How Do You Cook for Your Family when You Cannot See?

Orgaization in the kitchen
Harry Williamson/Highlands/Spring Studio

How do you cook for your family if you can’t see? is a question I am asked frequently when meeting a sighted person for the first time.

They reel back in horror just imagining how it must be for a ‘blind cook’ to pour boiling liquids into small containers, deal with hot oil in a sizzling pan or reach into the depths of a scorching oven to check on a batch of cookies – all with vision-impaired eyes?

“I don’t know how you do it,” they gasp.

I smile, thinking about some of my kitchen failures and how easily I could have given up cooking for my family as my sight worsened. So I reassure them: “Like everything, you learn from your mishaps and have to try again.”

There are many ways to accomplish visual tasks without being able to see what your hands are doing and cooking is one of them.

As you already know, there is much more enjoyment in eating food than seeing it displayed on a plate. The real pleasure comes from your other senses, with your eyes closed in fact, as you appreciate an explosion of tastes, aromas, and textures of so many culinary delights.

“Vision loss needn't be a reason to discontinue or to not engage in learning how to cook,” says Leanne Gibson, professional chef and visually-impaired cooking correspondent for VisionAware (AFB).

If you are worried about losing your cooking independence because of a vision impairment, be assured you most definitely can continue your culinary passion and cooking abilities.

Confidence grows as you incorporate a few simple modifications to your kitchen space.

First, we actually need to sort out some basics. Professional chefs know the secret to running a successful kitchen – and some of the following can be your secret to success too.

Let’s get started with some easy steps if you need a boost of confidence in ‘cooking blind’.

6 Successful Ways to Adapt Your Kitchen Space

1: Organize a place for everything.

Set up a system that works best for you by organizing items on shelves and store food in cupboards in a practical way. For example, it makes great sense to store tins of soup on a different shelf to the cans of pet food. The same goes for organizing your fridge shelves. Once you have worked out a neat system, explain it to your family so they can help you manage it daily. That way no dog food will end up on their plate by mistake!

2: Get Crafty with Containers

One of the best ways to know what food is in which packet is to use a variety of different types and shapes of containers. Use plastic storage containers, heavy-duty glass jars, and fabric or wire baskets in kitchen cupboards to group foods together so you can identify them quickly when reaching for the next ingredient.

Try to avoid storing things like spices in identically shaped bottles to minimize mistakes. Ultimately, though, go with what your nose knows!

3:  Marking your cooker or microwave

Naturally, you need to maintain safety in your kitchen and using the cooker requires special attention when you can’t see. Begin by placing tactile markers that can stick to a surface at the different temperature points on your cooker or microwave settings that help to guide your fingertips safely to the correct spot.

4: Add Light and Cook with Contrasts

If you are visually-impaired and find it much easier with extra lighting shining on your bench tops, go ahead and bring in extra lamps that can throw a spotlight on your preparation space. Small areas of direct lighting go a long way to boost your cooking confidence and help you to learn how to work with contrasts.

These might be using a dark chopping board on a light cooking surface or light-colored crockery on a dark bench top – whatever works best for you.

5: Great Kitchen Gadgets

Who doesn’t have a favorite gadget in their kitchen? There are some easy and audible kitchen gadgets like a talking meat thermometer, audible weighing scales, and a liquid-level indicator just to name a few. Your only problem may be in keeping the kids away from playing with some of these great gadgets so suggest a cooking task they can help with and your kitchen helpers will be back again – guaranteed.

6: Food Preparation

It is advisable to tie your hair up when cooking. You may not see the occasional loose strand of hair in the mix – and you don’t want your dinner guests to find it either. When taking things in and out of the oven, invest in a pair of long kitchen gloves. And always wear shoes when working with hot liquids like making jams and preserves.

It is extra important to remember to rinse your hands frequently because your hands are basically touching everything your eyes would have seen. Your nimble hands will develop a sensitivity that will enable you to master cooking blind with admirable flair.

Your ability to cook for your family depends more on your willingness to learn new skills, to embrace becoming the apprentice in your own kitchen for a while as you adapt and experiment, as every great chef does, to produce amazing culinary delights – even with vision loss.

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