Suck it up

Stuffing a curved banana in to the hollowed-out centre of a pineapple was the most difficult bit of this great desserthttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8b3NfXTJ4TY&feature=youtu.be.  And we could hardly restrain our giggles.

Jennison, all the way from Silicon Valley, California, was learning more new cooking equipment with me.  The snazzy cutter produces a neat spiral of pineapple and leaves the centre ready for that banana.  Simply put it in a plastic bag with some brown sugar and raisins soaked in rum before sucking hard!  The aim is to get as much air out as possible before tying off.  Then, together, we tackled the vacuum packer – no problem at all for two blind people if you can remember the two simple buttons and hear the click when the seal has been made.  It’s as simple as that.

The water bath isn’t difficult for visually impaired people either.  We could feel the maximum and minimum water markers on the inside and, with the addition of some tactile “bump-ons”, the external controls don’t need sight either.  But the manufacturer still warns that some disabled people shouldn’t use the equipment without supervision!  Amazing that, in this day and age of equality legislation, they still have the cheek to design out accessibility.

The double-bagged pineapple goes in to the water at 73 degrees Centigrade to emerge 24 hours later soft, warm and utterly delicious.  Eat your heart out sous-vide designers.

Next time, I’m making Christmas mincemeat with two of the local Talking Newspapers’ team.

 

 

Don’t try this at home

Fish fingers: not sea-life but real fingers dipped in flour and batter – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cOXzP3NGzFk&feature=youtu.be so that we could put the fish in to hot oil safely – or that’s what John promised us!

He was showing us two blind people how to cook classic English fish and chips safely.  Usually there’s lots of deep fat frying with hot oil and other hazards that are even more dangerous when you can’t see.  For this special version, we were shallow frying in just a little oil but still needed to handle the coated fish – so battering our hands was the answer.

Jennison, accessibility awareness lead for Linked In from Silicon Valley, California, was my fellow guinea pig for this experiment and he was understandably nervous about any injury to the hands he relies on for his high-tech, keyboard intensive work and lifestyle.  And he was a very novice cook too.  I take my hat off to him for being brave enough to give this a try.

I was less brave as I knew that I could rely on John’s expert good-hearted and ever-generous expertise and supervision.   With all his care, we produced two very respectable pieces of battered cod to serve up with the super-safe chips, tartar sauce and distinctly unimpressive mushy peas.   I’ve definitely not cooked anything in batter for quarter of a century.  Even if I don’t do it frequently in the future, it was liberating to overcome another of those “blindness barriers”.

Next time, Jennison and I tackle the vacuum-packer and cooking sous-vide.

 

 

Stand up and be counted

 

Whether you love Brexit or loathe it, whatever your politics, make sure you have your say on 12 December.

Lots of politicians have been talking about “What the People Want”.  Now is our chance to make sure that they really hear our voices.

Being too busy or not bothering to vote is a cop out.    If we the people want to be taken seriously, we have to play our part too.

If you’re worried that your vote won’t make a difference, use it tactically.    That might mean voting for someone who isn’t your first choice.  Search on-line to get an understanding of which political party might come closest to your own views and might benefit from your vote.  Local polls, the results of the 2017 General Election and the 2019 European election can all give you some pointers.

For many people, this election might mean voting for the least worse option but, at least, that might mean avoiding that worse result.  Even if the result isn’t what you’d like, it might make the politicians  think, speak and act more carefully when their majorities are slashed.

By using our votes we  will be doing our best to make our voices heard.

Buttons and dials

Even blind cooks can make super-chips with the right equipment https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dy2ZPSntfH4&feature=youtu.be.

And I definitely don’t mean a deep fat fryer: far too risky.

Instead, friend and co-cook John produced one of those air-fryers that’s so much safer and keeps the calories down too.  For me and fellow blind cook, Jennison, it was the design that was the absolute winner: good tactile buttons.  I know that the more expensive, sleek, digital, wipe-clean plastic versions can seem more convincing   but, even when you can see, the click of a button or the twist of a knob is so much more meaningful.

I’m convinced that human interaction with ingredients, processes and equipment is a vital part of the creativity and care of chefs and cooks I met around the world.

Charlene from Melbourne https://youtu.be/M_pvfHgJB3w was absolutely right that cooking is all about senses and sensuality.  Designers need to ensure maximum stimulation of all our senses when they are creating a piece of kitchen equipment or it becomes a barrier rather than an enabler: languishing at the back of a cupboard without regard or recommendation.

