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Am I the only one who lives in a magic house? A lighthearted look at ourselves & food safety

I sometimes feel like I live in a magic house completely uncontaminated by food pathogens and in which food can be left out without spoilage or infection. Guests may come dirty, but walk through the front door and are magically sterilized. Although I keep a very clean kitchen and store things properly, I just don't worry about food poisoning in my magic house.

What about you? How do you rate yourself, from food slob in a magic house to a follower of all the food handling "rules" in a dark, contaminated universe?

Please keep this lighthearted and fun. Just provide your approach. No citing of USDA or other rules and recommendations, please.

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  1. I think I live in a magic house myself. I do the usual--wipe down counters, etc., but unless I'm cooking for guests, I don't worry too much about food poisoning either. My cat stays off the counters, but she wanders the floors and yes, there's probably cat fur and dander floating around. The 6-second rule for me personally can extend up to 6 weeks :) I've been known to find a toasted hazelnut on the floor that probably fell down the week before and I've still eaten it. Still pretty good! Obsessive? Absolutely not! I've defrosted things on the counter, I"ve left mayonnaise-y things out probably too long, and I eat stuffing that's been cooked inside the turkey WITHOUT checking the temperature. I eat raw cookie dough with uncooked eggs. Anyway, Sam, perhaps you should write a book full of magic kitchen tips!
    And I'm rarely sick ( and when I am, it's something like a migraine or the occasional hangover of the headache-y variety).

    1. On previous threads along this topic line I have stated I follow the same methods I learned as a cook, and working in the food purchasing business. I dont want to risk getting myself, or family members sick so I error on the side of caution, and if I even have a small doubt somehting may be bad it goes in the trash without second thought. Throwing out $3 worth of questionable ground beef or chicken vs a hospital bill, or a day off from work ill, is a no-brainer.

      We keep our kitchen spotless, and I run it like a restaurant. Food is labled, and stored correctly, and safe food handling, prep, cooking, and storage techniques are followed. This is easy since I do all the cooking, prep, and purchasing of the food.

      I do not sit in fear of food contamination, since I follow basic guidlines & practices I have learned over the years, and have the utmost confidence in these practices. Error on the side of caution and all is good in my world.

      16 Replies
      1. re: swsidejim

        What a great post.
        I follow the same methods and feel the same way.
        It's all simple common sense.

        1. re: swsidejim

          New here, sorry for the late post. This is the way I was raised, and trained in my first job as a SO cook at a 12-seat lunch counter.

          My mother (a former nursing student) taught me to rinse the clean dishes with boiling water, something I never do any more when washing dishes by hand. I don't take the garbage out and sweep the floor every night, either. I've gotten a little lax over the years.

          On the other hand, my mother-in-law was a fabulous cook, but I had to teach her how to clean her wooden cutting board. I'm still meticulous about clean hands and surfaces and habitually wash everything down before starting a meal. Some habits are hard to overcome.

            1. re: elegraph

              works for jfood. he has a cutting board that is meat only. never a vegetable has touched that puppy.

              1. re: jfood

                I've never understood the "meat only" cutting board. Vegetable only, sure. But if I'm making a pot of stew, I don't need a second cutting board to chop the veggies that are going in the same pot with the beef...they're all getting just as well cooked.

                  1. re: dtremit

                    I agree! I have a large wooden board that I use for bread, vegetables, and fruit only. I have separate plastic boards that I use interchangeably for meat, poultry, and fish, but I have no problem chopping vegetables on the meat board if they're about to go in the same pot as the meat anyway.

                  2. re: jfood

                    I guess I fall somewhere in mid-spectrum. While I don't obsessively clean out the letters on my stove with a toothpick, I do have a "thing" about separating cutting boards and sterilizing them, and I keep the floor clean enough that should something fall on it, I feel perfectly safe eating it. Mind you, I wouldn't lick spilled pudding up off the floor, but a piece of chopped fruit that flies off the chopping board? "Under the teeth, over the gums, look out tummy, here it comes."
                    And I've had food poisoning exactly twice: once at the home of a friend whom I believe holds a blackbelt in compulsive housecleaning; and once recently at a seafood shack that also looked pretty damn clean. Never a thing from my semi-sloppy practices, though; and (knock wood) my guests either.
                    Work's another story. I do run that kitchen like a restaurant kitchen, following every single rule of sanitization that I can think of.

                    1. re: mamachef

                      I have color coded cutting boards made of some white poly that are NSF rated for safety. They come as follows:

                      Tan.......Bread
                      Red.......Meat
                      Yellow.....Poultry
                      Green....Vegetables
                      Blue.......Fish

                      The only problem.....I've been accused of being color blind.

                      1. re: fourunder

                        Chef Kunz at Lespinasse does the exact same color-coding thing. I think it's a great idea, especially when feeding the public.

                        1. re: mamachef

                          A while back while strolling through a flea market, I came across a vendor who was selling these boards very cheaply, only a few dollars each.....13 x 21 and 10 x 14.......I purchased all he had and he gave me a package deal. One of my luckier deals.

                        2. re: fourunder

                          How many do you need if you keep kosher + Chinese?

                    2. re: elegraph

                      but somehow, she managed to survive unscathed with a dirty cutting board before you showed her how to take care of it properly?

                      I'm giggling as this just sounds so strange. I'm not saying your method is wrong, and honestly, I should probably worry about these things more. But to date, I have only known people to get sick from eating in restaurants. Never at home.

                      I definitely live in a magic house =)

                      1. re: lisa13

                        "She managed to survive unscathed with a dirty cutting board before you showed her how to take care of it properly?"

                        It all depends on what our bodies are exposed to or get used to. My mother-in-law will leave a thanksgiving spread on the table, covered by a cloth all night and serve it the next day. I didn't realize that is what she was doing and got food poinsoning twice, but no one else came down ill because they ate from her kitchen regularly and grew up that way. My husband calls it an iron stomach.

                        I am pretty okay with my habits and don't normally get any kind of stomach ailments. I don't sterilize things other than to give my good wood board a scrubbing with hot water and a rinse in vinegar or lemon juice. I also do put bleach in my sink and on my dish brush.Other than that, I just give a good soap and water wipe down with an immpecably clean kitchen sponge.

                        1. re: sisterfunkhaus

                          We have the same mother in law! Except mine only leaves things out from about 8 am until dinner time. (Yes, including the turkey. My FIL gets up extra early to cook it.) I was also sick 2 x's before I realized what was going on!

                    3. re: swsidejim

                      God, I would hate to be your spouse!

                    4. I'm ashamed to admit that my kitchen sanitation skill are less than ideal!

                      Like nofunlatte, I've been known to pick things off the floor- I mean, if it just fell...how much could it hurt?!
                      I'll eat anything in my fridge just as long as it doesn't taste off.
                      Soups and stews will be left on the stove for days- after the third day, if it's not gone, it'll go in the fridge.
                      But I can't even remember the last time I've gotten sick from home cooked food!

                      Just some facts:
                      -I don't wear shoes in the house
                      -I'm Korean- I eat lots and lots of kimchi
                      -A lot of the foods I eat are miso based, seasoned with vinegar, or Korean red pepper paste-based. This may increase the viability of dishes
                      -I'm a girl
                      -I'm incredibly fastidious with it comes to everything else!

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: dream75517

                        "I'm a girl"
                        OMG, I'm LOL here. Thanks for the laugh!

                        I too live in a magic house - never been sick from anything I've cooked, and I am not fastidious at all! Although I don't go barefoot in the house due to foot pain without shoes.

                        1. re: dream75517

                          I'm pretty much with you on all counts, dream75517, though I don't eat that much kimchi or miso-, vinegar- or red pepper-based foods. apparently, the shared facts of us being girls and not wearing shoes in the house is enough to keep us from getting sick.

                          1. re: dream75517

                            Haha, the secret's out- Boys, sorry!
                            But really, I'm just not a germaphobe...Growing up with a nurse for a mother fosters a sense of shame about caring about the little germs- she would pooh pooh and laugh me out of the house!
                            I think that eating questionable foods has given me the immunity that I have today..and it was totally worth it!
                            The best thing you could do is wash your hands (preferably not anti-bacterial- lowers immunity!) and trust your gut in the kitchen!

                          2. I KNOW I live in a magic house because Tinker Bell lives in my entryway. Whenever someone comes through the front door, she sprinkles them with pixie dust and all of the villainous germs and microbes and nasties disappear. I do suspect that some of them escape back out the front door before she hits 'em with a blast, because guests have been known to become contaminated the minute they walk out the door. She makes a couple of trips daily throughout the house scattering the magic over any possibly lurking baddies, opens the refrigerator and dusts the inside.

                            I don't allow anyone to enter the house the first time through the back door or the patio doors. I do have a fairy that lives in my back yard, but he's not magic. He's just a plain old squirrel drag queen who can't even keep the pecans from going bad when they're on the ground too long.

                            If you think I['m joking, then how come no one has EVER gotten sick from eating in my house? Magic! Tinker Bell's magic!

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: Caroline1

                              LOL...
                              I make everyone take a shower when they enter my Magic House.
                              Then they must drink alot of water...at least 2 liters while visiting.
                              Do you think that helps?

                              1. re: latindancer

                                hmmm... Could be great, could be a problem... Depends entirely on how long they stay and the strength of their sphincter urethrae. '-)

                            2. Magic House! We should get Pete Townshend to come out of retirement and write a song...

                              I think i rate on the food slob side of things, with occasional breakout moments to food safety nazi. I think I am evolving as I get older, maybe devolving. My influences are varied. I have a scientific/medical background, so I have reasonable knowledge of infectious processes and microbiology. My immediate family are experts in fermentation (dad microbiologist, mum expert kimchi maker and home cook extraordinaire), so between the two of them, I've received quite an education on home-food safety, and I am of the mind that some of our modern food safety rules are a little excessive.

                              Some general rules I've adopted over the ages:

                              1. Expiration dates from manufacturers are optional. But they may be an indication to look and taste carefully before using the item. More often than not, the quality is down. If the item smells off or if there is visible mold/bacteria, it gets tossed. if the texture or taste are off, it gets tossed only because I don't want to eat it for flavour reasons, not food safety reasons. If it looks, smells, tastes ok, whoo hoo! Time to eat!

                              2. Items lost in the back of the fridge/freezer/pantry: See Rule #1.

                              3. If I see mold on a piece of fruit or veg: chop off the moldy bit. But the rest may be salvageable and edible. Ditto cheese. But for some reason, something soft and full of holes like bread, well, less willing to go there.

                              4. After an infestation of mealy worms, I have gone food safety nazi on the storage of dried goods. Lots and lots of sealed containers. Hubbie is asked to clean the cupboards well on regular basis.

                              5. Things left out on counter longer than they should have been left: if it can be boiled, boil it well. If it can be heated, heat it well. For un-heatable items, I will toss mayo-based things that have been for a long-overnight, but if the ingredients seem fairly innocuous, see Rule 1. I have gotten a lot better at putting food away in a timely fashion, so the safety level has improved.

                              6. If you can't beat them, join them. I eat an inordinate number of fermented, microbe infested products: cheese, yogurt, miso, doen jang, kimchi, sauerkraut, yeast-infested bread, wine, just to name but a few of the products which would be inconceivable without our friends bacteria, yeast, and mold. SO my magic house does not automatically sterilize everything that walks in the front door.

                              7. Finally, 5-10 second rule well in place.

                              Now I will comment that I am much more free and easy with food rules when it is just my hubbie and I. When having guests, I become much more Type A. I figure, hubbie and I have developed immunities, but if our guests come from, say, Swsidejim's kitchen, well, wouldn't want to take any risks....

                              29 Replies
                              1. re: moh

                                ". After an infestation of mealy worms, I have gone food safety nazi on the storage of dried goods. Lots and lots of sealed containers. Hubbie is asked to clean the cupboards well on regular basis"

                                I had the same problem and also these little bugs that poked wholes in my flour that was in the cupboard. For the flour I just packed them all in large ziplock bags and the pasta in sealed containers. I will never forget the horror though. I think I through away all the pasta regardless of if it had been attacked or not.

                                1. re: Sandwich_Sister

                                  If you're referring to, what some call, pantry moths in your dried goods - count me as a victim too. That was one of the most tramatizing experiences - ugh. However, they have nothing to do with a lack of sanitation in your home, but rather the dried goods were infested elsewhere. I had a bag of rice from the indian market that I think was the culprit in my case. What a pain in the arse to rid your pantry of those things <shudder>.

                                  I am a total germ freak out in public. I push doors open w/ the back of my hand or my butt <grin>, wash my hands alot, instruct my kids not to use hand rails, etc. But, at home cooking, I don't obsess about all the GD rules (most of which I suspect are baseless). I stuff my turkey, don't have a designated "chix only" cutting board, I thaw meats in the sink, I like my eggs runny, etc. I tighten up my standards when I have guests but otherwise we are a family of iron stomachs!

                                  p.s. My one exception is that I do wash my fruit and some veggies w/ soap and water. I see those nasty people in the grocery store wiping their noses and then man-handling the apples - blech!

                                  1. re: lynnlato

                                    Those pantry moths.. I hate them. They infested my parents' kitchen, and for a while were swarming right outside the window one day a summer or two ago. We had to go through every single box in the cupboards. My parents think it was a bag of bird seeds in the garage that started it, strangely.

                                  2. re: Sandwich_Sister

                                    Go to either a big pet supply place or a good big hardware store and get some moth traps. These open up to little cardboard tents that you place in your cupboards, on top of the fridge, on shelves. The moths are sexually attracted to a little pheromone-impregnated bait and get stuck to the sticky coating inside the trap. They're about $7 for a pack of two, and I usually get about $30 worth if we're seeing lots of those tiny moths.

                                    1. re: Sandwich_Sister

                                      Well my once, and never again, problem with bugs had to do with buying a grain in bulk from a very well known health food store years ago.
                                      I'm a neat freak in my kitchen and it had nothing to do with cleanliness.
                                      The grain was infested at the store level and I simply brought it home and waited for them to hatch.
                                      Ugh.
                                      No more bulk for me.

                                      1. re: latindancer

                                        When we had a moth infestation a few years ago, I mentioned to my husband that I thought they originated from the bulk bins, and he said "you mean we *bought* them?"

                                        Bulk isn't the only culprit, though. I've had moths inside sealed plastic bags of nuts.

                                        1. re: latindancer

                                          Couldn't agree more! I stopped buying 'bulk' decades ago. I used to buy granola often, till one time I reached in for a handful on my kitchen counter and saw it 'waving back at me.' It was teeming with maggots.
                                          And while not a germ-a-phobe, I AM an 'ick'-a-phobe. I see people reaching in to the bulk containers with their bare hands as oppossed to the scoops. The same hands they just sneezed in, or scratched their asses with.

                                          1. re: toastedcheese

                                            Years ago, I stopped buying anything grain from a health food store that had bulk dog biscuits out with clear evidence of grain moths. Even sealed containers had moth larva in them.... So even if you don't buy the bulk food, stuff like rice, cereal, pretzels from a place that has it may be infested.

                                            1. re: toastedcheese

                                              Totally agree with Toastedcheese. Not a germaphobe, but more and more an ickaphobe. The older I get the more careful I get. We still stuffed turkey done on the grill and inside,until we went low carb. Now it doesn't get stuffed. How I miss stuffing with a turkey dinner. I don't leave turkey dinner on the table overnight or all day, but I'm often not too careful to get stuff into fridge or freezer immediately. Poultry I have gotten very careful with, infact I hate to touch it, I don't buy ground beef.....is ground turkey any better? Maybe not, but I don't hear or see big recalls of hundreds of thousand pounds of it. No one has ever to my knowledge gotten ill after eating here, and they all come back!!

                                          2. re: Sandwich_Sister

                                            I'm not a baker, so use very little flour, and it used to always get mealie bugs, even in sealed containers. Now I buy little bags and store it in the freezer - no problem! Generally, I'm pretty relaxed: 3 second rule, but I'm a slow counter. If it smells and looks okay, I don't care how long it's been sitting around; defrost on the counter or in a cold water bath; no chicken-only cutting board, but I will rinse it after chicken and before chopping something that won't be thoroughly cooked. Just learned that bamboo cutting boards have some natural antibacterial properties. Also learned (from Cooks Illustrated article on keeping a safe kitchen) that it's safer to let foods cool a bit before putting them in the fridge for storage. I always did that for energy-saving reasons, but apparently putting food away hot can raise the fridge temp enough to jeopardize other items.

                                            I am more careful about what I serve to other people; not everyone is a barefoot girl with an iron stomach!

                                            1. re: annomy

                                              It has been an extremely hot & humid summer here in TX, and even with A/C I thought I had all of my dry grains in good sealed containers. The other night I grabbed my container of wild rice and it was definitely WILD. I had critters and other stuff growing in there that really freaked me out. It immediately went out on my balcony and it took me a few days to get up the nerve to even touch it!

                                              I am a neat freak, clean freak, and doubt if I will ever use that container again.

                                              On the other hand, just because my container of yogurt or milk or anything else is one day after the expiration date, I won't throw it out. I eat very little meat and if it isn't super fresh it goes in the trash, and that is the same for fish.

                                              I'm really picky about clean utensils in mustard, mayo, jelly, butter or really anything else. When I make tuna fish salad the tuna is drained into a bowl and the water drained is given to my cat in a separate bowl, a clean fork is used to remove the tuna from the can. A new fork is for the mayo, and yet another new fork is for the giardinera. That is the hot peppers I use in my tuna salad.

