How the Blind Cook

David E. Price and guide dog Plymouth in Gigondas

A few months ago, I received an unusual email from an American reader of Chocolate & Zucchini, David E. Price, a former geologist and now computer programmer who goes to graduate school in Salt Lake City, and is an enthusiastic cook.

David explained that he had purchased copies of my books but that — and here comes the unusual part — because he was blind, he was wondering if there was a computer-readable version he could have access to: he was otherwise going to scan the pages and run them through a character recognition program, but he worried that the mix of French and English terms, as well as the fractions in the measurements, might make the resulting recipes inaccurate.

An arrangement was found with my publisher, and once that was taken care of, David and I continued our email conversation. In particular, I asked him about the accessibility of C&Z, and whether there was anything I could change to make it easier for the blind to read; there was, and I altered the code accordingly*.

And then, although I was a little hesitant to raise the topic, I had to admit I was curious to learn about the practicalities of cooking without vision. I had never really stopped to wonder if and how it was possible, and I was admirative, to say the least: it certainly took skill, perseverance, and a great love of food to cook and bake without relying on your eyes.

It was a thought-provoking exchange and I was sure other cooks would feel the same way, so I asked David if he would submit himself to a Q&A about the challenges he faces in the kitchen every day. His answers are below; thank you, David, for inviting us into your kitchen.

* If you’d like to learn more about this, read the page David put together about web accessibility.

Clotilde Dusoulier

Please tell us a few words about yourself — your age, place of living, occupation?

I am forty-four years old and I live in Salt Lake City, Utah, USA. I am currently back in graduate school in computer science, but before I lost most of my vision, I was a geologist.

Clotilde Dusoulier

Would you mind telling us at what age you lost your sight?

I lost my sight due to two optic nerve tumors. Fortunately, these tumors were benign, but I lost the vision in my left eye when I was twelve years old, and most of the vision in my right eye when I was twenty-eight.

Clotilde Dusoulier

You are obviously a passionate cook and baker. Were you always that way? How has the loss of your sight affected you as a cook, and as an eater?

I got into cooking when I was about eight or nine years old. It was driven by the fact that I loved chocolate chip cookies and the best way to get them was to make them myself. Of course, it also gave me control over distribution of the cookies, so I always got more than my two older brothers — small victories are important when you are the youngest. My baking expanded from cookies to cakes and brownies, but after finishing college and leaving behind the dubious pleasures of dining hall cuisine, my interest in cooking broadened from just the treats to include cooking to eat, then cooking to eat better.

As far as I know, losing my vision hasn’t affected my approach to cooking or eating that much. It has merely changed the mechanics. The crucial thing that has changed when I am cooking is that I am now much more deliberate in every action. I also tend to prepare all of the ingredients before I begin cooking. This means that cooking now takes much longer than it did before vision loss.

Eating with little or no vision brings a number of challenges. The first is knowing where the various parts of the meal are on the plate. In the US, the convention is to describe the contents of the plate using the positions on an analog clock. This description always runs clockwise, and if there is something in the center of the plate, it is described last. Thus, I might hear that “the chicken is from 5 to 8, the vegetables are from 9 to 12, and the salad is from 1 to 4.”

This sort of description can be used with other objects on the dinner table. For instance, I might be told that the salt and pepper are above the plate at eleven o’clock. Similarly, if the salad bowl is being passed around the table, you might hand it to a blind person and tell him that it is the salad and the salad tongs are at two o’clock. Finally, it is always a good idea to tell someone who is blind that you are refilling their glass. Many a spill has been caused by someone refilling a glass and the person with vision loss being surprised as they tip the glass to drink from it.

Clotilde Dusoulier

The fact that you can cook and bake without seeing is a cause for wonder to the vast majority of sighted people, I’m sure. Can you tell us a little bit about the practicalities? Do you have a special way to label and/or organize your ingredients? How do you test food for doneness? How do you plate it? How do you follow recipes while in the kitchen?

There are many techniques that the blind can use while cooking. Here are a few of the ones that I use:

– I use Braille labels to organize most of my ingredients. For instance, all of my spices have Braille numbers on the lids, and I refer to a Braille list that indicates which numbers go with which spices. I have created magnetic Dymo labels in Braille for canned goods, and create normal Dymo tape Braille labels for other goods.

