The Adventures of Penny Baking Blind

Penny in the kitchen rolling dough!
Now that we finished meeting the 2018 Holman Prize winners, it’s a perfect time to check in with our 2017 winners.

Leading off the trio is host of Baking Blind, Penny Melville Brown. Her Holman Prize took her to 6 continents where she did a lot more than cooking.

Hit that play button below and then travel down a bit further and subscribe to the podcast. You want to make sure you get what’s in store. Then go do the same over at Baking Blind on YouTube.

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Transcript

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Audio: Guess Who’s Back-Once Again… A T.Reid Re-Mix!

TR:
Incredible indeed!
I’m referring both to our last three episodes featuring the 2018 Holman Prize winners. And today, we go back…
Audio: Chuck D says Back!

back to catch up with the 2017 Holman Prize trio.

I’m T.Reid. Allow me to welcome you to the podcast.

Reid My Mind Radio is simply my space to share stories that you may not get anywhere else. Well, at least from my perspective and told in the way I like to tell them. Occasionally I share stories around my own experience of blindness.

Maybe you wonder why? Well, why not! Everyone has a story to tell. It’s up to you to find the relevance, the meaning. It’s up to me to find the focus, keep it moving and hopefully make it sound cool.

There’s a few ingredients to doing that, the first is my theme music!

Audio: Reid My Mind Radio Theme Music

TR:

Listening to podcasts can be an intimate experience. Just think about it, if you’re wearing earbuds or headphones especially, the person speaking is right there. As a listener I know I have come to feel as though I know the person on the other side of the recording.

As a producer, not only do I get to interact with the guest during our conversation and email exchanges, I’m editing their words. By the time you hear the end result I listened to what they had to say for hours.

Add in the fact that my guests are often impacted by disability so we have a shared experience.

Well I’m not ashamed to say that I often become very fond of guests. Not in a creepy way, rather I become a fan, a cheerleader on the sideline routing for their success.

The three 2017 Holman Prize winners are a great example of this. Each having a specific aspect of their life in common with mine. So watching them from a far fulfill their Holman Ambition was exciting and in some way I felt emotionally invested.

In the next three episodes I’m bringing you an update directly from Ojok Simon, Ahmet Ustenel and we begin with Penny Melville Brown.

PMB:
Is that you?

[TR in conversation with PMB:]
That is me! (Laughs…)

PMB:
Helloooo!

[TR in conversation with PMB:]
Hello Penny, how are you?

TR:

Yes, she was expecting my call, but who wouldn’t like such a kind greeting. Plus, I love the British sayings….

PMB:
I actually had it in my hand so I wasn’t going to make a big breakfast of it.

[TR in conversation with PMB:]
Laughs!

TR:

Remember Penny Melville Brown? She’s the 2017 Holman Prize winner and host of Baking Blind where she cooks up new recipes each episode giving viewers an empowering taste of blindness and disability.

Here she is from our original 2017 episode

PMB:

My first career was in the Royal Navy.

[TR in conversation with PMB]
Why did you want to enlist in the Royal Navy in the first place?

PMB:
I needed a complete change of life.

[TR in conversation with PMB:]
What were you doing prior to that?

PMB:

Well I was at university so I completed my degree. I done a postgraduate qualification. I was due to get married the following year and my fiancé was killed in a car accident so I decided that I needed a complete change.

[TR in conversation with PMB]
Oh, I’m so sorry!

TR:

When I spoke with Penny and the other Holman Prize winners, it was shortly before they actually received their prize at the San Francisco Lighthouse.

[TR in conversation with PMB:]

So what I thought we could do was kind of go back and revisit when you were in San Francisco. Just tell me a little about what that was like getting your award and meeting your other Holman prize recipients.

PMB:
San Francisco was really exciting and I was introduced to this delightful facility called Lighthouse. They have lots of functions and facilities on three floors to support visually impaired and blind people. And lots of very positive people who understand the sort of challenges we face and have got lots of answers for it. That was really positive.

TR:
The Lighthouse had a week of activities scheduled for the inaugural prize winners.