As a blind cook, the senses are, of course, key for me but I don’t believe that anyone else wants their kitchen experience to be one of sensory deprivation.  If we have no personal interaction with our food until the moment we eat it, aren’t we missing out?    Isn’t that sensory stimulation the very core of successful design?

Next week, when we cook the fish, Jennison and I take this thinking to the ultimate: John persuaded us to flour and batter our fingers so they wouldn’t burn when we were handling the fish in the pan!

 

 

 

 

Invitation to Toby’s new exhibition

My nephew and Baking Blind videographer, Toby, is primarily a great artist and will be showing his latest series of pieces  in London this month.  We would be delighted if you could join him for his exhibition opening night on 21 November.

He said, “The artworks are all inspired by the golden age of science fiction. Sort of fictional fiction. Got it? Below I’ve attached one of the artworks as a little taster. The premise imagines what would happen if nature upped sticks and left. That pun can be interchanged with, what happens when the trees really leave.

http://www.tobymelvillebrown.com

 

 

Old friend meets new

Prawns and leeks –an unusual and simple starter for novice California cook Jennison with the help of Hampshire kitchen master, John https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=adrVxI6Dq38&feature=youtu.be.

Star of many of the Baking Blind cooking videos over the last few years, John featured in the Three Blind Mice episode https://youtu.be/6SaB88MiUu4  when we made cakes for a Comic Relief bake-sale.

We first met years ago as he is one of the regular taxi drivers who have been ferrying me around for, heavens, about quarter of a century!  As usual, I’d been chatting away and doubtless nattering on about my latest recipe or similar when he revealed that he’s an avid cook too.  After that, there was no stopping us: every journey was a feast of food, recipes and tips.

He has links to the Royal Navy too having cooked in local naval establishments, galleys and wardrooms before moving on to catering in several local pubs.  Now he’s a leading light of the largest local taxi firm which gives him more work flexibility.   We have spent many happy times on journeys: swapping recipes and techniques.  John is just like so many of the other chefs and cooks I met around the world: full of cheer, generosity and enthusiasm.

He often drove me when I got back to the UK after the car crash and took special care when I was still coping with my driving-related PTSD.  He turned up with boxes of his home-made suppers and lunches which were invaluable when I didn’t have the strength to cook.  John even made over 200 roses for my wedding cake which he’d iced, and his brother-in-law had made.  Our cooking has made a special friendship.

So, he was exactly the person I asked to collect Jennison from his Heathrow hotel: he knew all about helping a blind passenger and could regale him with our shared kitchen experiences.  And he’d volunteered to give LinkedIn’s technology accessibility champion, Jennison, a day of his time too.  Our first recipe was this prawn and leek starter and next week we find safe ways for blind people to triple cook the best chips ever.

 

Brave new cook

Congratulations to Jennison: he’d paid a vast amount to do something completely new and alien – cooking with me!https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7SMn5s67w-0&feature=youtu.be

As a blind person himself, he told me that his mother had limited his role in the kitchen to “manual labour” and now he’d travelled half way round the world, from San Francisco to Hampshire in the UK,  with the specific aim of new experiences, new challenges and, hopefully, good food.  Back at home in Silicon Valley, he barely needs a kitchen.  His work place at LinkedIn provides three meals a day, all free, and the rest of the time he eats out or orders in.  It seemed that his closest encounter with a frying pan was re-heating part-cooked frozen turkey sausages.  His being blind isn’t much of a factor – it is much more the lifestyle  common to many of the tech jocks – he couldn’t think of anyone he knows who cooks!

So a few days in the kitchen was a steep learning curve for him.  Squeezing sausage meat for Scotch eggs was probably his most searing experience but , for this curry,  he had his first encounter with chopping an onion and, of course, succeeded.  Although my method might not be as cheffy as a professional, it works for someone who can’t see.

I’d chosen the dish because Indian cuisine is so close to English hearts and stomachs.  Also, the medley of whole and ground spices dry-roasting in the pan would stimulate his sense of smell when he couldn’t see.  Its also a very simple dish that even a novice cook can try at home with great results.

Next time, Jennison and I are instructed by my friend and taxi driver, John, in the delights of a prawn and leek starter.