Category: Food Safety

Home Dishwashing: A Standard Operating Procedure

“What do you mean … I have to put dinner away when I do dishes? That’s can’t be an ‘implied’ rule, I don’t see that written down anywhere.”

And the pot containing cooked No. 3 spaghetti noodles mixed with sauce sat on the clean stove. The rest of the dishes were washed and air-drying while the former Marine just stood there with a smirk on his face.

Really?? Oh, he ain’t gonna like me …

I’m a rather fair technical writer. I wrote early video editing manuals at DeVry in 1985, then a few extremely detailed NAVAIR calibration procedures while in the Navy before moving on to assisting in the technical editing and some authoring of Microsoft Access and Visual Basic programming books for Wrox Press. So I can write me some techie stuff.

What’s he’d inadvertantly triggered was a Standard Operating Procedure for dishwashing at home. It took a few hours to nail down this morning based on what I’ve bitc … er … complained about in the past. But I do believe it’s all there. If not, there shall be revisions.

last updated June 30, 2014

1. Dishes should be washed each evening. 48 hours from the last washing is an outside time limit to prevent insect infestations, odors, and other issues.
2. Collect all dirty dishes from the living room and bedrooms. Stack dishes to the right of the sink. (If stacking also on the rangetop, first ensure the elements are turned off and cool to touch.)
3. Put the previous meal away, throwing away food as needed (i.e., if the food will not store well, such as cooked pasta without sauce). Ensure there are no open containers in the refrigerator. If there are, fix the problem as needed, asking for recommendations if necessary.
4. Put away the clean dishes from the last washing, stacking largest on the bottom to smallest on top, keeping pieces together, such as lids to travel mugs, grease catcher in the electric griddle, etc. If you don’t know where something goes or how it’s stored, ask.
5. Change the drying cloths, the wash cloth and scrubbing sponge you’ll be using, and any drying towels, putting the older ones in the laundry.
6. Clean the sink bowls with hottest possible water to touch, and dish soap if necessary.
7. Stop the right sink, add hottest possible water to touch till 2″ from the top (deep wash water distributes foodstuffs better), adding 2 tablespoons dishsoap halfway through.
8. Wash the drain rack and its drain surface in the right sink first, along with the counter underneath, rinsing the drain rack and its surface in the left sink under hottest possible running water to touch.
9. Wash dishes individually in the right sink, checking all surfaces, soaking only when necessary.
10. Check the inside of the microwave and wash the glass plate if necessary.
11. Rinse dishes in the left sink under hottest possible running water to touch.
12. Stack rinsed dishes in a safe manner, keeping pieces together, such as lids to travel mugs, grease catcher in the electric griddle, etc.
13. While washing, if more room is needed to continue stacking dishes in a safe manner in the dish drainer and on the drying towel space, towel-dry and put away the clean dishes, stacking largest on the bottom to smallest on top, keeping pieces together, such as lids to travel mugs, grease catcher in the electric griddle, etc. If you don’t know where something goes or how it’s stored, ask.
14. While final dishes are soaking in hot soapy water, clean the inside of the microwave (including the ceiling and carousel), rinsing with a hot and wet dishcloth that’s been rinsed of dishsoap. Reassemble the microwave with the glass plate and carousel and close the door.
15. Clean the rangetop with hot soapy water, rinsing with a hot and wet dishcloth that’s been rinsed of dishsoap. This includes lifting the elements (first ensure they’re turned off and cool to touch) and cleaning the drip bowls.
16. Clean all counters and backsplashes with hot soapy water, rinsing with a hot and wet dishcloth that’s been rinsed of dishsoap, including under appliances, cutting boards, etc., and corners.
17. Clean the table with hot soapy water, rinsing with a hot and wet dishcloth that’s been rinsed of dishsoap.
18. Finish washing, rinsing and stacking any dishes left to soak. NOTE: There should be zero dishes left soaking at this point.
19. Drain both sink bowls, putting rinsed and clean drain stops upside down on the back of the sink top. Clean the sink bowls, faucet and faucet area with hottest possible water to touch, and dish soap if necessary, rinsing with a hot and wet dishcloth that’s been rinsed of dishsoap.
20. Rinse dishcloths and scrubbing sponges in running hottest possible water. Wring out and lay out dishcloths to dry. Wring out scrubbing sponges and place on the back of the sink top next to the clean drain stops.
21. If the Keurig was unplugged, plug it in and turn it on. Ensure water tank is filled to the Fill line, and if it isn’t, fill it and reattach it to the Keurig with the lid on correctly.
22. Take the garbage out (including items next to the trash can, and any trash in the bathroom trash basket). Put a new trash bag in the trash can correctly for use and place the lid correctly.

