Is It Just Me?

I’ve been thinking about this for quite a while, and figured I’d ask “Is it just me?…What would you do?”

Let’s say you’ve been invited to someone’s house for dinner. Yum.

You arrive and they’re preparing the food. There’s piles of fresh produce and meat on the counter, ready to be whipped up into something magical and tasty. Vibrant tomatoes, leafy greens, juicy meat ready to be roasted….hmmmm.
Can you practically taste it?

As you sip your glass of red wine, you watch and chat with your host as they prepare dinner.
They wash the raw chicken or pork under running water in the kitchen sink. Afterwards a quick wipe their hands (uh oh, you begin to think…no soap!…not to mention they’re going to use that kitchen towel again and again and again…).
Then they fill the sink with water to wash the lettuce…without cleaning it out!


Or what if they’re making a salad, and take the knife they’ve just used to cut up the uncooked pork sausage?
Without wiping the knife, they begin slicing the cucumbers and tomatoes for the salad, tossing it all together, then triumphantly setting it down on the table.
I mean, Hello?

Since you’re a extremely polite and gracious guest, like I am, (and believe me, no one’s allergic to lettuce or cucumbers…so forget that one.)
I mean, it’s not like you can just eat around the salmonella, can you?

…what do you do?


  • August 25, 2005 8:09am

    What I would do? Wish I had not seen that and go to the living room :-)

  • August 25, 2005 8:19am

    I guess the best thing would be to arrive late or stay out of the kitchen during prep.

  • olivier
    August 25, 2005 8:36am

    serve yourself another glass of wine …

  • August 25, 2005 9:49am

    You’re being a bit to fussy!

  • August 25, 2005 10:08am

    play pretend that i haven’t seen any of that…

  • Regina
    August 25, 2005 10:14am

    Offer to help and clean the sink out yourself and then ask for the soap for your hands.

  • August 25, 2005 1:17pm

    Wine’s not strong enough. Offer to make pre-dinner martinis.

  • August 25, 2005 2:30pm

    ICK is right! No wonder I mostly eat at home. . . : )

    I thought the “serve yourself another glass of wine” was the best response until I got to the martini one. . . Really, I don’t know what I would have done. I think I might have developed some allergies real fast–even if they didn’t sound believable. Or tell myself that my foodie friends would at least have bought quality meat with a very low risk of salmonella.

    And you can hope the cooks in question read this post! : )

  • August 25, 2005 2:51pm

    I have to admit that the ONLY thing that skeeves me out is poultry — pork, beef, fish… I don’t really care too much about those. Rickettsia is pretty much a non-issue these days (in the US pork population, at least) and I figure I eat beef and fish raw regularly so…

    That said, I’d ask to help, and wash up before doing whatever.

    Of course, I’m pretty oblivious, so assuming I’d notice this stuff to begin with is giving me rather too much credit.

  • Rich
    August 25, 2005 3:40pm

    No self respecting foody should be so ignorant. You say the ingredients looked great, so obviously this person has some knowledge of good cuisine. They MUST have watched the Food Network at some point in their lives. Either way, this is just basic hygeine.

    If it were me, I would have said something politely:

    “You don’t wash your hands after working with meat? Wow. I always do. Better safe than sorry.”


    “Are you sure you don’t need any help? I can clean out the meat coated sink for you if you like?”

  • John
    August 25, 2005 3:47pm

    If you are not prepared to speak up to your host about his/her lack of care and cleanliness then, never accept another invitation to lunch or dine at that house again! Tough, but necessary – why should you risk serious illness just for the sake of friendship?

  • August 25, 2005 8:23pm

    Everything in life is a risk, isn’t it? I would probably decide that I’d rather risk being sick and still have friends than be healthy without them. I mean, considering that you’d be in the doctor’s office at the first twinge of salmonella, chances are you wouldn’t be out of commission for too long… And next time, invite them to your place!

  • Siam
    August 26, 2005 1:15am

    What would I do? I’d eat it without giving a second thought, like I’ve done for more than a year, without any health problems and with lots of good times with my generous hosts.

    Yes – I think it’s just you, Dave.

