“Today you are going to bake cupcakes,” announced Leslie, when I arrived for my third occupational therapy session. My first thought was what does baking cupcakes have to do with helping me see better? But, I’m a good sport and like cupcakes so away we went to the OT kitchen. There, one of those express cake mixes was waiting for me. “Good ahead,” said Leslie. “Start baking!”
Well that was easier said than done. Strange kitchen, not laid out like mine, low light too I discovered as I hunted for bowls, a mixer, eggs, butter, pans, all the fixings for cupcake baking. First problem – couldn’t read the back of the box so I got out my handy pocket-sized OTT light and solved that problem.
Leslie had a great tip too – LESLIE’S TIP: Back of the box hard to read – if you have a copier handy, just copy the instructions. You can even enlarge if necessary.
Continuing on, I poured the cake mix into the bowl, missing the lip of the bowl a bit. If you haven’t thought about it, everything was white. No contrast, so even breaking the eggs into the bowl presented a challenge. ‘Whew!” I thought. “This is a struggle.” But at least now everything was in the bowl. Turned on the hand mixer and continued the process. I noted another problem: when the beaters are in the bowl you can’t see the ingredients. I started wondering how I made dinner every night. Time to add the milk (white again) and the one cup measure was so hard to read I had to ask Leslie to shine my OTT light on the measuring cup.
Finally ready to pour the batter into the cupcake papers. Oh no! WHITE! Using a trick from my high school Home Ec class, I bypassed this problem by using a half-cup measuring cup as a scoop and got it done. Into the preheated oven. I didn’t have a problem with the oven although I can see it could be a problem for some people with low vision.
I washed the bowl and other utensils while the cupcakes baked and thought about my experience. Yes it was funny, yes it was challenging but it was enlightening too. Now I watch carefully when I am in situations where I feel uncomfortable and look for the changes that will make me feel productive and stress-free.
Here’s what I did when I got home. First, we improved the lighting with under-counter LED lights, , second, added more contrast – white bowls for dark ingredients, dark bowls for light ingredients – same for baking or cooking pans. Next came finding easy-to-read equipment like measuring cups, spoons, and a black and white cutting board – all designed by folks who understand low vision. By the way, many of these products are great to use even if you don’t have a low vision issue.
Baking cupcakes, while seemingly a simple thing, turned into a great life lesson for me. BE PRO-ACTIVE: Check out your kitchen and equipment and make changes that will make you more comfortable!
NEXT UP: WHEN THE LIGHT IS TOO BRIGHT