I slipped the satiny black blindfold over my eyes and waited. Though logically I knew the tasting room was still in front of me, I couldn’t shake my disorientation as the seconds ticked away.
Volunteers’ voices drifted in and out as I heard them explain to others where they were going to lead them. Then a woman came and gently took my hand, placing it on her elbow.
“I’m not going to let you walk into anything,” she assured me. “We’re going to head to the front of the room, so keep going.”
Every step I took felt slower than usual. Did I trust her? Sure. Did I still think I was going to knock over a table of wine glasses? Possibly.
Then it was time for the big moment: The blindfolded food and wine sampling that makes Taste of Perkins so unique.
Turns out, I’m terrible at identifying flavors.
I mixed up the red and white wines. The first smoky bite I assumed was some sort of pork meatball, but it was chicken with bacon. The second I clearly identified as rice – but couldn’t figure out that it was risotto with beets and goat cheese.
I successfully guessed the tiramisu, getting the chocolate and coffee right away, after a hint that it was an Italian dessert. I bombed the final bite, a homemade Oreo filled with pumpkin cream, thinking it was some sort of nutty cookie. (I felt better after watching famed Boston chefs Jody Adams and Colin Lynch fail to guess several ingredients on stage later that night.)
While the tasting room was clearly the highlight, it was just one part of a packed evening in the Howe Building at Perkins School for the Blind. The snappily-dressed crowd of 325 packed the museum, historic chapel and Dwight Hall, stopping by the six sensory exploration stations to find out about Perkins’ wide range of programs and services.
They learned about Perkins’ social change initiative BlindNewWorld and the innovative new BlindWays app, which relies on crowd-sourced clues to help people with visual impairments locate bus stops. They placed generous bids on auction items, from Salem Witch Museum tickets to a signed baseball from Red Sox player Brock Holt to a wine and cheese tasting event.
Members of the new Educational Leadership Program class cheered guests who identified the currencies they’d brought from their home countries. Assistive Device Center staffers showed off their custom-made cardboard seats and welcomed people to try them out.
Before I stepped out into the brisk fall night to head home, I stopped to chat with the mom of a 4-year-old boy in Perkins’ Deafblind Program. She was happy and inspired by the evening. She felt the love from the enthusiastic community of Perkins supporters that surrounded her. She felt hopeful as she talked to a 27-year-old woman who was blind and worked for the MBTA. And she felt closer to her son, with a deeper understanding of the way he faced the world each day.
“This whole night has just been amazing,” she said.
I couldn’t agree more.
Karen Shih is a general assignment writer in Perkins’ Marketing Department.