The actual process of peeling, slicing, or grating is no different for the blind than for the sighted. As in all phases of cooking, safety depends upon competence and care rather than upon sight. It is much easier and more satisfactory to grate or cut into a large bowl rather than onto a flat surface. The food is then automatically collected and easily manageable.
If you are a beginner who has had little or no experience in using a knife, you may find it easier and safer at first to cut downward toward a cutting board. The experienced cook uses a knife in various positions, however; and the newly blinded experienced cook will probably not change her ways of using a knife.
A suggested method for chopping vegetables into small pieces is as follows: Slice the vegetables into a large bowl. Then use a "Kwik-Kut Food Chopper," which resembles a round cookie or biscuit cutter but is very sharp on the bottom. (This cutter is available on the general market.) Chop the cutter up and down through the slices, moving around within the bowl and continuing until the pieces are the desired size and uniformity.
If you have a recipe where you need to cut up uncooked beef, partially freeze the beef before you start cutting. When the meat is partially frozen and firm, the meat can now easily be cut into strips or cubes as needed for the recipe that you are preparing.
This excerpt from an article by Ruth Schroeder and Doris Willoughby first appeared on the National Federation of the Blind's website and is reprinted with special permission.
Slicing and Dicing
A good sharp knife is used to shape a food product and reduce its size. Having the same size and shape ensures even cooking. Items are shaped by slicing, chopping, dicing, mincing and other special cutting techniques.
Slicing is used to create three specialty cuts: chiffonade, rondelle, and diagonal. Slicing skills are also used to produce oblique or roll cuts and lozenges.
A chiffonade is to finely slice or shred leafy vegetables or herbs. You first wash and destem the leaves, such as spinach. Stack several leaves on top of each other and roll them tightly like a cigar. Then make fine slices across the leaves while holding the leaf roll tightly.
Rondelles are disk-shaped slices of round vegetables or fruits, such as carrots. Diagonals are oval-shaped slices of cylindrical vegetables or fruits. The cut is similar to cut rondelles except that the knife is held at an angle to the item being cut.
Oblique cuts are small pieces with two angle-cut sides. You hold the knife at a 45-degree angle, and make the first cut. Roll the item a half turn, keeping the knife at the same angle, and make another cut. The result should be a wedge-shaped piece with two angled sides.
Lozenges, not cough drops, are diamond-shaped cuts prepared from firm vegetables such as carrots, turnips, and potatoes. Slice the item into long slices however thick you want it. Then cut the slices into strips. Cut the strips at an angle to produce diamond shapes. Sounds easy, doesn't it.
Horizontal slicing is used to cut a pocket into meats, poultry, or fish. This is usually referred to as butterflying.
Chopping is cutting an item into small pieces and size and shape are not important. This is much easier than the other ways of cutting. Mincing is the same except the pieces are smaller.
Dicing is cutting an item into a cube. Chefs in restaurants would want each side to be equal. Before an item is diced, it is cut into sticks, such as juliennes and bâtonnets. The sticks are 2 inches long, with the sides either 1/8"for juliennes or 1/4" for bâtonnets. Brunoise are cubes of 1/16", small dice are 1/4", medium dice are 1/2", and large dice are 3/4". Paysanne is a flat, square, round or triangular item 1/2" x 1/2" x 1/16".
Tourner is a cutting technique that results in a football-shaped finished product with 7 equal sides and flat ends. This is a difficult cutting technique, that takes a lot of patience.
Parisiennes are spheres of fruits or vegetables cut with a small melon ball cutter.
Now that you know all the different types of cuts, my advice would be to find machines that slice and dice, such as a mandoline. They are much quicker and usually safer.
A Guard for Cutting Ingredients
I've written in earlier posts that I am not the cook of the house. My wife would be the first to tell you that. However, on the rarest of occasions, I do enjoy going into the kitchen and attempting a meal.
My wife is always sure I'm going to chop off my fingers when I'm cutting things, so she would be happy if I got this. The Cooks' Cutting Guard is a great device for any kitchen.
When cutting ingredients with a knife, slip this stainless-steel guard low onto your middle finger and slice without fear of accidental encounters with a sharp blade. The edge of the curved shield holds food in place. The adjustable ring fits most hands. Dishwasher safe. 2" in diameter.
Click this link to purchase the Cooks' Cutting Guard from the Williams-Sonoma Online Catalog.
Box Grater with Sliding Safety Holder
This is a fabulous find! The Microplane box grater has sharp stainless steel teeth and features a sliding safety holder to secure food and protect fingers. Now you can grade every last bit of cheese without fear of slicing your fingers. Although, it would mean less snacking while you cook (because, of course, you just have to eat the piece that is
too small to grate, right?)
Click this link to purchase the Box Grater with Sliding Safety Holder from the Fresh Finds website.