Cooking is important for independent living. Many people believe if you have a vision impairment it is impossible to live alone or to cook. But I was determined to learn.
When I was a girl I was often told my blindness would prevent me from cooking. My family had an Italian background. Italian traditions such as cooking together were very important when I was growing up. Every year my family would make home-made tomato sauce. It was hard work. My mother would give me the job of placing basil leaves in the bottles of sauce before they were preserved. I was not allowed near the stove. I was not taught to chop vegetables or wash dishes.
Other family members told me I was lazy.
She doesn't want to learn, I would hear family members whisper when they thought I wasn't listening. But I don't think they knew how to teach a blind person. I think I missed out on the cooking fun things because of other people's prejudice. It caused rebellion to grow inside me.
Determined to learn
As I grew older I became determined to learn cooking skills. My vision impaired friends and I practised cooking when our parents were out. As a young woman, I moved into my first rental unit with my partner. My family were opposed to the move. But my partner was patient and kind. He taught me the basics of cooking. We had fun. I did nearly burn the house down when the frying pan caught fire. But I did not let the incident discourage me. I ended up making a good stir-fry chicken with vegetable dish.
Nothing could stop me. I made Asian curries, Italian lasagnes, oven roasted chicken cooked with exotic coconut curry and wine. But recipe books in Braille and in audio format were hard-to-find. I usually created my own recipes instead. When I find a good recipe I type them up using my Braille machine. I keep a copy so that it doesn't matter if the paper gets smudged.
Teaching myself has worked well. I have created my own way of chopping. Weird and wonderful vegetable shapes emerge. I have been told by people I trust that they look presentable. I was never interested in cutting perfect onion moons. I don't use any assistive equipment. There are lots of gadgets available for blind people. But my hands and my nose are usually the only guiding tools I need.
I have now managed to get old Italian recipes from my mother. I have cooked some of these recipes for dinner parties of small groups of friends. I have even made two huge spinach and ricotta lasagnes for a friend's graduation party. I have also made pizza, although making dough is not my speciality. I would like to improve.
I have also cooked in really difficult conditions. My mother nearly had a heart attack when I decided to live in country Victoria and start cooking over an open fire. I would also help to chop firewood with an axe. When I attended forest blockades as an environmental activist I also took turns cooking in the rough outdoor kitchen. We cooked with old cast iron pots and a wood fire. There were no landmarks and the terrain was rough. Cooking in risky situations such as this appealed to my sense of adventure. Just because I am blind it does not mean that I can't contribute. I always want to be a valuable member of the community.