Monday, October 29, 2018


The other day I read an article I felt was a great incentive for losing weight – because it instantly made me want to quit eating. It said there are approximately 76 million cases of food poisoning and food-borne illnesses in America each year.

The article went on to list methods of prevention, such as never leaving food unrefrigerated for longer than two hours, and cooking food until its inner temperature reaches a minimum of 160 degrees.

All I can say is I’m pretty sure I should have been dead years ago.

Back when I was in grammar school, I used to carry tuna-salad sandwiches in my lunchbox, which I kept in my desk.  There was nothing in the lunchbox to keep the sandwiches cold, like an ice pack. And in May and June the classroom usually was about the temperature of the Sahara. 

My sandwiches just sat around from the time I left home at 7:30 in the morning until I finally ate them at noon. According to the article I just read, the tuna salad should have been so full of live bacteria by then, the sandwich could have jumped out of the lunchbox and danced across the lunch table. 

In my younger days, I also drank eggnog, and when my mother baked cakes, I licked the cake-batter bowl, not even knowing (or caring) that both contained raw, and perhaps salmonella-infested, eggs.

And I remember one summer when I visited Jill, a friend of mine who lived near London. We left her house at 7:00 one morning for a full day of sightseeing, and didn’t stop to rest until about 2:00 that afternoon.

“I’m starving,” I said to her as we plunked down on a park bench.

Jill smiled, reached into her handbag and pulled out two egg-salad sandwiches wrapped in plastic.  “I made these before we left this morning!”

It was the best egg-salad sandwich I’d ever eaten. And even though it had been sitting in the bottom of a purse for seven hours, it didn’t bother my stomach a bit.

Perhaps it’s because ignorance was bliss back then.

Nowadays, however, the subject of food poisoning has become so widespread, I find myself growing more and more paranoid about everything I eat. And in the process, I'm probably driving everyone crazy.

For example, I read that a group of people at some church picnic in another state all got deathly ill from eating bruised tomatoes.

I’d never really considered tomatoes to be any sort of health threat before, but after I read that, I found myself carefully studying them for bruises, even though I wasn’t even sure what a bruised tomato looked like.  I felt a little indentation on one in the supermarket the other day, so I took it over to the produce clerk.

“Is this just a harmless dent or do you think it might be a potentially life-threatening bruise?” I asked him.

The look he gave me told me the only thing he thought was dented was my head. 

And then there’s fish.  Fresh fish should have no odor whatsoever, according to an expert on TV.  “If fish has a fishy smell or even worse, it smells like ammonia, it’s old!” the guy said. “Don’t eat it!”

As a result, I have sniffed so many fish, I feel like an otter.

But the food that has me the most frightened is chicken.  I blame Chef Emeril Lagasse, who was cooking chicken on a TV show one night.

“When you handle chicken,” he said, “be sure to wash your hands right away. Also, wash the counter, the dish you put the raw chicken on, and anything that came within 10 feet of it!  And then wash everything all over again! You can’t be too careful with chicken! It can be full of deadly salmonella bacteria.”

Chicken always has been one of my favorite foods, but every time I’m about to cook it now, I feel as if I should be wearing a hazmat suit. And after I touch it, I am tempted hose myself down with Lysol. I’m always afraid I might miss cleaning a spot on the counter, and the chicken bacteria in that one spot will run rampant, rapidly breed and overtake the kitchen, kind of like a bacteria coup.

So just to be on the safe side, from now on, everything I put into my oven is going to be cooked at a bacteria-annihilating 550 degrees.

Maybe I should go check the batteries in my smoke detectors.

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