                                              I can be totally lax in some things like expiration dates, but the complete opposite in others.

                                          3. re: moh

                                            The moths are a naturally occurring phenomenon and have nothing to do with your cleanliness, or the cleanliness of your purveyor. Better that than pesticide, thanks.
                                            That said, I did not love my first infestation of mini-mothra. Moth traps work pretty well. Sealed containers do not solve this particular problem.

                                            Just FREEZE your grains when you get them home, and THEN put them (in sealed containers, since you don't want mice either) on the shelf.

                                            (btw it's really okay to sift a little debris, moths included, out of your rice. But you can avoid that by freezing)

                                            And yes, I live in a magic kitchen. The only strict rule I have is about sticking clean spoons in condiments, honey, jam, etc. No fingers, no double-dipping.
                                            I believe in the power of boiling water to clean. I do not like anything that smells up my kitchen tools like certain commercial dish soap or bleach.

                                            1. re: pitu

                                              Not only that, but eating moths won't make you sick. It's unpleasant, but harmless. Same is true of most molds. And hair, whether it's cat, dog or human. If you have cats and dogs they may be spreading around some nasties from their feces (on their feet, for example), but actually you're more likely to get some kind of parasite/worm than a bacterial illness.

                                              Food poisoning is caused by a fairly small number of specific pathogens, none of which commonly reside in significant numbers in a typical house. If they did, we'd have become resistent to them, just as we have to all the other bacteria and viruses common to our environment.

                                              Salmonella has to come from somewhere. If your chicken didn't have salmonella to begin with, leaving it out for hours, days or even weeks won't magically cause it to grow salmonella (although it could grow something else). And if it did have salmonella and was properly cooked, then the same applies.

                                              If something is safe in a jar for a year, that means it's sterile and will be sterile until the seal is broken, whether it's "expired" or not. Bacteria don't magically appear in a sealed jar on day 366!

                                              The vast majority of food-borne illness comes from raw food and cross-contamination of cooked food by raw food -- if you put your cooked chicken on a plate that had raw chicken on it, all bets are off!

                                              I don't think it's reasonable to assume that food safety requirements applicable to commercial kitchens are necessary for home cooks. Food in restaurants is handled by more people, and has a much higher risk of coming into contact with a wide variety of potential pathogen carrying substances and contaminated tools and surfaces than food at home.

                                              1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                "Not only that, but eating moths won't make you sick. It's unpleasant, but harmless. Same is true of most molds. "

                                                I had heard something about carcinogens from eating food that had been overtaken by moths and larvae, am I misremembering something? I also recall something about aflatoxins from mold in peanuts being carcinogenic. But I am the first to admit I am on shaky ground here.

                                                Anyhow, I suppose if you had to choose between carcinogens and starvation, one might choose the former. I have spent a large part of the holidays being grateful for the fact that I enjoyed a few days of hunger as opposed to over-satiety, and worrying about additives, not what I'll have to eat. I am very fortunate indeed.

                                                1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                  I think you may want to be much more aware of what lurks on your cats hair and paws. Toxoplasmosis gondii has been linked to a host of mental illnesses most are unaware of. This is why Pregnant woman are not suppose to change litter. Unfortunately we are really not educated well enough on how it can affect anyone who happens to eat something that the microscopic spore landed in via air. The same goes with pin worms the eggs can become airborne. I also use to have a very relaxed position about a lot of things until I started to read about the links of bacteria, fungus,viruses, and parasites to mental health. You may want to read this.

                                                  http://www.newsweek.com/id/60723/page/1

                                                  Cin

                                                  1. re: Cindid

                                                    omitting the life cycle/host/inoculant/parasite integrity issue is problematic much of the article is lacking "context" passage through the gut of ?
                                                    toxoplasmosis,the cat has to "get it " from something,not from somewhere.

                                                    1. re: lcool

                                                      Thank you. The article does not offer much substantiation, does it? I used to work at CDC and my whole job was to test for toxoplasmosis. They definitely recommend that pregnant women not change cat's litter box. But the rest is a bit of a stretch. If it were airborne, I'd certainly have gotten it as I used to make my own antigen by injecting 200 mice a week and then harvestingthe antigen. Caution is good; unfounded alarm is just that.

                                                      1. re: c oliver

                                                        Spot on
                                                        Did some CDC and Brother Rockefeller overseas time myself.Last I heard the toxoplasmosis cycle requires "the flea" .As does the tape worm in cats.It isn't something you get in your sleep.So if the cat is inside and 100% free of fleas the risk equastion changes.
                                                        unfounded/naive alarm ???

                                                        1. re: lcool

                                                          I'm not sure about this but my memory (which is as old as I am) is that, yes, for the tapeworm but no for toxoplasma. It seems like the cat would have to ingest the infect material, i.e., killing an infected bird. So if a cat had never gone outside, then I guess fine. But it's easy enough for pregnant women to avoid the cat box (oh, darn, I'm sure they'll all hate that.) But the parasites don't leap and fly around. And die when exposed to air for a period of time. If people would worry about the real dangers than the imagined, they'd probably be alot healthier.

                                                          1. re: c oliver

                                                            or eating vector insects,cats clean,eat the flea,eggs hatch from flea gut into cat gut etc in agreement with your memory
                                                            one of the best of natures "sanitizers" is sunlight.Ergo grazing animals with much rotated space tend to need less chemical support to remain healthy
                                                            in an area with rampant lyme disease our answer is to keep the cats in and bathe the dogs in season.

                                                            1. re: lcool

                                                              I highly suggest keeping your litter box out of the kitchen if you are worried about what you can get from your house cat. Might make dinner more pleasant also. Overall tho you want to keep your pets out of the food prep and cooking space of your home. Dog and cat hair do not add much in the way of flavour or visual appeal if all truth be told.

                                                        2. re: c oliver

                                                          Caution is good; unfounded alarm is profitable. Buy my book and it'll explain why.

                                                          1. re: alanbarnes

                                                            I think a few others beat you to it.

                                                    2. re: pitu

                                                      If you think about it, when you freeze grains to kill any moth eggs (which is also what I do), that doesn't actually remove them. They're still there. Unpleasant to think about, but it doesn't appear to matter otherwise.

                                                      1. re: jlafler

                                                        But why are moths and moth larvae any more repulsive, when you stop to think it through, than birds' eggs, birds, fish, sheep, pigs, or cattle? In today's world of nearly universal availability, choice of food is almost always a form of cultural bias. Not that I'd smack my lips at the chance to sit down to a bowl full of moth larvae for breakfast, but on the other hand, I've never tasted them. '-)

                                                        1. re: Caroline1

                                                          You'll get no argument from me. When I was studying anthropology I knew a guy who had eaten all sorts of things while he was doing his fieldwork in New Guinea. He said that only thing he was expected to eat that he really had trouble with was maggots, but even then, once he'd nerved himself to eat them, they tasted pretty good!

                                                          1. re: jlafler

                                                            "Maggots, the OTHER white meat!" '-)

                                                  2. No, you're not. I grew up in that kind of house, where my mom would leave frozen meat on the counter during the day to thaw. Thanksgiving and X-mas leftovers were left in the unheated garage because it was cold enough there to store them. None of us every had food poisoning, none of our guests ever had food poisoning, and I still have never had food poisoning to this day running my own kitchen in the same way.

                                                    1. Ah, Sam, what can I say? Your posts always tweak interest.

                                                      I would be delighted to believe that I live in a magic house; it's a lot more fun than thinking I'm doing a good job of keeping the buggers at bay. Cleanliness may be next to Godliness, but it's also next to impossible.

                                                      With one mind-numbing, cataclysmic exception (when I poisoned an entire Navy flight squadron on the West Coast, as noted in another post), I have not made anyone ill that I know of. It is not for lack of trying -- my butter lives on the counter, eggs (bought from the "egg lady") are often unrefrigerated, produce goes from being displayed to being eaten - never seeing the inside of the fridge. When I lived in Southern Maryland, I had a whole ham that we whacked off pieces all winter and it was unrefrigerated as well. By all rights, my entire family ought to be pushing up daisies but we're disgustingly healthy.

                                                      My kitchen is clean, make no bones about it, but I'm lazy about dating stored items. Heck, sometimes I even forget to label them so supper can be "a surprise" until it thaws (which could happen on the counter or sink).

                                                      I eat street food if the vendor looks clean. I try to be good about washing produce but have been known to snack on the (unwashed) cherries coming home from market. When I lived in France, bread was carried home without sterile wrappers, cheese was stored unrefrigerated - all with no ill effects. In the Philippines, when I went to market, I bought what looked fresh and we enjoyed every morsel.

                                                      Do I trust my nose to detect off odors? Youbetcha.
                                                      Do I trust my eyes to see evidence of spoilage? Ditto
                                                      If someone is cooking on autopilot, without being aware of their product, chances for trouble increase.
                                                      "Pay Attention" works just as well in the kitchen as it does behind the wheel of a car.

                                                      I am neither food slob nor nervous nellie; likely a solid C+ enjoying every good thing life has to offer. As a species, humans would not have survived this long if life was as dangerous as naysayers would have us believe. Living in fear holds no appeal. I'd rather live in fun.

                                                      7 Replies
                                                      1. re: Sherri

                                                        I grew up in a magic house and have held fast to somewhat lax standards and traditions. If it looks okay, smells okay, tastes okay...it's okay. Oh yeah...my magic cape has made it pretty comfortable to eat some wild and wonderful (not always!) street food all over the world without any serious trouble.

                                                        1. re: janeh

                                                          I neglected to note that I do wash my hands pretty frequently - no anti bacterial soap, though. Am pretty repulsed when watching a cooking show where the chef may go from handling chicken to handling lettuce with just a wipe of the hands on a dish towel in between.

                                                          1. re: janeh

                                                            ditto on the hand-washing. regular soap too. I am also very careful about contaminating raw veggies and raw foods with raw meats such as chicken. I do a lot of cleaning of cutting boards and knives and plates when prepping food.

                                                        2. re: Sherri

                                                          My edits are not taking hold, so I'll just reply to myself.

                                                          When I owned/operated a restaurant/catering business, we received a 100% rating from the health dept. A residential kitchen is another world from a commercial establishment. Health dept. rules are made for commercial situations with multiple employees, etc.

                                                          I should note that when my (late) mother and (late) husband were on chemo, I was a *hawk* about cleanliness. The last thing either of them needed was an additional problem.

                                                          1. re: Sherri

                                                            Sherri my butter lives on the counter too, even in summer. I don't have central air, just one a/c unit so the butter is nice and soft on it's glass butter plate on summer mornings, spreads so easily. And I tend to keep the heat turned low in winter so sometimes I have to gently nuke my butter in the morning in January and February. And the only fruit that sees the inside of my fridge is when I buy way too much grapes at Costco or when strawberries are buy one basket get another one free. No one here has ever gotten sick from my food either so my house must be magical too! Great topic Sam thanks for posting it, and in such a whimsical way too!

                                                            1. re: givemecarbs

                                                              Butter to me never tastes right if left out "intentionally" to soften. Nuking is the same.

                                                              However- I use my food mallet to pound some spread-ability into my butter. It comes out perfect in flavor and in spreading, but it makes one heck of a mess.

                                                              I guess I am a temp control freak, with many "thou shall not do(s)" to my food, personalities.

                                                              1. re: RShea78

                                                                To me butter doesn't taste right cold. Room temp is when the creaminess, sweetness and saltiness all come together.

                                                          2. Magic House ... probably not.
                                                            Ivory Tower ... probably yes.

                                                            I try to keep a clean kitchen. We cook a lot - and tidy up after every meal. I don't eat anything off the floor.... that's just plain gross. I've been walking on the floor for Heaven sakes, and so have other people. I admit to having thawed meat on the counter, but usually take whatever out from the freezer and put it into the fridge the day before using. Soup made on Tuesday, with leftovers gets eaten in a reincarnation on Saturday night....with additions, usually, brought to the boil then simmered for a few.

                                                            See them thar hills over there.... that I'm as old as.... No one in this house has ever become ill from anything I've cooked in all them thar years. I'm just sayin'.

                                                            1. I'm pretty sure that this is a magic house... stuff comes up off the floor if it's just dropped and doesn't get stepped on. If I'm worried about any meat--and it doesn't smell funny--I just cook it to death. Pots of soup and things can sit on the stove getting reheated and eaten out of for two or three days. I'm not overly vigilant about keeping the cats off the counters. But I do wash my counters well with bleach before rolling out pie crust and I do the same with my cutting board after I cut up meat on it. We don't find ourselves with upset stomachs or other ailments, very often, so if nothing else we must be used to whatever bugs live here.

                                                              That said, one time when I was fixing dinner for a family in which one member was receiving chemo, I was EXTREMELY careful to be sure everything was spotless and all food was properly handled. It's one thing to be sorta careless about this stuff when I'm feeding myself, something else entirely to run risks with someone else's health.

                                                              1 Reply
                                                              1. re: revsharkie

                                                                Well, that's the key, isn't it. Consideration for others--regardless of whether they are undergoing some sort of medical treat or they are healthy as horses--means likely adhering to a sanitary standard higher than what you may use for yourself. When I entertain, I am considerably more fastidious about cleaning and following food prep and storage guidelines than I am when it's just me. I certainly don't feed guests anything that fell onto the floor and I certainly follow the "defrost in the fridge" rule for food I'm serving them. But if it's just me, I relax those standards considerably. I've been blessed enough to inherit good genes maybe!

                                                              2. What's even more magical than a magic house??

                                                                Whatever it is, it's where my in-laws live. Soup is made and left on the stove for days and days. Food is put out in the garage because it's cooler out there. Never mind the fact that it's 60* during the day. Food is put in the fridge without proper containment. Liquids spill and are not wiped up.
                                                                The sad part is though, my MIL has Alzheimer's and will load the dishwasher, not run it and unload it in the morning and put them away.

                                                                They never get sick.
                                                                I'm not much of a germaphobe but when I get down there I get all Niles Crane.

                                                                DT

                                                                1 Reply
                                                                1. re: Davwud

                                                                  "I get all Niles Crane." Love it, and am gonna steal it.

                                                                2. No magic house, just magic sewer pipes. :-)

                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                  1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                    Hah.. I can relate to that. Our This Old House is 113 Y/o and the sewer pipes Must be macical. In all those years nothing has come back to revisit the kitchen... except maybe...

                                                                     
                                                                  2. I'm somewhere between swsidejim and MOH.

                                                                    Heating, cooling and cleanup I'm vigilant. Regarding expiration dates, my view point is like MOH's. A little mold on hard cheese, soft spot on fruit - I'm fine on trimming it off.

                                                                    I think I've arrived at the heat/cool/clean viewpoint partly through restaurant/food safety training and partly from living in sub-tropic areas. In that climate you can't get away with being lax, or you will pay through vermin,bugs and intestinal issues.

                                                                    Purchasing food I rely on sight, touch, smell and observation of overall hygiene of the place.

                                                                    Street food I use common sense and a visual assessment of the place. If there is a crowd, I figure they must be relatively problem free.

                                                                    And I always travel with imodium, just in case!

                                                                    3 Replies
                                                                    1. re: meatn3

                                                                      Just to clarify: I call myself a food slob, but I am actually pretty careful about cleanliness and sanitation. Perhaps food slob is the wrong term. Our kitchen is pretty clean for the most part. But I do tend to be relaxed about things like expiration dates, how long food can be stored, etc.

                                                                      1. re: moh

                                                                        Understood - that was how it had seemed. I was trying to say I was a mix of what you both articulated, if that makes more sense? You each spoke to different aspects of my habits. Had not meant to imply a scale in any way! You are describing me to a "t"!

                                                                        I drive my SO crazy with trying to get the concept of cross contamination across, then I turn around & confuse by looking at an expired date and saying that it is fine!

                                                                        :-D

                                                                        1. re: meatn3

                                                                          I'm down with both meatn3 and moh. DH and I both got food poisoning from some sausages we cooked, ate half of, left them out overnight, stuck them in the fridge the next morning, and then a week later- VOILA! Hey look! We have sausages! Snarfed them down and paid for it for a couple of days. I never did that again, but DH poisoned himself with deli ham he made sandwiches with and then packed in to a remote desert site by horseback. The fifth day apparently had enough toxins developed to really make him sick. We're now very conscious of what could make us sick but I don't think we throw stuff out to the point of being wasteful. It does help to know how to 'fix' borderline foods. Study, in other words. I have a coworker who throws everything, I mean EVERYHING out on day three. That's a horribly wasteful way to be IMO.

                                                                    2. In my former restaurant we adhered to all the food safety regs and policies very religiously - at home the look, smell, feel, taste rules apply.
                                                                      Since a large part of what we eat is Korean prepped foods, we use "Korean" storage. When it is cool or cold outside, the garage and back porch become additional refrigerators.
                                                                      Many types of ban chan and kimchi are very hardy and can survive extreme conditions.
                                                                      American products/foods get treated with a bit more care - sealed containers and refrigerated storage when appropriate, and "use by" or "sell by" dates are used as a guideline to pay closer attention to the food item.
                                                                      Over all though, it's probably the "magic house" effect, as we simply don't worry much about foods we prepare and cook ourselves.

                                                                      1. Magic house yes.Just common sense,USDA rules where important,fresh kill meat on a
                                                                        surface etc.The rest of the time,soap and HOT water.I guess having 4' x 3' stainless surface makes it a no brainer.
                                                                        Never had food illness in the house.

