Squeamish Talk

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Heather says:

Life is messy.

A few days ago, I was pulling apart a rotisserie chicken for chicken and dumpling soup. My mother-in-law walked past and commented something to the effect of, “I don’t know how you can do that.” (She didn’t say it in a rude manner, it was just a casual comment).

I replied that I just don’t think about what I’m doing. If as I picked apart the chicken, I focused on ย muscles, bone, sinew and fat, sure my stomach would roll.

It’s a lot like any other disgusting chore. When cleaning a toilet do you reach in and think of everything that has gone in the bowl before you? Of course not. That’s like asking to hurl.

It’s the same principle when dealing with food.

The key to doing unsavory chores is you stop your mind from going there.

Usually when I have to do something gross, whether it’s cleaning a toilet or cutting up a whole chicken I listen to podcasts or audio books. I find they do a much better job of taking my mind off of the ickiness of the chore at hand.

Sometimes being squeamish just isn’t an option, whether it’s the budget that says boneless skinless chicken breasts are off the menu or just a heinous mess that must be dealt with immediately. In the cases where the yuck can’t be avoided, how do you get through?

P.S. I’m home! Did you miss me?

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23 thoughts on “Squeamish Talk”

  1. Rather than limiting where I allow my mind to go, I prefer to re-frame the issue away from "yuck" by reflecting on the bigger picture. Taking cooked chicken meat off the bones and putting the bones in the soup pot is easy compared to what someone else did for me by killing and cleaning the chicken in the first place. Scrubbing the toilet reminds me that toilets are easy to clean, compared to outhouses. Toilets are more convenient and smell better. However, outhouses are better for the environment, and they keep you in closer touch with the weather.

    Disgust is in the mind of the beholder. There are people who are disgusted by some of life's greatest experiences, like making babies, giving birth, or breastfeeding. Too bad for them. They are missing out on a lot.

    And that homemade chicken soup is pretty good, too!

    • Thankfully most of us get over the eew factor of making babies, although I may not want to think too hard about other people. Yeah, I do usually have the mind of a twelve year old.
      I've used an outhouse in December in Minnesota and I'd prefer if I never have to be that in touch with the weather ever again. ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. I got over any remaining food-related "squeams" when I plucked and gutted chickens with a friend. If I can do that, I can do anything food-prep wise.

    Overwhelming, retch-making odors is what gets me. If it's something I can't avoid, I try to ventilate the area (or move the job outdoors if the job is moveable).Sometimes, I wear a mask over mouth and nose, and sometimes, I just plain DO NOT BREATHE while doing it, and have to take several breaks just to breathe.

    • When i was pregnant, food odors killed me. The worst offender was partially cooked poultry. The youngest is now 3 and that memory is fading, but I don't think I'd push it. I do try to remember to run the exhaust fan when dealing with poultry. It's just better to not go there.

      The other thing I think is just doing it and getting yourself accustomed to whatever it is. People who have "dirty jobs" as Mike Rowe calls them aren't that different from you and I, they just become used to it. For the most part they were probably pretty squicked out the first couple of times they had to do whatever it was. How does the old saying go? A body can get used to anything?

      • this is so true! i used to get squeamish about dealing with whole raw chickens, but i had the great fortune of rescuing two dogs who are allergic to chicken and grains of all kinds. this means they can't have kibble what-so-ever, and i have to prepare their diet from raw ingredients. a raw chicken or a dirty toilet is like a walk in the park if you've ever had to deal with green tripe. it is the most foul smelling thing i have EVER come across, and i know stink! grandpa owns a chicken farm, and grandma has at least seven cats in the house at all times.

  3. I let my mind wonder off like Homer Simpson singing the Meow Mix song whenever i have to clean up vomit. And, yes, holding your breath is about the only way to get through it.

  4. I swear, having dogs for a few years before having a baby really desensitized me to all manner of bodily projections.

    As far as chicken goes… I tossed a few leg quarters in the crock pot the other day and then came home and shredded the meat off the bones. I didn't think anything about it… just dove in and did it.

  5. I used to be grossed out by the chicken thing, but I'm really not anymore. The thing that stresses me out about it is just that I obsess about the germ thing–like not touching things, washing my hands after each step, making sure I clean well enough afterward, etc. It's kind of high maintenance in that respect. I would be way way more squeamish about killing it or plucking it.

