Welcome! My name is Erin Poyle. I am a Michigan born, Colorado educated, self-taught 30something quadriplegic chef. I was injured in a car accident when I was 17. Although my spine was fractured quite high up, the injury was what is referred to as “incomplete”, meaning that my spinal cord was not severed completely. Initially I was rendered virtually immobile except for the ability to shrug my shoulders. After nearly 7 months of in-hospital rehab, I went home with increased sensation and movement Doctors had been unsure I would regain. Now, I have patchy sensation all over my body (a bit better on the right side) and more movement on my left side, thankfully including the use of my left hand. During my stay in hospital, I was receiving physical and occupational therapies daily, attempting to strengthen the few muscles that were responsive and relearning how to eat, brush my teeth, and even brush my hair. As my left hand got stronger, I had to learn how to write again using a hand that had not previously been dominant.
After I was released from the hospital, I was very self-conscious of the wheelchair and being perceived as handicapped in general. After being absent from school for so long, I opted to get my GED rather than graduating behind all of my friends. Being 17 is hard enough without the additional issues, but I had a lot of great friends that made sure I stayed a part of everything they were doing. At first it was hard. I was dependent on others for everything and asking for help did not come easy for me. The big turning point for me was going to Woodstock in 1994. That weekend changed my life. After that, I tried to be a typical 20 year old. I learned how to drive and got my own hand controlled minivan. When I wasn’t having fun, or taking classes at community college, I spent a lot of time watching food programs with my dad. At the time, I couldn’t even begin to imagine this would be my greatest passion. Subconsciously, I must’ve been really paying attention, because once I actually began cooking more adventurous stuff than spaghetti with sauce from a jar, I realized I had all this information at my disposal. It was like in The Matrix, having been trained in my head and then putting it to practical use on the stove!
In my mid-twenties, I was a travel agent for a few years and then decided I needed to do something more self fulfilling, so I moved out to Colorado to study writing at the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics at Naropa University in Boulder. It was the first time for me to be on my own, despite my advanced age of 26. Financially I was on my own but at nearly $600 a credit, eventually I had to choose between school or habitation. I bought a house that I could adapt to fit my needs and shortly thereafter met a great guy who loved to cook. I got antsy watching him and started trying things with him as well as on my own. Because we both loved to eat, I had someone to share my passion for food and help me with the hard stuff. So I threw myself headfirst, or in my case feetfirst, into cooking. It came more natural to me than anything I’ve ever done. I still need help with some things, like putting heavy things in the oven or opening jars, but the flavors are all mine. That guy is now my fiance, who supports me with every recipe he’s forced to sample. Now that I have finally moved back to Michigan to rejoin my friends and family, we can proceed more heartily. So, wherever I am, I’m cooking with one hand behind my back (or on my lap). Please take a look, try some things out… If I can do it, you can too!