Me: Well, whadaya think?
Ryan: I’m still reading …
Me: You hate me, don’t you?
Ryan: I’m still reading …

Yeah, they don’t like very much, do they? Meanwhile, Mary and I are still laughing.

Twelve Food-Related Statements That Need To Be Banned

Adam at age 15 with some camp cooking equipment from the 1950s. People in the U.S. today would likely be extremely squeamish about eating food prepared with these.

When it comes to food, I don’t really like “top-ten” or “top-one-hundred” or any other kind of similar lists. Those lists are very dependant on the taste buds of the voting majority, their culture and history, where and how they grew up, even what kind of mood they’re in or whether or not they have a cold when they eat whatever they’re voting on. But at the same time, there are things I constantly … constantly … hear regarding foods of various kinds, statements that burn my biscuits so bad, my biscuits turn into hockey pucks.

I’ve been working in the foodservice industry off-and-on since the summer of 1979. Most of the statements in the list below have only really shown up in the past ten years or so. It seems people in the U.S. are just getting snarkier, more arrogant about their own feelings about various foods and other people, and decidedly less informed about what real food is and how to enjoy it. I’m definitely of the opinion that it’s the demise of the formerly ubiquitous “home economics” courses in public schools, along with less knowledge of farming and animal husbandry and butchering, that’s contributing to this overall ignorance. This type of education needs to make a comeback, and fast, before we end up as a nation of “food ignoramusses” with no knowledge of those subjects whatsoever.

When it comes to this list, you will never hear me say these things, and if you say them in my presence I might just have to call you on the carpet for it. Ok, so there are two on this list that I used to say … but I won’t any longer … seriously, my daughter will make sure of that … Frankly, if you want to be snarky about food, especially if you open your mouth with any of these and haven’t thought it through, you have a lot to learn. Here are your hard lessons …

12) “I never use canned ingredients … Don’t you dare ever make me anything out of a box.”

Really? If that’s an absolute, I want to see the cow you’re getting your milk from, the backyard chickens giving you your eggs every day, the garden with all your veggies, the bread you’ve got proofing somewhere, your butchering shed … If you’re in the U.S., this ain’t likely. Sure, there are a lot of overly-processed foods out there, but there are certainly some things you’re going to need to use in today’s busy world. Frozen phyllo dough in your baklava, packaged peas for that potato salad, that steel-cut Irish oatmeal that’s just so comforting in the morning … even the good Pepperidge Farm stuffing mix, prepped correctly, with the onions and celery sautéed in butter, and the chicken stock added. Yes, you can be particular about your canned and boxed foods, there are some decent ones out there, and to completely draw a line like that is rather unrealistic. Get your head out of your can and go get some good Kosher pickle spears to roll up in that thinly-sliced ribeye with the layer of German mustard out of a jar before slow-roasting it in that freshly-made gravy.

(The image: Margaret Rudkin was the founder of Pepperidge Farm, and was author of the Pepperidge Farm Cookbook. She developed the first packaged stuffing mix, the Sage & Onion, based on her grandmother’s recipe, which is in the book.)

11) “You’re going to eat some real food, not junk.”

If you’re taking your kids out somewhere and you say this to them, you’re some kind of stick-in-the-mud. If you’re saying this while you’re on any kind of day trip or vacation with them, you should facepalm yourself. Say it to your spouse at any time, and you should go see a proctologist about your Serial Buttholiness. Get the kids a grilled cheese sandwich, let them have ice cream first, it won’t kill them or you … if they’re asking for a bag of chips, maybe wandering Disney all day has dehydrated them a bit and their body is telling them they need salt …

And if the spouse wants the 16 oz T-bone with baked potato and sour cream, maybe look the dish over when it arrives and consider learning how to grill steak like that at home for a special occasion. Learn how to have fun on trips of any duration, and include the food in that fun. It’s good for relationships of any kind.

(The image: A handmade corndog from the Rock & Roll Café, one of the better food trucks in southeastern Michigan. They also offer an amazing half-pound sirloin burger topped with grilled peppers and onions.)

10) “That’s not how I make it … That’s not how my Grandma made it.”

And you didn’t bring me any? How rude is that???

Seriously, let’s talk about hot dogs and Chinese food.

