First, I'd like to say "thank you" to the guy in the stall in the airport bathroom.
Thank you for your half of the conversation everyone else could hear.
Thank you for giving me the best possible example I can use when I tell people in a cooking class why cell phones do not belong in the kitchen (at least my kitchen). There is no such thing as a sanitized cell phone.
The germs you touched via doorknobs, elevator buttons, bathrooms, or when you picked up that dime you found on the sidewalk are probably on your cell phone. That's why cell phones are among my top four ways to spread germs in the kitchen.
I assume that no one wants to infect his family or her guests. I assume that germs are ubiquitous. When it comes to germs in the kitchen those are the only assumptions I'm willing to make. Ignorance spreads germs. A little information and insight about our own behavior might not cure the common cold, but it can keep it at bay.
You taste the salad dressing. It's good, but needs something. You add salt and a dash of Tabasco. You stir it with same spoon you just used to taste, and/or taste it again with that spoon to see if it needs more salt. Mmm - who can say no to Creamy Influenza Dressing. Don't double dip. The test for the validity of this rule is to run it in reverse. Do you want whoever prepares your food to double dip?
Eating Food That's Past It's Prime
I just had a talk with my father about expiration dates. He read "somewhere" that it's OK to eat food after the expiration date. That's true when it's a "sell by" date. But he decided that the wiggle-room on the expiration date could easily accommodate month-past-its-prime fish salad. Germs grow more slowly in the refrigerator, but they grow. Expiration dates are like seatbelts; they protect us from an ongoing risk that increases when we're most distracted.
When I see a sponge in a kitchen I cringe. For those of you who love your kitchen sponge you have my admiration; you live in danger without flinching. Every Google search I did about germs in the kitchen rated sponges at the top of the yuck list. There were a number of suggestions on how to clean a sponge, or kill bacteria on a sponge. All of them are iffy - and none of them address the risk associated with dead bacteria. Yep - sometimes what makes us sick isn't bacteria growing, it's the toxins in their dead little bodies and/or waste products.
A kitchen sponge has more germs than the seat of the toilet being used by that man in the airport. Follow my link if you demur. Better yet, throw your sponges away and then wash your hands with soap and hot water.
Andy Broder is the chef/owner of AndyFood, A Culinary Studio.
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