After Thanksgiving, the topic of cooking with low vision has been a pretty active one on the HPS adults yahoo group. While typically it’s pretty important to the HPS adults that they have a place with just others affected by HPS to commune, vent, express frustration about health issues etc, sometimes a topic like this comes up and I think to myself, geesh, I wish the parents of low-vision/blind kids could be a fly on the wall for this topic.
As with all topics related to being visually impaired, this won’t apply to everyone, however, a number of the HPS adults shared stories about their challenges learning how to cook. While some are regular chefs, others completely avoid the kitchen having been turned off to it in childhood.
It can be hard for sighted parents to teach legally blind kids to cook. Often they’re so accustomed to relying on their vision to cook that they can’t conceive of how to do these things with poor or no vision. They are often fearful of their kids getting cut or burned – perfectly reasonable concerns if you’ve never cooked as a blind person.
As a result, often kitchen skills that get passed down from parents to children get overlooked for kids with vision impairments. And sometimes, frankly, if parents have a lot of anxiety about this, it can be easier on the kids learning from someone else.
One advantage to growing up in a single parent house was that there were some household things we had to learn how to do out of necessity. While I wasn’t much of a chef as a teenager, I could bake cookies and brownies and hamburger helper – enough to feed Ryan and I when mom wasn’t around.
When I left home for college, I spent the summer at the Louisiana Center for the Blind to learn things like Braille, orientation and mobility, how to use readers in college etc. One of the required courses was cooking. To finish the program, we had to prepare a meal for 40 people, by ourselves and from scratch, blindfolded (if we had any vision). Talk about a confidence builder!
Homesick for Germany, I decided to make one of my favorite German meals that was to be topped off by Black Forest Cherry Cake, with homemade whipped cream since I wasn’t allowed to buy it. I’ll never forget that as I was making that whipped cream, Joanne Wilson, the center’s director at the time, was giving a tour of the center to a group that was going to help with some building improvements. I could hear her in the hall talking about me. She was really talking me up. She told them how much progress I’d made over the summer because I was trying to finish early so I could leave for college. (The program was typically six to nine months.) And as she opened the door and the group filed into the kitchen, I happened to turn on the mixer to whip my whip cream. Trouble was I turned it on the highest setting and cream went everywhere!
It was all over me, all over the guests, on the cabinets – just everywhere.
We all have those learning moments, sighted or not or somewhere in between. It’s important for parents to realize that. It’s important that such important life skills like cooking don’t get overlooked because you don’t know how to approach them, or because the microwave is such a great invention.
So, with that being said, the HPS adults will remember I was talking about extra long oven mitts for those that are a bit afraid of misjudging distance and getting burned taking things in and out of the oven. At this link you can get an idea of what I was talking about. https://www.independentliving.com/products.asp?dept=496