If you've ever watched MasterChef and thought it looked as if it might be a stressful thing to do, you are spot-on. I know, because I am taking part in the current series (the sleb one, that is, shown every weekday afternoon on BBC1, then repeated as catch up shows on Friday and Saturday evenings). By far the worst part of it is just before you go in to the kitchen to take on a challenge. You have to line up, all four of you, and wait for an AGE - sometimes 20-30 minutes - before the go-ahead comes through the producer's headphones to announce, Action!
It feels as if you are going into the worst exam ever, for which you've done zippo revision, and you HAVE to pass this test. We've all had that bad dream, haven't we? Well, here I am, reliving it for real. It's not great for the blood pressure, I can tell you.
Once you're into the kitchen, does the stress level lessen? No, it only gets worse. The presenters make very clear how high are their expectations, the induction hob seems to turn itself off at crucial moments, the bowls/pans/whisks are not where you think they are, then That Pair come around wanting to chat precisely at the moment you REALLY need to concentrate. Relaxing it is not. Then there's that bloody clock. At first it seems to be fairly generous in its behaviour, then about halfway through the session it takes on a mendacious tone and somehow seems to speed up in the most alarming way. And no matter how experienced a cook you are, you end up doing the stupidest things you would never do at home. It's called nerves.
Why did I take it so seriously? Partly because I thought I could not stand the humiliation of being out first. Also, there's a word in Scottish that means 'determined', and it's 'thrawn'. And, yes, a little competitive.
I thought the first day would be a cinch - tasting bits and pieces, identifying a carrot and the like. Not a bit of it.
First, the Skills Test. We were given all the ingredients for ravioli and were asked to prepare three pieces in a butter and sage sauce. Mmmm I can do this, I thought: get the air all out, seal the packs, keep them neat, douse in butter - all of which I forgot immediately as the nerves kicked in. Mine looked humungous, ungainly and, according to Pudding Features, I was 'bloody lucky they didn't burst all over the place'. That night, I couldn't stop scolding myself for being so stupid. I was desperate to repair the damage I had done. But then comforted myself with the thought that if I did too well early on it might not be the best thing (after all, everyone has to progress on that 'journey').
For our next challenge, the Basic Recipe Test, we were given an array of ingredients for risotto. I make a risotto quite frequently so should not have been fazed, but I was. The nerves completely took over. JT told us we had a recipe plus all the ingredients we needed and out of this he wanted one plateful of beautiful risotto but that it wasn't 'cooking by numbers' and we should cook with our intuition and eyes. So I set to work. I like to put wine in my risotto (and no garlic). There was no wine supplied and the recipe included garlic. Mmm, bit of a dilemma here...
To see how Aggie gets on watch Celebrity MasterChef BBC1 Mon - Fri at 2.15pm, with catch up shows on Fridays at 8.30pm and Saturdays at 6.10pm.
Follow Aggie MacKenzie on Twitter: www.twitter.com/aggiemackenzie