Natick Low Vision Peer Support Group serves up food, friendship, and fun

Post by Brian Klotz, Marketing Coordinator for the Massachusetts Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired (MABVI) and Natick High School Class of ’05

A stuffed snowman wearing a winter hat sits on a table at the Natick support group meetingOnce a month, they meet at the Natick Senior Center, in an often filled-to-capacity room right next to the gift shop. They come to share stories. They come to learn about helpful tips and resources. They come to bond over their shared disability: vision loss.

On this day in late December, however, they have come for the turkey.

A catered spread of turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, and other seasonally-appropriate food items (Let’s not forget the pie!) sits on a long table against the window as the members of the Massachusetts Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired’s (MABVI) Low Vision Peer Support Group gather for a holiday feast.

The luncheon, a break in routine from the usual guest speakers and group discussion, has become an annual December tradition for the group.

“It’s fantastic,” says group member and co-coordinator Marge Burrows. “It gets better every year.” Continue reading

Holiday Cooking with MasterChef Winner Christine Ha

Photo Courtesy of Mitch Mandel/Rodale

Photo Courtesy of Mitch Mandel/Rodale

This holiday season MABVI brings you tips and tricks on how to get in the spirit. “MasterChef” winner Christine Ha, who is visually impaired, shared her holiday cooking tips for us! Ha is the author of the New York Times bestseller, Recipes from my Home Kitchen. She also offers some recipes from her blog, The Blind Cook.

On assumptions about vision loss and cooking:

Perhaps the biggest misconception blind people have about cooking is that it’s impossible. It’s not. Look at me. It’s about practice and adapting your kitchen and tools accordingly. My biggest accomplishment as a chef is obviously winning “MasterChef” Season 3. But more importantly, it’s relearning how to cook independently after vision loss. What I enjoy most about cooking is the same today as it was when I first began: learning how to improve, learning about new ingredients and techniques, just learning and improving in general—and, of course, feeding others.

 On getting back in the kitchen after experiencing vision loss:

It’s about practice and experience and not being afraid to make mistakes. Rather, you learn from them. Start with the small stuff: learn how a knife should feel in your hands. Cut something easy like a lemon or orange. Do it slowly and carefully. Make sure to curl your fingertips away from the blade. Begin by heating up a soup in a saucepan. Take baby steps and feel victorious over the little things.

As with anything around the house as a VI person, it’s important to be organized. Get a sighted person to help you organize your kitchen from the pantry to the cabinets to the fridge and spice rack. Buy some adaptive tools like a talking scale, talking thermometer and a liquid level indicator. Mark the “5”, “start” and “stop” buttons on the microwave with raised bump stickers. Mark the oven knobs and buttons, and stove burner knobs so that the functions and temperatures are easily functional for you.

 On recommendations for easy holiday cooking:

Stuffing is a holiday staple. Many cooks often resort to packaged stuffing and dressing it up with added sausage, dried cranberries, apples, walnuts, onion, celery, etc. Or just simply follow the package directions, and voila. You’ve got an instant side dish for the holidays. Other simple holiday dishes include caramel dip for apples, roasted Brussels sprouts or squash, or a cheese spread.

Holiday Recipes from The Blind Cook blog:
Bring savory slices of prime rib to your dinner table with your choice of au jus and horseradish sauces. Ha recommends a digital meat thermometer to make sure the prime rib comes out perfect.
http://www.theblindcook.com/2010/12/22/prime-rib-au-jus-with-horseradish-sauce/

Bake soft and sweet gingerbread cookies without molasses. This recipe includes butterscotch pudding mix, ginger, cinnamon and brown sugar for that decadent taste.
http://www.theblindcook.com/2010/12/20/gingerbread-cookies/