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Irish Country Living Magazine

Just Look and Cook By Mary Phelan on 03 April 2014

Just Look and Cook is a visual cookbook that allows users to create what they see, not what they read, writes Mary Phelan.
When Eileen Kirrane from Cloonacool, Co Sligo, brings her baking or cooking somewhere, she is always surprised by the remark: “I’d love to be able to make that.” “But you can,” is her response.
Eileen says that everyone can cook, it’s just a matter of following very simple recipes, and simple recipes are exactly what can be found in Eileen’s Just Look and Cook cookbook, which epitomises the notion that a picture paints a thousand words.
Recipes are presented through a series of photographs and even the lists of ingredients are a series of photos rather than text. In terms of equipment, there’s no weighing scales as cups and spoons are used instead.
The book even contains a detachable shopping list for every recipe that new cooks can bring to the shop with them.
This book was initially set up for “absolute beginners, those who say they can’t cook anything”, as Eileen puts it.
But Eileen (who worked as a special needs assistant until three years ago and has also worked with Sligo Autism Services) knew it would also be particularly beneficial to those with learning difficulties.
Just Look and Cook is currently being used by a wide range of health and education specialists, including adult literacy tutors, speech therapists, occupational therapists, special needs teachers and home economics teachers, to name a few. So how did she come up with the idea?
Eileen always loved cooking.
“It started off as an idea one evening and before I got off the sofa I knew I was doing it. I just realised that all the cookbooks in the world say they’re step-by-step, but unless you’ve a bit of cooking knowledge, you’ll find it difficult. For example, many people don’t know what simmer means.”
Eileen lists many demographics that are successfully using the book and, tongue-in-cheek, one of the groups she mentions is men. She recently used her book to do a cookery course with Men’s Sheds in Sligo.
She was approached by one man asking what he should do next and when she replied that “it looks finished to me”.
“He couldn’t believe it could be that easy,” laughs Eileen. Another day they were making bread and Eileen explained that the flour is drier some days than others, meaning sometimes you need to add more liquid, to which one man remarked: “Just like cement.”
From concept to publication, Just Look and Cook was three years in the making. The book was self-financed and Eileen did all the design herself. Given that she “loves computers and would play with them all day long”, she was quite happy to teach herself Photoshop.
Although the project wasn’t LEADER funded, Sligo County Enterprise Board was very supportive. Mentor Anne Kelly gave her “a number of hours” three years ago and “she’s still around”, laughs Eileen. “We meet once a month for a chat.”
However, as they say on Dragon’s Den, now that she’s brought her product to market she needs to bring her market to the product.
“When you self-publish, you don’t have a network of distributors,” says Eileen. “Everything is down to you.”
But she’s not doing too badly. Eileen published 2,000 books and sold 1,400 of them.
The best part of all this for Eileen is seeing the self-satisfaction in people she’s helped.
“People have told me: ‘I made four breads since I saw you last week,’” says Eileen.
“That’s all I’m after. Or people tell you: ‘I really can’t cook’ – then they open the oven door. They’ve a real sense of self-achievement. Nothing can beat it.”

Just Look and Cook is €20 and is available online at www.justlookandcook.ie and in various outlets listed on the website. Alternatively, call Eileen on 071-9185-936.

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