– There are techniques for measuring liquids. When measuring large quantities of liquids (1/4 cup or more), I use a “spill pan” under the measuring cup — in my case, a small pie pan that I clean after every spill. If I overfill the measuring cup, the excess in the spill pan can be poured back into the original container. For measuring small amounts of liquids (teaspoons or tablespoons) I use a “dipping” spoon. A dipping spoon is a normal metal measuring spoon with a handle that has been bent 90 degrees just above the bowl of the spoon. This way, the handle can be held vertically and the bowl of the spoon dipped into the liquid, filled, and then moved to its destination. I also have a talking kitchen scale that weighs in pounds/ounces or grams.

– When working with knives, there are no special techniques — just basic knife safety. Of course, just as for every cook, it is very important to keep those knives as sharp as possible so that cutting and slicing go easily. For some reason, my desire for extremely sharp knives seems to astonish people.

– When working on the stovetop, the principal issue is keeping the pan centered over the burner. It is very easy for that pan to wander off center, so the blind cook needs to develop an awareness of the pan’s location and a sense of how to adjust the position of the pan on the burner, depending on how the food is cooking.

I like to use gas burners, and when I was just starting out in a cooking class for the blind at the rehabilitation training center, I was cooking with a small saucepan. It drifted off center and soon the oven mitt I was wearing caught fire. Fortunately, oven mitts don’t burn very well, so I just walked over to the sink and ran the mitt under the tap water to put out the fire — it certainly amused everyone else in the class.

Another issue the blind must keep in mind is awareness of what burners are in use and what types of pots are on each of them. Another of my early experiences in that cooking class was moving a large pot from one burner to another and forgetting about the other large pot on the stove. I nearly dropped the pot I was holding when it collided with the other one. This definitely would not have amused the rest of the class, as it was part of their lunch.

Oven mitts are strongly recommended when using the oven. It is just too easy to inadvertently touch something hot, so you need to protect your hands. When I remove something from the oven, it is done very deliberately. First, I find and pull out the rack. Then I start from each side of the rack and move towards the center until I find the pan. From there, getting the pan out of the oven is easy.

Most of the time, I test for doneness in the normal fashion, by tasting. For baked goods, I’ll also insert the toothpick or sharp knife to test for doneness. However, for baked goods that I can’t test using the toothpick or knife, I will test by pressing my fingers against the surface to determine its consistency. For instance, I still like to make chocolate chip cookies from time to time, and the only way I have to test them is to press my fingers on the surface of a few cookies. For my recipe, if the cookies are firm but slightly yielding, they are done. Of course, this has to be done very carefully — I don’t want to press on that cookie sheet.

Roasts also pose a problem for the blind cook. There are talking instant-read thermometers, but I am never sure that I am getting the probe inserted into the correct part of the roast. However, I found a wireless thermometer, actually marketed for barbecues, that I can insert into the meat before cooking. This thermometer will talk and notify me when the roast is five degrees short of done and again when done. I’ve never had a problem with a roast since buying this thermometer.

– There aren’t really any special techniques for placing servings onto a plate. I will admit that I’m not very artistic at arranging food on a plate so, when I’m hosting a dinner party, I tend to get assistance from one of my sighted friends.

– I have two methods for following recipes while cooking. I usually follow the recipe using my computer**. In my apartment, my computer lives in a room a few short steps from the kitchen. It is very easy to step over, read the next instruction, and step back into the kitchen to perform the task. In other kitchens, I set up my laptop in a safe spot. However, if I can’t use my computer, I record the recipe on a portable recorder and carry that around in the kitchen.

Clotilde Dusoulier

I imagine you keep a collection of recipes/cookbooks. How are they organized, so you can browse and access them easily?

I keep my recipes on my computer. They are divided into the usual sorts of categories, such as soups, salads, beef, poultry, fish, vegetables, etc. I also have a shelf of cookbooks. Sadly, they are poorly organized, and only a few have Braille labels on the spines. Of course, the trick is getting the recipes from the cookbooks into my computer.