It stands to reason that you will like the foods you grew up with. Regional, cultural, religious and family-specific preferences will always be a factor in what kind of foods you will enjoy or even prefer. In early 2012 journalists from MLive put together what they called the Michigan Coney Dog Project, resulting in what they determined to be Michigan’s Top 10 Coney Dogs. That they put the Flint Style Coney further down on the list (at position #4) than the Detroit Style Coney (at positions #1 and #2) is not at all surprising since only one of their members is from Flint. That “Coney Detroit” co-author Joe Grimm was along for the ride is even more telling as a partial reason for those results. And a brief look at the more-than 100 comments below that article will show proof of liking what you grew up with.

If you’re from Detroit, you might like American or Lafayette Detroit Style coneys, while thinking a friend who likes Flint and Jackson styles is crazy. A person standing by from Chicago will tell them they’re both nuts, while the Hawaiian resident and the West Virginian will be arguing Puka vs. Sam’s Hot Dog for an hour. Similarly though, a person from the deep south will avoid Zehnder’s fried chicken like the plague since it “will never be like my mama’s”, Chesapeake Bay crab lovers will always be at odds with those who love Bering Sea ophelia, and a new Chinese visitor to the U.S. will always have a difficult time figuring out why a so-called Chinese restaurant serves that incredibly popular General Tso’s thing he’s never heard of.

Being even a mildly-adventurous eater means not only being more accepting of flavors and textures outside your comfort zone, and being willing to try them, but also acknowledging our differences in food likes and dislikes, celebrating those differences even though we may not agree for whatever reason. Saying a town “Doesn’t know how to do a hot dog” isn’t true. They don’t do your hot dog. They do theirs just fine. When you’re in their town, you’re actually the one who’s nuts. So try theirs. And remember to keep your mind and your taste buds open.

(The image: Some Chocolate-Oatmeal No-Bakes, made from my mom’s recipe.)

9) “That just sounds nasty … I can’t believe you’re gonna eat that … I can’t stand that, I’m good.”

I’ve enjoyed the Flint Style Coney since I was probably 7 or eight, maybe earlier, I really don’t know for sure. My kids have always liked them as well. Unfortunately now, since I’ve let those kids know the real thing has beef heart in it (the original sauce from Abbott’s Meats is almost 100% beef heart), my daughter has a difficult time stomaching it.


I’ve always told my kids they have to try every food once. I don’t care if it looks bad, smells bad, came out of a sheep’s or lamb’s gullet (i.e., the natural casing on sausages and some good weiners) or the bottom of a cloudy lake (i.e., catfish), you’re going to try at least one bite before you tell me you don’t like the thing. At that point I can have some respect for your opinion, but not before. Because of this, my daughter now enjoys alligator, calamari, some of the eel she’s tried (not all, but that’s ok), deer venison, has a passion for good rabbit dishes, helped me search on a trip once for the best fried okra …

… but she won’t eat cornbread. Can’t stand the stuff. Make her a corndog from scratch, the breading comes off of it. Doesn’t like it with chili or ribs. However, that stinker will break up that same cornbread, dump it in a glass with some 2% milk and eat it with a spoon. I can’t figure that out …

Something to keep in the back of your mind is that we have seriously become a whole country of complete food wimps. I happened on an original copy of the 1922 “Home Economics Cook Book for Elementary Grades” printed by the Board of Education in Toledo, Ohio. In the chapter on poultry, kids through grade eight were taught to singe the pin feathers off the chicken, cut its head off, draw the pin feathers out with a knife, use the fingers to find and remove the windpipe and crop, dig in with the hand again to remove the intestinal organs (“being careful not to break the gall bladder”), also pulling out the lungs, kidneys, the heart (“found near the lungs”), the oil bag near the tail …

If you enjoy chicken, but the above description and the thought of following it grosses you out, you do indeed have double standards. You should be ashamed of your squeamishness. In these “first-world” countries we’re supposedly so incredibly advanced. But our food has become so sanitized and processed that we’ve selectively (yes … selectively) lost track of where our food comes from. We prefer not to know that other countries pass down recipes for dishes usng the complete animal, largely without a cookbook for a hundred miles in any direction. Only recently have restaurants here began to celebrate “farm to table” and “nose to tail” menus and recipes. This is supposedly a big deal, with higher-end and specialty restaurants making a lot of noise about it. Meanwhile though, authentic Mexican restaurants have always served Menudo made with good tripe (a.k.a. cow stomach), Abbott’s Meats in Flint still makes and distributes the 1919 version  of the Flint Coney sauce made with almost 100% beef heart, secluded families in the Ozarks eat daily meals of squirrel and raccoon, and any time you eat a decent sausage, that crunch is some animal’s intestine. So pull your heart out of your throat and have some real food. Learn about where your food comes from. You’ll appreciate it more.

