COOK OF THE WEEK: New Albany cook doesn’t let blindness get in way of cooking

By Ginna Parsons/NEMS Daily Journal

Practically everything in Pat Reed’s home talks to her: the bathroom scales, her computer and cell phone, her watch and even her blood pressure monitor.
They talk because Reed can’t see. She and her husband of 52 years, Joe, are both blind.
If you think being sight-impaired slows the 71-year-old down, you’d better think again.
Just last year, before she had foot surgery, Reed prepared close to 20 casseroles and froze them so she and Joe would be able to eat for almost a month after she came home from the hospital.
“At Christmastime, I do anywhere from 10 to 15 cakes and cookies I give as gifts,” she said. “I carry dishes to church. If we have somebody that’s sick and we need to fix food, or if somebody needs a cake for an occasion, I do that, too.”
Reed has a degenerative eye disease called retinitis pigmentosa. She’s gradually lost her sight over her lifetime. She can see light and darkness and that’s it. Joe, who has always been visually impaired, lost all sight about five years ago.
“In our home, we’re pretty much independent,” she said. “Our daughter-in-law does our shopping and takes us to doctor appointments. She’s our family driver. And we have friends that help us out.”
Reed learned to read Braille in the early 1980s so she could correspond with her sister, who is also visually impaired. Her cookbooks are all in Braille and if she finds a recipe somewhere she likes, she Brailles it and puts it in her personal cookbook.
“I have to find my own way of doing things since I am blind, but I pretty much do anything I want to,” said Reed, who moved to New Albany in 1961. “Everything in my kitchen is in order. I have canned stuff in a certain order. Every once in a while, something gets out of order and we get a surprise.”
Joe laughed at that statement.
“We might think we’re having beans and we get peas,” he said.
Reed said she learned how to cook from her mother and her mother-in-law and from one of Joe’s aunts. The rest she just picked up herself along the way.
“We like to eat fresh vegetables, especially this time of the year,” she said. “We might just have a vegetable supper and occasionally we’ll have cornbread. Joe’s not too much on desserts, but I like dessert.”
Reed said she judges when her food is done by time and by smell.
“Sometimes, I get it wrong, but Joe never complains,” she said. “I use my hands a lot when I cook. I do everything by feel.”
Reed said when she first started school in Indiana, she had to have a private tutor for a few hours a day. In the third grade, she began attending a regular public school full time.
“I graduated 19th in a class of 92 students,” she said proudly. “Kids today who are sight-impaired have more access to things now than we did. Textbooks are recorded for them. It’s easier for them now than it was for us, but we always seemed to get by.”
Do you know a good cook? Send your nominations to Ginna Parsons, Cook of the Week, P.O. Box 909, Tupelo, MS 38802. Or you can fax them to (662) 842-2233 or email them to ginna.parsons@journalinc.com.