Search This Blog

Friday, January 21, 2011

OCDs of Cooking

Halloo. My camera is being wonky and honestly, also, I haven't been photographing much because I've been busy finishing the 15th! issue of my food zine, Marmalade Umlaut. In lieu of a food post, here's an essay from the zine. Let me know if you want me to mail out a hard copy. There are a few essays, a cookbook review (Appetite for Reduction), some doodly comics, and a coupla recipes.
This is something I think a lot of you may(?) be able to relate to. Ainslie in particular just recently posted about (something like) this. Read her post; I don't want to misrepresent her here.

OCDs of Cooking

No, not the ABCs; these are not cooking tips. These are my itemized (because I loooove itemizing!) “woblems” as Greg says. Or “wroblems” as my mouth like to say. “Wrowbelemps.” Man that word is fun.
Anyway, as I said, G and I are trying to cut back on sugar as one of many New Year’s Resolutions. That’s all well and good except for my love and need of baking. Another of my resolutions was to generally try to be calmer and nicer, which I expected to be easier without sugar making me jumpy and anxious. When I did the raw-then liquid-then lemonade diet cleanse early last year, I found a gliding calm towards the end of the cleanse and I suppose that’s what I’m looking for again. However, what I’ve found to be the case so far is that I’m always anxious and stressed and easily upsettable. It’s not the sugar; it’s me. What a great realization.
The exception to this state is when I’m busy and more and more lately, “busy” has translated to “baking or cooking.” I believe I’ve touched on this before, but cooking and baking can give great relief to people with OCD, though it too can be stressful at times. Idle hands are said to be the Devil’s plaything, and while my fingers don’t itch to do evil the nervous energy of my unoccupied hands has me tapping things compulsively, straightening and moving objects until I forget where I’ve put them, and worse, harming me physically: I’m prone to pulling patches of my hair out and scratching and picking at my arms and hands until they rash up and bleed. Yuck and ow. Much more productive are measuring, stirring, timing, and cleaning up after a cooking mess.
However, the problem I do have with cooking is also related to anxiety: I wash my hands constantly to make sure I don’t contaminate the food and then wash the food extensively to rid it of pesticides and germs. Also, even amid the calming, rhythmic chopping or slicing of vegetables, I need to constantly be vigilant of dropping vegetables or flying chunks. I can remember at least one instance when I swept around Greg as he was grating carrots. Sorry, G. It’s not you; it’s me.
Generally, I do enjoy the process as cathartic. Just as I enjoy picking and “collecting” ingredients at a store, I enjoy piecing them together to create a whole. It’s a cleansing process albeit one that never remains expunged since I need to replenish and restock our food stores on a regular basis. It is almost a problem unto itself.
The confliction continues: OCD is a very cyclical disorder and every accomplishing mania comes complete with a despondent low. I enjoy the catharsis, yes, but am constantly faced with the prospect of waste. I rarely use the numerous cookbooks I have because of this fear of waste. I dislike to spend money on ingredients that I’m never sure I’ll use more than once, which would lead to an excess that I wouldn’t be able to clear out. I also have trust issues: “How would figs and onions ever taste together? Will it actually be good?” I don’t want a recipe to taste bad and then go bad if we never eat it. However, if I don’t make a recipe I’m intrigued by there is always a persistent nagging in the back of my mind until it’s made.
With trust issues as such (and ones that MAY extend beyond the kitchen) it’s hard for me to try or commit to new things. I’m very much a person of habit and am typically set in my rituals. Occasionally mania, or whimsy, or a positive feeling settles down that leads me to sign up to be a cookbook tester, join a cookbook club, buy Pimms No. 1 for a totally improbable picnic punch, or purchase three new cookbooks because I just must despite never touching so many of the ones I already own. Then follows the cloying, paralyzing fear of new waters.
This is when I realize

-Wait, I need Garam Masala for this?
-But...that costs money. The cheapest place to get it is at an Indian store and that means I need to go...downtown??!
-I am NOT going into the city on my day OFF! That’s just TOO FAR.
-And..well, I really just like to go straight home after work...the crowds, you know?
-Um, I can just have salad again tonight. Bah! Who needs Garam Masala anyway?

It’s not for nothing that I took to a hobby that allows (nay, forces me!) to mostly stay home, alone, inside all day. Social interaction be damned.
When I do let loose and make recipes from my obscene collection of cookbooks I am always pleased and feel accomplished and promise myself I’ll do it more often but then the depression overwhelms the euphoria and I hate that I eat so much and hate how much money I spent on the meal ingredients and then feel guilty about those who can’t afford food and guilty about how I could have better spent my time...
I am working on not being so crazy and stressed and fat and worthless. Ack! I mean, it’s good that I’m not eating sugar. Go me.


  1. a beautifully sad post.i felt every word you wrote. this kind of honesty is what makes you so special, unique and well loved. that guilt is what keps me from a lot of things too! like ill never be able to top what i just did or..ill never get it right so i just wont follow directions. caring too much and being overly sensitive (from ocd) really is what G and my stomper like and love about us. and they are pretty cool people and we can trust them. what an honest and raw post. you are so brave. this post is a gift, thank you.

  2. Wow...great post. I don't have OCD, but I can relate to you in so many ways! I have a long list of cookbooks that I want, but I rarely use the ones that I have. Last night I flipped through a few to find something to cook, but ended up making another pizza. Of course, being out of almost everything doesn't help matters....Saturday will be a major grocery shopping day. I hate wasting food also. I'm always skeptical about cooking new dishes, because I am afraid that I won't like it and then be forced to throw it out. And, I'm such a homebody...I had rather be home instead of out shopping or running around. My husband is very thankful for that though. ha I do have ADD though...just found that one out. Sure explains a lot. Anyway, great post, and I think you are great...just the way you are. :o)

  3. hey if you have add you totally get it!(michelle, or at least a good chunk i think!
    lol shen we fully realize we are:) but i prefer the politically corect term "coo-coo"

  4. I like the article a lot....don't be too hard on yourself! You sound very conscientious about what you buy and use.

    I'm not OCD, but like you I hate going out of my way for some random ingredient, and I hate going anywhere near where I work on my days off...being a messy vegetable chopper doesn't bother me though. :)

  5. Thanks for understanding guys. Like I said, I'm not a hugely social person but it's nice to have even faceless friends on l'internet (as the French say)
    Michelle, yah, I had an old roommate who had ADD and we bonded over a lot of aspects of cooking haha except it reminded me once of that Friends episode where Rachel had a party and then Monica cleaned up and she was like "you had your party, now let me have mine!"
    Anyway, thanks everyone for listening to me babble and being understanding. Oh except Shen ;)
    Now you get why there are a lot of salads on here...

  6. Oh, man, I love that you wrote this. Great thoughts and feels frighteningly familiar. I sometimes feel like such a sham of a food blogger.

  7. You're not a sham, Jenny; we all get there and come back again:)

  8. You are funny:) ok so send me your address and I'll send you half of whatever garma Marsala I have. So, you did the lemonade cleanse? I'm starting thst this weekend! how did it go for you? How long did you do it?


Leave a message and I'll call you back.