Just one day: paper bark cooking plus air/sea rescue.

A few hours and life lurched from one extreme to another: a truly enlightening morning getting a glimpse of bush tucker with aboriginal Fred followed by the high drama of nephew and videographer Toby and another friend being rescued from a life-or-death sea emergency.

With Fred (www.fredsbushtucker.com.au), I felt rather foolish and thoughtless for not recognising that his ancient culture had the sophisticated development we see in our own more modern societies.  Hence, it is no more reasonable to ask him as an expert bush tucker cook about the medicinal qualities of plants than expecting a chef to know the best treatment for an illness.  Aboriginal culture, like ours, has a whole range of experts – from law and medicine to cooking and childcare.

Fred showed me the plants that can be ground in to flour for bread, the seed head that can be carried from camp to camp to light fires and much more.   He helped me wrap a snapper fish donated by the local fish market (www.shellharbourfish.com.au), stuffed with lemon myrtle, in soaked paper bark and lily leaves for smoking on a barbeque – the origin of French style “en papiloutte”.

What I most admired was his clear and close connection with nature: the scrub land that he uses as a super market; his equanimity in the face of modern hustle and bustle; his irreverent sense of humour.  It was a real privilege to be shown just a glimpse of his world – all thanks to the planning and organisation of our Kiama hosts Rosemary and Ken.  They managed a week of different experiences: cooking with the award-winning Jo (sweetwoodcakes@gmail.com) of the Country women’s Association; Martin, the blind chef in Sydney (www.enabledcooking.com); wine-tasting with Raj (www.thesilos.com); an Iranian fire-pit and barbecue meat fest with Eddie.  The generosity of spirit and enthusiasm for cooking was the essence of a magnificent week that had taken huge effort to arrange by Rosemary and Ken – huge thanks to them.

 

 

 

 

But, even the best laid plans couldn’t have prepared us for the drama that was unfolding as I was still chatting with Fred.  Toby and another friend had slipped down to the beach for a quick swim.  Within minutes, a rip tide had dragged them out 300 metres from the beach and was pulling them further out.  Thankfully, 12 year old Hannah had spotted them (not waving but drowning) and her family called the emergency services.  We arrived to find police cars massing alongside paramedics and lifeguards with two helicopters close on their heels.  Eventually a surfboard lifesaver reached them with the board providing extra flotation as they had reached critical levels of exhaustion and cold.  One-by-one, they were helped back to shore and encased in huge foil and thermal warming suits – they looked like two capons ready for roasting!  But, it was no joke at the time as they were probably less than 10 minutes from tragedy.  The emergency services did a wonderful job and I cannot be more thankful to them.  And the whole drama completely upstaged the Baking Blind activities on the local TV – you can watch the clip on YouTube.

 

 

 

There’ll be lots more videos and recipes from this latest visit as soon as we have edited them – probably early next year so please do keep tuned in.

Penny

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Baking Blind in Melbourne.

Years ago, I was in Melbourne for one of the World Blind Union conferences and I’ve got lots of great memories of this city that still retained the charm of a much smaller town.     Now I’m on my way back with my Baking Blind adventure .

I particularly remember a whole series of water features along the popular river bank area that is the centre of social life.  Each water feature seemed at least 10 foot tall with water running down the outside and, at night, great gas jets lit up from their tops with amazing whooshes.  It wasn’t just one quick burn off but the whole line of water features would come to light in series and patterns of burns – it was just magical for someone who couldn’t see to get a sense through the sound and heat.  And there was another water feature of jets that sprang from the pavement – and the children could be occupied for hours dodging between the sporadic spouts.

I remember taking a boat down the river to the sea for a visit to the tiny island crammed with little penguins.

This new visit promises another wonderful series of memories.  I’m being hosted by Colin, another former royal Navy Commander, who is arranging for me to cook with Australian Defence Force trainees.  Maribel has been championing Baking Blind with local professional chefs so that, between the pair of them, I’ll have a whole variety of cooking experiences.

You can keep in touch with my adventures on YouTube.

And all of this has happened because San Francisco’s LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired selected me as one of three winners of their inaugural international Holman prize for blind people.

Penny

Baking Blind goes Down Under.

You might not have heard of Kiama, a delightful seaside town about two hours south of Sydney by road.  It will be my first proper stop in Australia with old friends Rosemary and Ken.

Ro and I first met many years ago when she was working at St Dunstan’s charity (now Blind Veterans UK).  She madly volunteered to accompany me to a European Blind Union conference in Athens and we had a true meeting of minds over enjoyment of good food, much shopping and great fun.  We left loaded with leather goods, shoes, crystallised fruit, jewellery, pistachio nuts and more – and still enjoyed meeting all the blind delegates from all over Europe too.

We’ve kept in touch over the years and even went on a cooking holiday in Umbria, Italy last year.  For the first time, I’ll be able to visit her new home in Kiama and get a sense of living in a small Australian town.  She’s working hard at arranging a great variety of cooking opportunities so that my Baking Blind adventure (www.bakingblind.com) includes the less well-known aspects of Australia.

And, of course, none of this could happen without the support of the Holman prize  being run by San Francisco’s LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired.

You can keep up with my trip on YouTube.

Penny