    Yeah, as for pregnancy, I was completely and utterly nauseated by the smell of poop of any kind. And coffee, which smelled exactly the same at that time.

    • Having an obscene number of kitchen towels makes it less of an issue for me. Mess with chicken, wipe, toss, repeat. I do get what you're saying.
      Oh man, it would have been ugly if coffee had bothered me. ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. Welcome back, Heather. :o)

    I think people have different sensitivity levels, and I think it is conditioned early in life. In my early life, without going into the (w)retch-ed details, I received ample training in how to control my squeamishness…er…make that "suppress it entirely" because my mother was so incredibly suggestible that she would barf if she even suspected that something nasty was in the next room.

    Breath-holding and fans are good when dealing with smelly stuff, so is spraying the air so full of Lysol that you are probably cooking your lungs with it to breathe. Putting your mind in neutral is also very good. Covering a nasty mess thoroughly with paper towels, newspaper, plastic bags, or whatever is appropriate, before starting the cleanup is also useful…if you can't see it, it is less likely to gross you out. Rubber gloves are a must for really germy or slimy things or to protect yourself from other hazards…like fishing something out of the disposal!

  7. I'm not particularly squeamish when it comes to food or bodily stuff. However the other day i had to clean up after one of my dogs 'returned' his entire undigested dinner on the kitchen floor. It usualy doesn't bother me, but for some reason this particular time it made me want to return my dinner.

    On another note that was also about the time I remembered I was out of papertowels and the rags were in the wash. I'm getting the heebie jeebies just remembering it!

  8. I grew up in a household where the family businesses were turkey farming and taxidermy. Combined with time spent on other relatives farms working, etc. I've done far too many of the jobs covered on "Dirty Jobs". As such, I've become desensitized to an awful lot and have spent more time closely in touch with where our food comes from and every step it takes to get to the plate.

    If the objection is mental, your advice makes perfect sense, to distract to some degree or other. Also, getting proficient can help move the task from conscious action to "routine" and you can often quick thinking much about doing it at all. You just "go through the motions" and you can easily think about something entirely different.

    When the objection isn't mental, as in smells, podcasts aren't going to help. That's when I use what medical examiners and emergency crews use to deal with the horrific smells they sometimes encounter. A jar of Vick's Vapor Rub close at hand takes care of nearly any objectionable scent. Take a bit on your finger and rub it just below your nose or onto the outside of the bottom of your nostrils. All you'll smell for a while is the Vick's.

    It doesn't work well if you have to deal with the smell for an entire 8-10 hour day, but for 15 or 20 minutes here or there, it works wonders.

    I also recommend keeping latex or nitrile gloves (if you're allergic to latex) handy in all of the places you're likely to encounter your disgusting substances. I find that pulling the dirty gloves off and into the trash helps get rid of some of the squee that even hand washing can't clear out of my mind.

    On the farm, we also had coveralls and other clothing like boots that was kept specifically for the nasty tasks. When you complete the task, the dedicated clothing/gear comes off and with it, some of the mental baggage attached to the task.

  9. The EEEWW factor usually disappears with repeated effort (like diapers for your 4th baby ……. not as bad as with the first!)
    I also have learned a simple mantra ……… "It washes off"
    And as soon as I can, I go wash. LOL

  10. For the really bad moments, I tend to pull from the summer job I had cleaning up after the cops leave at homes after some sad/nasty stuff goes down:

    Turn off the brain, Turn UP (as loud as my eardrums can take it without bleeding) something with a thumping beat, gloves, a fan, and a few candles if I think it might just help.

    And if THAT doesn't cut it? A constant mantra of "There is Tequila waiting in the freezer, there is Tequila waiting in the freezer"… and there darn well IS a drink when the job is done!

    Luckily, most jobs in the home merely require a pair of nitrile gloves and the music – I've been caught more than a few times breaking down larger chunks of meat for the freezer bopping along to the beat. Luckily, my husband is just as gooberish as I am, so he can't judge me TOO badly!

  11. Just think about what nurses do on a daily basis.

    As long as you assume that what you're doing is normal, no problem. (Except, occasionally, for the smell – that can be a problem. Then breathe through your mouth and think very firmly of other things!)


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