Chefs and cooks champion diversity.

I set out to use cooking to change attitudes towards blindness and other disabilities – and China showed me how well this works.  Last week with aboriginal Fred, simply cooking a fish together was a bridge between our very different cultures.  This week, gastronomically diverse Melbourne showed that great cooks and chefs aren’t constrained by issues of race, nationality, ethnicity, disability, gender or other false barriers: food is all about generosity, sharing, learning from each other, crossing culinary borders and using the best ideas and ingredients, whatever their source.   The Greek “Euro Bites” eatery was a prime example (www.eurobites.com.au).

It was a special treat to encounter new ingredients and equipment:  gastronome Charlene (https://www.facebook.com/charlene.trist)  used smoked fresh eggs in both the pasta and the filling of her ravioli dish – these eggs have long shelf-life and would be ideal in a savoury soufflé, kedgeree and much more.  The Chef’s Hat emporium (www.chefshat.com.au) offered every sort of cooking equipment.  Food writer Dani (www.danivalent.com) introduced me to the widely popular Thermomix to produce fluffily delicious bread rolls in under an hour.    I’d been rather sceptical about the prospect of just filling an éclair until I spent time with Dre, an amazingly entrepreneurial pastry chef who is already expanding her patisserie and restaurant empire (www.bibelot.com.au).  Maribel, who is also blind (www.maribelsteel.com), was utterly inspirational: already a published writer and travel blogger, she is a wonderful cook, singer and champion for visually impaired people – you can hear her and partner Harry (www.springstudio.com.au) on the Melbourne video.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We were hosted by the Bostock family: another link to the Royal Navy and James Holman (after whom the prize that is funding me is named).  Former Royal Navy Commander Colin also arranged for me to spend a morning with the Australian Defence Force catering and hospitality trainees at Holmesglen college (www.holmesglen.edu.au) – another military reminder.  The Bostocks were unstinting in their generosity and friendship while daughter Sarah shared her knowledge on indigenous culture.

Following that trail, we moved on to Perth to meet up with Lynda, a former Women’s Royal Naval Service officer, who took us to the Maalinup aboriginal art gallery and bush tucker garden (www.www.maalinup.com.au) to meet artist PhilNarkle (www.philnarkle.com.au).  Now we have some small authentic artefacts to share with those who can only follow our adventures from afar.

And great news on the Australian equality agenda: a strong turn-out has just voted Yes to same-sex marriage: the people have spoken!

All of this is part of my adventure cooking around six continents funded by the international Holman prize run by San Francisco’s LightHouse for the Blind.  You can see the short composite videos we post at the end of each visit and, when we have had a chance to edit all the material back in the UK, we will be posting all the cooking sessions and recipes in the New Year.

Malawi next – if South African Airways can find an aircraft that works (we have a 24 hour delay in Perth)

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