When I first buy a new cookbook, I generally use my computer and a flat-bed scanner to scan an image of the index. I then use a program that performs optical character recognition (OCR) — it converts the picture of the page into a computer file containing the characters, numbers, and punctuation.

Generally, I use the index to pick out the recipe I want to use, and then I will scan and perform OCR on the page(s) containing the recipe. If I like many of the recipes, I tend to scan the entire cookbook — no small task. Sadly, OCR isn’t as accurate as one might hope when processing recipes, particularly in the ingredient lists. Therefore, I generally have to spend time correcting the recipe before I can get down to the task of cooking — and I haven’t yet finished correcting any of the books that I have scanned.

Clotilde Dusoulier

What would you say is the biggest challenge a blind cook has to overcome?

I believe that this will vary from cook to cook. There are some techniques that I find difficult to master without vision, such as making a decent (not even good) omelet — mine generally end up more like scrambled eggs than an omelet (sigh). I also have troubles turning over a fish fillet while broiling or grilling it: it tends to end up in two pieces.

Every blind cook I know is still sorting out a group of techniques that cause them problems, but we do generally find solutions. For instance, when I make Alsatian onion tart (tarte à l’oignon d’Alsace), I use a springform pan. The wall of the pan allows me to spread the filling out evenly over the crust without spilling and, when it has finished baking, I can remove the wall and easily slide the tart onto a plate.

On a more general note, I think we all agree that one of our biggest problems is access to cookbooks. The internet is a wonderful resource when you know what you want to cook, but it is slow to browse through. One wonderful thing about cookbooks is the ability to flip back and forth when putting together a menu: “This looks good. What can I serve with it?”

Clotilde Dusoulier

Is there anything recipe writers can do to address the blind cook’s needs?

The crucial thing that is problematic for the blind cook is the visual indication that the recipe has progressed to a certain point and the next step can continue. Instructions like “stir until the sauce clarifies” are difficult for the blind. Thus, including any indication that call upon the other senses, such as texture or aroma, can really be useful. Also, time estimates to reach that point can help. For instance, “stir the sauce for approximately 30 seconds, until it clarifies, thickens, and the spices become fragrant” is much more usable for the blind cook.

There is one other thing that leaps to mind that would be very useful for me. However, I don’t know that sighted cooks would like it. When I’m working with a new recipe, I always go through the instructions and add the quantities for each ingredient in front of the ingredient name. For instance, the instruction “Add the ground cumin, coriander, turmeric, and cayenne” becomes “Add the 1 tablespoon ground cumin, 2 tablespoons coriander, 1 tablespoon turmeric, and 1 teaspoon cayenne.” Having the quantities in the instructions means that I don’t have to scroll back up to find out the quantity for each ingredient, then scroll back down to the instructions again. However, I don’t know if the sighted cook would want that much clutter in the instructions.

Clotilde Dusoulier

What does Plymouth (David’s guide dog), think about your love of food — is he a gourmand, too?

Plymouth is definitely a food-oriented dog. Being a labrador retriever, he can’t be any other way — he has the labrador gene. I’ve trained him to stay out of the kitchen when I’m cooking. Having a dog underfoot while carrying knives or pots is just too risky. Of course, the instant I’ve finished cooking and left the kitchen, Plymouth is on his way in to see if I dropped anything that I failed to clean up.

Clotilde Dusoulier

Is there any other topic you’d like to raise?

Just a few things to guide those who might find themselves in a blind person’s kitchen:

– A blind person’s kitchen has to be well-organized. If something is not put back into the correct place, it is lost and will take a long time to find. If you are helping in a blind person’s kitchen, don’t put anything away unless you know exactly where it belongs.

– If you are opening a drawer, cupboard door, or the dishwasher, tell the blind person you are doing so. How can I put this delicately… the blind won’t see it and can easily run into it.

– Always place things on the counters, especially glassware, well back from the edge. Anything near the edge stands a good chance of getting knocked off the counter or into the sink.

– Never, ever place anything on the stovetop without telling the blind cook. I once had a friend helping to clean up who accidentally left a towel on the stovetop. When I put a pot on the stovetop and started to cook the next day, I suddenly had a little, unexpected bonfire on the stovetop.

For those who are unfamiliar with the etiquette for interacting with the blind, you’ll find some tips here; for those interested in how to interact with a guide dog team, read these.

