I’m a person who struggles with anxiety, and as you might expect, some days are better than others. If you want to know if I’m having a good or bad day, fortunately for you, I have a helpful, almost fool-proof guide: Ask me if I could cook chicken for dinner that night. You see, one of my manifestations of anxiety is intense germophobia, and raw chicken is my Achilles heel (because salmonella).
Sometimes, on my worst days, I just can’t even handle it. No chicken for you. But on an ordinary day, I can usually handle cooking chicken, but on varying levels. Sometimes I can cut it up, but my (very patient) husband, Dave, has to wash the cutting board (because what if you wash it but then you realize when you’re putting it away that there’s a little piece of chicken still on it and OH MY WORD IT MIGHT HAVE CONTAMINATED ALL OF THE CLEAN DISHES IN THE DRAINER AND I JUST CAN’T EVEN??)
Sometimes I can neither cut the chicken nor wash the cutting board and Dave does it all while I work on something else. (Of course, I can’t watch him do it because I might see him not acting like a germ-obsessed freak, and then what would I even do?) And sometimes on a good day I can complete the entire process myself, albeit with more hand washing and Lysol wipes than are truly necessary, I’m sure. Even then, I don’t feel entirely good about it until everything that touched the chicken is clean and put away. One time, I left the cutting board in the sink while we ate dinner, and I kept glancing nervously at it nervously from the dining room. “I just don’t like that the chicken juices are still in there!” I told my (very loving) husband. He calmly replied, “Mary, they aren’t going to jump out of the sink and come get you.”
I know this, and yet I still struggle to just chill. I remind myself that a couple I used to live with defrosted everything on the counter and didn’t have bleach in the house, period, and that I neither died nor even got sick from eating there. I tell myself about my sister Lisa’s adventures in Chinese meat markets (as she said, “You would absolutely hate it”) and how she too, did not die. Heck, I eat raw cookie dough all of the time** and I also haven’t died. (And that just goes to show you how irrational this all is. I freak out about drops of chicken juice on my counter for fear of salmonella, but then I directly put in my mouth something that could also give me salmonella. Maybe it’s an aesthetics issue; let’s face it, raw chicken just looks, feels, and, most likely, tastes gross. Maybe I’d have no issues if it were as appealing as cookie dough. Or maybe I’m just a crazy hypocrite. I’m going to say it’s the ugly chicken.)
To sum up, no one has died, so, to reiterate Aaron Rodger’s words, I need to R-E-L-A-X. And while I do think I’m getting better overall, I’m not sure that anything short of heaven will ever quite quench the anxiety I feel about raw chicken. This anxiety doesn’t just happen in my own kitchen, by the way. I often feel anxious for characters in movies and TV shows in scenes that feature chicken or other raw meat (although nothing is as bad for me as chicken, I’m all-inclusive in my phobia). I’m probably the only person who watches Chopped and wonders if they edit out all the washing of hands and cleaning of cutting boards that I personally think should occur. Note that the characters (or cooking show stars) themselves are never worried about it -- just me. We’ll just say that it can make watching shows with me unintentionally entertaining, as I’m sure my (very tolerant) husband could attest. Here are two of the worst examples for me:
EEEEW, Monica, EW. And Chandler, why are you smiling? This is not funny; this is gross. I think even people who aren’t germophobes could agree with me that this is just a really dumb idea in general. A turkey on your head?? Really??
This is the mother of all make-me-cringe moments. THERE IS RAW CHICKEN EVERYWHERE AND IT IS GETTING ALL OVER HER AND SHE IS LYING IN IT. Can. Not. Even. Handle.
But, again, nobody died. Do you think I should learn something from this?
Well, I’m trying to. But until I do, I’ll just be thankful that I have a husband who can handle both chicken and me. And that chicken juice really can’t jump out of the kitchen sink and come get me. Unless I turn on the faucet and the water splashes it everywhere and IT MIGHT HAVE CONTAMINATED ALL THE CLEAN DISHES IN THE DRAINER AND I JUST CAN’T EVEN....
Okay, I need some comfort cookie dough.
**To make up for the lack of it in childhood, because my mom was a food science major and forbade the practice. Okay, I still ate it even then, but I had to sneak it when she wasn’t looking, so I never got very much. Sorry, Mom.