                                                                        1. To avoid bringing germs into your Magic House, last week on a TV network news broadcast they featured stores which are installing sanitizing stations through which you push your food cart to eliminate any nasty germs. Sometimes I wonder how I managed to survive growing up sixty years ago without all of these sanitary rules.

                                                                          1. Sam-

                                                                            The first thing that comes to mind is that I was raised on unpasteurized dairy goods. Granny made the most of our items, like butter, butter milk, cottage cheese (but no other cheeses) and HM ice-cream. Granny did have (and still does at 94) a sense of humor. She often referred to "pasteurized" as something to be over one's head. (As in past your eyes...)

                                                                            I got a magic granny...

                                                                            1. I pretty much follow all the rules.

                                                                              I would never eat something off the floor unless I *just* washed it. I wash my hands with HOT water and soap (not antibacterial, bad for the environment) frequently and thoroughly, food goes in the refrigerator ASAP after cooking. I never keep leftovers for more than 3 days, I will never defrost raw meat for more than an hour or two on the counter. I even place a large bowl under my colander when I strain pasta in the sink because I am afraid of sink germs getting into the colander. The thought of not washing produce before eating kills me - how many times have you seen an orange fall, someone pick it up and put it back in the grocery store? I even wash things like cantaloupe before slicing because I don't want to drag the germs on the rind through the flesh.

                                                                              One thing I guess which isn't safe is I will eat raw fish and dishes with raw eggs but I figure I follow everything else so I should be fine.

                                                                              I think the reason I am so cautious is because I grew up in a home where cleaning was not a priority and my mother would leave meat out to defrost for hours and stews on the counter for hours. I think in a lot of ways I try not to be like my mother. She would kill me if she read that.

                                                                              2 Replies
                                                                              1. re: Chefsquire

                                                                                Many of my grown daughter's finer qualities were not learned at her mother's knee!
                                                                                But to return to the topic, when she was about 3 I had a friend over for coffee. We were in the kitchen, and I made the comment "you can't eat off my kitchen floor!". At which point my daughter piped up with, "Yes we can mommy. there's a green bean under that chair." I do believe there was something "edible" poking out from under the stove, too. Like you, though, I was careful about leftovers. I also thawed food mostly in the fridge, unlike my own mother!

                                                                                1. re: Pat Hammond

                                                                                  hah, great story. which brings me to another point: why have floors so clean you could eat off them, if you don't take advantage of this fact? the only way i can motivate myself to really scrub my floors is if i remind myself of how many m&ms and delectable pieces of pork belly i'll be able to salvage off of it.

                                                                                  what doesn't kill you makes you stronger, right?

                                                                              2. I too live in magic house! I learned in Home Elementary School that people got sick from food when people didnt wash their hands after using the restroom.This simple lesson from 4th grade has stayed with me and no one has ever gotten sick at my house. I provide soap, often scented soap, in the bathroom at my house. Because of that, things can be cooked to any temp, things can be left on the counter, and late at night, I can wake up and pick at leftovers I forgot to put away. I dont even need to buy special antibacterial soap for the counters! And, the floors stay clean enough to eat off of, even though I have two labradors. It was an amazing lesson to learn, thank god for 9 years of elementary school HomeEc!

                                                                                1. I'm in a magic hose most of the time. I think it's funny though because I worked in a few kitchens, delis and subshops and I know that when a green pepper starts to look not so fresh they just chop off the bad parts and keep the good parts. They follow the rules but for some reason we always thinks restaurants go above and beyond and the truth is they also have to worry about their bottom line so if they can salvage something without descreasing the quality you better bet they will.

                                                                                  I live on the therory that my kitchen floor is cleaner than any other floor that the food I eat may be dropped on. I follow the 5 second rule unless of course my dog gets to it first.

                                                                                  I leave the left over homemade pizza out all night if it doesn't have meat on it. Since working in the food indutry I'm picky about meat temps. I don't want the meat to get into the danger zone so I try to keep it in the fridge to thaw. My other half has a totally different philosophy though.

                                                                                  I'm also a thrifty person and HATE throwing food out. Smells okay, looks okay? Its good. but yet my other half is picky about eating left overs, unless it's chili.

                                                                                  Sometimes I feed my little minpin while I'm cooking. She loves a little slice of tomato or carrot and sometimes I'll even feed her a little meat if she gives me those puppy dog eyes. I wash my hands a lot while cooking but I can see how it wouldn't be completely sanitary lol.

                                                                                  and on a weird note. I love eating left over cold spagetti not so much unsanitary but maybe just a little bit weird.

                                                                                  1. I may not be a clean cook, but I do follow the standard food safety rules in my own home. I wash my hands regularly, everything is kept in it's rightful (safe) spot and my kitchen is usually spotless. While I know that I follow all of the "rules", I am still SO afraid of getting sick. If an expiration date is 3 days away, it goes in the trash, if something smells vaguely off, in the trash, if something has been in my freezer for more than a few months, in the trash. If I second guess my sniff test and still cook and eat the food, I practically obsess over if I'm going to get sick or not. I'm more than neurotic about it..and it drives my husband crazy. Funny thing about it is, I've never gotten sick from food. So where did this neuroticism come from? Good question. If you have the answer, let me know.

                                                                                    1. My grandmother regularly left things out overnight, in the basement where it was cooler. Cream pies, the Thanksgiving turkey, you name it. No one ever got sick.

                                                                                      I took food service and sanitation when I worked in the restaurant industry, but am not terribly fussy about temperatures and such, however, because I live in a place where the water is not safe, I am very fussy about making sure that the water is properly boiled and that fruits and veggies are cleaned appropriately. Luckily I have a cook who takes care of most of that for me because soaking veggies in bleach water and then rinsing them in boiled water is a long and boring process.

                                                                                      14 Replies
                                                                                      1. re: lulubelle

                                                                                        ""...because soaking veggies in bleach water and then rinsing them in boiled water is a long and boring process.""

                                                                                        That is totally unacceptable!!! (IMHO) Sounds like a recipe for toxic veggies...

                                                                                        1. re: RShea78

                                                                                          you REALLY don't want to know what you can get if you don't wash your veggies properly. Not just run of the mill upset stomach, but Hep, E Coli, and other assorted goodies.

                                                                                          It is just tiny amount of bleach, and they are rinsed well (in that boiled water). I've never tasted anything off in any of the veggies or fruits she's cleaned for me.

                                                                                          1. re: lulubelle

                                                                                            And chlorine induced gastroenteritis or out of wack blood acid levels isn't a picnic by no means. Even the trace amounts of chlorine in our city water, forces many to drink bottled water or boil our water to evaporate out the chlorine content. Sorry, Sam and others, we cannot continue to use evil to fight evil, like 2 wrongs is very wrong.

                                                                                            So far the only acceptable vegetable wash I am aware of is called "Fit Fruit & Vegetable wash", and I use it.

                                                                                            http://www.tryfit.com/

                                                                                            1. re: RShea78

                                                                                              Looks interesting, however it's not an option where I live, as it is not available. And honestly, until Embassy guidelines say that it is an acceptable alternative to bleach, I am sticking with the bleach.

                                                                                              As for the drinking water here, the E Coli, Hep, Arsenic etc., in it render it undrinkable, so while putting more chemicals in it isn't the best idea, it isn't doesn't change the drinkability of it.

                                                                                              Clean water is a huge issue in the world; I agree with that completely, however, clean food is also an issue.

                                                                                              1. re: RShea78

                                                                                                RShea, have you checked out lulubelle's profile page? She lives in Bangladesh! I somehow doubt there are many places she can pick up a pack of "Fit Fruit & Vegetable Wash." There are parts of this world where the chlorine bath and boiled water rinse are the ONLY way to fly....! Well, unless you want to be flown home in a box.

                                                                                                1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                                  When I looked only thing that clicked was, Illinois.

                                                                                              2. re: lulubelle

                                                                                                I've never gotten a kitchen borne illness from fresh fruits and veggies. Maybe it's b/c my mom never washed our veggies growing up and I have developed a hearty resistance. I rinse and dry mine well, but would never use bleach. Bleach is toxic. Our bodies develop immunity to many bad bacteria. I'm willing to take my chances b/c for many of us, germs do not =illness.

                                                                                                I never get stomach buggies. I attribute that to frequent hand washing with regular soap. No toxic or carcenogenic chemicals required.

                                                                                                1. re: sisterfunkhaus

                                                                                                  True. You're much more likely to catch something from your hands than your food. I was think the other day that all the signs that sprouted up because of H1N1 about proper hand washing, etc. have also resulted in people having fewer colds and less regular "seasonal" flu. At least, they haven't gone around our office.

                                                                                                  1. re: sisterfunkhaus

                                                                                                    When I lived in the States I did not use bleach on my fruits and veggies, however, there are diseases here that are far more virulent than anything in the states, and the water itself is a source of disease. The fruits and veggies are then washed in boiled water to remove the residue bleach. I follow the standards and guidelines given out by the doctor at the American Embassy here, and am comfortable with what I do to maintain sanitation in my home.

                                                                                                    Using bleach in small amounts to clean veggies is hardly different from swimming in a chlorinated pool.

                                                                                                    1. re: lulubelle

                                                                                                      >>"Using bleach in small amounts to clean veggies is hardly different from swimming in a chlorinated pool."<<

                                                                                                      +1. Or drinking municipal water that's been chlorinated.

                                                                                                    2. re: sisterfunkhaus

                                                                                                      A reason to wash vegetables is to get rid of any pesticide residues.

                                                                                                      1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                                                                        Good reason to eat local/organic if you can! I volunteer filling bulk bins for a discount at my local co-op.

                                                                                                        Not a whole lot of illness in the house, but for the most part, there's no animal products except honey stored in the house. Occasionally I'll bring home cheese or ice cream, and there's food for the cats, but that stays put away!

                                                                                                        When I'm cooking for myself, I'll eat dropped food. For others, I either rinse or cook it first.

                                                                                                        No antibacterial soap.... it's bad for your immune system too! We need exposure to build up resistance to germs!

                                                                                                        My parents always leave butter out, but they have it in a dish with cover or in the cupboard, only the stick they're using.

                                                                                                        1. re: AgentLapis

                                                                                                          In my home, you can eat off the floor...and there'd be plenty to eat, cookie fragments here, a stray meatball there.

                                                                                                          Still alive & well, thank you. Magic house. Miss you Sam.

                                                                                                          1. re: Rmis32

                                                                                                            LOL! Thanks for contributing in the true spirit of this thread. And yeah, I miss Sam!

                                                                                              3. I'm pretty lax. In fact, I'm searching for a warm place in the kitchen to keep my butter. With the granite countertops and my window box, it is just too cold to keep it spreadable. Of course, the SO won't go near the butter on the counter. This summer I did a party and had butter hidden all over my small kitchen because if he knew that I left it out, he might never eat anything I make ever again! I found some of this butter in September and still used it for toast. Nice and "ripe!" Still alive as well....

                                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                                1. re: Mattkn

                                                                                                  That's so funny. Reminds me of a story I'd heard: my aunt was trying to make a cake she used to make back in Indonesia, but was never successful at reproducing the old recipe. The butter was different somehow, and she complained to her cousin that she just couldn't get the taste right. Her cousin laughed and said "the difference is that back then, refrigeration was no good. Leave the butter out for a couple of days." And sure enough, that was the key. :)

                                                                                                2. Ha! I found out today that I live in a magic house too. I bought a cake from a bakery that I didn't realize that it had cream between the layers until about 9 hrs later. It was about 80 degrees yesterday. I thought about not serving it, but went ahead anyway. I lived, my guests lived it was a totally amazing cake. I am lax about a lot of food safety rules but it has taken me almost 30 years. I thaw meat on the counter all the time, eat prepared food that is over a week old and push the envelope on expiration dates all the time. I am trying to get out of the habit of wasting food -- thus I've become more adventurous.

                                                                                                  1. Always been anal about my kitchen, food storage & sanitation. UNTIL, I met my boyfriend and his three kids! I've taught them the basics, but they're kids. They lick fingers & spoons while still mixing, they drop stuff on the floor & put it in the mixing bowl when I'm not looking....

                                                                                                    Recently the 7 y.o. jumped off his kitchen stool half way through battering tempura vegetables. When I asked where he was going, he said he had scratched his bottom & had to wash his hands again! And I was proud!

                                                                                                    Apparently, I now live in a magic house but it's a lot of fun!

                                                                                                    1. OK Sammy, jfood reporting for duty.

                                                                                                      Jfood does not live in a magic house, he lives in one where pathogens live, bacteria hangs out and new food brought into the home may or may not have some itsy bitsy little thingies that may cause some bodily distress.

                                                                                                      Mrs jfood is a germ police, so there are lots of soaps around the house. And after jfood spends time cooking and washing his fingers always look like prunes from the constant washing. Likewise he has a separate cutting board for meat-only. Never will vegetable be prespped on the meat board. Likewise meat does not go on the vegetable boards.

                                                                                                      On the 5-second rule. This rule in casa jfood is "if the food hits the floor you have 5 seconds to pick it up and throw it out or else the dog gets it." BTW the dark counts really really fast.

                                                                                                      And jfood will not even go through the length food can sit out before it is thrown out since he is only halfway through wittling "This is Sam's Dumpster" and he would not want to create any competition.

                                                                                                      Butter does not sit out (even in a French Bell), eggs do not sit out, he does not bring his meat to room temperature before grilling and expiration dates mean throw out dates.

                                                                                                      So jfood is probably one end of the spectrum and other fall only to one side of him. He understands this is not the norm, but it makes him and mrs jfood sleep better.

                                                                                                      Glad you started this post Mr F.

                                                                                                      Ciao

                                                                                                      10 Replies
                                                                                                      1. re: jfood

                                                                                                        I'm surprised that you haven't yet spotted me out there by the dumpster.

                                                                                                        1. re: jfood

                                                                                                          I forgot to mention how food doesn't last long in storage. Some leftovers, like resto or fish, can last a full 24 hours before hitting the garbage, and exp. dates do mean throw-out dates around here. The only magic in my house is how the leftovers manage to replicate themselves in the refrigerator to begin with. Seems I am always throwing things out. Except ... Chinese Food. We have a three day rule here at our house for Chinese Food. It must be aged properly for three days BEFORE we can throw it out. (must be the anti-bacterial properties of ginger and soy, or so I suspect:)

                                                                                                          1. re: RGC1982

                                                                                                            Oh Boy, hope you and jfood live in places climatically separated enough that I can winter by one of your dumpsters and summer by the other.

                                                                                                            1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                                                                              You may be in luck. Jfood is in New Jersey, if I remember, and I am in Dallas :)

                                                                                                            2. re: RGC1982

                                                                                                              Wow. I'm curious about what you call an "expiration date?" You remind me of my housekeeper when she first came to work for me. She was throwing out food left and right until I set out rules. #1, she had to show me the food and ask if it's okay to throw it away. #2. There is a HUGE difference between a "Sell by:" date and a "Use or freeze by:" date. And neither, especially the latter, is carved in stone. That's why God gave me a nose, taste buds, and a brain. Of course, if you LOVE throwing money down the drain or in the trash... Hey, have a blast!

                                                                                                              1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                                                My sister was one to ignore dry good dates as if dry goods last forever. She learned her lesson the hard way, off of some HB Helper. Then she about lost it, in the way the cheese tasted after making a few boxes for her gang. She looked over the empty box to find out that it was 2 years past, "best used before - date".

                                                                                                                1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                                                  Hey -- I once had food poisoning. I remember thinking that death would be a relief from the pain while I was lying in the ER. I even suffered cardiac changes. It was from a restaurant meal, and it took me nearly seven years to eat cold seafood again. If you want to risk it, knock yourself out. I am not doing that again.

                                                                                                                  1. re: RGC1982

                                                                                                                    Sounds like it may have been botulism. I don't buy dented cans. and if the housekeeper does, I make her take them back. But I empathize! I got food poisoning (poison poisson!) from eating cold salmon with mayonnaise on a flight somewhere over eastern Europe. It was two decades before I could put a piece of poached salmon in my mouth again. Restaurants are Russian roulette!

                                                                                                                    1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                                                      ""I don't buy dented cans. and if the housekeeper does, I make her take them back.""

                                                                                                                      Dented cans really burn my goat!!! Even worse- is when some idiotic check out clerk drops my can goods in my sack, denting my can goods. I have been known to hold up the line having the store staff chase each and every dented can I have rejected.

                                                                                                            3. This thread was pretty darn funny! Lots of good laughs.

                                                                                                              I too live in a magical house. I have been known to leave soups and stews out at room temperature for days on end. If it smells okay, I'll reheat and eat. If not, it goes right into the garbage disposal. I also leave meat out at room temp to defrost during the day for hours on end.

                                                                                                              I do however wash my hands when handling chicken and pork and sometimes if I'm slicing beef I will eat raw pieces (I like raw beef). I also eat raw eggs a lot with Korean and Japanese food and sometimes undercook my chicken and pork. I am not a fan of overcooked and tough pork..egh.

                                                                                                              I cut off/scrape off mold on bread or sometimes I just say f*ck it and throw it into the toaster....I know not good.

                                                                                                              Since my family eats a lot of Korean food (yes we don't wear shoes in the house) we tend to scrape mold off a lot of things like kimchi, daengjang, gochujang, miso, marinated meats, etc.

