Surviving Sanitation

Two weeks ago, I started two new culinary adventures equivalent to taking a trip to Antarctica and Tahiti at the same time. One might go to Antarctica for scientific pursuits, but Tahiti is the balmy antithesis. I am so glad I found an unexpected way to enjoy both trips simultaneously.

On Tuesday, I started my very first class in the culinary program at a local community college.  (Antarctica) Unfortunately, it’s probably the only class in the program that makes you not want to eat or cook, possibly ever again. It’s the safety and sanitation class.

Bacteria, viruses, and parasites can lurk in everything from meat, to produce, to pasta or rice. Yes, that’s right. Nothing and I mean nothing is completely safe. Are there simple ways of reducing your risk? Absolutely. But can you reduce your risk entirely? Probably not without spending hours duplicating a pricey science lab protocol in your kitchen.

So how can you eat, or responsibly feed your children in a sanitation-obsessed country where food-borne illnesses are on the rise? Without going completely overboard? I think the answer lies in striking a balance between awareness, and blind faith. Washing your hands before handling food, keeping foods at the proper temperature, and avoiding cross contamination of raw and cooked foods can prevent most illnesses.

And yet, the human race has survived for eons without any knowledge of e coli strains or salmonella. Our immune systems are rather incredible. Generations-old recipes for prosciutto are not considered “safe” by the FDA, yet people have enjoyed it, and lived to enjoy it again for centuries.

The same week I started my sanitation class, I stumbled upon my Tahiti at Newsbeat. While hunting for a calendar, I found something I believe will get me through this year even better than twelve months of palm trees pictures. Alimentum; The Literature of Food is a literary journal that is not just about food because food is not just what you eat to survive. Food is culture. What and how we eat defines who we are.

Why oh why did no one tell me that my two favorite things to do are celebrated every winter and summer in the same binding? Obviously, the word needs to be spread (like a good virus).

The 5th Anniversary Issue, Issue Eleven serves up edible fiction, non-fiction, and poetry. The short story by Ann Barry Burrows, Long At Table, alone is worth the price of admission, and the very thought of recipe poems may change my cooking and writing life forever. Ordering back issues of Alimentum will be absolutely essential to sustain me through this sanitary semester.

I think it’s safe to say that after these next few months, the world in which I eat will never again be the same. Alimentum and my breakfast this morning inspired this, my first foodie poem for your eating pleasure:

Food Memories

Food memories live longer
are sunken deeper
than a picture
or a thousand truffles

Soft boiled eggs and buttered toast
are my dad
biscuits with sausage gravy,
Grandma Faye
homemade mac & cheese,
that’s my mom
in all her Walton’s glory

They live
in the soft spot
under your ear, behind your jaw
and in the passages
of your nose

They warm your insides
steam up your windows
hug your throat
and tell you not
to forget your raincoat



Filed under Cookbooks and other Book Reviews

2 responses to “Surviving Sanitation

  1. Love your poem!!!! I’m glad you are enjoying your book.

    Sanitation class? Wow, that would be very interesting. I’m the psycho who has to put dairy and egg products back in the fridge after 20 minutes if no one is using them. Brandon thinks I’m neurotic, I’m just trying not to kill my family 🙂

    • Thank you Kori! I’m a little worried about the damage the class will do to my psyche 🙂 I’m the same way with putting stuff back in the fridge, but in taking this class I don’t think that’s neurotic anymore. You get 4 hours from the time the chicken lays the egg, the cow is milked, etc. before the food becomes a friendly environment for bacteria. That includes packaging, delivery, grocery cart, waiting to be cooked, etc. Those 20 mins add up fast! On the other hand, the really, really bad things that make you sick are not terribly common.

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