** The blind access computers through a software program called a screen reader. These programs keep track of what is happening on the computer and send output to the blind user. The output comes in two forms: a Braille display, or through speech synthesis. For example, as I am typing my answers to this Q&A, I hear each word I type spoken aloud. When I review what I have written, I hear the content that I am crossing spoken aloud. If I am navigating by lines, I hear lines of text spoken. If I am moving by word or character, I hear only that word or character.

  • Absolutely fascinating! I loved reading this post about David, who is amazing. As a “new cook” I find it challenging to try even some of the most basic recipes as I am still learning the various techniques. It is inspirational to read about someone who has overcome challenges far greater than mine in order to continue his love of cooking (and eating). I am very impressed and touched by his story. thank you.

  • John

    That’s amazing.

    There is this podcast about Accessibility in Web. The guy interviewed is a blind programmer from Microsoft. The discussion is about how to setup applications to be usable under various situations.


  • Diana

    Thank you for this post. I was the dinner guest of a deaf-blind cook a few years ago, and it was amazing to watch her skill in the kitchen.

  • Absolutely fascinating… and more importantly, so admirable. I’m a home baker and recently spent a night working in a fine dining restaurant here in Sydney, and I thought that was challenging! Congratulations to all those who exceed expectations and challenge themselves, despite the obstacles.

  • wow. what a story!
    this will be something to contemplate today as i go about my easy breezy preparations. i’m quite simply awed by the attention to detail that david must have while making the simplest things. really cool.

  • Thanks for the insightful and interesting article/interevie. A captivating subject and stunning personality!



  • An

    This is absolutely fascinating! Just today I was reading on an Australian Magazine “Good Living” about how those with impaired vision or no sense of smell cook in the kitchen. I’m just a beginner cook and still learning. It’s good to know that having a passion can overcome our physical limitations! Thanks for sharing!

  • eden

    It’s definately not only you David, I’d also like to have the amounts of ingredients in the recipe steps.

    I’m usually cooking more than one thing at a time, so the precious seconds required to look back at the list can result in something else overcooking.

  • Oh, that’s fascinating. Any chance you could talk about what you did to make C&Z more accessible?

  • Thanks to both of you for sharing this-amazing really.

  • I am so impressed. Thank you both for this post. What an amazing guy. He hosts dinner parties? He puts a lot of people to shame! He’s a real star.

  • Sam

    How perfectly fascinating! I had no idea that there was such a thing as a wireless thermometer! And I must say that the suggestion of putting amounts INTO the instructions is a very good one – prevents mistakes!

  • What a fascinating interview! All of us can learn a lot from his safety tips and good organization. (Especially an occasionally clumsy and sometimes rushed person like me!)

  • Jen

    What a great post– it’s really inspiring to hear that David hasn’t let blindness get in the way of his love of food and cooking. I seem to remember hearing about a television cooking program for the blind a few months ago, but it avoided the stove completely.

  • Thanks for sharing, it’s really nice to hear that cooking is not confined to the sighted.

  • Walter

    Wonderful interview.

    A lot of things I’ve never thought about, and certainly they will be good to take into consideration if I’m in the home of a blind cook at some point in the future.

    I like to believe that most of us have good intentions when dealing with people with these challenges, but we are ignorant to how they deal with them and what we can do to make our own actions more considerate towards them.

    You have to respect people who are able to meet these kinds of challenges and keep such a positive outlook while overcoming them.

  • Hey! I think I know David! I worked at the marvelous King’s English Bookshop when I was in grad school in SLC and I’m pretty sure he was one of our customers — charming, terrific guy — we had many a Saturday-afternoon chat.

  • That is the coolest thing I’ve read in a long time.

  • Kavita Favelle

    Thank you so much for this blog post (and thank you to David for his openness and advice). Very inspiring.

  • EB

    I’m with Elizabeth, I’d love to know how changing the code makes your site more accessible.

  • Shelli

    Your interest in things other than simply cooking is one of the reasons C&Z is so vibrant and continually interesting.

    I love the idea of the food idioms, as you know. Did you ask to keep one of the menus to take home? I bet they’d give you one, which would be a fun souvenir.