                                                                                                              oh and I don't have separate cutting boards for meat and veggies ): I just clean after each use with dish soap and hot water.

                                                                                                              watch me get deathly ill tomorrow....

                                                                                                              Btw, is there anyone else out there that likes to keep soups, stews, dishes of food outside at night? If it's cold outside and I made some stock, then i'll let it sit outside overnight so the fat can congeal. 9 times out of 10 there is no room in the fridge to put a huge ass stock pot in.

                                                                                                              9 Replies
                                                                                                              1. re: bitsubeats

                                                                                                                "Btw, is there anyone else out there that likes to keep soups, stews, dishes of food outside at night? If it's cold outside and I made some stock, then i'll let it sit outside overnight so the fat can congeal. 9 times out of 10 there is no room in the fridge to put a huge ass stock pot in."

                                                                                                                Definitely. I live in a cold weather climate, and as far as I am concerned, when it is cold outside, the world is your fridge/freezer. I will take precautions about varmints, and I try to be mindful about not letting things freeze that shouldn't freeze. This habit is classic Korean Winnipeg mum behavior, and i totally do this. Sounds like Hannaone does it too! I don't do this in the summer though.

                                                                                                                1. re: moh

                                                                                                                  haha, yeah... this is one advantage to living in the north. When holiday time comes around, your fridge/freezer space increases massively. Turkeys marinating in the garage, beer cooling in the snow. It is just getting to fridge temperature nowadays here in Toronto. :)

                                                                                                                  1. re: mogo

                                                                                                                    We have a 2 temp freezer, the sun porch, very cold, and and the garage. moderately cold. Our bulk head we use as a root cellar.

                                                                                                                    1. re: mogo

                                                                                                                      lol...that is probably the only thing I miss about the cold winters in Reno...even my garage was cold enough to store food overnight. Perfect for soups and yes, that Thanksgiving turkey that wouldn't fit in the fridge (I didn't dare leave it outside; too many animals around that like to eat...and, yes, Bears were known to have come to our neighborhood, especially in drought years. One particularly brave one tried to join the local highschoolers in their PE exercises...that was my son's PE class but the one day all year he stayed home sick so he missed all the fun...:-)

                                                                                                                      Storing things in the garage is just not as effective in Las Vegas. Fortunately, both Christmas and Thanksgiving were unusually cold here, so I did cheat and put a few things out for a few hours.....

                                                                                                                    2. re: moh

                                                                                                                      "Definitely. I live in a cold weather climate, and as far as I am concerned, when it is cold outside, the world is your fridge/freezer."

                                                                                                                      Not just in Winnipeg, my Korean mom leaves out soups, stews, etc. overnight all the time and we live in Los Angeles.

                                                                                                                      1. re: spkspk

                                                                                                                        We live at Lake Tahoe in NoCal and have bears that wander around. Can't store anything edible outside. Bears will even break windows to get in!!!

                                                                                                                        1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                                          Bears, yes, well that is a very good reason not to leave food out! I would also include racoons. Those things get everywhere. Fortunately, we don't seem to have so much trouble with them. If I did have trouble, I'd stop putting things outside.

                                                                                                                          1. re: moh

                                                                                                                            Oh yeah, we have racoons also but it's the bears that I'm always thinking about :) Our SIL did store some beer on the deck last week but I figured that was safe!

                                                                                                                    3. re: bitsubeats

                                                                                                                      ""(yes we don't wear shoes in the house)""

                                                                                                                      When I was growing up shoes were a necessity as foot protection from nail heads and possible broken glass (from light bulbs/canning jars) that might have lodged in the wooden floor cracks. At least everyone was ready in case a dart for the outhouse for an overdue nature call.

                                                                                                                      Our lifestyles then revolved somewhat of a community effort, so during the daylight time, a time that privacy did not exist. Monday - Saturday there was farming, canning, cooking, baking, butter making and so on. I cannot fully say what actually lead to this practice to be broken up, but I think that guy landing on the moon, played an important roll.

                                                                                                                    4. Magic house here, too. There are evil magicians out there, though. Raw poultry and commercially-ground beef among them.

                                                                                                                      Raw eggs? No problem. Mid-rare pork? Bring it on. Stew can sit out for a week, as long as it's simmered for a while each day. And there's no five-second rule here; the only challenge is to get the good stuff off the floor before the dogs do. Lately, I actually let a pressure cooker full of chicken stock sit at room temperature for better than a week (the pot got put away full) - after thorough sterilization, the stock was good for the people, and the solids were good for the pups. No ill effects on either account.

                                                                                                                      But I won't eat commercial ground beef unless it's fully cooked. And anything that has touched raw poultry or its juices gets sanitized ASAP. I'd like to think that I manage risk intelligently, taking into account the likelihood and severity of any adverse consequences. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

                                                                                                                      1. I will make sandwiches and such on the bare counter, no paper towel or plate. It's kinda gross when you consider I have two cats who love sitting on the counter and will completely invade my space when I make anything. Furry little face right in the mayo or butter? You bet. I also let them drink out of my cereal bowl. I let pizza sit out overnight and will still eat it the next day. Sour cream has probably been ingested past it's prime, I recently moved and found a jar of pickles that expired in 2005. I won't eat things off the floor though, 5 second rule or not. Cat spit hasn't killed me but I prefer my food without fur on it.

                                                                                                                        1. germ-phobia was one of the cultural differences that fascinated me the most when I lived in the States. I had many roommates, housemates and friends when I studied there who made a fear of 'dirt and germs' into something of mythical proportions. One woman thought all eggs had salmonella, and that by cooking them you removed it. Another was horrified that I made mayo 'without cooking the egg first'. And the fact I kept eggs on the counter... a lot of it seemed to be about eggs, actually. And raw meat. I'd love to do an anthropological study of germs and the American psyche. But I digress...

                                                                                                                          I try to keep a clean kitchen, but five second rule applies, eggs live on the counter (unless I'm bulk buying and need them to last a month), I buy cultured butter so it can stay in a ceramic covered dish on the counter (sweet milk butter tends to go rancid when left out - cultured butter just gets more cheesy in a good way). I defrost frozen food on the counter for a couple of hours or overnight. I taste food to see if it's off (heck, I can always spit it out!). Basically, I know and understand food safety (and the dreaded 'danger zone'!), so I feel comfortable knowing which rules I can and cannot push.

                                                                                                                          And here's a big one, which I'm surprised no one else mentioned - I make a point of knowing where my perishable food comes from. I buy eggs from a farmer I trust, milk from a supermarket whose cold chain I trust, and meat from a butcher I trust. I would not eat a piece of undercooked chicken which came by way of those drippy, badly sealed raw chickens which are frozen and defrosted and frozen again in a supermarket with broken, dirty freezers. But if one of my free range, farm roast chickens is a little pink close to the bone? Hey, it's all good.

                                                                                                                          One big no-no which I did this past summer was canning and not following the rules. It wasn't intentional, I just didn't read the instructions properly, and ended up canning (or rather, jarring) 30 pounds of tomatoes 'incorrectly'. Basically, I didn't boil the cold packed tomatoes long enough in the water bath (15 minutes. Shoulda been closer to 40. Oops) and I didn't follow a strict recipe with the tomato pasta sauce, and even put a thin layer of olive oil at the top of each jar before sealing (and processing for too short a time). Only discovered this afterwards, and of course, as everyone loves to remind me, 'botulism won't taste bad. And then you'll suddenly be dead'. Well, I finished the last jar of pasta sauce last week, and every one of those 20-odd jars were delicious. None were fizzy or funky, and since I'm here and typing, I'm guessing botulism didn't get me. Though all this said, I'll try to follow the rules next summer.

                                                                                                                          10 Replies
                                                                                                                          1. re: Gooseberry

                                                                                                                            Gooseberry 1; Bugs 0. Glad you're still with us!

                                                                                                                            1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                                                              Hehe. I thought of this discussion yesterday when cooking rice. It had weevils in it, but I couldn't quite bring myself to throw out 2 kg of perfectly good basmati. So I boiled it anyway, and guess wha - weevils float. So I just skimmed them off, and put any residual weevils down to extra protein. I remember reading somewhere that the average pasta eater consumes 250g of insects every year, as they get 'threshed' along with the wheat. And the Italians seem a pretty healthy bunch to me...

                                                                                                                              1. re: Gooseberry

                                                                                                                                My daddy always said "you gotta eat a little dirt in life." And, hey, they were dead and sterilized weevils, right?!?

                                                                                                                                1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                                                  Of course. I only eat sterilized weevils!

                                                                                                                                2. re: Gooseberry

                                                                                                                                  I was once troubled with weevils in my flour. Complained to veterinarian friend, and he just laughed and told me not to sift my flour because they'd clog the sifter, but to go ahead and use the four and enjoy the "protein bonus."

                                                                                                                                  If you rinse your rice, a la sushi rice, the weevils will float out in the rinse water. Can't do that with flour. <sigh> I passed down the market aisle that has my current brand of sushi rice the other day. I bought 2 kilos for $4.99 about four or five months ago, and thought it was expensive. Today the same bag is $9.99! Rice! Over $2.00 a pound! What a nightmare it must be in countries where rice is the staple food of daily life. Frightening!

                                                                                                                                  1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                                                                    Japonica rices are about $6.00 a pound here.

                                                                                                                                  2. re: Gooseberry

                                                                                                                                    ""...average pasta eater consumes 250g of insects every year...""

                                                                                                                                    How do they get off by not putting that on the ingredients list or the nutritional labels? ;-)

                                                                                                                                    FYI- Diatomaceous Earth (DE) is added to foodstuffs like flour and grains (along with related dry mixes). Food grade DE, is considered a natural form of insect control.

                                                                                                                                    1. re: RShea78

                                                                                                                                      DE is also a wonderful wormer for cats & dogs! Terrific stuff if you can find the food grade.

                                                                                                                                      1. re: Catskillgirl

                                                                                                                                        Last bag I got was from the local Ag. feed store. The DE I got was "Food Grade", as was the 50 pound bag of A&H Baking Soda, and 50 pound bag of Morton Salt. Although that was 10 years ago or better I no longer do the "bulk" thing.

                                                                                                                                        BTY- DE is also good for extending potato life in keeping the skins dryer. (+already mentioned insect control.)

                                                                                                                              2. i too live in that magical house that is germ free. i am a complete germ-a-phobe and also a chef so i follow all the food safety rules in my house.. no body likes getting F.P god knows i've had it a fair few times.

                                                                                                                                1. Me? Neurotic. If the Lord didn't want me to sterilize everything, he wouldn't have arranged for me to study microbiology at the University. Antibacterial dish soap, a dishwasher that heats to 180 degrees, anti-bacterial wipes, zillions of cutting boards, washing as much as I can, including the sponge and sink strainer, in the dishwasher at night; refrigerator segregation, dozens of clean dish towels, zip loc bags and air tight containers, awareness of temperature. I can probably teach a food safety class. That said, I do envy, on some level, those who can live with the five second rule and who think that a little vinegar will clean the sink perfectly.

                                                                                                                                  4 Replies
                                                                                                                                  1. re: RGC1982

                                                                                                                                    RGC, you've smoked me out. I was trying not to respond much to a thread that I tossed at you all. My mother was a surgical nurse (Berkeley, one of the first and few Japanese American women to graduate pre WWII). I started in biochemistry and proceeded to agricultural, environmental, and social sciences. As a long practicing scientist and cook, I simply don’t see many dangers from a decently run home kitchen.

                                                                                                                                    On the other hand, it would be good for you to develop and give a food safety course. I would do my best to attend and to listen carefully!

                                                                                                                                    1. re: RGC1982

                                                                                                                                      A friend who is an RN once told me that even after scrubbing in for surgery, if you check your hands in a microscope, there is still bacteria present. Ever since, I don't stress too much about germs. What kills me is the commercial with the mother running after her kids with sanitary wipes ... I can think of time better spent with your kids.

                                                                                                                                      Properly cooked, even roadkill is safe to eat, magic dust or not. I often prowl the aisles of my supermarket looking for close coded French cheese which only gets better with age. I hate when the manager rips something that says "sell by yesterday's date" from my hands and throws it in the garbage refusing to sell it. Perhaps I need to find their dumpster.

                                                                                                                                      Butter on the counter, eggs out of the fridge, soup in a pot on the porch in cold weather. I'm fussy with raw fish and shellfish, but that's it. And I don't eat lukewarm chicken from a buffet either.

                                                                                                                                      Americans, it's true, are so sanitized, you have no defenses. Or else all your ancestors would have died from PF long before procreating.

                                                                                                                                      1. re: RGC1982

                                                                                                                                        RGC, WHY are you being so cruel to your immune system? Those antibacterials aren't good for you because they get rid of the good guys along with the bad guys. If someone comes up with a discretionary antibacterial soap, I'll think about it.

                                                                                                                                        Nothing wrong with cleaning a sink's drain (the mouth of the garbage disposal is arguably the most neglected and filthy part of any kitchen) with some good strong vinegar *if* it's followed by several kettles of boiling water. If I read you right, a sponge in a dishwasher isn't a great way to clean it. I start every day with washing my sponge out in detergent water for cosmetic reasons, then getting it wet, but not drippy wet, and nuking it on high for a full 2 minutes. Cleaner than a brand new sponge right out of the cellopack!

                                                                                                                                        Why would you envy someone who deludes themselves with the five second rule? I know what it is, but I don't understand why anyone would abide by it. Well, unless whatever they drop stays suspended in mid air for five seconds so they can catch it before it hits any possibly contaminated surface. I'm an artist, by training. I paint. If I drop something in a blob of paint, I know beyond any shadow of a doubt that it's going to come out with paint on it regardless of whether I get it out of the paint within five seconds or not. Germs and microbes and toxins are like paint. Touch 'em, they're Yours! So we see eye to eye on this one.

                                                                                                                                        But green or no green, I do use paper towels for things that have to be sterile. Dish towels just smear the germs around. But I do recycle and the house is all CFLs, and every appliance is energy star, so I do get some green points! And as soon as a paper towel manufacturer introduces large packs of paper towels that include a recycling bag for the used ones, I'm there!

                                                                                                                                        Meanwhile, the rest is up to Tinker Bell! She does a pretty good job.

                                                                                                                                        1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                                                                          Thanks for the sympathy, but my comment about the five second rule was meant to be tongue-in-cheek. I do know people who blissfully survive outdated food, food kept in the "zone" for hours, and a general lack of kitchen hygiene on a regular basis, and they are just fine. We joke that that have very strong immune systems. These are the friends that put raw crabcakes on their car floor "near the air conditioner vent" for the several hour drive home from the beach. As we say in Texas, "Bless their hearts".

                                                                                                                                      2. I love the idea that I live in a magical house! Sam, thank you for that concept.

                                                                                                                                        I was originally seriously food paranoid yet after a few decades with jackp I had no choice but to either get over him or get over food paranoia. Guess which I chose. The only time I know I've become ill from food was from the salmonella in peanut butter a couple of years ago.

                                                                                                                                        1. I live in a yo-yo house. I use clean spoons to take things out of jars, I may use bleach on hard surfaces to sanitize them, I don't eat any food that falls into the kitchen sink, I obey most defrosting rules, I don't leave food out, I wash my hands several times during meal prep, I have a huge stack of hand towels so I can switch to a clean one at will, I cut the chicken over here and the veggies over there, etc. BUT I don't always wash produce, I often fail to wash my hands at the start of meal prep, I don't bleach my huge stack of kitchen towels (I can't imagine that the washing machine really kills all those germs, can it?), I will eat a medium rare burger that I didn't grind myself, I can fail to swap out a pair of tongs part way through cooking, I occasionally eat something that fell on the floor (depends on how tasty the item is), I might eat leftovers that have been well handled but in the fridge for five days, I will eat yoghurt that has been opened and in my fridge for so long I'm embarrassed to say, and I eat food that was prepared by a particular relative who leads a truly charmed life.

                                                                                                                                          I can't decide if the yo yo nature of my house is best demonstrated by my eating the occasional item off the floor while refusing to eat anything that falls in the sink, or by my washing my hands during meal prep but not always before. I'm a puzzle.

                                                                                                                                          8 Replies
                                                                                                                                          1. re: saltwater

                                                                                                                                            Actually, I think the clean-spoon-in-jars thing is a good idea. I've found through trial and error that dirty (i.e. covered in some other food) spoons do encourage jars of food to go off or grow mould quicker. Especially mayonnaise jars. So that's one hygiene thing which does make sense to me!

                                                                                                                                            1. re: Gooseberry

                                                                                                                                              One of the biggest gross-outs in food (to me) is to open a mayonnaise jar and find particles of canned tuna. Barf. It just bothers me - my big brother was guilty of this when we were kids. Now that he's supposedly an adult and enjoys cooking he has joined my side of the fence on this issue. Which his wife has done a couple of times!

                                                                                                                                              Yuck yuck yuck.

                                                                                                                                              1. re: Catskillgirl

                                                                                                                                                I have to agree with you there. Tuna doesn't keep as long as commercial mayonnaise, either. I think I'd toss it if I found tuna in there.

                                                                                                                                            2. re: saltwater

                                                                                                                                              Saltwater-

                                                                                                                                              I too have a "food in sink-phobia". I even drain the water off of my pasta or taters with my colander/strainer set elevated in a another pan. I totally refuse to set my colander in the sink for food draining purposes.

