Baking blind!

Coconut Slice Cake

‘You don’t have to be blind to cook but it helps: extra sounds and smells, touch and tastes!’

That’s the introduction on the website of penny melville-brown OBE, who was a WRNS officer before blindness ended her career.

Cooking is yet another daily task that many people take for granted. Having sight loss can make cooking incredibly difficult, but Penny wanted to show the world otherwise.

Baking Blind is her YouTube channel and online project, featuring videos of Penny preparing all manner of dishes, from curries to quails’ eggs to Turkish delight.

Earlier this year, Penny entered the Holman Prize, a competition run by San Francisco’s LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired, to fund big ideas and innovative projects pitched by people who are blind.
Penny’s ambition was to take her online cookery project around the world, cooking across the globe and filming it as she went.

After progressing through the competition, Penny was recently announced as one of the three winners to receive funding. Her global dream is about to become a reality and audiences will be able to follow her travels and exotic recipes through the Baking Blind YouTube channel.

In a recent interview with Headstar Magazine Penny was asked What part did technology play in the competition?
“I entered by providing a 90-second video called ‘A Taste of the World’. I’ve also been using social media and email to gather all the support I need for my travels.”

Video is obviously key in making and sharing Baking Blind. What challenges and benefits are there to working with video and YouTube?
“Obviously I can’t shoot the videos (although I am trying to develop some ability with a headcam) and nor can I edit, although I do make editorial decisions based on the recorded sounds/voices. Managing YouTube doesn’t work for me either. But nowadays, one has to use all forms of
modern media and technology to have any reach and impact – so as a team, we are trying hard.”

Penny was also asked about the project she was now planning:
“I’ll spend a week in San Francisco with the LightHouse team and then a few days cooking there, before flying to Tamarindo in Costa Rica. I’m spending a week there in a jungle culinary adventure restaurant.
After that, I’ll be in Virginia Beach, cooking with local people and meeting up with a colleague from the Women’s Royal Naval Service, with whom I’ve had no contact for nearly 40 years – the power of social media!

“Soon after that, I’m jetting off to Chongqing in China to cook with and help the Rotary Club there with a project supporting local visually impaired people. Then to Kiama and Melbourne in Australia with a bevy of different cooks, before Lilongwe in Malawi where I’ve linked with local groups with visual impairments. Back in the UK, I’m planning a range of activities to reinforce my naval links with the Holman Prize, plus baking with different local people.”

“I’m aiming to produce at least one video a week for 12 months, plus a blog and social media. There’s no doubt that this whole project would not have been possible without being able to contact a worldwide audience. Before I started, I only had one possible contact in Australia – all the
others simply responded to my emails and videos.”

Find more information and Penny’s cooking videos at the Baking Blind
website: .

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