  • Thank you! That was a mind-expanding interview.

  • Wow. That was very interesting and informative. I’ve been wanting to write a cookbook for a long time. I believe that once I finally make it to that project, I will take David’s suggestions to heart and make it easily usable. Yay.

  • Clotilde and David, thanks for sharing. I found this very interesting. Being deaf myself, I will occassionally come across recipes that say something like “bake until sounds hollow when tapped”. What does hollow sound like?? I still manage anyway :-).

  • That’s really amazing! I confess I was really surprised with all that! I loved both David’s advices in this post and the tips offered by Guide Dogs website!
    I will definitely try to incorporate some of these tips!

  • Dawn in CA

    Great post, thanks for this story! David, you rock.

  • dory

    I found the interview really interesting. I am a relatively (but not totally) inexperienced sighted person at interacting helpfully with blind people, and I appreciated the information and tips.


  • David is wonderful!

    When you see the obstacles he has to overcome, it’s hard not to feel guilty about being lazy and wanting to resort to prepackaged food versus taking time to prepare a wholesome meal. He’s a better champion chef than me!

    It’s also refreshing to see someone go back to grad school in their 40s.

    Hats off to you, Clotilde, for making your blog more accessible.

  • I found this post very interesting – thank you Clotilde and David for sharing! I do some work with disabilities and I find myself becoming more and more aware of how what an able person do could affect a disabled person’s life (like that towel on the stovetop story!) It’s also comforting to read a blind person’s tales of cooking – I always assumed that if I ever were to be in an accident and be unable to see that my life would be ruined because so much of it involves cooking and the computer, but I see that a lot of that can be overcome.

  • Thanks for this inspiring post. People amaze me constantly with their ingenuity and passion and David is a shining example of both. Thank you very much from the bottom of my heart.

  • Extremely inspiring. Thanks for giving us the opportunity to learn about this fascinating topic Clotilde!

  • Wow- thanks for putting together this amazing story. It is truly eye-opening.

  • Thank you David. There were so many things that I didn’t know or even given thought about! You truly are an inspiration. The fact that you are a passionate cook comes across clearly in your excellently written answers.

  • thanks for a really illuminating interview (no pun intended). There was a restaurant in Melbourne that was dark and I thought one of the aims was to make people use other senses such as smell more – David didn’t mention smell much but I have learnt from some other (sighted) cooks how important this is when baking, which I am sure he is well aware of!

    I have also been told that giving weblinks meaningful names rather than ‘link’ or ‘here’ help with accessibility on the web for vision impaired.

    Lots to think about!

  • In a time where everybody is a bit giddy about the economics and politics, this post sure cuts any procrastination temptation.

    Thanks! And hurray for David and his love of life.

  • This is awesome. And something I’ve never really thought much about before. So inspiring! Thank you :)

  • For those who are interested, the C&Z web page was accessible before our discussion. I suggested a few things that would make navigation a bit easier for the blind.

    If you are interested in more information on this topic, here is a page on creating accessible web content. I quickly wrote it out, so I’ll go back and clean it up very soon. :-)

    My thanks to all of you for your good wishes!

  • Marcia

    i forwarded this story to my friend at the GA School for the Blind. (Our State School Supt won $1 mil on a TV program and donated it to the School for the Blind and the School for the Deaf) Maybe others will learn from this as it is not easy to cook when there are vision impairments.

    As a HS Sp Ed teacher I have had visually impaired students and cooking is not an easy task to learn.

    This was also forwarded to a teacher friend who is blind as of 5 years ago. She has a hard time “reading” and perhaps this will give her some ideas.

    Apple Computer has many great programs that assist visually impaired. Check it out at an Apple Store near you. Even 20 years ago, my Apple Computer would read tests and other materials to my low vision and low ability students. Technology has made great strides for those with disabilities of various kinds.

  • Sheryl

    Clothilde, thanks for posting this! David, I have so much respect for you. It’s obvious from the effort you put into it that you really love to cook, and I’m glad you’ve found ways to make that possible. Thanks for being willing to share this part of your life with us. Bon apetit!