                                                                                                                                              Although I think I have a valid reason for my phobia... What is it about our parents (parents in general, and a recent BK employee) that would get off using the kitchen sink for a bathtub? GASP!

                                                                                                                                              1. re: RShea78

                                                                                                                                                I don't think i'ts at all unusual to use the kitchen sink as a bathtub. For babies. That's how I bathed mine.

                                                                                                                                                1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                                                                                  Hey Caroline1, it is my phobia and I will be fearful if I want too... ;-)

                                                                                                                                                2. re: RShea78

                                                                                                                                                  Oh, exactly! I understand about elevating the strainer in the sink. I do it by having the kind with a lip and a handle, so I can balance it across the smaller half of the sink. I found just the perfect size with a cushy handle, so I bought three of them.

                                                                                                                                                  I think Caroline1 is right, that some bathroom vanities have tops/sinks designed for the bathing of children. Mine is just the right size.

                                                                                                                                                  1. re: RShea78

                                                                                                                                                    >>>
                                                                                                                                                    What is it about our parents (parents in general, and a recent BK employee) that would get off using the kitchen sink for a bathtub? GASP!

                                                                                                                                                    <<<
                                                                                                                                                    IMO, that is like saying, "They operated on someone else in this room. I'm not going in there!" Geeze! Ya clean it out before and after!

                                                                                                                                                    BTW - It was Taco Bell employees, and yes that was kinda gross.

                                                                                                                                                3. I guess I live in a magic house...I just thought living this way all these years meant I had an iron clad stomach- versus my co-worker who obsesses over these things and is alwys sick...always. Drives me crazy when my husband is always putting the food which is defrosting or the meat that is coming to room temp back into the fridge -does he know I rarely rinse the vegetables? We keep a moderately clean house and yes I keep better business practices when I have guest coming- and they sure do keep coming.

                                                                                                                                                  1. I definitely live in a magic house. I use wooden cutting boards. I eat raw and almost raw eggs and beef. Definitely believe in a five second rule. (I mean really; if you dropped a whole beef tenderloin on the floor, would you really throw it away?!?) I defrost almost everything on the counter as I'm always forgetting to plan further ahead. I pet my dog and cat and husband ! before and during food prep. If I'm setting the table for a dinner party and a knife blade has a water spot on it, I breathe on it and polish it right off. I read with great interest jillp's comment about getting salmonella poisoning from peanut butter a couple of years ago. I did also. But I was in Rio de Janeiro! We had joked about how every store had jar after jar of Nutella but no PB. So when we finally saw a jar, we bought it. I was pretty sick but didn't know from what til I read on the internet about the recall. Checked my jar and sure enough that was the culprit. To my knowledge that was my only food-related mishap. But if any of my friends (and former dinner guests) read this, I may have fewer at future parties :) I don't criticize the folks at the other end of the spectrum, but it ain't me babe. Thanks for a fun thread.

                                                                                                                                                    5 Replies
                                                                                                                                                    1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                                                                      pretty much what c oliver said.

                                                                                                                                                      I have always said that in my Food Network show, the camera would pan back and find my dogs grooming themselves on the kitchen floor and my husband drying out car parts in the oven. I stopped being a germ Nazi when my then 6 month old baby (for whom I had religiously sterilized everything) crawled into the bathroom, and was found sucking on the plug hole in the shower.

                                                                                                                                                      I reckoned if she wasn't dead in 24 hours, I could stop being so neurotic about germs.

                                                                                                                                                      20 years later, I have managed NOT to kill any one yet.

                                                                                                                                                      Yep.. a definitely magic house dweller, here!

                                                                                                                                                      1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                                                                        If you dropped a whole beef tenderloin on the floor, would you really pick it up and eat the whole thing raw? '-)

                                                                                                                                                        1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                                                                                          After a wash maybe.As a family we are VERY CAREFUL when we dress meat.
                                                                                                                                                          Needless to say it isn't a STERILE ENVIRONMENT.Just how clean do you suppose the commercial slaughter establishments are?I think the NOT VERY when discussing the large ones.We first dress game in the field.In a window of correct
                                                                                                                                                          temperatures there is a large margin of safety ON THE SURFACE.Wash hands meat etc,just what is on your floor that is so bad THAT IT CAN'T BE WASHED OFF ?Just think about the fellow that handled meat from dozens of carcasses and god knows what else touched your meat last.I am certain he has clean hands because these days he wears gloves.Yet touches everything without enough " BETWEEN " washing
                                                                                                                                                          or glove changing.Or the chef preping you meat wearing gloves,meat> dials on the souvide cooker>knife>vacuum machine & film, all very careful and dainty.How many surfaces he contaminated in the name of clean hands,THE GLOVES ARE NOT.

                                                                                                                                                          1. re: lcool

                                                                                                                                                            One thing that people other than home-brewers tend not to be attuned to is the distinction between sanitation and sterilization. A sterile environment is hard to come by (think hi-tech clean room, with workers in space suits). But a sanitary kitchen is easy enough to maintain. The key is to minimize the introduction of pathogens into your food (by washing hands and avoiding cross-contamination), to limit their growth (by maintaining things at significant risk of contamination at safe temperatures), and to kill the little buggers before you ingest them (by fully cooking things like commercially-ground beef that have a significant risk of being infected).

                                                                                                                                                            No kitchen will ever be sterile, but you can certainly reduce the risk of food-borne disease to an acceptable level by using common sense and good (not even necessarily best) practices. And as for that tenderloin that fell on the floor - any nasty stuff (primarily dog hair in my house) is on the outside. A quick wash (which I'd do anyway if eating it raw) and it's good to go.

                                                                                                                                                            1. re: alanbarnes

                                                                                                                                                              I sure do agree and now is the test.
                                                                                                                                                              We have a 10 day guest,dear and sweet,can't cook,drinks a bit.DECIDED TO
                                                                                                                                                              HELP ach.......two 11 pound pork loins,salted.sugared and wined just hit the
                                                                                                                                                              kitchen floor.Tray ,rosemary and all sundry of mess.One quick cold water rinse,fresh tray,fresh wine and new herbs,still make the oven in time.How I
                                                                                                                                                              snatched BOTH roasts faster than one of these VERY FAST hunting dogs is a puzzle.That they aren't allowed alone in the kitchen slowed them down I guess
                                                                                                                                                              Now, ROOMBA ,fresh clothes,MORE WINE,quick mop,again bless my house keeper for a sense of humor and straight face,DINNER WILL BE SERVED ON TIME .Next,find a nice central ,comfortable and safe place to park Amanda (age 82) until some people arrive.MORE WINE and convince Amanda all is 100% OK just one more day in this large,busy house.
                                                                                                                                                              Oh and sorry Sam,no good dumpster stuff here

                                                                                                                                                      2. i don't worry too much about stuff. still, i think i've learned a bit from living in asia, europe, east-coast cities and the south.
                                                                                                                                                        to wit:
                                                                                                                                                        bugs in the kitchen are bad. don't make it too inviting for them.
                                                                                                                                                        love the pets but resist the temptation to feed them people food.
                                                                                                                                                        rats must be exterminated. immediately.
                                                                                                                                                        daily maintenance is better than weekly maintenance.

                                                                                                                                                        that's about all i've learned. i'll try to figure out more stuff as i go.

                                                                                                                                                        1. I am a food slob, in a magic house who is also a food safety nazi.... Talk about split personalities.

                                                                                                                                                          I am an stickler for counter and equipment cleanliness, I do not have separate cutting boards for meat and veg, but I do have bleach and food prep here means sanitzing cutting boards between meats, veg, etc.

                                                                                                                                                          I am a stickler about foods getting cold or hot fast enough, but when it comes to storage, I am pretty lax. if it looks good, smells good, and tastes good, we eat it. I forget to get things covered in the fridge, etc.

                                                                                                                                                          I choose to leave butter out, covered, because it tastes better, I like my eggs, with runny yolks, my ceasar salad with raw egg and my hamburgers rare.

                                                                                                                                                          I might not order some items in restaurants because I do not trust them to cook my hamburger rare, or my eggs runny.

                                                                                                                                                          I think that there are lots of food safety guidelines that are reasonable and practical for home application and others that seem excessive to me.

                                                                                                                                                          My magic house allows me to cook in my boxers and t-shirt, barefoot all day, and to be obsessive about raw poultry at the same time

                                                                                                                                                          The five second rule applies, and the sun porch, basement, attic, and garage, have all served as extra cold storage when needed, in the right season. When cooking for others, or professionally, all bets are off and I insist on following all food safety regs.

                                                                                                                                                          This was an interesting thread, sometimes funny, sometimes scary...

                                                                                                                                                          7 Replies
                                                                                                                                                          1. re: gardencub

                                                                                                                                                            My mother would make the Thanksgiving turkey and after dinner it would be placed back in the oven with the dressing inside. If it was a big turkey it might last until early the next week. For over twenty years, probably more, not one person got sick. Eventually we started to pull off the meat and stuffing and refrigerate, but just cause we were shamed into it!
                                                                                                                                                            Also the business about cracking eggs in a separate bowl so if it is bad it will not spoil the whole"mix." 40 years of cooking and not one bad egg, ever! I have never been afraid of my food or cooking habits. A little bleach on the counters now and then, etc.

                                                                                                                                                            1. re: dcdavis

                                                                                                                                                              I firmly believe that some people don't understand that if, for example, there's no salmonella there to begin with, then it doesn't miraculously appear. Knock wood, I've never had a problem either. And, honestly, I think some of the safety measures taken aren't going to save us if there ARE pathogens present.

                                                                                                                                                              1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                                                                                C oliver, You are right, some folks have been frightened to death with warnings about Salmonella, I think a good dose of common sense and a critical eye are all most folks need. The things we should have learned as kids are the best preventions, Wash your hands, clean up after yourself, no double dipping, etc...are what most of us need.

                                                                                                                                                                1. re: gardencub

                                                                                                                                                                  The only person I know who has gotten salmonella got it from cooked chicken meat on top of a pizza, served in a restaurant. And having worked in industry, trust me, you'll KNOW if an egg is off when you open it.

                                                                                                                                                                  I must say, I feel safer in my home kitchen than I do in many restaurants, where the people cooking aren't the ones eating the food, so the vested interest, well, isn't as vested. Obviously they don't want clients getting sick, but if the underpayed employees can get away with cleaning the counters less thoroughly, or not having to clean inside the extraction fan, if the boss isn't checking...

                                                                                                                                                                  Which is why I frequent a Chinese hole in the wall restaurant where they have a cat in the kitchen, and keep the raw dumpling meat stuffing in an uncovered bowl in the drinks fridge. I'd almost rather see the dirt than have it hidden away, and while I can certainly see the dirt in that place, I can also see the cook making the dumplings from scratch, to order, and know that at least they refridgerate the dumpling stuffing to begin with! Never gotten sick there, never heard of anyone else that has, either.

                                                                                                                                                              2. re: dcdavis

                                                                                                                                                                I NEVER crack eggs in a separate bowl, that is just crazy! I have never had a bad egg in 42 years of life, at least not in the 36 years I can remember!

                                                                                                                                                                1. re: dcdavis

                                                                                                                                                                  To keep Kashrut, I grew up cracking eggs one a time in a glass bowl before adding it to whatever I made. Crack into bowl, check for blood, add to mix, crack another egg. But, this is the same family that bleached the sink and shoved everything else in the dishwasher with crossed fingers. It sanitizes in there right?

                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: TampaAurora

                                                                                                                                                                    it the thermostat (for wash and rinse water)is set at the recommended temperature YES a dishwasher does the job. restaurants/food establishments are required to have 160*f water,even with gloves ,too hot for by "hand"

                                                                                                                                                              3. Gosh, I thought I was pretty casual until I read some of the things folks DO seem to tolerate without the 'yuck' factor kicking in. That spoon-in-mouth-then-back-in-jar thing is just gross. But that is pretty much the only thing I've read here that seemed really beyond the pale to me EXCEPT the kitchen 'sponge'. I don't get the re-worked, nasty sponge when it is so easy to use a clean dish cloth to wipe up EVERY time and then just chuck it in the laundry. Best investment you can make in your kitchen sanitation is 21 dish cloths.

                                                                                                                                                                Other than those minor quibbles, yup, I live in a magic kitchen, fed many, many friends who are still in the land of the living from it and have raised healthy kids who ate daily in it .

                                                                                                                                                                1. That explains it! My husband calls me Howard Hughes, so in order to spare myself further ridicule, I don't comment on his unsanitary poultry handling habits (I figured I'd wait and bring it up at the hospital where I can say, "I told you so"). But it must be magic that's kept me alive!

                                                                                                                                                                  3 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: silvergirl

                                                                                                                                                                    "Howard Hughes"!! Priceless!

                                                                                                                                                                    Come on, you Howard Hughes out there, time to step up with your contributions! Please.

                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                                                                                                                                      But it's so hard to type with these fingernails...

                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                                                                                                                                        Yes, please. We've horrified all the HH's out there so give it back to us :)

                                                                                                                                                                    2. I''m a bit of a "Do As I Say, Not As I Do!"

                                                                                                                                                                      Heads will roll if I catch my husband double dipping, but I somehow I can justify double dipping in the Vegemite jar (he doesn't eat it) Am I a bad person?

                                                                                                                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                      1. I live in a magic house too, with a grungy magic carpet on the floor -- a magical place for the dogs who get to lick pots and dishes clean. Sometimes there's real organic garden dirt on the floor, and I regularly prepare meals with dirt under my fingernails. A developmentally disabled neighbor visits almost daily for his cup of decaf and snack -- consumed drooling, spilling, slobbering, barely coherent speech, but I love him! I am super healthy and I am extremely grateful.

                                                                                                                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: neverlate

                                                                                                                                                                          All these replies have made me realize my own inconsistencies. I'm militant about the appropriate use of my wooden board (fruit, veggies and herbs only), yet I'm lax about thorough cleanings after smashing a garlic clove on it and I go berserk if my SO puts anything oily or used dishes/cutlery down on that board. I will twitch if I see someone use a knife to spread something on bread or the contents of a sandwich, then put that knife in a condiment jar (either back into it or into a different one), yet I'm definitely guilty of tasting something from a jar, then dipping the spoon or knife back in for another taste (forgive me). I've used the same spoon more than once for tasting out of a pot on the stove. The 5-second rule applies, even though I'm only a mediocre housekeeper, at best. I frequently wear shoes in the house, when I know I shouldn't. My colour-blind SO is very easygoing about expiry dates, but I'm very diligent about sniffing, checking for discolouration and even tasting, to find out if something is off. I have little faith in my grocery store's ability to ship and preserve items at the correct temperatures, so I expect items to occasionally spoil before expiry/best before dates. I've seen it happen. I've brought items home that are already spoiled. I've also had yogurt look, smell and taste perfectly fine 2-3 weeks past the date on the container. I rarely use ketchup, so I've had to toss nearly full bottles that have been in the fridge for a year or two because the colour has faded and the smell is off. I love my Indian/Korean/Thai/Japanese/Chinese seasoning pastes, sauces and condiments. They hold up well over time. I'm concerned about hygiene, but I definitely think the magic dust protection service is hard at work in my house. We've never been sick from anything produced in our kitchen. I'll toss leftovers sooner than the SO will. I'll also replace dish towels and cloths much sooner than he would. I wash dishes and cookware right after the meal has ended. The biggest issue for me is with cleaning products. I was raised to believe in disinfecting countertops, sinks, etc., yet I'm very concerned about inadvertently ingesting residues from the products because foods have come in contact with them. Lately, I have been using vinegar and baking soda to clean my stainless steel sinks (there's no meat or poultry in the house -- only occasional fish and seafood). I'm hoping it's enough to keep them clean, but every so often, I panic and use the chemical sprays, for good measure. It concerns me that the use of the chemicals causes my nose to drip incessantly, makes my chest feel tight and burns my eyes. This stuff can't be safe if ingested in any quantity. Yet, a case of food poisoning would be far worse than a few minutes of toxic odours. It's interesting that between the two of us, the only times we've gotten sick from food were from a fast food establishment which served my SO a lukewarm burger that had mayo as a topping (need I say more) and when I brazenly bought street food from a woman selling tamales that were likely cooked the day before, then trucked in that morning from who knows where and allowed to sit, wrapped in a towel in a plastic bucket, for several hours in the sun (you get my point). I was asking for trouble ... and found it ... in Peru. The nurse at the health clinic scolded me for not using my head. Street food is great, when it's fresh and hot and prepared in front of you. I learned my lesson.

                                                                                                                                                                        2. The only time I have ever gotten food poisoning in someone's home was due to cross-contamination. Our host was Indian and not a meat eater and decided to grill chicken for some reason. He did not realize he could not use the unwashed cutting board and utensils that had come in contact with raw chicken on every other food he made. All 15 of us got salmonella poisoning, even those of us who had not eaten meat at the meal.

                                                                                                                                                                          I have gotten food poisoning at restaurants or felt somewhat queasy after a meal causing me to wonder if I were going to become ill (note - indigestion from eating too much or too rich a meal is not what I'm talking about - it's that "ooo, please God don't let me get sick" feeling).

                                                                                                                                                                          My unscientific conclusion is that home cooks are generally not quite as dirty as the clean police would have you believe and also that following the basic rules of hygiene are adequate in most situations. In other words, you need to use a clean knife and cutting board to chop your raw veggies, but if you didn't actually slop raw chicken on your counters, cleaning the entire kitchen with bleach solution probably isn't necessary. Just wipe up like you normally would.

