Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Face Your Fears: An Afternoon of St Agur.

Am I not partly leaves and vegetable mould myself? 

Spiders are not a problem for me. Bring 'em on. Actually, let me revise that. Spiders that I know are there are absolutely fine, surprise spiders I'm not so good with. Yes to Boris the tarantula, no to anonymous arachnids in my bed. Similarly, I'm down with heights, sharks are pretty cool, and being alone in the dark is just One Of Dem Tings. I'll admit to a slight aversion to knives, but that's just a Risk vs Benefit thing. The benefit of you pretending to stab me with a kitchen knife is outweighed by the risk that you may actually stab me with a kitchen knife. I digress; I do have one genuine phobia. Mould.

Even thinking about it makes me feel really odd. University kitchen fridges are famed for mould, perhaps explaining why I have an aversion to buying anything that requires refrigerating. And why most of my food comes in a tin. Everyone always tells me "But that's what penicillin is made from!" I'm allergic. Move on. More upsettingly, I've frequently been told "But that's what cheese and yoghurt is!". As a dairy enthusiast, I am fairly well versed with the yoghurt and cheese industry. It started after I dabbled in small-scale curds and whey production as a seven year old, when I left a glass of milk to fester in the microwave for two weeks whilst we were in Ibiza. Coming home to that was a bit of a downer (I remember very little else about that holiday), made worse by Mummy Stedders announcing that that was how They made cheese. I didn't know who these mysterious They people were, but they clearly had sick minds, a lot of microwaves and really nice tans.

Fortunately, my older and occasionally more rational self understands that, although many dairy products are effectively mould (as is anything that requires fermenting I suppose), it's done in a controlled manner and That's Okay. It's the uncontrolled, accidental mould that is Not Okay - much like surprise spiders. I'm still struggling with blue cheese; I know it's just as controlled as regular cheese, but the whole fun of a phobia is surely the irrationality. Like the people that are scared of buttons, or oranges. "BOO! I'm full of vitamin C." 

So the other afternoon, as I waited for my hair dye to take (more on that anon - that dyeing session was a learning curve and-a-flopping-half) Mummy Stedders and I sat watching Elf and contemplating what we should have for lunch. Her idea of course, but we ended up having St Agur on crackers. Gosh. It was just so yummy. For those of you who are unversed with the glorious St Agur, it's a very soft, blue cheese. Not a lot of blue, I'll admit, but it was there nonetheless. It stared up at me from my first cracker, and dared me to do what I had never done before.

The key I've discovered over the years is, when doing something scary, to not think. Not even a little bit. Just stop it. Whether you're going alone into a roomful of people you don't know, standing up to sing solo, or jumping off of a 35ft totem pole onto a trapeze, don't think, just do it. This is not the time for looking before leaping; it's the thinking that'll stop you. So after a nanosecond of hesitation, I wolfed down the first bluey, seemingly mould-ridden cracker. It was so good. I don't even know how many I had in the end, but I ate a good half a wheel of it in a delirious and delicious blur. Maybe there's something good to be discovered from embracing one's fears.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not going to be smothering myself in mould any time soon. Eugh.

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