PMB:
I did some cooking in their training kitchen. I did cooking in a really super restaurant called One Market. Lots of good experiences even going on the beach to be near the Pacific Ocean which I hadn’t done before. And that was great!

TR:

After the week long Holman festivities Penny was slated to kick-off her Baking Blind global adventure.

Among the many destinations that would take her to six continents, China Live , in San Francisco’s Chinatown was her first stop.

PMB:

Where I was cooking with this absolutely exceptional top chef called Louis.

TR:

San Francisco has lots of flavor!

PMB:

A place called Brown Sugar. Cajun Creole cooking and they were showing me how to make southern fried chicken and waffles and shrimp and grits.

The Cheeseball Collective – they make lots of Sourdough breads and they’re famous for their pizza.

Audio: Airplane taking off!
TR:

In Virginia Beach, alongside another Naval Commander, Penny cooked lunch for about 20 people.

PMB:

And that’s where we celebrated The 100 years Centenary Celebration of the Women’s Royal Naval Service.

Then I came back to the UK for a week to catch my breath.

Audio: Airplane taking off!
Then I was in Chongqing in China. That is the biggest city in the whole world!
It is amazing, vibrant, inspirational, colorful, friendly, buzzing…

There I cooked with professional chefs in the hotel, but also with home cooks.

We also supported a couple of local blind women who really get no training on cooking at all. When the professional Chinese chefs took them onboard it was quite heart stopping.
The empathy between them, the care with which they were showing these young women how to cook probably for the first time in their lives. I just stepped back and let them get on with it.
One of the most important touching events of being there.

Audio: Airplane taking off!

TR:

Then we head down under to Australia. I’ll let Penny

PMB:

A place called Kiama! I think that’s how you say it.

We cooked with some local home cooks, but also with an Aboriginal chef. And that was really amazing.

TR:
During the trip, Toby, Penny’s nephew and camera man along with a friend were swimming in the sea and got caught in a undercurrent.

PMB:
So we had 4 police cars, 2 paramedic units 2 helicopters doing an air sea rescue for them.

Another 5 ten minutes at least one of them would have been gone.

## TR:

Fortunately, everyone turned out ok.

After cooking with some other blind cooks in Sydney and doing more in Perth, Penny was off to Malawi.

PMB:
In Africa. We flew into the capital LiLongwe. and we stayed at a really unusual hotel called the Latitude Hotel.

They use a lot of recycled items in their decor.

TR:

Getting out and cooking in the community was always one of Penny’s top priorities. In Malawi, she had the chance to observe a celebration for a village leader and meet with members of the Albino community.

PMB:

They face huge problems in various parts of Africa.

Because they don’t have pigmentation in their skin, they are very prone to skin cancer.

They have significant problems getting employment , being socially integrated. The propensity for Albinism out there is quite high.

In the past a lot of them have been attacked because their bones are considered to have ritual magic properties. So Albinos will be killed. Their bones will be dug up and exported for ritual magic.

They’re an incredibly vulnerable group.

TR:

Being with the people further expanded her concept of how cooking is done around the world.

PMB:
A couple of bricks on the ground. Some fire between the bricks and a pot stuck on top of it.

The chicken arrived live and had to be taken away and head cut off, plucked. It produced eggs during this process which were dually cooked. It was breath taking stuff.

It was a real privilege to spend some time with them.

Audio: Air Plane

And then I came home. And I was over in France just before Christmas looking out for some new cooking opportunities when I had this big accident.

Audio: Sad music & ambience

I don’t really remember the accident

TR:
That’s the car accident in France that left Penny in a coma for 6 weeks. Intensive care for 2 months followed by a lot of physical therapy in a rehabilitation hospital.

PMB:

Because I’d broken my C2 Vertebrae. To be honest, I very nearly died.

I broke all the ribs down my left side, my sternum, another vertebrae lower in my organs got a bit bashed up too. I was in this sort of corset for gosh, nearly three months I think where they had to support my head and stop me moving because everything was so vulnerable because it was all this broken bone waffling around my spinal cord. Being Blind I didn’t understand what was going on all over my face so they had to tie me up so I couldn’t pull the tubes out. because if I had they wouldn’t been able to put them back and I would have died. All that time in bed meant that I had huge muscle wastage. Regrettably I didn’t lose any other weight, but I lost a lot of muscle. Then it took me about three months to learn to walk again and to build the strength just to sit up, just to stand up to walk.