                                                                                                                                                                          Also, washing your hands goes a very long way towards keeping things clean.

                                                                                                                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: dalaimama

                                                                                                                                                                            Great discussion! Reminded me of the great Ruth Reichl book, Tender at the Bone, in which she recounts some hilarious childhood experiences with her mother, who frequently served her family and friends foods of questionable age and condition.

                                                                                                                                                                          2. Sadly, my 'magic house' bubble burst about a year ago when I gave myself and SO mild food poisoning with some chorizo that had been around too long! But that hasn't made me obsessive. I'm pretty fastidious when it comes to feeding others. When it's just me eating, the 5-second rule applies and if it smells ok I eat it, regardless of expiration date. But I draw the line at hair. I can't eat anything if there's been a hair in it. Yick.

                                                                                                                                                                            9 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: Kagey

                                                                                                                                                                              Ironic, because hair is probably one of the least threatening food contaminants (not that I would eat anything with hair in it, either).

                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: Humbucker

                                                                                                                                                                                Not really ironic, just illogical. I acknowledge that. There's no logical justification- it just totally grosses me out!

                                                                                                                                                                              2. re: Kagey

                                                                                                                                                                                I'd pick the hair out but I wouldn't thow the whole dish out. Odds are the hair came from one of the four of us: two humans, one dog and one cat.

                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                                                                                                  "Family Dirt" is much more acceptable than "Stranger Dirt". I'm pretty sanguine about "our" germs & dirt, not so much about "Stranger Dirt" which is much more ominous.

                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Sherri

                                                                                                                                                                                    I once knew a woman who said that any hair you find, just decide that it is yours...
                                                                                                                                                                                    and move on!

                                                                                                                                                                                    It kind of works in a strange way.

                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Sherri

                                                                                                                                                                                      In college, my husband named his beer "Hair of the Dog". It's nearly impossible to prepare anything without Zoe's contribution. Hence the game "who's hair was it?" The cat generally loses, as he seems to shed the least.

                                                                                                                                                                                      When we've received food in restaurants and notice one piece of hair, then see more--ick. Can't eat it. Particularly when you get a glimpse of the greasy, sweaty person making your food...

                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: Caralien

                                                                                                                                                                                        We have that game in our house, too. With each passing year I'm less competitive...

                                                                                                                                                                                    2. re: c oliver

                                                                                                                                                                                      LOL! With two cats, a long-haired large dog, and two humans living here, I'm hard pressed, no matter how careful I am, to cook or bake anything that doesn't end up with at least one hair in it.

                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                                                                                                        My eleven year old son won't eat anything with a hair in it. The other night at dinner he found one inch long black hair on his plate. I am a blond, he is a blond and the SO has black hair but his hair is really really short (about 1/4 of an inch) so we know it didn't come from any of us. The only options were are black cat or black dog. I kindly informed him that it probably came off of his t-shirt that he was wearing (you could see a few animal hairs sticking to it). Now he won't come to the table to eat unless he has put on a clean shirt. Lol. So we have a new rule for him. His 'dinner shirt' is kept in a zip lock bag in the kitchen to keep it hair free. My kitchen is the only room in the house that none of the pets are allowed. Not even on the floor. This rule was invented due to him asking me to wash his clothes since he had gone thru 10 shirts in two days. I wonder if he realizes that I never change shirts before starting to cook a meal and handle the pets as often as he does

                                                                                                                                                                                    3. My approach : red wine....and lots of it . I say sterilize from the inside out !! :)

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                                                                                                                                                                                      1. This post makes me feel *so* much better about my own food habits, so thank you for that!

                                                                                                                                                                                        My mother had food poisoning once, and she's been an utter paranoid wreck ever since that time. I don't follow any of the rules, and seeing her fastidious adherence to them, I figured I was just a slovenly disaster: I thaw meat on the counter all day and marinate it there as well, I cut chicken on the same cutting board as everything else (washing it between uses if the ingredients to be cut after the chicken aren't to be cooked or won't be cooked very long), I leave food out for a couple days and still eat it, my butter remains outside of the fridge (probably not an issue as I eat about 1/3 a lb a day), I'll gladly use stuff that fell on the floor, I love homemade mayo with raw eggs and eggs cooked over light, I eat my pork undercooked, I'd never bother to check the temp of stuffing, etc.

                                                                                                                                                                                        I've never - to the best of my knowledge - gotten food poisoning from anything I've cooked myself. Can't say the same about restaurants, though. Regardless, a couple unpleasant night of vacating all the tenants of my digestive system and feeling horrid isn't enough to inspire me to adopt steadfast food prep rules.

                                                                                                                                                                                        1. I've always done my best to keep a clean kitchen, following all the "rules" (separate cutting boards, disinfecting, etc. etc.). Since acquiring a Filipino mother-in-law, however, I will eat from pots that have been sitting on the stove for who knows how long, and won't throw things out as quickly as I used to. ("AY! What are you doing, throwing out the good food?! You Canadians waste so much. Eat it!") So far, so good: perhaps I'm getting a magic stomach, too.

                                                                                                                                                                                          1. Gee, I really hope I do, because I just fulfilled every-so-often craving for a half a pizza bagel for lunch and used some jarred sauce that I found in the fridge from the last time I had such craving. I can't recall if that was two weeks ago or two months ago. And for that matter, I don't know if the jar I tossed out of the fridge the other day was the "old" one or the "really old" one. Leaving me to wonder which one I was left with and used today. :)

                                                                                                                                                                                            (PS - I only use jarred sauce for the pizza bagel cravings, and maybe am not so good at cleaning out the fridge, which is how I end up with multiple open jars)

                                                                                                                                                                                            5 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: Justpaula

                                                                                                                                                                                              Not a magic house here, but still a pretty good place to eat. I am a very good cook and a few months of cooking school has given me the sanitation knowledge I need to keep anything bad from happening. All I know for sure is that I have never, ever, gotten sick from anything I cooked, nor has anyone else.

                                                                                                                                                                                              That said, I now live with Mr. Food Safety, the Germ Nazi. He has banned wooden spoons and cutting boards, and puts EVERYTHING in the fridge. I cannot allow anything to come to room temperature before I eat it, and quite honestly, meat that goes straight to the grill from the fridge does NOT cook correctly. If I want to thaw something from the freezer to cook that evening, I have to wait until he goes to the office, THEN take it out and leave it on the counter. It goes into the fridge just before he comes home, so he thinks it has been there all day. Ditto marinades. Leave the butter or cheese out to soften? Impossible. If I want to bake with room temp ingredients, I have to hide them in my office where he can't see them. He is convinced that every piece of chicken I bring home is teeming with bacteria, and will actually put meat and poultry on different shelves in the fridge (with ceramic plates underneath it all, even if it is in its original packaging). There are separate tongs/boards for the raw and cooked food we cook on the grill. After dinner, he is bustling in the kitchen storing away leftovers while I am still eating, and the food it still hot. And yet .... YET ..... in order to save himself a few killowatts, he will hand-wash dishes with tepid water, and they never, EVER get clean. I just take them from the dish drainer and put them into the dishwasher, where everything comes out equally clean and comparatively germ-free. Today I pulled out a knife (that I saw him "wash") from the block that was DIRTY! Who KNOWS whats down in that slot now? Ugh! This is a battle I learned long ago I would not win, so I devised my own work-arounds.

                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: Cheflambo

                                                                                                                                                                                                One workaround would be to stop cooking??

                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: Cheflambo

                                                                                                                                                                                                  Oh my god! Do you have a community college nearby that offers classes in hypnosis and brain washing and how to successfully apply it? Meanwhile, we'll all pray for you! '-)

                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Cheflambo

                                                                                                                                                                                                    My SO will just rinse knifes off in hot water since he is afraid of dulling the blade but all meat we buy goes into plastic bags and then into the shopping cart, this includes lunch meat and hot dogs. He will also eat hot dogs or lunch meat that has been open weeks (I won't touch it after three days). Irony of it all is he has had F.P. once and I've had it multiple times.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: carollins83

                                                                                                                                                                                                      Three days??? That's a bit extreme. You should get a thermometer and check the temps in there...If your fridge is properly cold and everything is well wrapped there's no reason why most lunchmeats (and certainly hot dogs) shouldn't be good for at least a week (and probably more).

                                                                                                                                                                                                2. There isn't anything for me to worry/stress about because I keep everything clean, and never leave things on the counter too long, basically I'm on top of everything all the time. That's what I've been taught and that's what comes naturally to me.
                                                                                                                                                                                                  I won't have it any other way, and I will not eat at anyone's place who does not apply the same standards.

                                                                                                                                                                                                  Now if a hazelnut fell on the floor (my spotless floors which are cleaned and sanitized on a daily basis) then I see no problem picking it up and eating it, it's shouldn't be dirty)
                                                                                                                                                                                                  Cat fur is just about the only thing that is hard to control because it goes everywhere (through the air) but I keep it under control.

                                                                                                                                                                                                  I'm not afraid to eat raw eggs, raw fish.. home made mayo .. but I don't want any raw meats contaminating anything and I don't want food sitting out, once it's cooled down it goes straight into the fridge.

                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. Everyone thinks they live in a magic house until one day the dangerous food poisoning troll (which is immune to the fantasy of "magic" preventing it from spreading sickness and disease) strolls in and causes strife throughout the land.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    My home is protected by common sense rather than by magic.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. I live with a doctor who is fanatic about cross-contamination of raw chicken on cutting boards, in the sink, etc., but who was willing to eat scrapple that had been sitting in a refrigerator with no power for 5 days after our recent ice storm here in New Hampshire. Go figure.

                                                                                                                                                                                                      4 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: whs

                                                                                                                                                                                                        Anyone who eats scrapple has no standards, anyway. : > )

                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: al b. darned

                                                                                                                                                                                                          ...and your problem with reconstituted pig snout mush is?

                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: whs

                                                                                                                                                                                                            >>>
                                                                                                                                                                                                            ...reconstituted pig snout mush...
                                                                                                                                                                                                            <<<

                                                                                                                                                                                                            LOL!!!! That's even better than the definition of head cheese: "pig jello."

                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: al b. darned

                                                                                                                                                                                                              It's great stuff no matter what you want to call it.
                                                                                                                                                                                                              My Hungarian grandma called it "kosconya"

                                                                                                                                                                                                      2. After perusing all the posts I have come to the conclusion our house is more magical than I thought.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        I, too, grew up in an era when frozen food was left in the sink drainer all day to defrost before becoming that night's supper, and the Thanksgiving and Christmas turkeys were always roasted overnight in a low temp oven with the stuffing inside (after sitting in a plastic dish pan in the back room for several days to thaw). No one ever got sick in our house.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        After watching many a "travel food" show I am convinced we are waaaay too anal in this country when it comes to "food safety." In general we are germophobic and as such our kids have no immune systems. In many countries they cook over small fires built on the street, use old barrel tops for cooking grilles, eat raw meat (and lots of nasty parts), drink beverages that begin with the women chewing something and spitting the results in a jar, and generally seem to eschew anything we call food safety...yet they survive nicely, thank you. Meat thermometer? You've got to be kidding! Cook it in a hole in the ground? Sure, just wipe off most of the dirt before you eat it.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        So Andrew Zimmern is now shilling for Pepto Bismol...he just has a weak constitution.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        My motto is, "Clean enough to be healthy, messy enough to be happy." OK, OK, sometimes the place is overjoyed, and if someone came in and ransacked the place I'm not sure we'd notice right away, but I try to adhere to some basic cleanliness standards.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        For example, I have four flexible plastic cutting boards, each a different color. For raw meats, fish, etc. I use whichever one is on top...then it goes in the dishwasher after hosing off the big chunks w/hot water. (The same goes for bowls, plates, etc.) Veggies, which ever one is on top, etc. Boards used for non-raw protein items get washed with soap and hot water after use or go into the dishwasher. Knives used for raw protein, as well as the hands that handled them, get immediately washed in hot soapy water. And yes, I use a thermometer for checking doneness.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        Everything that can go into the dishwasher does. Other than that, my counter space is too limited to have special prep areas.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        Expiration dates are advisory only. Raw protein dates tend to be adhered to, but everything else is subjected to the look and sniff test prior to discarding. (I have seen milk last a week or more past it's date or go bad three days early.) I have found that mayo (Cain's All Natural without boiler chemical preservatives) is fine unopened in the pantry at least a year past it's due date, and still fine if kept in the fridge much longer than that. (We don't use that much mayo in our house.) Yogurt? Isn't that just spoiled milk? Expiration date on eggs? A chef once advised me, "If they are bad you'll know it the minute you crack it open." Yes I crack eggs into a separate bowl before adding them to the recipe, but only because it is easier to see and pick out the shell fragments.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        Refrigerator segregation? Yup. Everything is segregated in its own container or wrapper.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        Leftovers - if they smell and look OK they are available. I will to admit to being a bit more "careful" when we have guests over. (No five-second rule.)

                                                                                                                                                                                                        Some things are followed to the letter, even beyond sometimes. Even tho I have been canning for years, I always pull out the "bible" (Putting Foods By) each and every time and I don't cut corners or experiment.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        In general I feel too much good food is wasted under the guise of "food safety." I'm not talking restaurants, although even there we tend to go overboard. I bristle when I hear that as much as 25% of the food in this nation is thrown out! We should buy less, freeze more, and make smaller batches. For those who might say, "But we don't have time for all that." I say, "We make time for what we consider important."

                                                                                                                                                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: al b. darned

                                                                                                                                                                                                          Cheers to you on wanting to waste less food. We really do wast so much food and never even think about it.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        2. I eat food off the floor no problem, eat all sorts of things like raw hamburger, raw eggs, but I AM a germaphobe. I drive everyone crazy with the handwashing and scrubbing. On the other hand my stove is so nasty sometimes (especially if I fry and overboil rice) and do not clean it - that when someone comes into the kitchen I am SURE they must think I am a skank. I am merely a zealous and somewhat scatterbrained cook!

                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. We definitely live in a magic house. No anti-bacterial soaps or portable hand sanitizers here, yet we are rarely sick. We eat most things; even things I've determined were "off" haven't made my husband sick (I'm guilty of "try this, does it taste off to you? I think it smells funny"). But I'm a germophobe publicly--use the back of my hand to open doors, a tissue to pull open doors and feet to flush toilets in public restrooms, won't use equipment at gyms...

                                                                                                                                                                                                            The times we've had food poisonings were from seafood in restaurants (recalling that we knew there was something wrong, but ate it anyway. Shrimp for him, oysters and mussels for me). Never at home, even when I've accidentally undercooked chicken, pork...it must be age that caused us to blatantly ignore the recall of spring onions, spinach, tomatoes and peppers last summer.

                                                                                                                                                                                                            The neat freaks I know are ill regularly. It must be like the comparison between heavy drinkers, moderate drinkers, and teetotelers--who's healthiest? The heavy drinkers tend towards liver problems, the teetolelers towards high stress, anxiety...

                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. I, too, have a magical house, but it has a down side: I can't make bread. Apparently my magic hands kill all yeast they come in contact with. Seriously. I'm a good cook. I've tried to make yeast doughs off and on for almost 40 years now with nothing but leaden lumps to show for my efforts. I've given up. I look with longing at recipes for homemade cinnamon rolls, knowing I'll never be able to make them. And no, while this may be TMI, I've never had a yeast infection, either.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                                                                                                                                                                Ruth, I'm not sure I care for your yeast inflection ;-)

                                                                                                                                                                                                              2. Maybe a bit too serious of an answer for your lighthearted question, but could it be where you live? I think that many in the United States are obsessed with sanitation to the point where they have never had a chance to build up any immunity....some even blame this for such ills as the increase in childhood asthma here, etc.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                I am not very careful about food poisoning...and I can't remember the last time I was really sick in that sense (a little cold sure, but that comes from folks who sneeze on me at work...). I am fussy about leftover food, and throw it away if it hasn't been eaten in a day or two. But that has little to do with sanitation and more a taste thing....very few things taste as good to me if they've been sitting in the fridge for several days.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                Which of course my husband thinks is the problem. He's even less careful than I am. And he hates to put his curries and soups in the fridge once they've been cooked. He insists that the beauty of his cooking (he's from Gujarat in Western India) is that the spices used protect against food spoilage in warm climates. He might be right to some extent, but I can't see leaving the dal out all night, especially when I want some for breakfast. Needless to say, I am responsible for putting food away in my house.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                So maybe it is that "where you live" thing...or at least where you grow up. ....

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: janetofreno

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  This is a very interesting thread!!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                2. I thought of this thread yesterday when my husband and I had the last two mugs' worth of a soup that I threw together over a week ago. The base broth were two vegetable with meat stocks from New Year's, the meat was leftover from a slow cooker recipe of chicken and artichoke hearts that had been in the freezer a couple of months. Then I just kept adding and adding and adding until it finally tasted right. By then I had a medium stock pot that was really full. That pot sat on the stove for DAYS before it got to a small enough volume that it would fit in anything that could go in the fridge. Then we ate on it for days longer. I chuckled when I thought of this thread and how cringe-worthy this would be to some people. Thanks for starting this, Sam. And I've noticed that "magic house" has become part of my lexicon :)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. Does anyone on this thread know where I can get a multi-stage decontamination chamber for home use? How much does one of these run up the electric bill?

