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Over recent years, I seem to have accumulated quite the collection of cookery books, which is hilarious when you consider my utter lack of prowess in the kitchen. It's partially laziness: my husband is willing to cook (and is pretty good at it), leaving me my after-work time for reading, writing, and other sitting-down activities.  However, my OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder) is also a genuine issue.  I already wash my hands more in an average morning than most people do during a bank holiday weekend; introduce contact with raw meat, eggs, and general kitchen mess and I'm capable of washing the skin right off my hands.  Frankly, it's a lot of stress.

The easy solution would be for me to just step away from the stove and focus on enjoying food made by others.  But I love being involved with food.  I love finding new recipes and putting together interesting shopping lists.  I hate food shopping (I'm confident most people in supermarkets are totally unaware that there are other people around them) but I love finding new ingredients, even if I've got no idea what to do with them.  So, while it's a big ask for me, I want to be the one who turns all of the planning into the finished product, the person who dishes up the gourmet treats once in a while.  I also want to be able to handle food without becoming overwhelmed by the prospect of food poisoning and contamination.  At present, I even have to wash my hands before and after eating a banana, which I've been reliably informed is excessive but seems perfectly legit to me.  Learning to cook would be part of coming to terms with my food OCD, and would be a huge step forward in terms of my mental health.

If I can overcome my conviction that wearing matching socks is potentially dangerous, I can surely do this, right?

We're just into the third week of the new year and I've managed to have a couple of food wins already.  I made the Hairy Bikers' banana and pineapple cake (less sugar than most cakes but still a sweet treat, although mine sank noticeably when it came out of the oven) and have also tried Lorraine Pascale's no-bake peanut butter squares (they only lasted one round at the pub quiz, which I took as a good sign), so I can throw edible yumminess together.  I just need to build on these small successes, trying to stretch myself with tougher recipes and the kind of ingredients from which I would normally run a mile.

That's where this blog comes in.  If I can do one meal or bake a week, that's about fifty attempts in the kitchen before the end of the year.  I'll start with recipes within my comfort zone, then up the steaks (tee hee) as I go.  By December, I could have mastered meat, become an egg-spert (stop it now) and, if I try really hard, faced my biggest fear: cooking chicken.  Just the thought of that makes me want to wash my hands.

Most of the recipes I use will be taken from elsewhere, so I'll try to include links where I can. If anyone wants to try this challenge for themselves, I'd love to know how you're getting on and if there is any kitchen challenge that would be a big step for you to accomplish.  It's not just about getting more comfortable in the kitchen; it's about feeling more comfortable in my own skin.  It would be nice to share the journey with others.

However, I stand alone for now, ready to take on my first culinary challenge.  The OCD Cook is officially in the kitchen.

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