Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Would YOU eat there?

kw: cooking, hygiene

I have heard a number of times, and heard again this morning, someone say on the radio, "If you see what's going on in a restaurant kitchen, you'll never eat there." It is a bit like the statement, "Politics is like sausage: You don't want to watch it being made." It also reminds me of the summer I worked in a meat packing plant. It made it hard for me to eat meat until after I left. But I have a stronger stomach now.

The fact is, if you really watch what goes on in your own kitchen, would you be willing to eat the food? Most of us are careful enough, but there are plenty of things we do that are riskier than the standards require of restaurant kitchen workers. Do you wear latex or nitrile gloves to prepare food? Do you wash things as frequently as they do? Do you have a 5-second rule for things dropped on the floor (the restaurant doesn't: into the trash it goes!)?

We've all been told, "Don't leave food out for more than two hours at room temperature." Every church potluck lunch I've been to, the people bring hot food at 9:30-10:00 AM, let it sit on the counter until Noon or 12:30, (some of it is re-heated on a steam table or in a microwave), and it has all been sitting there for two-and-a-half to three hours before any of it is served. Nobody gets sick, though.

Then there's Thanksgiving. Most Thanksgiving dinners I've been to, or hosted, the meal is served pretty promptly after cooking, but then people hang around and "graze" for four to six hours. Sometimes more.

I don't know about you, but I have to have a bit of confidence that my immune system is up to the task, considering that it evolved during the 100,000 years when there was no refrigeration, and some foods were "left out" for days. I know what goes on in a Chinese kitchen—a great many of my close friends are Chinese—but that doesn't keep me from greatly enjoying the occasional pig-out at the Chinese buffet place, or eating at the church's potluck.

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