So now I’m going through ongoing physio therapy, a bit of speech therapy because it affect my voice just a bit, I got a bit of PTSD… o gosh it’s all stuff and I’m getting through it.

[TR in conversation with PMB:]

Wow!

First of all I’m so happy that you are on the phone and you sound well. It sounds like you’re getting well?

PMB:
I am. I’m full of beans.

[TR in conversation with PMB:]
Laughs…

The reference to beans and being full of them would have a whole different connotation in the states. Laughs…

PMB:
Laughs…

Perhaps if you think of jumping beans. How’s that?

[TR in conversation with PMB:]

Ok, ok, yeah, I know… it sounds, it sounds lovely!

TR:

But really, I’m just glad she’s recovering.

In addition to focusing on her rehab, Penny’s publishing the videos, recipes and blog posts documenting her journey.

PMB:

Oh I didn’t tell you about Costa Rica where we got caught in storm Nate.

TR:

For that full story, videos and more you’re going to have to go over to Baking Blind.com or visit her YouTube channel by the same name.

PMB:

Which I hope all your listeners will go “Like” and comment and particularly subscribe to.

TR:

Observing the Holman Prize winners from a far, you may not stop to consider the amount of planning and project management that goes into fulfilling these ambitions. Think of the details.

So of course I wanted to know what lessons were learned along this journey.

PMB:

I learned some French in hospital! Laughs…

TR:

Talk about making the best of a bad situation.
But she has more.

PMB:

I learned to try and pace myself which I don’t.

Life should be an adventure. You should go out and meet the challenges and not be frightened.

[TR in conversation with PMB:]
Based on the experience that you had, I’m sure that there are people who would say you see that’s why I don’t go anywhere, that’s why I don’t do anything because this could happen. You’re not saying that. You’re saying don’t be frightened. How can you say that after all that you’ve been through?

PMB:
Well, I think being organized is really important. You know what you’re going to do where you going to do it. You have it all accessible to you. In audio or whatever you want to do. You have it all mapped out but then you play a bit of it freestyle. Otherwise life would be very dull.

TR:
Dull is not how I would describe Penny or her Baking Blind global experience.

Her final lesson sounds pretty consistent with this podcast.

PMB:

Enjoy people

It was always the people that were most important. Recipes were ancillary the cooking was ancillary. Always it was the people.

[TR in conversation with PMB:]
What are you going to do after this year is over?

PMB:

I would just like to show there’s a different way of living if you’re willing to go and take the chance.

I would love somebody to say come and do Baking Blind with us.

I am perhaps going to manage a book out of it, but I could do with a publisher. Anybody knows of a publisher get in touch. But otherwise suppose I’ll just putter back to my kitchen and do humble cooking again. No, I don’t think that’s me at all do you?

[TR in conversation with PMB:]
No! Laughs…

PMB:
Laughs…

I’ll be looking for new adventures.

[TR in conversation with PMB:]

Good!

TR:

Like the end of a good movie, this is The Adventures of Penny & Baking Blind part one.

Whatever the next adventure is I hope she will share it here with the Reid My Mind Radio family.

Make sure you all go and subscribe to her YouTube channel and check out Baking Blind.com for more on her adventures.

Next time, we’re going to hear from the Captain, Ahmet Ustenel who was kayaking the Bosporus Strait from Europe to Asia, solo!

Don’t miss that episode or any other. Subscribe to the podcast.
We’re available from Apple Podcast, Google Podcast, Stitcher, Tune In Radio, Sound Cloud and your favorite podcast app. You can always slide on over to Reid My Mind.com. Say it with me…
R E to the I D! Spelled like my last name.

And now, I’m off to cook up a 5 course meal…

PMB:
Hearty Laugh.

TR:

Hey, I really am!

PMB:
Hearty Laugh.

TR:

Yeah, you’re right!

Peace!

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