"Everything that is really great and inspiring is created by the individual who can labor in freedom" Albert Einstein

"A dame who knows the ropes isn't likely to get tied up." Mae West

Saturday, September 5, 2009

It can be nasty, but I still go out to eat

I am sometimes a bit obsessed with food. I like good food, sometimes on the gourmet side, but most often it comes down to just being picky about fresh, wholesome, and unadulterated things that have been prepared and served properly.

One bout with food poisoning a number of years ago yielded subsequent years of cautionary noshing and a mistrust of people's kitchens. When a meal causes one's body to hurl feces and vomit simultaneously every 15 minutes for over 36 hours, along with the feeling of the devil driving a spike through the center of one's body, one just doesn't forget - ever. Follow that initial day with another day of dry heaves, and another week of gagging at the very thought of food, all the while having no energy to get up off the bathroom floor...well, you get the drift. And yeah, I should have gone to the hospital, but I'm tough and it was quick weight-loss method.

So now I avoid potlucks and homemade baked sales like the plague. In a previous job, I visited many homes (by appointment, too) and what I saw in some private kitchens would shut down any public restaurant.

Nothing say homemade more than preparing dinner on a counter where the cat's ass had been just seconds before.

I once took a food sanitation course to get a license as a food service manager. I scored 100% on the state exam because I was totally committed to safety. At the end of that course, our class visited an area restaurant and we were allowed to test various areas of the kitchen to see if it met standards. Based on what we found, I could not believe the restaurant actually volunteered for this activity. I went straight to the meat, destined to be placed on pizzas. The temperature of the sausage was 71 degrees. I guess that just made for quicker cooking time in the oven. By the way, that establishment is no longer in business.

We have all heard stories of food service workings spitting or flicking boogers in customers' food or dropping food on the floor and re-plating it. Generally, though, this is in retaliation to an obnoxious, over-bearing, smart-ass patron.

I rarely go to buffets, but when I do, I use the following rule: serving spoons and eating utensils - right hand; finger foods - left hand; and go always early, before the animals get there. You know, the ones who wipe their noses or cough in their hands and then pick up the next serving spoon. Or the lady who can't quite reach the food in back and allows her boobs to nest in the salad bowl. Or the kid who sticks his finger in a dish, licks it, and then goes on to the next dish and does the same while mommy laughs at how cute he is.

My latest restaurant observation was a woman who, as she walked by a set table with napkins placed over the flatware, accidentally brushed one of the napkins to the floor with her purse. Ever so politely, she picked it up off the floor and placed it back over the flatware for the next unsuspecting customer. And there was the guy who brought his dirty plate when he went back to the buffet for seconds, put some food on it, then decided he wasn't that hungry after all, and scraped the food off the used plate - back into the serving container for someone else to enjoy.

I've come to the conclusion that eating in a restaurant is still probably pretty safe, until the customers arrive and screw everything up.

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