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: keith2000

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Oh, they're hideously expensive, AND cost a fortune to run, bu your peace of mind will be SO worth it!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    2. Having grown up in a house where my father refuses (to this day) to throw anything out (we still have a VCR from like 1985, and it doesn't really work), I have learned that as long as it doesn't smell bad or look funny, it's edible. I am now a college student, so our sanitation practices are...interesting. The 30 second rule is definitely used. We are actually very clean, so it's not a big issue, but my roommate and myself have slobs for suite mates, so when they leave their dirty dishes in the sink over the 6 week Christmas break (oh yes, I am sure they were nice and crusty), and when a bag of their junk food sits under a chair for several weeks, and we get ants, my roommate and I just have to laugh, put our food away properly, and eat anyways.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. I definitely live in a magic house! I think my bf would be surprised if he knew how lax I can be. I feel like I know what's what b/c my dad was a public health inspector. He said that the number one thing to worry about was "keeping hot things hot and cold things cold." So I stick to that! Otherwise I am only so-so on veggie washing, counter wiping, and leftover disposal. I eat anything that smells fine, period.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. Magic house came through again this weekend. An indigent friend got a free turkey and asked me to cook it for him. By the time we got around to it, it was a week past its sell-by date, and when I opened it up, it didn't smell very good (no-no number one). But I washed it thoroughly and when it was dry it smelled okay, so I decided to go ahead. Then I stuffed it (no-no number two). While I usually stuff the turkey right before it's to be cooked, I was having trouble getting a good bed of coals in my Weber, and it sat, stuffed, for well over an hour (exacerbating no-no number two). But still, I forged ahead. Then I misjudged the doneness and took it out too soon, let it rest, and put it back (I'm sure this was a no-no!). Finally, I decided it was done enough, even though my not-that-great meat thermometer was dubious. The turkey was just barely done, so it was moist and delicious, my indigent friend was very happy, and no one got sick (except the food-safety experts reading this who are undoubtedly feeling queasy right now).

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          10 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            And you and your friend are richer for the experience :)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              When did eating become an Anthony Bourdain driven experiment in pushing the limits of sanitation? I thought cooking was about fresh ingredients prepared with care and attention. I've eaten my share of street food in India and Thailand, and yes, even had dirty water hot dogs off the cart in New York, but this kind of post seems frivolous when millions around the world can't afford to keep their food refrigerated. OK, now I'll get off my soapbox and let Sam try to kill his dinner guests with day old sushi (wink).

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: whs

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Millions of people also can't afford to discard food simply because it hasn't met the most stringent safety standards. Did you miss the part where this was a free turkey given to an indigent person who brought it to me because he has no way of cooking it? The amount of food that gets wasted simply because of a number printed on the package is appalling in a planet with dwindling resources and billions of hungry people: http://www.culinate.com/articles/culi...:

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                "Because some stores view expiration dates as binding, they choose not to donate items at or past their sell-by dates. This occurs most often with meat and produce, which many stores are reluctant to donate. This is doubly unfortunate, as the expiration dates on fresh proteins, fruits, and vegetables are just as cautious as for other food products, and fresh foods are the toughest items for food banks to amass."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                I should note that there are some things I'm very careful about, like cross-contamination of raw food with food that's already cooked or that's to be eaten raw.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: whs

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Yoo hoo, don't forget that this is supposed to be "lighthearted." The serious thread are all over the place :)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: whs

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    I can't imagine that Sam would serve guests (or himself) day-old sushi. Food safety aside, this would just be wrong.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: whs

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      I eat my own day old sushi ... Of course, most of the sushi I make are traditional norizushi rolls that do not contain sashimi.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      [insert sideways grinning moron icon here to indicate all in good humor]

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        my personal theory about wasabi is that it kills the liver flukes

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    2. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      The thought of hanging game birds 10 days to a month must really upset folks.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: Alacrity59

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        I don't know whether or not Harrod's Food Halls in London still does this, but when I was a lass of 17, I was taken aback by the dead animals suspended from their ceiling.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    3. Here's an interesting bit of information regarding food waste:
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      A few days ago in London an organization called Feeding 5000 served lunch in Trafalgar Square made with supermarket produce waste. That's right. Stuff that was thrown away by local markets. Here are some links to the happening:

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      http://joannasfood.blogspot.com/2009/...

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      http://feeding5k.org/index.php

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. Sam, just want to let you know that your fame grows :) I was just at my doctor's office and told her about your "magic house." She loved it and totally agrees with it.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. In my kitchen, you can eat off the floor (and there'd be plenty to eat, too, a stray meatball here, some cookie fragments there...)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: Rmis32

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            I have the two four-legged Hoovers who get to it quickly so little left for me.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          2. I don't think I would pass a Dept of Health inspection, but I am pretty careful. I wash my hands frequently while cooking am reasonably careful about cross-contamination and am a better safe than sorry when it comes to is this food safe to eat. That said, I know I leave my pots out a tad too long after dinner before putting them in the fridge.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Remember that many of us had childhoods before seat belts and helmets and many of our parents smoke and drank during pregnancy. Just because we live in a "magic house" does not make taking precautions unnecessary.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. The magic house gave me bionic bread this morning! I woke up New Year's morning with two kinds of pate and no bread. Crackers just weren't cutting it. So I looked at the gladware container holding an opened package of cocktail rye I bought for a tea party ... last February? I thought, I really should check those out -- they're probably no good, so why are they taking up room on my shelf? I looked through the clear plastic and saw no mold. I opened the top. Yup. No mold. But it's probably stale and hard as a rock, right? I picked up a slice and it was still moist and pliable. I sniffed it -- no mold, no stale smell. I slathered pate on it -- tastes fine, good as new. Huh? It must be loaded with hideous chemicals. Ingredient list shows nothing but good stuff -- no HFCS, even -- that I would put into my own bread (if yeast-killing hands allowed me to make bread), except for the last ingredient, which is calcium proprionate (a preservative, but a fairly innocuous one that I don't think can be credited for keeping an opened package of sliced bread fresh and unmoldy for almost a year). So yay magic house!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              4 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Ruth, I LOVE it when the magic works!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Sorry Ruth, I'm calling the Health Department! You don't live in a magic house, you're getting high from the bacteria.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Nope, she got some bread with so little nutritional value that nothing would grow on it. That made them almost crackers, which exempts them from mold, IMO.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      That and the magic house working its magic.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                2. This is quite a timely post for me as I had food poisoning this week- yep, from my own home. I wish I could say it was on a risky piece of fabulous sushi or some special french cheese but it was a damn carrot. I did the "cut off the bad and eat the rest" trick and suffered for the next 24 hours. I have been exceptionally careful to clean counters and tossed a bunch of things I probably would have otherwise eaten. Once bitten, twice shy, I suppose. I don't know how long till I get my "magic house" back but I can tell you I don't intend on giving up eating raw cookie dough- that is my favorite!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  8 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: CoffeeNCookies

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Carrots are tricky. If they have the least bit of slimy feeling to them, you have to toss them out. No amount of washing will get out the bacteria. Carrots have a high sugar content so are more prone to incidents like that.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: CoffeeNCookies

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      There is no such thing as a magic house. I thought mine was, and have been pretty lackadaisical with food contamination issues, thinking that well, there are so many preservatives in things, food is safer these days, blah blah blah. I even followed this thread and thought, hey, cool - I'm not the only one!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      At the risk of TMI, I have thrown up (and worse) for the last two days. I let some chicken stock cool on the counter before refrigerating it, and I'm pretty sure that's the culprit. The tortilla soup I made out of it was fabulous. Goshamighty, I've never felt so terrible in my life. I'd rather go through weeks and weeks of childbirth without anesthesia than to go through this again. Doubly horrible because chicken broth is the one thing I might have been able to keep down.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      I will NEVER be lighthearted about food safety ever again! Unless, of course, I can't bring myself to cook or smell food again, which right now is a distinct possibility.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: southern_expat

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        BUT, as Sam said all that time ago, this is a LIGHTHEARTED look at food safety. So if you're going to stay true to the "message" then you don't live in a "magic house." Poor you. You have to go forward knowing that you aren't "blessed" with the magic.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Do you handle snakes in church, too? ;-)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: alanbarnes

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            I'm fine with all bugs including spiders but snakes do give me the heeby jeebies so I guess the answer is no. So I don't need magic there, do I? Oh right, I don't go to church either.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: alanbarnes

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              alanbarnes, you are one of the ones who make all the hatin' on here more tolerable. Peace, my brutha.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          2. re: southern_expat

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            but how do you know it was the stock? do you have some really good reason to suspect it?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            What kind of bacteria could have infected the stock as sat on the counter? Did you leave it uncovered and near raw meats or animals or some other potentially contaminated...thing? I think it's safe to assume it could not have come from the ingredients themselves, as you presumably simmered the stock for some time, no? So what infected it? And would you not be exposed to whatever that pathogen was via other foods in your home?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            I dunno. I think there is a much greater chance that you picked up a stomach bug in the course of living in the world outside your house, and that the unrefrigerated stock is merely a coincidence.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: lisa13

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Yanno, it might have been a bug, but I didn't boil it much again after it sat out all night. Your points are extremely valid, and I appreciate them, but after this experience, I'll be more careful in future. Better safe than sorry!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              c_oliver, good point also. I did get less than lighthearted, and for that I apologize. I guess the digestive ickiness has made me cranky. Peace!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        2. After reading all the posts I had to share. I am not at all anal about super cleanliness. We have survived just fine, thank you, so I must live in a magic house?
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Recently we had relatives and guests in our home for weeks. I was grossed out that several of them (ie, father and son), would take their forks, which they were eating with, and get salsa even if the spoons were laying there. To me that's not very cool when you are in someone else's home, at the very minimum. And these two have very poor hygiene.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          My bad habit (?): I pour cold coffee back into the pot and then pour some that's warmer. Normally it's just me and the misses and we swap spit anyway. We both drink our coffee black.. sometimes with a little saliva.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          2 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: All Dente

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            I think lack of hygiene is the lesser sin. Those relatives sound like they had a serious lack of table manners. Bet you were glad to see their backs on the way out the door.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: All Dente

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              ok, since someone below said they were glad everytime this thread is revived (since it is such a great memorial for Sam), I will jump in here to say: yes, the forks in the salsa would bug me. just a little, and especiallly if the relatives in question showed any signs of having a cold or other contagious illness.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              but the coffee thing? YUCKK!!! sorry, but to me this would affect the taste. when it gets cold, I make more.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              I love my husband and share saliva with him all the time, but give me my own coffee, please! :-)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            2. I took a food safe course a few years ago when I was working in a restaurant. I sterilize my kitchen a few times a week with warm water, soap and a bit of bleach. It only takes moments to do and gives me peace of mind. I should also say that I live on the ocean and the humidity level here increases the chance of mildew, so I have to bleach my kitchen sponges every few days anyways.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. I almost lived in magic house. It had a pastry workstation built into the kitchen, more cabinet space than you could shake a stick at, and a fireplace in the breakfast room. :(

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: ms.sarah

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  That's its own kind of magic, isn't it? Wow.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                2. The only thing Magical is the food. We have a 1 second rule, that's how long it takes our Dachshund Oscar Meyer to grab dropped food. 2 seconds if he is across the other end of the house.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Its not spotless clean all the time. I have a bottle of bleach water handy and use it often. I dont always wear gloves while handling raw meat, but I do wash my hands often. Again with the bleach water, I wipe down anything raw meat might have touched.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  I do BBQ, and Cure my own Canadian Bacon & Pastrami so there's a lot of meat prep going on. All that meat is cooked to USDA temps, and checked with a dead accurate Thermapen. I also check the calibration against boiling water, which is 203F at my altitude.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. Wow...I'm replying waaaaay late...Sam has passed...but here's the deal: I grew up with an alcoholic mother...she left stuff on the stove much longer than she should have...well, and we ATE it...at least, there WAS stuff on the stove, she tried, yes she did. I'd *like* to think that I have an IRON stomach because of that...I work with people who CLAIM that they cannot eat leftovers because they make them sick...sheesh... total WIMPS!!!! So, while I do try to do better than my mother (and I say this with compassion, not with hatred) to put stuff away, I have to say that I also live a *little sloppily* because that really is all I know, but I keep trying to do better...how's that? SAM: we miss you very very much!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. Sam, I've not only had a magic house, I've had a magic life. If lack of sanitary eating was lethal, I'd have been dead a long time ago, he types w/ tears......again.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      I'll eat a saltena for ya.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      2 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: Passadumkeg

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Passadumkeg, magic houses often come with a magic life. This thread is one of my favorite. So like Sam to share his magic life with us. Cheers, eat that saltena with gusto, whatever a saltena is....

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: Passadumkeg

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          That Saltena sure tastes good after all this time...

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        2. I love this thread. When I first read it, I had to think about things. Now I think for the most part, I do live in a magic house. Like Sam, "Although I keep a very clean kitchen and store things properly, I just don't worry about food poisoning in my magic house."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. I had a serious digestive illness a number of years ago and since then am more susceptible to bugs that cause diarrhea. For that reason, I'm pretty careful about how old food it, how long it's been sitting out, etc. I'd rather be safe than sorry. However, with respect to everything else in my kitchen -- cat fur, garden dirt tracked in onto the floor, not cleaning food off the top of the stove every night -- I'm much more casual.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            6 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: somervilleoldtimer

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              I am always happy when this thread is bumped. Even though I only "knew" Sam through CH, it really is a living memorial.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: Sinicle

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                And it always makes my re-evaluate my germ phobias.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: pikawicca

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  And makes you more relaxed, right?!? x,c

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Not exactly. A favorite local farmer dropped off a brace of freshly-killed Pekin ducks this morning, "sealed" in plastic. They left a puddle of blood on my counter. As soon as he was gone, I got out the Clorox, big time. Sorry, Sam, I tried.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: pikawicca

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      But, hey, you didn't throw out the ducks, did you? Sam knows you try.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        The ducks are fine, I just had a Clorox moment.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            2. This really is a great thread. I've had a few laughs and several cringe moments through out it.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              My house I would say is a magic house, with some help from the occupants.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              I have a separate cutting board for meat that one side is for poultry only. My pets are not even allowed on the kitchen floor. If I drop a hard vegetable on the floor I will pick it up and wash it before using it. I wash my kitchen sponge in the dishwasher every night, along with the sink stoppers. We use towels instead of paper towels to reduce our waste. I have several sets and they get washed in hot water with color safe bleach weekly. I wipe down my counters everyday and my stove every night after dinner. Yet I only mop my floor once a week. I also do not use very many commerical cleaners. I actually only own two for my kitchen pine-sol and ammonia. I mostly clean using vinegar, baking soda and lemon juice. The chemicals in most products makes me very sick and light headed even with all the windows open and fans running. They also are so bad for the environment.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              I do keep food within the safe zone tho. I've worked in food service and understand how germs multiple very quickly. The worst though are dairy products. So no butter on my counter (unless it is softening for baking), milk is thrown out at the end of its use by date or seven days after opening. I will admit to cutting mold off of hard and semi hard cheeses. Cheese is just molded milk.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              I will leave coffee in the pot and drink it two days later, yet almost never eat any leftovers.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              No one has ever gotten sick in my kitchen. I get F.P. often from eating at food establishments though.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              I believe that some dirt and germs are good for you. We already have e.coli living in out tummies along with a host of other nasties. Yet they keep us healthy and breaking down our food.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              One of the main things I do to keep my kitchen sanitary is that we have two sets of cleaning towels, broom, gloves, mop and bucket. On set is for the kitchen and the other bathroom. Also the towels and rags do not get washed together.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              I do wash the veggies that I buy though since most vegetable recalls are due to field workers going bathroom in the fields. Very unhealthy. All veggies and fruits should be washed before eating due to this.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              I am not a germ-a-phob though. The people that disinfect everything gives me the hebbie jebbies. I always want to take their kids out to a public play ground and then let them eat without washing their hands so they will build up some immunities. I really believe that is why we had some many illness in kids, never letting them build immunities to anything. Yes, hand washing is very important and you should do it often but using the hand sanitizers all the time is just over kill and hurting you more than helping. A favourite family quote of ours is 'God made dirt so dirt don't hurt.'
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              My family is a little contradictory but really the only thing you have to worry about eating out of my kitchen is the dog food. We make our own and it is store in the fridge, as I found out when a friend stayed over it taste really good also. He thought it was fried rice. Lol.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. I always enjoy it when this thread pops back up. It makes me smile to think of Sam. "Living in a magic house" has become part of our family vocabulary. And interestingly, I was thinking about it just this past week.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                My MIL passed away and we were all at her house in Louisiana. She left food out most of the time. Lunch was left covered on the stovetop or in the oven until dinner time regularly. That used to really bother me, but I have eaten that way at their house for 30+ years now and have never gotten ill. My SIL leaves things out even longer. One of the "funeral foods" brought over was a pork roast that SIL left sitting out for nearly two days. I did not know this when we ate it, but when I found out the following day, I realized my MIL's house MUST be magic. None of us suffered any ill effects. And after we arrived, I took charge of the food and made sure it was more properly stored.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                What's really odd to me about the way my SIL does food, is that she will leave cooked food out like that and yet throws away a jar of pickles that is nearing the date on the jar, whether or not it is the purchase by or use by date, because she thinks those may make her ill.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. I don't think my HOUSE is magic (only very lucky), but my refrigerator sure is! I just found two pounds of scuppernong grapes from this fall, and though they were a bit shrunken and wrinkly, they tasted DIVINE--concentrated and super musky. I put them on top of rosemary focaccia with some onion and black pepper. YUM!!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. As long as it's not green, furry, slimy, or stinky...anything goes.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. As my life gets busier, so exponentially does my house become more magic. Things that possibly would've bothered me a year ago are completely unremarkable and somehow "right." I recently left a cake frosted with a ganache containing heavy cream on the counter overnight, and there was a time I might have thought twice about eating it, but due to the increase in magicability, why I just went on ahead and had slice for breakfast with my coffee, and guess what? It didn't kill me!! It didn't even hurt me!! It was FINE!! But what's next? Left-out chicken? Drinking gin straight from the cat's bowl?
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Oh, well. Sue me. My standards may have relaxed, but then, so have I.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      3 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: meatn3

