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Trying to avoid food poisoning

A couple of my parents' close friends have extended me a dinner invitation to their house. Now my mother tells me that the hostess makes no secret of the fact that she cooks everything the day before and leaves the dishes out, unrefrigerated, so that she doesn't have to heat things up again before dinner. Ick. Double ick.There is seriously no way I'm eating that. I know that if I eat beforehand and/or eat only uncooked foods that she will be highly offended. I can hopefully plead illness to get out of this dinner but what happens if she extends another, and another, and another invitation? My mother refuses to say a word to her friend and won't hear of me telling her a watered-down version of the truth. She says to just go and eat normally because no one has gotten sick yet, but really...

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  1. I'd have other plans that night. And the next. And the next.


    But I'd invite these friends of my parents over to my house, when I could make sure the health benefits of Twenty-First Century appliances were taken advantage of.

    1. ok, Im going to be pragmatic here.......its one day. its safe as long as it was safe when it was prepared and she doesnt live in a giant bacteria incubator. Havent you ever eaten pizza that got left out over night(that pretty much sums up my college breakfast/lunch's). Honest to god, you stand a magnitudes higher chance of getting sick at McD's.

      Now, if the food is left out AND bad, well im with you on going AWOL!

      6 Replies
      1. re: nkeane

        I was under the impression that food that wasn't refrigerated soon after cooking was a bacterial breeding ground. Or is that not the case? Btw, no, haven't eaten anything left out overnight that shouldn't have been and also don't eat at McD's or equivalent (have enough digestive problems on my own without them, thanks). But, seriously, isn't unrefrigerated food unsafe to eat or am I really overreacting?

        1. re: Jasz

          Yes. but you need to have a starting source of bacteria. You need to introduce the bacteria by touching the food with fecal contaminated hands (from an infected person), mixing in some rotting food, sprinkling some juices from a raw contaminated chicken on the cooled food, or sprinkling on disease spores from the CDC, that sort of thing.

          1. re: Sam Fujisaka

            I hadn't thought of that. I was always under the impression (from my mother ironically enough) that just having the food standing out without refrigeration was enough to make it go bad.

            1. re: Jasz

              Jasz, that is simply not true and I'm now really worried about you. You need to have a talk with your mom. Why would she misinform you, then - knowing what she had told you - tell you that her friends leave their food out, and then have you go with them to eat just such food?

              1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                I'm sure she truly believes that to be the case. She refrigerates pretty much *everything* and throws tons of perfectly good food away "just in case." I don't know, maybe it's cultural, maybe generational.

                As to telling me about her friend, it just came up as we were talking about food prep for parties and I mentioned how difficult it was to time everything just so. And as to her not worrying about eating there, I guess other people's houses are just magically safe. Yeah, I don't get it either but she's 76 so I'm not about to be changing her opinion on much at this point and have learned not to even try with many things.

                So could you educate *me* further on food safety, etc. A website to look at would be really helpful.

      2. Nope, jfood is not eating it. I would go and enjoy the company and leave the food o the plate. And feedback will die down in a couple of days and a new invite will not be in the mail.

        6 Replies
        1. re: jfood

          Everyone knows what I might say, but I'm going to slightly surprise you. I wouldn't want to eat there either. I've had enough room temperature food (rtf) in parts of SE Asia. I've never gotten sick from rtf, but it just doesn't taste as good as foods cooked timed to serving, with hot foods hot and cold foods cold. As with most all of the hounds, my cultural orientation is to put a lot of effort into coordinating the cooking of dishes to coincide exactly with serving.

          1. re: Sam Fujisaka

            Oh great, now jfood has to find another person for the dumpster. Sometimes the world just gets out of sync. :-))

            1. re: jfood

              You've never seen my little stove hidden behind the dumpster?

              1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                good news sammy. both propane tanks filled on saturday so there is plenty of fuel for you.

                Happy new year

            2. re: Sam Fujisaka

              Yes! That would be my objection. It actually surprises me that someone who thinks about food preparation as such a burden would even bother to hold a dinner party.

              My husband and I disagree on this - he can eat pretty much anything at room temperature, while I think hot and cold foods at room temperature taste pretty mediocre. He did grow up in Mexico, and his mother still leaves food out for days (no way she could ever fit her huge pozole pot into the refrigerator!), so perhaps he is just accustomed to it. Thankfully, they now have a microwave, so they reheat for the gringa!

