Cooking with Confidence: A Peer Guide to Cooking Safely with Visual Impairment
Cooking with Confidence
By Leann Gibson, Chef and VisionAware Cooking with Confidence Correspondent
Everyone Has an Opinion About Food
The slightest mention of food always seems to garner plenty of enthusiastic discussion. I think we can all agree the subject of food works people into a frenzy, everyone has an opinion! As a professional chef for 10 years I know first hand the passion associated with food. Vision loss needn’t be a reason to discontinue or to not engage into learning how to cook. As with all tasks, there are different ways to achieve every goal. With this series it is my objective to keep this conversation alive and well. To explore how to navigate our kitchens safely, share helpful cooking tips and recipes, as well as inspire and revive the benefits of cooking for you and your loved ones. I would like to share why I believe cooking in the home is not only a necessity but a very worthwhile endeavour. Cooking for yourself promotes healthful nourishment to the mind, body and soul. The food we choose to put in our bodies has a profound effect on our short and long term health. The rapid availability of processed convenience foods solidifies the importance behind the old mantra “You Are What You Eat.” Such a simple truth that I can identify with; I feel better, my cognitive ability and body excels when I eat properly. This is not to say I don’t enjoy a chocolate chip cookie as much as the next person, but I figure if I bake them I can be sure what they are made of so be sure to check out my recipe for the cookies!
“I suppose that I cook for a variety of reasons including the fact that I distrust all those chemicals that I cannot pronounce, let alone have any idea what some of them are. I like to think I’m eating healthier by cooking my own foods as I know just what exactly I’m putting into my meal.”
Cooking Can Be Much More Than A Daily Task
Cooking can be so much more than a daily task or burden. It can provide a sense of accomplishment and even build confidence if you let it, which was something I was struggling with when my vision began to change. Completing a task from beginning to end by myself made me feel useful again. The best “side effect” to this confidence building is it tends to spread, becoming infectious in other areas of our lives. One of my favourite joys has been to cook for others, whether I was hosting my family, taking an appetizer to a party or gifting homemade treats. My vision loss was interfering with that, I was having trouble seeing to cut, adding too much liquid to sauces, over-cooking meats.
“As my vision got worse, I experienced a lot of frustration and mishaps in the kitchen. I was always breaking dishes and making messes. I couldn’t read recipes or food packages anymore. And I could not function as efficiently as I once did. This was discouraging and cooking wasn’t “fun” anymore! But after I received training in access technology and vision rehabilitation, I returned to the kitchen and learned to modify my techniques. Now, I enjoy cooking once again and feel confident in preparing all of my family’s favorite recipes.”
Cooking Takes Practice
In the beginning the best way I knew to proceed was to slow down and take my time. Cooking is a skill you practice and build over time. So I returned to my cooking roots and began measuring and prepping ingredients before hand. In the cooking world this is known as “Mise en place” which translates to “putting in place.” A professional kitchen could not operate without this step and neither can we. Using extra large print labels on measuring cups, purchasing contrasting cutting boards and utensils helped to rebuild my confidence. I found improving the lighting in my kitchen, keeping a free standing magnifier handy and bowls with a grip on the bottom really helpful as well. It wasn’t long before my joy returned.
“When I cook I exercise my creative abilities. I love to try new recipes, and make adaptations to ones I have used before. Since many people think of cooking as an activity exclusively for the sighted, I am thrilled when I gain a reputation as a good cook.”
Vision Loss Doesn’t Have to Change Your Enjoyment of Cooking
The heart of any home is in the kitchen, and for good reason. If you think about it our lives revolve around it. We need food to survive but it means more than that. Celebrating birthdays and ringing in the New Year, soothing sickness and the giving to those mourning when we are at a loss for words. Cooking and food brings us together in the best of times and comforts us in the worst. Vision loss does not have to change that. Take a step with us toward learning how much cooking can do for you.
“The kitchen was the focal center of my large Native American family. It was where we sat to do homework, exchange the family news and of course where our mother could be found most often.”
Join the Conversation
The information that will be provided in this series is a collaboration of devout VisionAware Peer Advisors. We ask that you join and participate in our conversation! Send us questions, suggestions or any concerns regarding cooking and safety. Your feedback will help guide the series, and bring the topics you wish to know more about at VisionAware. Send feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.