During a conversation with my sister one day, when we were mulling over how to persuade a few more people to part with their hard-earned cash and donate to our fundraising efforts for Moorfields Eye Charity (https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/rd-ramblers), I suggested the idea of making a cup of tea whilst blindfolded and taking a photo of the results to put on Facebook. I wanted to somehow get people to think about the fact that even the simplest and most mundane of everyday tasks could potentially be extremely difficult for someone who is blind or visually impaired. I thought it would be great to make it a challenge and get other people to join in and post photos of their efforts in return. My suggestion was met with a gasp of horror from Lucy, and the disapproving exclamation of, “Errr – health and safety! You could end up pouring boiling water over your hand!”. I was slightly crestfallen but had to admit that she did have a point. Anyway, she must have felt a bit bad about pouring cold water over my idea as a few weeks later she came up with a far better one herself: blind baking. Obviously, I’m not talking about pastry cases here. Along with assistance from her talented filmmaker and kitchen guide, Ginny, she proceeded to prepare a cake whilst keeping her eyes tightly closed (she promised she didn’t peek!) and making a fair amount of mess in the process. The film of their efforts can be watched here, and you can read Lucy’s comments on her experiment below.
I can’t really compare this experience of baking a cake with my eyes closed to that of being blind, but it was an interesting experience!
I had put all the ingredients ready first, so could remember roughly where I had put them, but I had to feel for the different shapes and sizes of packaging. The main difficulty here was that I was conscious of avoiding knocking anything over whilst feeling for the right packet.
I chose a yohurt pot recipe because all the ingredients are measured in the yoghurt pot or cup, so it’s really easy (with your eyes open!). I normally hold the cup over the bowl, but found that with my eyes closed I needed two hands to do the actual measuring – one to hold the packet of whatever I was tipping into the cup and another to feel for when I’d reached the top of the cup.
Having managed to get the ingredients in the bowl and mix it to something I hoped resembled cake mix, I realised a mistake: I hadn’t got the cake tin out ready. I had decided that a cake tin was more practical than cupcakes, but had forgotten to put it ready. As we ran out of video space by the end, we finished there and I opened my eyes to get the cake tin, grease it and fill with the cake mixture. However, had I carried on with my eyes shut, I would have had trouble finding the right sized tin in my very full cake tin cupboard. I think to cope with practicalities of being blind or partially sighted, you must have to really minimise your whole home in order to be able to find things by touch.
So, I managed to prepare a cake with my eyes closed, relying a lot on guidance from Ginny, who was filming, and familiarity of my kitchen. It was a very thought-provoking experience and the main thing which stayed with me was that the process of preparing the cake was do-able, but the thing I would really miss would be seeing the end product. Our running commentary gives an idea of what it was like, and I don’t think I made that much mess really, did I?!?!
Huge thanks go to Lucy and Ginny for doing this, and for allowing me to share the video. If you’d like to give it a go yourself (note: it’s not compulsory to keep your eyes shut whilst doing so), the recipe is as follows:
Using the same size cup or pot of yoghurt, add the following and mix together:
1 cup yoghurt
1 cup oil
1 cup egg (1 egg = 1/2 of a standard cup measure)
1 cup caster sugar
3 cups self-raising flour
Add flavouring of your choice, for example:
1 cup dried fruit
1 tsp mixed spice
Mix together and pour into greased loaf tin. Bake at 180 degrees for 30 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean. (Note: the video shows the recipe being made with a standard 1/3 cup measure. A larger cup mix will take longer to bake.)