  • August 26, 2005 1:45am

    I worked for a chef who didn’t ice down ANYTHING. His prep crew spattered blood from large pieces of dead mammals all over a butcher block table and then moved onto fish. When I challenged these practices he said, “You know not every kitchen is as clean as a laboratory like The French Laundry! In my country we butcher live animals in the street.”
    It did give me some perspective.
    Although in this particualr case I might insert my opinion about soap.

  • Hande
    August 26, 2005 3:44am

    In the two cases you point out, the sink and the knife, I for myself would (and do!) as you imply, that is, wash the sink before lettuce and wipe the knife before cucumber. Wash hands with soap after handling meat? Only when i am done with cooking, not as an in-between step.
    What I would do when I am at friends? Say nothing, nip my wine. As other commenters pointed out, have been living like this for a long time (and even worse in other countries), just enjoy and don’t worry too much. But my worrilessness has limits as well, just way further. So in short: it is not just you, but you could relax a bit.

  • Alisa
    August 26, 2005 6:23am

    Your description of this experience, is NOT how I behave in my kitchen AT ALL. However my cleaning rituals (which would make you proud) do come from the fear mongering, and often exaggerated collected american psyche, which has implanted somewhere in the back of their thought process, “oh shit, if I don’t, I could get sued”. As clean as I am, and hope that everyone else is, I know that these standards are not kept up in many homes, restaurants and different cultures. Please no one be offended…..but for example, many cultures, and their restaurants around the world just don’t do it like “us”, and I happily eat there, and never get sick.

  • August 26, 2005 6:53am

    *grins* Well you’ve got a few options.

    1) Call Fido or Fluffy and point them in the direction of the salad when your host/hostess is otherwise disposed. Few will serve a salad course that’s been started by the family pet, however worshipped;

    2) Offer to carry the salad bowl to the table, trip, and spill into the sink. Apologize profusely and offer to make a new one, since this one you have obviously ‘ruined’;

    3) Load up on bread and butter, ignore the salad, and joke about standing up for anti-dieters everywhere;

    4) Bring your own salad course as your gift to parties (rather than a bottle of wine or a loaf of bread or a chocolate dessert);

    or (and this is my personal favorite among friends)

    4) Be honest. Your position as a chef has got to lend you, to steal from the Amateur Gourmet, some street cred’. Be gentle and explain to your friend that you noticed that they didn’t wash the knife after handling the raw meat, that you’re concerned for salmonella, and explain proper cross-contamination avoidance techniques.

    It’s not just you that wants to be healthy, afterall. :)

  • emi
    August 26, 2005 12:39pm

    exactly! Good advise Sarah.

  • mindy
    August 27, 2005 1:39pm

    don’t eat the salad is a given!…offering uninvited advice can be touchy, depending on the cook :)! i feel your pain! been there and probably will be again, since my mother-in-law is the main offender. (i’ve been known to wipe her counters with clorox when she isn’t looking)

  • August 28, 2005 1:20pm

    oh wow! this is right up my alley, having been poisoned both by campylobacter and something else that was growing in room-temperature meatloaf. ugh. here’s what i do now: drink lots of white wine! and here’s why:,1145,1881,00.html

  • Valerie
    August 28, 2005 4:32pm

    In France now for years and years, I have seen many such forgotten rules of basic hygiene as meals are being prepared. One set of friends, in particular, are on our list of people we will go out to dinner with, will invite to our place, but will avoid in any way possible when an invitation to eat at theirs is proferred.

    I once saw them put a frozen veal roast into a pot of simmering cider and then throw in a few vegetables that had been cut up but never washed. That was a difficult meal to get through.

    After the meal, I jumped up saying I would make the coffee, dug out the bleach from under the sink and washed the coffee machine thoroughly before making the coffee. I drank the coffee with a serene mind. Thankfully, no one walked in on me as I scrubbed.

    Bringing up the ? of hygiene with a host here in France is just not done. So, next invitation, suggest that new restaurant XYZ that you’ve just been dying to try…


  • August 29, 2005 4:05pm

    This has certainly been enlightening…and interesting.
    Will post Part II of this question shortly, thanks for taking the time to respond.

    In the meantime, get out your Mr. Clean and clean those sinks!

    …and clean those countertops while you’re at it…check it out here!


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