What’s eating like when you can’t see

I was wondering, what is life like when you are blind and need to eat. I was with a group of friends on a Sue Knight course in France, just about to tuck in and enjoy another gourmet meal cooked by our hosts Jane and John, at their beautiful chambres d’hotes.

I was sharing my thoughts on restaurant Dans le Noir in London, a restaurant experience with a difference, as you eat in the dark served by blind waiters! How much food would be worn rather than eaten?

And I thought well let’s give it a go!
Once the hilarity had died down of course.

Finding my food became quite messy, I used my fingers as discreetly as possible and then  burnt them, (again much hilarity).

As it turned out that was the easy bit, getting food onto fork and taking it to mouth, tricky!

Anyone can do that  I hear you say, what transpired was great dangling pieces of food hanging out of my mouth,  not a great look.

I was now feeling a little less of “oh this is such a laugh” and “I don’t mind the ridicule” and more of “I feel sorry for myself and whose idea was this anyway”

What was truly amazing without seeing the food was the flavours, I  could really taste the individual components, quite a dramatic sensation.

So next bit of noticing…..not liking this much now.

Because I couldn’t see my friends I was unable to pick up the visual cues to join in a conversation and, found I was being ignored. The group simply stopped talking to me because I had stopped talking to them, and I noticed that I was sat there in silence with my head down. When I was nursing I had often noticed some blind people doing this, is this a strategy to hear better by tilting the head to one side, I don’t know.

When desert arrived  I just gave up, that’s what it felt like, I just couldn’t be bothered to eat,  I had lost all interest in it, chasing the food round the plate wasn’t worth the effort.

So much of my connection with food is visual and, I had never internalised what that really meant.

And now the feeling of isolation was becoming uncomfortable, so I decided to change tack and actively join in with the conversation.  I often listen to Peter White a blind presenter on BBC radio 4, and he must have a strategy to achieve this, because it’s his job and I don’t hear him talking over people. My attempt at joining back in with the banter was quite stilted and it took an unnatural amount of effort. (If you haven’t listened to Peter White, go and enjoy, his voice sounds like a smile)

The reaction of others was very interesting, as my being blind for the whole meal made them feel really uncomfortable. Following the meal I also got to dance while blind, and when the Bollywood dancing started, yes we were a group from across the globe, I decided lives may be lost so opened my eyes to find I had been dancing with the wall.

There we are, more lessons for me around my relationship with food, and respect for people who live their lives like this all the time. Of course, these people don’t want my sympathy or respect, just my acceptance.

And how is it to be different…..

As a young nurse on night duty desperately trying to stay awake, I’ve had  many a conversation over an early morning cup of tea when my patients couldn’t sleep and we put the world to rights.

Sharing life’s experience with people, who in quotes are labelled “disabled” was always an honour.  Many have said they wouldn’t have legs attached, or be given sight, or live without a wheel chair because they are who they are, people that just do things differently.



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