Saturday, June 14, 2008

Basque Cookbook in Braille

The web page brings to us this article:

Cookbook helps the blind cook Basque cuisine

Associated Press Writer

Posted: Jun. 13, 2008

BILBAO, Spain — For Jose Angel Iturbe, making the renowned cuisine of Spain's Basque region more accessible to the visually impaired was a bit like cooking blindfolded.

It also was a delicious success.

Asked to create a cooking course for the blind, Iturbe and 30 students from his school of restaurant and hotel management at Leioa University produced not just a class, but also an award-winning Braille cookbook.

"It was a big challenge because at all times we had to act as if we were blindfolded," Iturbe said recently of the effort that produced "Cocinar a Ciegas," or "Cooking in the Dark."

The idea for the class came from the Basque office of the National Organization of Blind Spaniards, one of the nation's most respected and effective advocacy groups.

"Until now, cooking was off limits to blind people because of the danger it involved," said Claudio Congosto, the 46-year-old head of social services for the organization's office in Bilbao. He lost his sight in a car accident.

Iturbe called the kitchen the most dangerous room in the house for the blind because of the presence of water, heat, sharp objects and corrosive cleaning liquids.

So in teaching blind people to cook "you have to look after a lot of details; guide them physically, make sure utensils are easily accessible and the knives not too sharp."

For that reason, the book's 100 recipes - which are drawn from Basque cuisine's rich heritage of seafood and tapas-style foods - have been adapted for microwave cooking.

This spring, "Cooking in the Dark" won a prize at the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards in London.

"Blind people appreciate gastronomy and take an interest in it," said Edouard Cointreau, founder of the Gourmand awards. "But until now no one had dared to design a practical course for them and write it all down in a book."

The book, which was released last year and distributed to the Basque region's more than 3,400 blind people, has proved so popular that thousands more copies are to be printed.

And the course from which the book was drawn has proved successful, as well.

Iturbe's team so far boasts two graduates from its 60-hour cooking course, which was held for the first time last year. Another course is scheduled for this year.

One of the graduates, 52-year-old Conchi Calderon, said she now is able to cook for her 85-year-old mother, with whom she lives.

"I was terrified of the stove," said Calderon, who now has mastered recipes such as a warm salad of mushrooms and prawns, and a popular Basque dish of hake simmered in a sauce of parsley and garlic.

The other diploma-holder, 48-year-old Jose Antonio Garcia, said he now cooks for his wife and two children and enjoys whipping up his favorite dish - potatoes stewed with red peppers.

"After taking the course, I am now the best chef in my house," said Garcia.

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