I can only talk about this now after clocking in some serious hours in therapy. You see I have a major phobia of all rodents. This means keeping your cute little kid with his new pet guinea pig or hamster the hell away from me. This means my own unborn children will cry endlessly in the pet store in years to come. This means dead, alive, fake and plush, there is no room in my repertoire of neuroses for any rodent of any kind. Except, maybe, Minnie Mouse. But this is also the logic I apply to not eating pork unless it's been processed into bacon, chorizo, pepperoni, or prosciutto.
A few weeks ago after returning home from a relaxing walk I stood over my stove to squeeze lemon into an oversalted pot of collard greens when I was viciously bitten by a rat. I did not see the vile creature straight on. But I knew instantly from its aggressiveness and from the corner of my eye, that I was under attack. The next few moments were a blur of shock and complete breakdown. It did not break my skin, but for days my foot ached with the memory of the incident seared into my foot from a growing bruise and two toothy indentations on my foot.
Later on, the pest control professional we hired confirmed that the rat had come in through our open window. I never imagined living on the third floor of a tall apartment building that these vile creatures could scale walls. Apparently, someone is gutting two very old buildings on my block, which contributed to the problem.
As you can imagine, I did not enter my own kitchen for many days. I did not cook a thing and I was devastated. I felt so violated in my own sanctuary. Was this some kind of guerilla promo for the movie Rataouille? Suddenly Ratatouille was every where-on tv, popping up on my myspace page. Oh the irony of the two things I love most--Paris, and chef's kitchens, combined with the thing that I despise most. Looming over the Javitts Center in where I attended the Fancy Food Show was a giant unavoidable poster for Ratatouille. Was the universe conspiring against me?
Again I remind myself that this was an isolated incident- a freak accident. I keep reminding myself that I'm okay. I keep cooking in my kitchen because it's what makes me get up in the morning. It's what makes my world go around. It's what I love. Rat or no rat.