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Otago Daily Times - Demonstrating a real feel for cooking

Julie was featured in the Otago Daily Times when she headed down to the Balclutha disability expo to do a cooking without looking demonstration. Read the article here

Demonstrating a real feel for cooking
By Rachel Taylor on Wed, 3 Mar 2010

 The kitchen can be a dangerous place, full of hot and sharp objects, which is bad enough when you can see.

How do blind people manage? Today, in the Balclutha Memorial Hall, Julie Woods, who has been blind for 13 years, will demonstrate "cooking without looking".

"For some reason, people don't think about blind people cooking," she said. Ms Woods, of Dunedin, went blind at the age of 31, after retinal inflammation. With a husband and two young sons to feed, she had to learn to "cook with my other senses".

"I cook all the meals at home. And I do quite a bit of baking for the boys. "I tend to stick with simple recipes and then adapt them."
For dinner last night, Ms Woods cooked butter chicken for the family.
Ms Woods, who has instructions on kitchen safety from the Foundation for the Blind, relies on touch and smell to cook.

She says she has only suffered a couple of minor accidents while cooking. "Hot oven racks are the prime way of injuring myself.
"Once you get a bit more confident, you stop paying attention," she said.

Ms Woods said she starts to daydream, and that is when accidents can happen. The recipe Ms Woods will be demonstrating today is truffles, made with biscuit crumbs, butter and three ingredients taken from different braille-coded containers.

The sensation of touch, and the way containers feel, is a big part of the cooking process, Ms Woods said. "One thing I do with the truffle demonstration is cut licorice with scissors. "People are always worried I'm going to cut my fingers, but I still have all 10."

Ms Woods has become a professional speaker in the past year, and has given cooking demonstrations on television. She attended the 200th birthday celebrations of Louis Braille in Paris last year, and travelled through the Middle East on her way home, which she described as "an unbelievable experience".

Ms Woods and her partner, Ron Esplin, will lead a two-week tour for blind and visually impaired travellers through the Middle East in May next year.

rachel.taylor@odt.co.nz