(The image: A whole beef heart, used in the development of a recipe for Flint Style Coney sauce.)

8) “I had a bad experience there once … They used to be good, not anymore though.”

This one’s a “mea culpa” moment for me …

It’s rather common knowledge that restaurant reviewers will make multiple visits to a single location prior to writing their review of the place. While quite a few so-called “reviewers” are hacks who have no history of cooking, knowledge of good flavors and textures, or even the culture of a given restaurant and why its regular guests love it, they normally know better than to only go once. Restaurants should have consistency between servers and cooks at any given time, but it’s definitely necessary to check more out than can be done at one time.

Even if you’ve had a bad experience somewhere, maybe the cook was having an off day, maybe the server had some issues (even though that should never be reflected in customer service), maybe there are new owners/management (maybe someone actually read your comment card and acted on it) … There are a lot of reasons to try a place again.

There’s one restaurant chain I have a problem with. Ok, multiple problems. It’s a fast-casual place, and there seem to be a lot of hit-and-miss depending on which location I visit. One location in particular has really had my hackles up for a long time and I vowed never to go back.

Then my daughter became pregnant. Three guesses where she wanted to meet up to discuss it … first two guesses don’t count … Now she’s one of the lead servers there … at that same location … I can’t win for losing on this one, I have to go back to the place I really don’t like.

So get your butt over there and try it again. Maybe everything will be fine. In my case, it’d better be or I get to withhold a tip from my own kid.

(The image: Bree with some Poutine at Crazy Joe’s in Wallaceburg, Ontario.)

7) “It made me sick before, I’m not eating that.”

Another “mea culpa”. Worse for me is that this one is my daughter’s suggestion. Sometimes, she’s right. Sometimes …

Longtime readers will know I’ve had multiple sinus bleeds since 2008, requiring (we think) twelve surgeries to shut off the flow of what’s mostly been arterial blood. (You can tell by the color, along with the occasional pulsing that’s synchronized with the heartrate.) For those first three episodes stretched out from 2008 through early 2010, the night before the bleed started I had enjoyed scallops at the Frog Leg Inn. As I also run their web site and shoot photos in the kitchen, I actually have the pics to prove this. It got to the point where I brought it up with my ENT specialist, who thought it rather odd but still worth some consideration. Was there something in the scallop beds off Massachussetts that the scallops were eating that I was strangely allergic to? Just made no sense at all.

But then with these last two bleeds, in June and May 2013, there hadn’t been a scallop in sight since the previous bleed in June 2010. Why? Because “It made me sick before, I’m not eating that.”

I think maybe it’s time for some scallops. I should probably have a bucket and some towels standing by though. It can get messy.

(The image: A particular plate of scallops in the kitchen at the Frog Leg Inn, the very dish I’ve always suspected as being responsible for the sinus bleed of March 2010.)

6) “If it’s past its expiration date, you’d better throw it away.”

Were you aware at all that the US Food & Drug Administration only actually regulates a use-by/expiration date on infant formula and some baby foods? That the USDA only requires poultry to be labeled with the date it was packed? That any “use-by/expiration date” on food products is highly dependant on handling, storage temperature, and other uncontrollable variables? And that if you stick hard-and-fast to these dates and throw food away just because the date says it’s “expired”, your level of brain deadedness is showing?

If you can’t tell when food has gone bad and need to go by those dates, you probably shouldn’t be cooking whatsoever. Common sense, smell, the look of a certain ingredient, if fish smells fishy, if beef is brown, if poultry is slimy, if veggies have mold on them … Pitch it. It’s really not that difficult to figure this out.

(The image: A 39-pack of Koegel Skinless Frankfurters with a “Sell By” date of September 20. No year is specified on the package. I didn’t make the package blue for effect, that’s a reflection of the sky on a very nice day.)

5) “Poor little bunny … How can you eat Bambi?”

If you’re a vegan or vegetarian and you say this, zip it. It’s very seldom I’ve seen or heard of a carnivore preaching that people damn well better start eating meat becuse it’s better for both them and the planet. A good friend of mine is a full vegan, I respect both his and your views. He and I simply don’t force our views on each other the way vegans and vegetarians generally do with carnivores. You certainly don’t have the authority to tell me what I should eat, that’s my decision. Go have some Fritos and “original” Oreos, and be quiet.

