Carbondale resident pens cookbook
By Carrie Click
Post Independent Staff
CARBONDALE – Judy Nielsen has retinitis pigmentosa – a genetic vision disorder that causes what Nielsen describes as “tunnel vision” – but that’s not why she decided to write a low-vision cookbook.
“I started writing it in 1995 for my aunt,” Nielsen said. “She had macular degeneration and was slowly losing her eyesight. She couldn’t cook anymore because she couldn’t see the fine print of most recipes.”
Nielsen’s cookbook, “Old Colorado Treasures,” at a whopping 508 pages, is a collection of recipes that the native Coloradan has collected through the years from her family, friends and other sources. The cookbook is printed in large block letters, so people with vision problems can read it easily.
The cookbook’s recipes range from classics like “Grama’s Oatmeal Cookies” to dishes as contemporary as stir-fried vegetables.
What started as a collection of large-lettered recipes for a favorite aunt took a lot of work as it evolved into a published volume.
“I went through three computers and four horses getting this cookbook published,” Nielsen said with a laugh. “I had to sell the horses to have enough money to finish the book.”
Very narrow vision
Vision problems, unfortunately, run in Nielsen’s family. Besides the problems that plagued her aunt, Leola Knode, Nielsen’s mother, Genevieve Maclear, was almost completely blind when she died.
When Nielsen was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa, she was told she would be blind in 15 years. That was more than 20 years ago.
Now, Nielsen said she has “excellent pinpoint vision,” but has limited peripheral sight.
“I have very narrow vision,” she said.
Nielsen’s a former ski bum, and an accomplished photographer and oil and watercolor painter, though her fading eyesight is affecting both her artistic pursuits.
Still, examples of her paintings and photographs abound throughout her cookbook. There are paintings of wildlife and photographs of the Crystal Mill, the Maroon Bells and the Marble Valley.
Nielsen, who was born in Denver and raised near Golden and Evergreen, is proud of her Colorado heritage.
“My father was James Maclear,” she said. “He owned Denver’s oldest machine shop and foundry. You can still see some of the metal grates and manhole covers he made, even in Glenwood Springs. One is near Valley View Hospital.
“And my grandmother Hillie Maclear was a socialite. She was from the Anderson banking family,” Nielsen said.
Nielsen said she remembers traveling to the Roaring Fork and Colorado River valleys with her father when she was a child.
“I remember the dirt road going through Glenwood Canyon,” she said.
In 1967, she married her husband Chuck, and the couple moved to Carbondale. Chuck operated his plumbing company, Royal Flush Plumbing and Heating, and the couple ran Aspen Valley Bed and Breakfast, a mile east of Catherine Store, on the Roaring Fork River.
Nielsen said her favorite memories are of packing into the high country. The Nielsens also guided for Sopris Valley Guides and Outfitters, hunting and fishing, and raising paint horses.
“My favorite trip was guiding the spring bear hunt on the top of Basalt Mountain,” she said.
The Nielsens have lived outside the Roaring Fork Valley – in Idaho, Montana and Paonia – but the valley keeps calling them back.
Most recently, the Nielsens moved near Darby, Mont., for five years, though they moved back to Carbondale last October.
“I don’t like the politics up there,” she said. “I love Colorado’s blue skies.”
Contact Carrie Click: 945-8515, ext. 518
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