  • Em

    Truly fascinating. I would never have considered those things. This was so enlightening. Thank you very much for sharing :)

  • delphine

    Cool I wish that there was a way to get the word out more about accessibility. I think understanding really comes with interaction with people with disabilities.
    I’ve been lucky in that my brother is hard of hearing and my mom is a special ed teacher so I’m pretty aware.
    Two things that I think are pretty universal to all disabilities:
    1)Treat the person as you normally would treat an adult. Adults with disabilities know what they need and will speak up to get it so it’s best to wait to see what they want before making adaptations.
    2)Suck it up. Sometimes it may be uncomfortable and feel socially awkward when interacting with a person with a disability because you aren’t used to it. That’s okay but unless it’s really too overwhelming, take a breath, gather your patience and give the person the same attention you would give anyone else.

    didn’t mean for that to get so long…brevity is not a strong point for me

  • That was fascinating. I’ve got a large Estonian recipe site (also called Nami-Nami), and I know it’s popular with the blind cooks – they’ve written me various recommendations for html-codes that would make reading easier for them. Much appreciated!

  • This post is inspiring. Anyone who is passionate about food can only be humbled by this dedication. Thanks David, for sharing, and Clotilde, for having the intuition to ask him to.

  • I am so inspired by David! I added a link to this story on my website, Fireflies of Hope.

    I am grateful that you posted this story about David ~ such a remarkably creative, optimistic, can-do person. It’s so nice to be reminded that there are people like this in the world.

    It makes me want to be a better person, complain less, and be more thoughtful about the every day things I do, which I have taken for granted. Everything we have is a gift.

  • This was a great post! I really enjoyed reading it. Very inspiring. Thank you so much for sharing.

  • Thank you, Clotilde and David, for your wonderful and informative post. Very inspiring. I happen to be enrolled in a Web Programming class this semester and one of our upcoming projects requires us to use a screen reader. The exercise will simulate web access for the visually impaired and will encourage us, as students, to design effectively and accurately to ensure accessibility for all audiences. I’m looking forward to the experience and will surely take note of your comments, David, on “Creating Accessible Web Content”. Thank you!

  • As someone who is a note-taker for students with disabilities, I am constantly amazed at what they study and how they find ways to make sure they do well.

    Subjects like economics are one thing, but some of the other subjects like chemistry are tricky. Suddenly you gain an awareness of what it is to be visually-impaired and how someone’s mind is irritated by a body that won’t do as it’s told.

  • mandysu

    Wow. That is really interesting, and not something I had thought about before. Thank you for sharing!

  • Aiyana

    Dear Clothilde,

    Since working for Talking Books (a library service primarily for the blind), I’ve learned so much about how people with different abilities approach the world, and it saddens me that this information is not more widely known. Thank you so much for helping raise awareness with this fascinating interview!

    I also wanted to thank you for your previous post. I adore words and wordplay, and part of the fun for me in reading your books is improving my French vocabulary!

    all the best,

  • How interesting!
    Before this week I never really thought much about how people with disabilities could or would cook. Every Tuesday the Sydney Morning Herald has a Food Section, and this week there was an article about ‘Overcoming disabilities in the kitchen’.
    Thanks for the great article.

  • Renee Rushefski

    This post was very interesting for me. I am currently a senior in high school and I am working on writing a cookbook of my own. I truly appreciated the fact that David stated, “an indication that calls upon the other senses, such as texture or aroma, can really be useful”. I am definitely going to consider this when editing my book.

  • Rachel

    Fascinating – thank you Clotilde and David!

    I’m sure I speak for a lot of readers when I say that I will never again take my sight for granted in the kitchen.

  • Wouter

    Fascinating to read about this. And I must say that I love your writing style, David. If you’ve ever thought about writing a (cook)book yourself, for instance to help others with similar challenges, I think it would turn out great.

  • Clotilde and David, thanks so much for a fascinating insight into something I hadn’t really given much thought to … off to check my own websites and make sure they are accessible!

  • Wonderful. Thank you for bringing us this. What an inspirational interview.

  • I found this both fascinating and terrifying to read. Blindness is a very real possibility for my future, unfortunately. (Already lost the central vision in one eye.)

    However, it is reassuring to hear how David works in the kitchen. Thank-you so much for the article!

