The Ultimate Blind Date

Last summer, we had dinner at a restaurant in Zurich called ‘blindekuh' (blind cow).  We had guests and were looking for something fun to do.  Caroline had come home from school months before talking about the restaurant.  One of her teachers had told all of the kids about it and she was intrigued.  The restaurant employs about thirty people  most of whom are blind or have only partial sight.  Off we went.

There were ten of us; four adults and six kids; a nine, ten, eleven, twelve, thirteen, and a fourteen year old  (My aunt said, “They could all be yours.” Perhaps in some alternative universe where I’ve lost both my mind and my birth control that could be true but I digress).

The restaurant is in a converted church.  Up a few stairs and you are in the lobby.  The menu is projected on the wall in two languages.  Menus choices were limited to three items: beef poached in a red wine, spinach strudel, and a three course surprise.  There was also a children’s menu but that was not disclosed as it was also a surprise.  Genius on the part of management because it left the kids no time to whine about the choices or lack thereof.

The restaurant has a stack of postcards with Braille greetings on them. You fill them out and they will send them for you.  The kids got busy with that project while waiting.  Caroline sent one to the teacher that told her about the restaurant.  One clever child also signed the guest book- in Chinese.  Then our waitress came to collect us.  After a few instructions, you know important stuff- how to get out of there if you need to, we were told to form two congo lines.  She led the kids away first through a double set of heavy black curtains.  Next, she led the adults to our chairs and explained the orientation of the place setting.
I decided I would just hold onto mine the whole night; it seemed simpler. Besides, I hated to lose  my glass of wine.  The dining room was absolutely pitch black-well, almost.  Not a speck of light except for one of us who refused to lose his watch.  It glowed like ET’s finger.  After much persuasion, he very reluctantly put it away.  Then absolute pitch black- you could open your eyes or close them- it didn’t matter. One of us decided to take her glasses off as it seemed rather pointless to wear them. 

Dinner conversation when it’s pitch black is odd.  Disembodied voices asking how your day at work was.  But you get used to it and pretty soon you hear people laughing all around you.  Looking around to see what others were wearing, checking out jewelry, all pointless.  I did ask Caroline before we left as she was getting dressed, to dress up a bit.  She just stared at me, “Mom, they are blind and the restaurant is in the dark. What difference does it make what I wear?”  I know there is a good response to that but I was hard pressed to find it at that moment. But she acquiesced and threw a dress on to please me.
We ordered in the dark, drank wine in the dark, ate appetizer surprise in the dark.  The only thing we were told about the appetizer was that it was vegetarian and in the middle of the table.  Snooze, you lose. I found mine and ate it.  But all that information you get from sight?  Color, texture before it hits your mouth, size? Gone. 

I ordered a Greek salad. I was really proud of myself that I was able to both find it and eat it. And since no one could see me, I picked up my plate and licked it.  Feeling pretty pleased with myself, I put my hands in my lap- where I found the other half of my salad.  I had been scooping up the salad and throwing it in my lap apparently. And since no one could see me…I ate it anyway. The kids were initially very quiet but got more lively as they got more comfortable.  We asked Caroline how her salad was and she said, “I’d eat it if I could find it.”  She is her mother’s daughter.
The entrée was served.  I do admit to sliding my hand over to my husband’s plate to ‘feel’ his dinner not once, not twice but three times.  I could not understand what was cold and slimy on his plate.    Turns out it was avocado.  I have arrived at the conclusion that if I were in fact blind, I would not eat avocados. 

My spinach strudel was delicious but I  reverted to toddler tactics to eat it.  Using a fork and a knife seemed overwhelmingly complicated, as did good posture.  I had to keep picking my chin up off my chest.  Chin to chest, eyes closed- I was in danger of sliding completely under the table.  I did also keep checking my lap to feel for runaway strudel.  Dessert was one giant scoop of ice-cream that mysteriously disappeared. 
At that point, while I tremendously enjoyed the experience and was able to appreciate what it’s like to eat blind (complicated, a bit messy, a challenge to say the least), I was ready to leave. I called out to Rita, our waitress and I felt like Rocky calling out to Adrian (remember that scene?). We stood, formed our congo line and shuffled out. 

What a great experience.  I recommend it but can’t really tell you much about the food, the décor, or the presentation.  It was also curiously stressful.  I'm certain no one will forget it.  There are a few of these restaurants around the world but Zurich's was the first. 

It was the ultimate blind date.  However, screen your date carefully. It is dark and mine, well, he took advantage of the situation.




  1. Jen, I LOVE this! Zou had me laughing out loud several times. And what a great concept. Makes you appreciate certain things a lot more I bet. Thanks for sharing. I love the way you write.

  2. This is my first trip to your blog, and I love it. As an ancestral Swiss maiden, I am always looking for all things Swiss. I am also a semi-retired high school counselor and fellow blogger, that's why I chose yours from among many expat blogs. �� I look forward to perusing the rest of your fun and insightful writing.


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