FORT WAYNE, Ind. (AP) — Nancy Ake has always loved to cook, even preferring homemade meals to eating out. So when the Fort Wayne woman lost her eyesight, she didn't let that stop her.
And now Ake, who is legally blind in one eye and severely visually impaired in the other, is putting her skills to the test.
Ake, who is vice president of the board for the Indiana Association Workers for the Blind, is among the participants in the League for the Blind & Disabled's home-cook competition, which she learned about at a support group meeting.
The preliminary cook-off takes place next week, with the final event Sept. 7. The competition is part of the league's fundraiser, Cooking Blind with Fox Network's MasterChef Christine Ha, The Journal Gazette reported (http://bit.ly/1iUJKNA ).
"I'm not doing it to win. I'm doing it to show people that just because you're blind, you can still do it," the 64-year-old says. "I told the workers membership that just because I'm visually impaired, it's not going to stop me. I still enjoy cooking. I've always loved to cook."
Contestants must use a particular food item — in this case, apples — when preparing their dishes.
Before her failing eyesight caused her to retire in January 2009 from retail management, Ake tried to have quick and easy dishes in mind for her family's dinners.
"I worked a lot of retail store hours. People called off, and I had a (casserole). These are dishes for working moms. I know how busy you can get," she says.
To round out the meal, Ake suggests serving a salad with the casseroles.
Although she's on a stricter budget than when she was working full-time, Ake says she will still make sure vegetables are included in her meals.
"Even if I use canned vegetables, I rinse off with hot water. (By doing that), it rinses off the salt and brine they're canned in. Or use a half bag of frozen vegetables," she suggests.
Since losing most of her eyesight, Ake, the mother of two and grandmother of three, prefers using a gas stove over an electric; she can turn off a gas stove, but an electric one takes longer to cool down. She says slowing down, setting out ingredients in advance and rearranging her kitchen have also helped in cooking.
"I know where everything is," she says. "I tell my daughter, 'if you take anything out of the cabinets or refrigerator, put it back exactly where you got it.' "
But she acknowledges that there is still the occasional mix-up.
"One time I made chili, and I thought I was getting chili powder, but it was cinnamon," she says. "It didn't taste spicy enough. I got my big magnifier out and looked (at what I used). I just laughed."
Information from: The Journal Gazette, http://www.journalgazette.net