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Cooking with ADHD – Spicey. And…Dangerous!

My extremely ADHD friend once told me that she and her ADD boyfriend could never have dinner together. They’d sit down to eat…and first one, then the other, got up to go do something. This continued until, by the end of the evening, they realized that neither of them had eaten.

ADHD cooks: focus or lose a finger!

Martha Stewart I cannot comprehend
Martha Stewart, I ain't!

I can relate. Still, I love to cook. I’m the slowest cook I know, even when I focus. I count it as a major accomplishment that I still have all my fingers.

For me, cooking with someone else is impossible. Too much distraction (I definitely would have lost a digit by now if I let someone into the kitchen while I prepped). I have enough trouble organizing myself, let alone another person. Even if there are people sitting in my kitchen talking to each other but not to me, I can’t handle it.

To cook or not to cook

Interestingly, my friend mentioned above, is the opposite. More accurately, when her guests arrive, they invariably chip in and do all the cooking themselves. My friend flutters about the kitchen creating chaos, which they deftly avoid. In spite of her, the meal arrives on the table. She does, however, provide (most of) the required ingredients. And the dishes. Although, more often than not, they have to be washed (also, by the guests).

Pre-ADHD diagnosis disasters

Prior to my diagnosis, I’d never managed to get a meal to the table on time for invited guests.

Often, I’d run out at the last minute to get the one ingredient I’d forgotten to buy. Or I’d be in the middle of chopping something, and the phone would ring. Rather than ignore it, I’d get into a conversation I had no time for. While I was at it, I’d pace around the house. Sighting my computer, I’d think, “Might as well quickly check my e-mail.”

Risque dinner-wear

Suddenly I’d realize the guests would arrive any moment, and I’d still be dressed in my cooking clothes. I’d run to change, or worse, to have a shower, hoping that I could shower, change my clothes, and get ready in five minutes instead of my usual half-hour. Why I thought this was possible, I have no idea. I’ve had guests arrive when I’m wrapped in a towel. And I live alone. Try as I might, my dog won’t answer the door.

Pomegranate fiasco – not the name of a new dessert!

Since my diagnosis, things have gone a lot more smoothly. I’ve actually managed to get a meal on the table more or less on time. With the notable exception of what I like to call, the “Pomegranate Fiasco” episode.

I’d been listening to a Canadian diplomat’s wife talk about her newly published cookbook. A dessert recipe caught my attention…

Shoulda just drank the alcohol…

This woman assured her audience that the recipe was not only simple, but super-fast. Oh yeah, and it required alcohol. That clinched it. I duly went out and bought the pomegranates and the bottle of Goldschlager, a delicious, 87-proof cinnamon-flavoured liqueur with real 24-carat gold leaf flakes. This is poured over the fruit, served in fancy glasses, and – voilá! Instant dessert. Or so I thought.

Sure enough, the meal was all ready, with just enough time (based on the author’s recommendations, plus about 10 minutes extra to offset my ADHD) to prepare the pomegranates for later.

The pomegranates hit the fan…

That’s when everything fell apart. Why, oh why, had she said this was such a simple thing? Do you have ANY idea how !#&$! long it takes to extrude a tiny pomegranate seed – and there are about 600 of them per pomegranate – from its pulp? I do! Needless to say, my meal was very late. And the author is extremely lucky that I can’t remember her name.

Cooking with ADHDCooking, ADHD-style

To help you avoid such fiascoes in your own kitchen, here are some helpful tips on how to approach cooking, ADHD-style.

For the guests:

  • Have a snack, or a light meal, before arriving; there’s no guarantee the meal will be ready, likely it won’t, and it could be hours
  • Bring your wallet. Should you arrive, finding your host in tears, the sound of fire alarms, and no edible meal in site, you could be going out to dinner, possibly at your expense
  • While it’s considered gracious to bring a bottle of wine as a gift, be aware that the host may be addicted to alcohol; try to know this ahead of time and bring some nice, dark chocolate instead
  • Whatever you do, DO NOT drink the wine you brought until you know the food is edible; you may have to drive on an empty stomach (see point 2 above); toast with a small sip if you must, then hold off until you know you’ll be fed!
  • Don’t worry if the cook is not eating her own food; this may be a bad sign, but most likely it’s because she’s been distractedly grazing while cooking (for hours) and is too full to eat the finished product
  • Bring an indigestion medication, just in case it’s NOT because of the grazing that the chef isn’t eating
  • Claim allergies, a new diet, diabetes – anything – if the food is inedible; this won’t hurt the chef’s feelings, but will get you out of having to eat a meal spiced with a bit too much ADHD

For the ADHD chef:

  • Avoid throwing dinner parties at all costs
  • If you must cave in, remember, Martha Stewart you ain’t (the only part about Martha Stewart I understand is the jail part; I must be years behind on my income tax…but that’s another blog post…)
  • Write down your grocery list – on your arm, if you must, so you don’t forget it
  • Don’t prepare anything that can’t be cooked ahead; avoid the split-second timing, planning and organization of last-minute dishes. Do you really want to stress yourself out that much before a meal? Not good for your digestion!
  • Jump on the raw food bandwagon – saves time on cooking, and you’ll be hailed as a trend-setting innovator!
  • Have someone else do prep – saves time on washing, chopping, etc. (but ask them not to talk to you)
  • Better, invest in a food processor – chop less, throw it all in, and push a button. Well worth the money
  • Drink wine while you cook. That way, if you’re hours late, you won’t care – AND – you’ll be having fun while your guests are socializing in the other room (and, if they know you well, sharing food they brought with them, just in case!)

Bon appetite, everyone!

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Cooking with ADHD – Spicey. And…Dangerous!

Zoë Kessler, BA, B.Ed.

Zoë Kessler is an award-winning author, journalist, and speaker specializing in women and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD / ADD).

A frequent contributor to ADDitude Magazine, Kessler has also created video, standup comedy, and guest blogs on ADHD and Marriage covering ADHD-related topics.

Zoë, an internationally recognized ADHD expert, has been interviewed on radio and featured in magazine articles, documentaries, and books on the topic of women and ADHD across North America.

Her newly-released memoir ADHD According to Zoë - The Real Deal on relationships, Finding Your Focus & Finding Your Keys (New Harbinger Publications, 2013) about life with ADHD is now available.

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APA Reference
Kessler, Z. (2011). Cooking with ADHD – Spicey. And…Dangerous!. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 21, 2020, from


Last updated: 2 Mar 2011
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