  • Christina Oldenburg

    This is a very interesting, informational story. We can all learn from it.
    I recall an inspirational cook and author of several cookbooks from 40 to 50 years ago in California. She was blind. Her name was Elena (Zelayeta) who wrote fabulous books on Mexican cooking. These books are still available, mostly used, I think, for high prices on online book sources. Her indomitable spirit was/is inspiring.

  • What a fascinating interview!

  • Thanks for sharing such a enlightening interview.

    Whilst I was doing some research for my dissertation I came across this guide for making eating easier for someone who is blind or visually impaired.

  • Thank you for posting this story, Clothide. It’s inpsiring to read about David, who has found ways to do what he loves, in spite of losing his sight. It’s reminded me in a very touching way, that limitations are not limitations when you learn how to work around them. I would like to taste what he cooks and cook alongside him someday!

  • Saw you on Bizarre Foods, I just cannot wait to visit that fabulous cheese shop!

  • Beth

    Thanks for this post, Clotilde, and thanks for sharing, David!

    David, I can relate to being in graduate school and enjoying cooking. Most of the sane students I know do something (cooking, knitting, beer brewing, jewelry making, et cetera) to get out of their heads. I know cooking together has been really important to my husband and me as we’ve been in school. Most of our dishes haven’t been too complicated, but they’ve enriched us all the same.

  • Norlinda

    Thanks for sharing your story David. It was inspiring. Thanks Clotilde for bringing us this story.

  • ceu

    Thank you so much. I have retinitis pigmentosa and expect to have very impaired vision in as little as 10 years. I love to cook and wondered how i might be able to continue then. I also have a desire to re-do my currently inefficient kitchen. This was a huge help. Thank you again.

  • Nikki

    Thank you for such an inspiring post. David’s words are much appreciated.

  • Helena

    This is fascinating! I have never had an opportunity to interact with a blind person. And a blind person who loves to cook – this is simply one person who should be interviewed by Oprah. David must be a very patient man. And that is cool!

  • Tess

    I agree with the lovely David: the more clues a recipe-writer can give the cook, the better. I would love if recipes included visual, textural, olfactory, and time clues for each stage. That’s one problem I’ve had with Martha Stewart recipes: they often seem to just say “Bake for 20 minutes” with no other information!

  • dory

    Dear ceu,

    I love to read about medical issues and have been reading about retinitis pigmentosa. (No, I am not a medical professional of any kind– just endlessly curious.) I heard they have some new treatments in the pipeline. I will be hoping that you get unexpected and good surprises in the next 10 years. In the meantime it is good to know that you will still be cooking whatever happens!


  • Hello and thank you again for a wonderfully written and thoughtful piece. I had to tell my readers about it. Hope it causes people to reflect. We take for granted how many ways we rely on sight and on visual cues and metaphors. I was horrified recently walking with a friend who is visually impaired/legally blind. She is quite capable and self-sufficient, so most people meeting her don’t even notice.

    We were about to cross a street and a hybrid car whooshed by silently. I made some comment about how nice it is that they are so quiet. She said, not for me. Horrified, I realized to someone blind or visually impaired, it’s literally life-threatening not to be able to hear a car you may be stepping out in front of!

    People like her and like David have more courage than I might have.

    Anyway, food for thought.

  • PM

    Very interesting article. In my experience, David’s guidelines for a kitchen are equally relevant in a ‘sighted’ kitchen. My husband and I share a tiny galley kitchen and I tell him when I am opening something, bending over, etc so that we don’t bump each other. I also agree with David and the commenter about putting amounts IN the ingredients – Excellent idea, David – some of us haven’t mastered mis-en-place :) I don’t simply because there are literally three bowls and saucers that get used over and over again! The concept might cause repetition, but is useful to the end-user, and may even result in a more accurate recipe!

  • What a fascinating Q&A. Very eye opening. I give David a lot of credit for his perseverance in the kitchen (and life in general). As much as I enjoy cooking, as I read about all the logistics it takes to cook as a blind person, I found myself wondering if I’d go to the trouble. I’ll be cooking with a new perspective today.

  • Helen

    Fact for y’all: The wonderful AGA cooker owes its existence to the blind(ed) physicist, Dr Gustav Dalen.