              1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                Oh but Sam! Hot foods hot, cold foods cold, and for the room temp ones? Room temp!!! Salad, fried chicken (yes, I like it better RT, so sue me :), cheese, pâté, beans in oil ...

                Feigned horror aside, I'd avoid that place, too. I firmly believe in balancing risk vs reward in eating ... and I think the slight risk (not fresh from the autoclave?) would overwhelm the "reward" here, much in the same way as oysters shucked yesterday served RT in day-old mayo-sauce would, even if served by a VERY good friend.

            3. You are in the fortunate position that these are your parents' friends, not yours. I say, beg off with some excuse, and hope the invitation isn't reissued. If you think it might come, have a handbag full of ready excuses (and don't fall for the "what are you doing Saturday night?" ruse until you know why they are asking!).

              1. Food is for enjoyment (and sustenance), and if neither will happen (ie the porcelain god will instead be sustained), don't bother.

                You're an adult--you don't have to attend the dinner with your parents. If you must go, stay for cocktails and then have other plans. If the invitation reappears, kindly decline.

                There are countless of reasons someone would not want to be dining with their parents at their parents friend's house for dinner with them, and unless you're cynical and getting something from the host in a selfish way--a better job, a place in the will, the perfect partner, invitation to a club...well, then the food doesn't really matter, does it?

                (I love having dinner with my family, but parents+their friends? Generally awkward and uncomfortable, particularly before I was married)

                3 Replies
                1. re: Caralien

                  Guess I should have said "friends of the family" rather than parents' friends although I think of them like that because of their ages and since they have daughters my age. It's also a special occasion, equivalent to a birthday in Greek culture, rather than "just a dinner."

                  It just seems like it would mean a lot to my parents if I went and they don't seem to understand my revolution at the way the food is served (It also doesn't taste very good room temp but that's rather beside the point).

                  1. re: Jasz

                    since it's a family event I would go and not eat the questionable stuff. I agree with most here, it would turn my stomach just thinking about eating stuff that had sat out overnight. I'd eat some bread, some green salad-- hey cheese is ok right? Just say you must be "coming down with something and don't have much of an appetite"

                    1. re: Jasz

                      It seems like you must go, so make the most of it. Have some ginger prior to going as it will settle your stomach.

                      Eat what you can, keep an ample supply of napkins, play with the food on your plate, enjoy the wine, olives, and company.

                  2. Both from what I've read and what I've experienced, most food poisoning is not from home-cooked food eaten at someone's house. I used to stay with an elderly friend whose kitchen practices left a lot to be desired (e.g. cross-contamination of raw chicken) but I was never ill in the slightest.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Fida

                      Fida, you don't seriously believe that food contamination is a matter of geography, do you? Bacteria will grown at your house, my house, the op's parent's friend's house and at your elderly friends house just as easily as it will at a restaurant or cafeteria.

                      I say eww, thanks but no thanks!

                    2. Pull a Nancy Reagan. Just say No. Over and over again.

                      Are you kidding me? Do you parents eat there? Are they crazy?

                      1. Your mother has a role here. For some reason, she decided to shed light on the truth here. But she wants you to pretend as if she did not.


                        I will repeat what I've said on the thread about ill-hostesses: when a host creates an atmosphere where a reasonable guest is worried for his or her own health, that host has fundamentally abdicated the role of host and guests are relieved of their social obligations to the host to attend.

                        So many people these days do not understand the roles of hosts and guests. That failure is what's behind so many frustrating situations described on these boards.

                        1. Either go to the party or don't go - it is not your business to tell other people how you believe food should be prepared or what behavior is appropriate as a host.

                          If you go - eat before and nibble on a few other things, they probably won't say anything and if you're lucky, they probably won't even notice.

                          1. ??? Is the hostess any more interested in or concientious about "contamination" than she is any other work.Her plans already warp final quality.She gets to eat whatever she wants.However to lower the bar so greatly for "guests" seems oxymoronic .A gap in sincere hospitality maybe.

