly use the toaster oven in her kitchen to prepare meals. "I met a guy who would cook a lot of Mexican food," explains Poyle, "but it was always too spicy. I would watch him and say, 'Hey, I can do that,' and then I started cooking myself."
Slicing and dicing
Though some parts of cooking are difficult for her, Poyle finds her own ways to make cooking a bit easier. "I place a cutting board on my lap," says Poyle, who has a harder time holding and chopping round items. "And my counter is filled with crap!"
In cooking for herself, Poyle just began looking up recipes and adding her own twists and flavors. "I starting making dishes you would see in restaurants like chicken piccata," says Poyle, who found cooking to come naturally to her. "Then I would throw the recipe out the window and make it my own. Everything I tried on my own turned out awesome!"
"Another reason I started cooking," explains Poyle, "is because the restaurants out here are just boring!"
A book for a cook
"With the online cookbook, I didn't have to worry about publishing," explains Poyle. "It is about 42 pages, and you can just pull up whatever recipe you want."
Her favorite dishes to cook are Mediterranean, Greek, and Italian. "I haven't cooked any Indian food yet," says Poyle. "I haven't conquered it, it's too scary!"
Poyle needs occasional help when putting items in the oven or opening jars, but overall she says, "The flavors are all mine!"
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