  • Dear Clotilde,

    Our visual culture favors the sighted. By sharing Mr. Price’s story, as well as your own insightful questions, you’ve shed light on a topic that deserves attention. The “reader” programs that accompany most computers are not very good and sighted people should try them to see what navigating the Internet is like for the blind.

    There is a free reader program available to the blind. It is called Thunder and was designed by Roger Wilson Hinds, who is blind. (JAWS reader software costs $895 is is cost-prohibitive for many.) Here’s the link to Thunder.

    I wrote an article about the sense of smell and the blind that you may find of interest. It includes the story of a blind perfumer.

  • Kiley

    Such a great story!!! I have been working with blind children for over 10 years and an important skill is teaching them independence in the kitchen. We usually work on making a sandwich and learning how to use the microwave and even how to assemble a salad. It is wonderful that David loves to cook and experiment in the kitchen. I only hope some of my students will love to cook when they are adults! Thanks for the inspiration that I will pass on to many children who will look at David as a role model!!

  • I’m a totally blind quadriplegic. I love to cook. I always have. For me the smell of food plays a very important part in cooking. If it smells good while it’s cooking, chances are it’s going to taste good because the aroma of the food and taste combines.

    When I place the food on a plate I make sure it’s placed in a way that it doesn’t mix unless it’s suppose to and I have always smelled my food as I as it passed my nose ever since I can remember. I guess it’s all part of the experience.

  • L. Civitello

    In the movie “Places in the Heart,” John Malkovich plays a blind cook who is ingenious and resourceful.

  • Patricia

    Referring to the question asking about Plymouth’s eating habits:

    gour·mand (plural gour·mands)



    food lover: a lover of food who often eats excessively or greedily

    [15th century. < French, “glutton”]

  • Patricia – Yes, that is one acception of the word, but another is simply, “A lover of good food,” with no implication of excess or greed. Context is important in determining the sense in which a word is used.

  • Hello Clotilde!

    Following on your interview with David Price I saw this on Twitter: “Cooking Without Looking”: tv show from Florida. enjoy!

  • Jess – Thanks so much for the great link, Jess. I’ll send it to David.

  • delie_dell chua

    thanks for the helpful info… now i know how to teach cooking and baking to my VI students…..

  • Zahier

    I was searching on the internet for how a blind person could cook and this is the first website that I’ve visited. Honestly, I am impressed and also inspired by David to do my own blind cooking one day once I can get my mom out of the kitchen. :P Though it is a serious and life-risking matter, I am still amused by some of David’s stories such as the accidental burning of his oven mitten and the towel bonfire. I feel for his plight of the fish fillet and omelettes as I myself have experienced similar difficulties. Thumbs up once again. :D

  • Erin

    What a thoughtful and well written interview with David. I have several Deaf-Blind friends who love to cook and this post is really helpful.

  • Kate

    This is fascinating. Thank you both for sharing!

  • Lekha

    This so wonderful!! I volunteer with the Blind Institute here in Cambridge, U.K. as well as Transcribe text into Braille. , called CAM SIGHT. They have a special room for Low Vision Equipment and also people who teach people who are Visually Impaired how to be independent. And they run an event called ‘Dining in the dark’…literally eating in absolute darkness so that sighted people can experience and appreciate how important sight is. It’s really a revelation how resourceful they can be. I am always worried that I may go Blind and this helps me to know I will cope with their help.
    Thank you for sharing this.

    • Thank you Lekha. I understand Dave, who’s interviewed here, also benefited from classes that teach skills to visually impaired people. I, too, found it very inspiring to think that such a significant sensory loss doesn’t always have to be the end of things you best love to do.

  • Pia maria

    This article is so interesting. Thank you Clotilde for writing this, and Thank you David for sharing your life with readers. I actually love your idea of repeating the quantities in the instructions, it can take a fair bit of concentration from us sighted people to read back to the ingredient list. There have been many times that I’ve added, for example, 1 tablespoon of baking powder and 1 tsp of spice instead of the other way round.

    • Thank you Pia, I’m glad you enjoyed it! Having David as a friend has changed the way I interact with blind people. I feel much more informed, and therefore confident offering my assistance in ways that can be actually helpful and not patronizing.

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