There are a few things that we want to talk about here that we all know, but about which, as time passes, we become casual. Casual is good as it is a by-product of experience and experience is what we all want to acquire. We just don’t want to let ourselves become too casual and develop habits that will eventually cause trouble.
The first thing we’ll address is cleanliness. We know there are lots and lots of ways of saying this but we’re going to twist the old “You can’t be too _____ or too rich” cliche to say, that when it comes to your kitchen, “You can’t be too clean or too rich”. We don’t mean to encourage you to be paranoid or obsessed. We’re simply reminding us ALL to give a little more thought to how we go about what we do around food.
- Wash your hands, especially after handling raw proteins. Do it often and pay attention to what you’re handling and wash when you contact anything that could spread germs. Wash with soap and warm water and sing Happy Birthday to ME through once while doing so. (You don’t have to sing out loud unless you want.)
- Scrub your sinks (don’t for get the strainers and stoppers and that rubber guard that keeps utensils out of the garbage disposal. It is removable on most disposals and can go into the dishwasher as can the strainers and stoppers.)
- Clean your counter tops, at least once a day, not just of crumbs and noticeable debris, but wash with a cloth, hot soapy water with a little bleach in it, wipe off the knobs and handles of cabinets, pantry, oven and fridge doors with that hot water solution. Don’t forget to clean the outside lip of your counter tops. We’ve seen some kitchens that had enough stuff stuck to the counter edges to scrape off and make a whole meal! (That’s meant as a lol statement so, don’t take it too seriously. We’re not really thinking in terms of being judgmental).
- Wash your fridge shelves and drawers on a routine basis, and the canisters you store food in. Wipe off oil bottles, salt containers, etc with germ killing soap and hot water on a regular schedule. Wash your can openers.
- We all get pretty relaxed in our own homes after a while and are put off about the “work” involved with all the above cleaning, but if you do it routinely, a little each day, it doesn’t mount to the real exhausting elbow grease it takes to get it done after these things build up.
Now about the food!
Don’t let refrigerated food stay out of the refrigerator for long periods of time. I know (we all know) the published limit for having food unrefrigerated, but think of it this way:
Food is expensive. Refrigerated food needs to be kept at cold at all times for your protection. If you want your cheese, deli meat, dairy foods, meats and leftovers to last for the longest possible time and remain wholesome, 34-36° F is ideal. If you are making a sandwich from deli meat and sliced cheese it should only take you a few minutes to make that sandwich, even if you’re putting ten ingredients on it. Put those ingredients away before you eat that sandwich. Refrigerator items will remain fresh for days longer if you don’t allow them to get warmevery time you take them out of the fridge. Not only that, but your sandwich will taste so much better if you know you don’t have a big cleanup job after you’re finished eating. You can then linger over the food you’ve worked so hard to prepare and savor every bite.
Technical Note: Refrigerate food below 36°F/but not below 33°F and never above 38° for maximum storage and protection. Frozen foods must be kept frozen (32° F and under).
Serve food that is supposed to be eaten hot, hot! Some food-borne illness happens because of eating perfectly good food that is supposed to be heated, cold. Prepared meats (wieners, cooked sausages, etc are among these foods and are some of the ones most often eaten cold). Don’t do it. It’s not worth the risk and the risk is high to young children, older people and people with compromised immune systems. The minimum temperature for hot food holding is 140° F.*
*Some foods cooked rare may be below this temperature and are considered risky.
CRITICALLY IMPORTANT INFORMATION: WHEN YOU ARE ILLWITH COLDS AND VIRUSES, STAY AWAY FROM THE GROCERY STORE. SERIOUS ILLNESS IS SPREAD BY FOOD CONTAMINATION UNDER THESE CIRCUMSTANCES. THE EXACT PERCENTAGE OF SUCH ILLNESS IS CURRENTLY UNKNOWN, BUT IS KNOWN TO BE EXTREMELY HIGH. Doubly important: DON’T BRING SICK CHILDREN SHOPPING, not only will you spread illness but in the case of ill children, you further expose them to a perhaps more serious illness at a time when their immune systems are compromised and they are least able to fight off exposures to other germs. Ask for help from family, friends or neighbors. If you are unable to do that, phone the Social Worker at your local hospital or health department and ask for help or for a referral to existing services. You’ll find what you need and your responsible behavior will be appreciated by everyone.
That’s more than enough refreshers for today, actually probably for sometime to come, but after a difficult winter and the disasters and illness we have all experienced this year, we felt it couldn’t hurt to just brush up on the basics for no better purpose than a happier, healthier Spring and Summer, and heaven willing, Fall and Winter yet to come.
Thanks for coming. Love you all!
©Barbara A. Ziegler/BAPantryGourmet.com 2013