I am often asked whether people who are blind cook. Yes we do, however, as with people who are sighted, some of us cook well and others don’t. I am fortunate enough to be in the latter category.
Do I ever cut or burn myself? Of course, but so do the best chefs!
I had two excellent cooking teachers, one was the Home Economics Teacher at high school and the other was my mum.
My teacher was very enthusiastic about ensuring I was included in all aspects of food preparation. No matter what we were making for the lesson, she always demonstrated the process first and she would get me to feel the texture of the mixture so I’d know what it should be like at each stage. She also got my sister to show her which of the ovens at school was like the one at home so I was familiar with it.
Mum let me help her in the kitchen any time I felt so inclined. Being totally blind herself, cooking for a husband and six children, she was the best role model I could have had. She didn’t have any special gadgets because she was blind, her kitchen was no different from the kitchens of my friends’ mums.
When you can’t see what you’re cooking, you rely more heavily on the smell, texture and taste. You have to be a very hands on and hands in cook. Having said that, I can assure you all I wash my hands constantly when I’m cooking!
Over the years I have made cakes, biscuits and desserts, but that is rare now. I’m more like an every-day cook able to provide a good wholesome meal. This past Christmas it was my turn to do the family lunch and I cooked four meats and five vegetables for 25 people; they all survived.
There are two things I tend to do that have freaked out sighted friends who have come over for dinner. One is that I don’t bother turning on lights, so I’m often cooking in the dark. The other is that I have difficulty controlling tongs, so usually turn meat and vegetable with my fingers.
Unlike mum, I have three special pieces of equipment in my kitchen (see picture).
On the left is a set of talking scales which weigh in pounds and ounces or grams and kilograms. On the right is a talking jug which measures fluid ounces or millilitres. Both of these are from Cobolt in the UK and speak with a very nice English male voice.
The item in the centre of the picture is called an ID Mate. It is a talking barcode scanner. I have the original model with a very unusual American accent, but the later models are smaller and have an Australian male voice. As I live alone, this is one of my favourite pieces of equipment. Sometimes knowing where the barcode is to swipe in front of the screen is challenging, but once you get the hang of it it’s easy. If the item you scan is not in the database but you know what it is, you can record it in your own voice and it will recognise the item next time you scan it. Also, if, for example, you have a casserole base, once you know the correct brand and name, you can go onto the internet and find the instructions on how to prepare it.
The rest of the appliances in my kitchen are mainstream products. When purchasing items like a microwave, bread maker, food processor etc., there are a few things to consider. If it’s a touch screen like my microwave, I need to be able to put braille or raised dots on the buttons. It’s also important that there is an audible indication when buttons are pressed. In the past it was sometimes necessary to get instruction and recipe books put into braille, but with the internet, access to information can be easier, providing the website is accessible.
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