                            1. One sentence - 'no thank you, I have a prior engagement'. I'm sure I've eaten stuff with dubious food hygeine before, but I just couldn't bring myself to do it knowingly no matter WHO was responsible!

                              1. I've pretty much decided to do as DGresh suggested: go, eat what's safe (salad, bread, fruit) and say I'm having "tummy troubles." Thanks everyone for all the replies/advice/suggestions/thoughts.

                                7 Replies
                                1. re: Jasz

                                  The salad and fruit are equally (un) likely to cause you problems as the pre-cooked food.

                                  1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                    She doesn't premake the salad and the fruit isn't cut up. Anyway, you're probably right, Sam and the precooked stuff may cause no problems at all but I just couldn't bring myself to eat it and, as said before, I already have enough digestive problems.

                                    1. re: Jasz

                                      Well, in that case, please just try to do the best you can without eating anything that would make you feel uncomfortable! Do eat the fruit and salad! Best for you anyway. Throw in your part of good company and conversation and they won't notice what you eat! After all your Mom's friend can't be that attached to her food and the reaction of her guests if she puts out food cooked yesterday! Hoping for the best!

                                      1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                        And tell the hostess you are saving room for the cake, or whatever the Greek sweet at the end will be. Surely even jfood will accept that it is OK to keep cake at room temperature???

                                        1. re: johnb

                                          wait, its ok to keep cake at RT but not a potato?

                                          seriously folks, doesnt anyone see the incongruities here?

                                          1. re: johnb

                                            Cake is better left on the counter. Jfood raises both paws.

                                            Sorry Sam, there has NEVER been a cake that came near the dumpster.

                                            1. re: jfood

                                              lots of things are better left on the counter! thats what I am saying........

                                              I am completely befuddled by all the ChickenLittle hysterionics going on about this!?

                                  2. Yeouch. No way am I eating anything from that kitchen. The hostess' food safety practices are definitely risky. In an perfect world, you wouldn't get sick from the precooked food just because it's been left out. However, I doubt that someone who puts so little concern into basic food handling practices when it comes to storage pays much attention to hand washing, cross-contamination issues and safe cooking temperatures either.

                                    If she is cooking chicken or ground beef, for instance, there's a an issue with potential cross contamination. There's also a potential issue with cooking temperature: does she cook her chicken to her high enough temp to kill off salmonella or e coli? If not, the room temp storage creates a ideal breeding ground.

                                    It's estimated that over 30% of food poisoning cases occur in home kitchens. Home kitchens are not immune from bacteria.

                                    I am not a food safety crank (I eat my burgers med rare, like sushi, etc.) but there are some basics that are no deal issues for me: storage temperature, cross contamination and general cleanliness.

                                    A great site for basic food safety issues is: http://www.homefoodsafety.org. It's run by the American Dietetic Association.

                                    Food should be held at lower than 40 degrees, or higher than 140 degrees (in a warmer, crockpot or oven). In ServSafe (food safety cert for food handlers) you learn about The Danger Zone. That zone is the range from 40 to 140. In a restaurant, food left in TDZ for longer than four hours must be thrown out. Certain foods like bread, undressed salad, uncut fruit are exempt from TDZ regs.

                                    1. I thnk if your mother and her are good friends then you mother should be able to tell her.
                                      else what are friends for

                                      I would never go....never ..I saw a member of my family leave the turkey out after cooking it
                                      and I mentioned it to them. They brushed me off but at least I said something..Heck why
                                      should the next person to come over eat that and get sick..has anyone ever had food poisoning. it is not a joke and not to be mean but the people who leave out food should see what actually happens when a person is sick from their left out food...

                                      1. They had it catered! Yay! I guess the hostess got tired of making lavish (although unpalatable imho) spreads.

                                        2 Replies
                                        1. re: Jasz

                                          Makes sense,goes well with "where is the hospitality" PROBLEM SOLVED

                                          1. re: Jasz

                                            Wonderful! Let's hope the hostess enjoyed it so much that she continues to cater in the future!

                                          2. in many places food is not eaten hot and fresh all the time. greece jumps to mind. a lot of greek food is served room temp or slightly warm, after sitting out. no real problems

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: thew

                                              Not in my parents' house. They want their food HOT. And my aunts back in Greece generally serve straight from the oven/pot.