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Cooking without Looking, Part II, 10 Ways to Sharpen Your Kitchen Senses

In my last post, I sketched in broad terms how someone who is blind cooks. This was very much a “do as I say” and not a “do as I do” item since anyone who knows me very well knows that my cooking skills leave a great deal to be desired. But, because I’m not good at it doesn’t mean that there aren’t other blind people who are.

The list below, frankly plagiarized from an article, “10 Ways to Sharpen Your Kitchen Senses,” that appeared in the March 29, 2017 issue of the New York Times, provides an excellent guide to how successful blind cooks do it. This check-list is based on interviews with two experienced blind cooks, one of whom, a friend from Boston, cooked for her father and five siblings at age eleven and served as the pastry cook in her family’s restaurant. So, it can be done.

1. Notice the steady sound of a sizzle when frying in a skillet; popping noises or uneven rhythms mean the heat is too high.

2. Practice picking up 1/4 teaspoon of salt in your fingertips and learn what it feels like, so that you can measure without spoons.

3. Listen to liquids as they cook to learn the different sounds of a simmer, a boil and a hard boil.

4. Designate one shelf of your refrigerator and ‘cupboard for the ingredients you use most often (flour, lemons, olive oil, soy sauce), so that you can recognize them immediately and grab them quickly.

5. Dedicate an afternoon to learning what bread dough and pie crust should feel like when they have the right balance of flour and water; your fingertips will retain the information forever.

6. Listen to your cakes: A cake that is still baking makes little bubbling sounds, while a finished cake goes quiet.

7. Use the blade of a small sharp knife to gauge when fish is cooked. Slide it into the flesh, then press gently to your lips. It should feel pleasantly hot, like a hot shower: not warm, and not scalding.

8. Touch the tops of cookies to decide if they are done: You should feel crisp crust, not soft dough.

9. Use your nose and eyes when sautéing garlic in oil, instead of following time guidelines. Garlic is cooked when barely golden and fragrant, whether the process takes 10 seconds or 2 minutes.

10. Toss salads with your hands to ensure the leaves are evenly coated with dressing. Touch the greens before tossing to make sure they are fluffy and cool: Limp leaves should go back to the refrigerator for refreshing, covered with a damp kitchen towel.

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