Cooking up a storm

Bernadette Lancefield
When you are blind or have a vision impairment it is important to organise your kitchen well . You need to have an organised system for storing ingredients, spices and utensils. This will help minimise any cooking stress. Tactile labelling on ingredients is a great idea. Kitchen appliances should also be labelled. I recommend pouring ingredients over the sink or a tray. Spillages are then easier to clean up. Using our sense of smell, hearing and touch can be helpful in cooking. Timers are also very handy.
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Bernadette Lancefield on 13/04/2012
A wok with a chicken and chilli stir-fry.

We can hear the crackle of the wok.

When you are blind or have a vision impairment, organising your kitchen is very important. Developing a system for storing ingredients, spices and utensils helps to minimise any cooking stress. Accidents are much more likely to occur if we are frazzled.

Over the years I've picked up a few basic skills in the kitchen and had a few laughs at myself along the way. In the past I've rushed around the kitchen trying to locate an item. Meanwhile, the timer is going off or food is burning on the stove. Now I arrange items prior to cooking so that they're at my fingertips.

Tactile labelling

Tactile labelling can save us from cooking disasters. When making a frittata, I once used caster sugar instead of flour. The end result was extremely sweet and very strange. Another time I accidentally added a spicy ingredient to a banana smoothie.

Canned food is often difficult to identify. Once a can is opened, you can't seal it up again. Rubber bands can be helpful in this situation. For example, the corn can be distinguished from the baked beans by the number of rubber bands around the can.

Milk and juice bottles can feel similar. I've poured orange juice into my coffee before and I don't recommend it. One solution to this problem is tearing the label on one of the bottles. Alternatively, you can wrap sticky tape around the handle.

Kitchen appliances also need to be labelled. Markings on my oven indicate the temperature. Velcro is used to distinguish the buttons on my microwave. Braille labels or tape can also be helpful.

It's important to replace tactile markings when they begin peeling. Once I was cooking chicken risotto in the microwave. But some of the tactile markings were missing. I programmed the microwave for two hours instead of 20 minutes. Half an hour later I realised my mistake. As you can imagine, the food was slightly overcooked. Adding water to the mixture helped to salvage the situation.

Finding a recipe

I'm not an adventurous cook so I prefer to follow a recipe. These can be easily found by performing a Google search on the internet.

It's important to read instructions carefully. Once I was cooking herb chicken drumsticks in an oven bag. The recipe said to 'gently rotate the bag'. I must have used a bit too much muscle as the bag exploded. The chicken legs cascaded onto the floor. My dog had a feast.

Pouring ingredients

I recommend pouring ingredients over the sink or a tray. Spillages are then much easier to clean up. Additionally, it's a good idea to remove any unnecessary clutter from the bench. This reduces the risk of knocking over items.

Using our senses

Using our sense of smell, hearing and touch can be a helpful tool in cooking. We can usually smell when food is beginning to burn. We can also hear the water bubbling away in the saucepan or the crackle of the wok as food fries. We can often judge whether food is adequately cooked by texture.

Time management

Timers are very handy in cooking. I've also learned to judge how long different meals take to cook. Allowing more time than you need is advisable.

Cooking can be a fun experience if we are organised and equipped with the necessary tools. Like anything in life, practice makes perfect.

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