Friday, 30 March 2012

Everyone has their own autism

As some of you may have gathered by now, there's a bit of a foodie theme going on here.  No, not gourmet foodie, just wholesome, home-cooked, comfort foodie foodness.  Making pancakes from scratch on a Sunday morning.  Macaroni and cheese without a box in sight.  Bacon.  And so on.

Making yummy, un-fancy food is fun and satisfying, and it can become an obsession.

Now, I can't take credit for what follows, but it did kind of start way back in the days when I used to come into professional contact with Child Support Agency cases, and I became aware of the enormously detailed financial disclosures their clients have to complete.  One day I looked at one of those forms and thought it would make the solid basis for a family budget.  The budget we work from today had its origins there.

Some years later (and I have to give credit to Mrs G here) we got very organised with our shopping.  We made a list of everything we ever bought at the supermarket, in aisle order, and that became our shopping list.  We check the larder and cross off everything we don't need and whatever's left on the list is what we must need.

This worked OK up to a point, but what was required to make the plan work really well was menu planning.  This started at a time when our cooking had gotten into a depressing, proletarian, unhealthy rut.  Chicken Tonight.  Pizza night.  Taco Tuesday.  Standing on the scale was embarrassing.

Well, you know those cheap-arse recipe magazines at the supermarket checkout?  They have lots of quick, healthy, interesting dishes in them.  We aim to pick one or two new recipes per fortnight out of them, and they get put to the family taste-test.  If it's thumbs up, they go into the "family cookbook", which is a loose-leaf folder comprising only approved dishes.  If it's thumbs down we agree never to speak of it again.

When we plan the fortnight's menu in preparation for shopping ... well, I say "we", but it's usually Mrs G ... the dishes mostly come out of the family cookbook.  In combination with a couple of new recipes, we're serving up things that we've chosen because they're simple, healthy and popular.  In a busy young family those three words are to cooking as "Gold, Gold, Gold" were to Norman May.

So, if this all sounds a bit too organised, you may well be right, but that's how we roll.  And what does autism have to do with all of this?

People have looked at me very strangely when I've described how we organise our cooking and shopping, but it's not a manifestation of some kind of mental state or obsessive compulsion, because (a) it's a shared commitment, and (b) when we get lazy we let it slide.  If it was a manifestation of autism we would be unable to let it slide.

We have a minion on the autism spectrum, and we have had to learn different skills to communicate clearly with him.  We have had to become organised in ways that most people don't bother with, in order to minimise sudden changes of plan.  Spontaneity has the potential to throw an entire day into chaos, so we are highly motivated to keep things orderly.

In the process of learning to do these things Mrs G was told that everyone has their own manifestation of autism.  Do you have to stack the dishwasher a certain way, and if someone else does it wrong, do you re-stack it?  That's your autism.  (Actually, that's my autism.)  Does the toilet paper have to hang over the front of the roll, and if it's hanging over the back of the roll, do you turn it around?  That's your autism.  Do cyclists who ride across pedestrian crossings, clearly not behaving as pedestrians, bug you?  Don't worry, that's normal, everyone hates that.

The fact of the matter is that we all do things which make other people look at us sidelong.  My point is that you should try to not let it bug you.  It may be involuntary compulsion or it may be rational commitment but, when you do that thing, your friends are drawing little circles in the air next to their temples and raising their eyebrows at each other.  Shrug it off.  We're all weird, whether we're compelled to be or choose to be.

I find cooking at each other makes everything OK.

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