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Oh, but due to my relaxed standards, I'd rinse it and at least wave it around in the air to dry. It just comes right down to the dish-factor, which hasn't resolved due to their inability to do themselves.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        2. re: mamachef

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          the alcohol in the gin brings it's own magic

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        3. "Magic" is the right word. It continues to amaze me what I seem to get by with at home that I'd never think of doing in my workplace. I won't bend the rules at someone else's expense, but I sometimes twist them like a pretzel when it comes to my own risk! Good post.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: chefeyman

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Note that Sam posted that he kept his kitchen clean and stored foods properly. If you do these two things, you don't have much to worry about. OTH, I read recently of a mom in Japan who fed her kids and herself leftover rice that she had kept unrefrigerated for a day. They all got sick, and the two kiddies died of bacillus cereus poisoning. I don't mess around with this stuff.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          2. I had a magic Thanksgiving

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            I picked up the turkey at 9am, put it on the passenger's side of the car and did the rest of my shopping, going to bakeries, cheese shops, etc. Mr. Turkey and I arrived home at 5pm. It was a cool, cloudy day in the SF Bay area anea maybe between 50 - 60 degrees F.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            I stuffed that turkey the next day despite all the warnings that it could be dangerous. I like the taste of turkey stuffing that has absorbed the juices from roasting. I have done it a few decades. My mother did that all her life. My own personal decision is to take the risk.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            I made broth at 6am and it sat unrefrigerated on the counter until I was ready to use it at 2pm because there was no room in the fridge. The dish I was going to use it for required boiling it.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            I just moved and the meat thermometor was missing. Did it get cooked to the correct temperature. Don't know. I just followed the roasting time.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            The turkey sat on the stove for a few hours after until I was ready to pack it up later that night.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            This breaks so many official rules.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Many might not agree but I think people have to look at the whole picture.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            My fresh turkey was from a local turkey farm that raises its birds humanely. They have been in business since 1938 and in all that time they have never had a recall. I would guess people were a lot more relaxed with their turkey than I was yesterday.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            I also treat the turkey like toxic waste preparing it. I sprayed Lysol over every surface before started. I made sure I was always wasting my hands. Any sponges and such were tossed after the last dish was done and all surfaces Lysolled again.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            IMO, life is a lottery ... both lucky and unlucky. The chances of buying the million dollar ticket are pretty slim. There are the people who win the unlucky lottery ... get struck by lightening or some other unusal bad luck situation.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Sure I know all the health rules. I just felt the chances of winning the unlucky lotter and getting felled by illnes from the turkey were not high.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            On the other hand a few months ago I was staying with friends. Their fridge went on the fritz. Things would defrost and refreeze. There was a frozen cheap supermarket turkey that thawed and refroze for a few weeks. Icicles formed on it.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            My only thought was I was happy I'd be gone before that turkey was eaten. One night we had tingas, a shredded chicken dish. It was delicious. I went to see if the fridge was in freeze mode and if there was ice. The turkey was gone ... turkey tingas.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            My only thought was "i'm going to die". I didn't

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            In that case, I had a high chance of winning life's unlucky lottery.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            I think each situation needs to be evealutated and people have to go with their own comfort zone.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            We know the dangers of all sort of things. Driving a gar, hang gliding, cliff diving, etc, etc, It is up to each person to know the information about the risks and then decide if it is worth it to take the chance. I couldin't live without driving, but I'll never dive off a cliff though I'm guessing statistically it is safer than driving

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            7 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: rworange

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Good for you! My feeling is that there is a huge gray area between "definitely safe" and "definitely unsafe" -- people who are in a situation where they are professionally responsible for providing food or food safety advice need to err on the side of "definitely safe" -- for the rest of us, it's risk assessment and risk/benefit analysis.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              BTW, as my sister (jlafler) and I were cleaning up and putting food away last night, we talked about the magic house and how we missed Sam. RIP, Sam!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                While I didn't know Sam on CH, I've since read many of his posts, and I love this thread. So glad I also live in a magic house. It's somewhere on that contiuum of clean enough, safe enough, chow-ish enough while not being obsessive. (Only obsessive thing on T'giving is bleaching a sinkful of water both before & after the turkey's bath.)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: EWSflash

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    I think it's--literally--a little "overkill," especially with all the "don't wash chickens [turkeys, too, I guess]" on the news.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              2. re: rworange

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                I do hope that if you are cooking for other people that you have informed them of your "Russian Roulette" approach to food safety.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: pikawicca

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Oh honey ... this is my husband and stepchildren from Guatemala ... the people who leave chicken soup on the stove for days without refrigerating.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  The people who made tamales last Christmas that sat outside overnight and were served lukewarm the next morning. Then sat unrefrigerated on the counter for days. The whole process of making them would make a germaphobic American drop dead just watching. Then while the masa was cooking on an open fire in the poultry yard, one of the survivng turkeys had a taste. You don't even want to know about pilas ... huge three basin sinks was binds where the poultry is being gutted on one side and dishes washed on the other with lots of cross over in the middle. Are you kidding me?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Christmas Tamales Rojos Guatemaltecos – Or never trust anyone who feeds you for no apparent reason …

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/757104

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  ROTFLMAO

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  And ... while I'm not sure of the odds of getting food poisoning it is certainly not the one in six chance of Russian Roulette ... or is it 1-8 ... I don't own firearms.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                2. re: rworange

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  I love Sam's topic. I am sorry to hear that he died. I didn't know. He always had such insightful comments on these boards.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  My "magic house" experience was when I visited two Taiwanese graduate students at our university. We had a Chinese meal, lingered at the table talking, and then the lady of the house said that she would clean up. Cleaning up consisted of taking all the left overs and scraping them into one pot, putting the pot on the kitchen table, and then cleaning the rest of the surfaces in the kitchen. It sat out all night.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  The next morning, she served what she called "chop suey" to us for breakfast after chopping the mixture up and frying it in a frying pan.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  I did not want to offend her or her husband and I figured that they did this routinely and had survived. So I ate it and had no ill effects either that time or the three or four other times she did that.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Would I do it at my house? Not on your life! Why take chances which you do not need to take?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                3. I too live in a magical house. The turkey broth may stay on the stove for a couple of days before it is processed and frozen, and I laugh at mayonaise-based items on the counter for a few hours. My two exceptions: Raw poultry. (I treat it as though it were low-level nuclear waste. Lots of hot water with some bleach for clean-up, and no cross contamination of utensils.) And fresh produce. (I think of the poor bastards that have to pick it in the fields with no decent sanitation. And the gross shoppers that paw through it with their grubby hands. I also think that the oils and waxes the stores use to make them look 'pretty' seals in the disgusting-ness. I can't imagine life without "Veggie Wash."
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Other than that, I don't think I've ever poisened myself. Except on purpose. ...And that's what my liver is for.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. Fingers still crossed....I haven't yet been done in by the stalactites in the microwave, or the mysterious vegetable broth in the fridge drawers...

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. For 3 yeas now I have bee making yougurt, from #10 cans of powdered milk from 1976, from my MIL's hoard. I use greakm yogurt as a starter./ We gom through at leasmt 3 qts. a week and we're healthy!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. Amidst a group of physicians and scientists, Claude Bernard made the statement: "The terrain is everything; the germ is nothing," and then drank down a glass of water filled with cholera.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Certainly immune compromised individuals don't have the
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        "terrain" to deal with assorted bugs, but for most of us, what doesn't kill us makes us stronger

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: JenJeninCT

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          You know , stressed plants and trees are the ones that are most likely too to get attacked by bugs etc.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        2. Me, I don't believe in magic and I don't enjoy throwing up so, yes, I am obsessional about prompt refrigeration. And if I don't take out the garbage my house stinks so I am on time with that too. At this moment my windows are filthy---I'm waiting for the spring storms pass before I wash them---so I'm not an all-purpose Mrs Clean but, when it comes to the kitchen, I avoid the Yuck Factor when I can.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. Well, I am 'pretty clean' in my kitchen habits, and do think I have a bit of the 'magic house' going on here. Also, in deference, wish I had known Sam, as reading through this thread, clearly he was a loved CH. I am humbly pretty new on here - only just over a year, so sorry I missed out on knowing Sam.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            I adhere to many 'old world' cooking principles these days. Raised in resto kitchens, and have an active food safety card from the Dept. of Health for working with proffesional kitchens and doing my due diligence. I sure know about the 'three sink rule' for cleaning dishes in a kitchen.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            I am careful about cutting boards. I don't rinse my chicken anymore ( just tossing more bacteria around and the chicken get's cooked - PICK your battles, non?). Tho am a bit crazy about raw fish on a board, and always wash out my sinks after dealing with any meats or meat related items. Tho now it is never bleach (toxic), but a green-approved enzyme killing spray that I put on in a spritz, leave for at least a minute in my stainless steel sinks, then wash with very hot water. Cook my sponges in the dishwasher every few days.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            However;

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            If I roast a chicken, I leave the leftovers out on the counter overnight, cool room temp. The French way - they stay tender, and have never had a mishap. Done this for 20 years. Let me bring Barbara Kafka, and Julia Child into my camp as advocating this. A room-temp leftover roasted chicken leg, well salted on a nice mixed salad the day - priceless.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            I leave my daily butter out always. Albeit, I am in the PNW, and have granite counters (allway too cold! Hate them, unless I am making pastry). No issues ever, and my butter spreads on my toast.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            I have been known to leave stock, or a soup (no pork or ground meats) on the stove overnight; and in the next morning, heat to boiling again before cooling and refridgerating them. No harm done.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            I label my leftovers, within reason. I totally get that a store sell-by date, is not a 'bad' food date; get the difference I hope for most of us? I mean, gov't. regulations for the masses in no way are a part of my mind and knowledge seeing the status of a product in my fridge - be it cheese, meat, or dairy. Nuf' said, I would think.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            I have a wierd kitchen, that I remodeled several years ago, but is not finished. From my shins up, yes, but the floor is not finished. Something else in the house budget showed up just around the end of the kitchen remodel that had to take the rest of budget, so, we have this interesting - and actually very attractive - solution that looks like it is going on for however long. Subfloor with carpets in areas. No eating from the floor ever. Kind of nasty that cat hair (tho they don't come in the kitchen much, the open floor plan let's it settle all over), dust, etc. in the kitchen. Hey, we sleep with the cats every night, so I am sure in going to make coffee in the morning, I bring as much cat hair into the kitchen as they might.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            All this to say, I think staying safe in the kitchen is far easier than media would like us to believe. Don't be stupid. Take some care. Know what you know. Clean with good cleaning materials. Wash your hands.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Love eating your lovely homemade foods, and don't sweat it over much. :)

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. Oh what great topic!
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              I too must live in a Magic House.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Cat hair IS a condiment.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Anything that falls on the floor is fair game unless it has so much "condiment" sticking to it that its not worth taking the time to pick it all off. What's all this stuff about a 5 second rule? :-)))

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              I love what I cook, my husband loves what I cook. People rave about my food. I'm a foodie.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              I have yet to read all of this fun thread but I want to share a funny story. Funny to me anyway.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              We were having company over for a barbeque.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Some glasses of wine were consumed and by the time my husband took the sausages and steak off the barbeque he was well lubricated.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              SO lubricated that the entire plate of cooked meat accidentally fell into the recycling bin on the back deck which was half full of unwashed cans and possibly leaves or goodness knows what.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              So rather than have no meat for our dinner we quickly picked out the sausages and steak and placed them onto a new plate and said no more about it.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              We ate supper...it was delicious. All of it.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Nobody got sick.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Magic House? Or completely normal?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              7 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: Sparklebright

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Sam would have a sonrisa (smile) now.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Veggo

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    I wish I believed in an afterlife, because it pleases me to imagine Sam following this thread and both smiling and feeling honored at this ongoing tribute to his spirit.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Depends on what you call an "afterlife." If your essence reverberating among those who knew and loved you can be an "afterlife," Sam is with us still. And smiling! '-)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            I'm always happy to see this thread resurrected, 'cause I just imagine Sam smiling.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  2. Found this tread thanks to c oliver... It's a thread too good not to keep alive!
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Anyway, reading this reminded me of MFK Fisher. When I read her memoirs of France I'm always wondering how things don't spoil--she lived in places without fridges, left all sorts of cooked and raw food on counters and cupboards! (I guess that's how it was always done.)
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    I am a germaphobe and therefore I live in the scary, dark, contaminated universe Sam described... for the most part. I am vigilant about washing myself and surfaces, cooking food to the recommended temperatures, promptly refrigerating leftovers etc.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    I wasn't always this way. I put garlic cloves in my olive oil bottle and kept it on the counter, not knowing this posed a risk of botulism. I kept a package of chicken breast in my trash for a week until it smelled like a dead corpse. I ate week-old polenta that had turned moist and rosy at the center, and got a mild case of FP. I cooked a vegetable feast for friends and had a belly ache afterwards; the next day my friends wouldn't eat my homemade shortbread, so I'm pretty sure they also did... But none of this actually changed me. What turned me was hearing many scary stories... the girl who got paralyzed from E.Coli from a burger... a woman who lost her baby in the 19th week of pregnancy to Lysteria... and then learning how food is processed for sale...
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Now, I must say, I can't live without my food thermometer and antibacterial wipes...

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. I thought of Sam yesterday when I realized I'd never put the garlic shrimp "poke" I bought the day before in the fridge.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      I'm fairly cavalier about food safety, but cooked seafood sitting out for more then 24 hours is something I normally wouldn't take a risk on. But it had been in an insulated bag under an ice pack (which is why it hadn't been put away), and when I took it out, it smelled okay. In fact, it smelled delicious, with not even a whiff of a bad odor. So I tasted one and it tasted fine -- again, not even a hint of an off flavor. So rather than dump a pound of shrimp in the garbage, I ate some.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Eighteen hours later, and no ill effects. Thank you magic house!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      All that said, I wouldn't recommend that anyone else follow my lead, nor would I have taken the risk of serving it to anyone else!

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        I'm really not surprised that Sam is in our thoughts when we're in the kitchen. He was so right about so many things.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: Gio

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          I love it when a Sam thread gets resurrected. He was a unique voice on CH, one that will always be missed.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        2. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Sam was a wise and practical man who did not succumb to the popular and ignorant beliefs of others….which he battled with common sense and humor.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: fourunder

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            True enough! When Sam spoke, it seemed that everyone on CH listened. :-)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          2. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Last night's dinner was a clean out the fridge affair. As I was making tomato mozzarella quiche, I noticed the cheese I mixed in had a use by date of Jun 10.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            I thought for a minute and thought if it smells ok out of the oven, I'll eat it. It did, I did and had the leftovers for breakfast today.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            5 years ago, I would have thrown it. My standards are getting looser with age.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: cleobeach

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Good for you! Unless they've been contaminated by bacteria during manufacture (which means they're unsafe regardless of the "use by" date), cheeses are pretty safe.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                As I stared at the mixing bowl, I thought of my dear father, who never put his cheeses in the fridge. Granted, he cheeses were eaten in a matter of days.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                He would have been very proud of me.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Someone mentioned Central American in-laws leaving chicken stock (or was it soup?) on the stove for days and tamales sitting out equally as long.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                I listen to a podcast and the host talks about his (ex-) girlfriend and her Mexican family's belief that leftovers stored in the fridge were not safe to eat.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: cleobeach

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  It's quite possible that putting food in the fridge leads to a false sense of security and leaving things too long (rather than eating them immediately). My housemate, who was born in China, has what I think are very odd refrigeration habits: she'll leave cooked food out overnight, and she'll leave cooked rice in the rice cooker for days, but she puts things like opened packages of crackers or potato chips in the fridge.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    My husband (born and raised in India, as you know) thinks we're crazy to refrigerate eggs. And he's probably right....He also tends to leave cooked food out ("oh the spices will keep the bacteria away"). If I want it refrigerated I have to put it in myself. OTOH, I rarely eat leftovers more than two days old. They just don't appeal. DH, otoh, yesterday ate some cooked salmon that was 8 days old. yuck.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: janetofreno

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      I am used to eggs not being refrigerated from living in Germany. My mother, on the other hand, was raised on a commercial egg farm, would never in a million years leave eggs on the counter.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      My German father would eat almost anything. There was nothing too stale, too moldy (just cut it off) or a fruit or veggie too past it's prime. I swing the other way, a 3 day limit on leftovers.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    2. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      You can keep rice in the cooker if it's plugged in and warm. The heat kills the bacteria. Otherwise, it'll be bad in a day.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: wildgift

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        My housemate lives in my magic house -- her rice sits in the cooker -- unplugged -- for days. Which astonishes me because in my experience is like yours: rice will go bad pretty quickly.