5 Questions On Cooking Blind
Stephen Lambert always loved good food. He decided that he wasn't going to let losing his vision resign him to a life of microwaved meals. Stephen answers some questions about the experience of learning to cook and gives great advice to anyone wanting to get started.
Why was learning to cook important to you?
One of my missions was to live as independently as I could without having to ask people for every little thing. I wasn’t happy to just eat microwave meals. I wanted to be able to cook healthy meals for myself.
When you have multiple disabilities you have a lot to deal with in life. You don’t need any other health issues. Cooking fresh gourmet meals is a good start for me to remain healthy and independent, and now I don’t have to rely and ask for anything when it comes to food. It’s a great feeling to know that I can do this basic function and that gives me a lot of satisfaction.
What kitchen appliances do you use and why?
- Coffee machine, Jura Impress c9
- Toaster oven, Ronson model 9029
- Combined Microwave/Steamer/Grill, The Sharp Steam Wave Oven,
- Optic Grill, Tefal
- Air Fryer, Tefal
- Small Fridge, HAIER Wine Chiller
I have had some really great carers who have been very supportive and helpful. Two carers in particular helped me achieve my goal to be able to complete basic food and drink preparation.
In addition to being blind, I only have 50% use of my left arm. I informed the carer that I would like to try something three times and if I couldn't operate the equipment, it wouldn’t be suitable. My request was that I just wanted to press one button to make a cuppa coffee and to keep all the other equipment as simple as possible. I also informed the carer that safety to neutralise or isolate this equipment was my number one priority. My carer then went to Harvey Norman, and with the help of a shop assistant, tested out different equipment while closing her eyes. The second carer also went to Harvey Norman to check out the items that the first carer recommended. Based on their trial, I purchased these items and set them up in my kitchen.
How did you get started?
After the equipment was set up in my kitchen, I had a carer with me each night for one week to train me to use this equipment and so together we could overcome any problems I might have. I quickly gained the skills to cook chips, steam vegetables and cook meat.
I continued on with trial by error, which included some funny mishaps. On a couple of occasions I fried fruit instead of my chips, microwaved my salad plate as nobody told me I was eating salad that night. Fun times! This is why it is extremely important that my carers let me know at the end of their shift what I will be cooking. I also have to ensure all of the food is put in the correct position in the fridge so no mix ups happen.
What was the experience of learning to cook without sight like for you?
After eating microwave meals for approximately one year, I was extremely excited having a home-cooked meal. It was a challenge to be focused and maintain complete concentration to remember where everything was. Initially it was scary but I knew the benefits outweighed the risks.
One distraction and I could easily lose my concentration on what stage I was at in cooking. These distractions could include the telephone ringing, or a visitor dropping in.
You may make mistakes such as burning yourself on the grill or getting your food out of the steamer, but if you have plenty of bench space it doesn’t matter if you make little mistakes such as burning yourself or dropping your food. I found that I would only do it once and if it is a serious burn, you quickly learn not to do that again. If you drop your food or break a cup, remember that they can always be replaced. The world will not end. The important goal is to be as self-sufficient as possible, so I was determined to keep trying. One thing I don’t recommend is trying to cook with a belly full of Bourbon. This seems to lead to increased errors and mistakes.
Do you have any advice for someone just getting started?
You need to remember that you have to adjust your way of living around your disabilities. You need to be positive and as independent as you can. Don’t be a hero. If you are blind it is extremely difficult to use a knife and fork. Ensure all of your food is prepared as finger food. Don’t try to keep drinking water from a cup as it is very time-consuming. I have 500 ml water bottles filled for me each day, so I just have to get them out of the fridge.
Try to simplify, organise and prepare everything that you do in life. Remember, it's up to you. Remain positive and have a go. It's amazing what you can do if you try. Stand up for yourself and when you find great carers and friends that will support you in your quest for independence, utilise and appreciate these people. Don’t forget to get in touch with the Blind Society. They are an extremely valuable resource.
Don't give up. Don't just sit around and accept your position. Fight for more, more self sufficiency, more value in life. Use your available time to seek out any support that can be accessed to improve your lifestyle. I am constantly reviewing the internet, news etc. And with a little help from friends, carers and family, you can find some great resources.
Keep positive, never give up, don’t let the disease beat you. Be the best you can be. I am proof that if the desire is there, great things can be accomplished.