#154 Flagrantly disregarding basic rules of food safety
submitted by Mia Ali
Your mother brought you up properly. You learned a thing or two in your Home Economics class at school. But so what if you are eating a whole tub of ice cream at 4am!
a) this is the first time there’s been ice cream in the shops for 2 months,
b) it cost you $20, and
c) your generator has just packed in.
Who cares if said ice cream has been defrosted and refrozen 16 times due to your dodgy power supply? What could possibly go wrong…?
In a throwback to your university days, the kitchen in your communal house is a disaster area. The presence of domestic staff has rendered you and your housemates incapable of doing even the simplest of chores. Your cleaner doesn’t come in at the weekends, so you use every single item of cutlery, crockery and cooking equipment in the house in your attempt to avoid washing up. By Sunday night, precariously balanced piles of dirty plates and pans sit in the sink, under a small cloud of hovering flies. The ants clean the plates while you eat your pizza with the one remaining spoon.
Emptying the rubbish bin is unthinkable. Instead, elaborate, jenga-esque towers of potato peelings, milk cartons and festering leftovers are carefully constructed. It’s an unspoken rule that if your addition makes the tower fall over, you have to clean it up. Heaven help you when there’s a bank holiday.
There is only one scouring pad, and it’s not replaced until it has become a small, diesel coloured rag with a strange, furry texture. It’s so dirty, even the e-coli that started breeding on it after the first month can’t survive. If you really thought about it, you could buy another one in the local shop for less than a dollar, but some strange compunction prevents you from buying domestic items. Surely it’s someone else’s job to buy cleaning supplies, light bulbs, toilet paper? On the rare occasion you do wash something up in the cold, brown water, it’s entirely possible that you’re actually making the item dirtier. The sole tea towel is so filthy that you tend to dry things on your t-shirt.
There is rotting fruit in the fridge, which no one throws out because they’re not sure who it belongs to. The fact that its owner probably wouldn’t want rotting fruit is neither here nor there – it’s just not the done thing to throw out someone else’s food. You consider “use by” dates to be more a guide than an instruction. However, you’re a bit more careful when cooking for friends, as nobody wants to be known as the person who started a giardia outbreak.
You and your colleagues think seriously about how best to adjust the “5-second rule” to suit your location. After careful deliberation, you decide that 3 seconds is the longest time you can leave a piece of food on the floor before it will be contaminated with germs. Never mind that the 5-second rule is bollocks in the first place. Doxycycline is your malaria prophylaxis of choice, because it’s mildly antibiotic properties compensate for a number of food safety sins. Such as eating reheated takeaway, the provenance of which was questionable when you first got it two days ago.
You find rats nesting in the oven, local cats rooting through your bin and ants in everything (you used to throw food out when the ants found it – now you just pick them out). You realise it’s time to go home when you feel relief that the critter scuttling out of your cupboard is a mouse, and not a cockroach. It’s all good. Console yourself with some crunchy ice cream.