If you’re a carnivore and you’re saying this, what’s your problem? Do you really believe that whether or not we should eat something is somehow related to its level of cuteness? Piglets are somehow inedible early-on because they’re adorable, but when they’ve aged a bit they’re only good for a long smoking of the shoulders and ribs with sauce added, and the divvying up of the bacon and pork rinds. Baby chicks seem to only belong in a petting zoo, while chickens only belong in a skillet with seasoned breading and an inch of hot oil for frying. Selecting which animal to cook based solely on how flippin’ cute it is, is a ridiculous double standard. No, deer, rabbits and other species don’t lose their attractiveness as they age like other animals do. But that in no way means we shouldn’t enjoy them at dinner time. If your emotions are in the way when you’re deciding what to cook, or what I cook, you’re the one with the problem. It’s all food, so eat it.

(The image: A serving of some impromptu Rabbit Chili.)

4) “I can’t tell you, it’s a secret recipe/ingredient.”

In 2007 when I first started working on developing, Chef Tad made it clear he wanted a section where he could post recipes. With so many chefs and professional cooks guarding proprietary recipes as “trade secrets”, I asked why he’d want to do something like that. He explained that home cooks would not have the tools, equipment, or the cooking techniques he and his team do, and that even if a professional were to attempt a duplication, subtle differences in those items would prevent an actual duplication. Any “copycat recipe” will certainly result in something similar but never an exact duplicate. You can only duplicate exactly within the same kitchen the recipe was developed in using identical ingredients.

In late July 2013 Mary and I spent the weekend at the Henderson Castle Bed & Breakfast in Kalamazoo, Michigan, where we enjoyed a 7-course meal prepared by owner French Master Chef Francois Moyet. The entrée I selected was his Chicken Marsala. Later in the weekend I bought a copy of the book the Chef had written on the history of the more-than-100-year-old castle. It it were some of his recipes, including the Chicken Marsala. Think about that.

The same goes for home kitchens. Sure, it’s a “home kitchen”, and y’all probably shop at the same Piggly Wiggly over yonder. But the concept is the same … You’re going to buy different ingredients, you’re going to measure them somewhat different, Paula’s 350F oven will average 355F while Mildred’s averages 343F, it’ll rain the day Frank makes it while, when Gilbert finally gets around to it, it’ll be 95F outside with high humidity and he ain’t got no A/C. Yes, each batch will taste and feel differently.

“Secret” recipes … “secret” ingredients … Get over yourself.

3) “My chicken/pork/beef/fish has to be well-done.”

Why do you want to ruin the taste and texture of your food this way? Why is it so important to you to remove all those good flavors by overcooking what can actually be better on your plate? This is nothing more than paranoia about supposed food safety issues that are preventing you from enjoying these foods the way other people actually enjoy them and survive.

There’s a burger place in Toledo called Bar 145. They didn’t name it that because of an address or area code, rather they’re using the internal temperature of a piece of beef that’s been cooked medium-rare. At the Frog Leg Inn in Erie, Michigan, the menu description for the 12-ounce Pork Saltimbocca states “Recommended medium-rare unless otherwise instructed.” And in his Les Halles Cookbook, Chef Anthony Bourdain wrote “Hell, most people figure that if the crispy skin tastes good, and there’s no yucky blood or pink stuff near the bone, that’s a fine roast chicken … Chicken should taste like chicken. Understand also that legs and breasts cook at different rates. In your zeal to make sure that there is no pink (eek!) or red (oooohh!) anywhere in the legs, you are often criminally overcooking your breasts. Find a happy medium. A little pink color by the thigh bone does not necessarily mean you are eating rare poultry.”

People do eat food this way. In Japan they have medium-rare chicken sushimi. They are also allowed to have chicken tartare. It’s only because their chickens are raised in such a way that they’re safer to eat. We’re the ones that are backward, while their ancient culture has food goodies we can only dream of having. We’re the ones with the food safety problems. We really, truly suck at it. Meanwhile, other cultures are enjoying some great treats. You should at least try food medium-rare when possible. You might actually like it.

(The image: The raw ribeye I then cooked to medium-rare at the Monroe Boat Club over their community grill.)

2) “That’s a heart attack waiting to happen … A heart attack on a bun … It’ll put me in a diabetic coma.”

No, it’s not. It’s a splurge, a meal to be enjoyed, a once-in-a-lifetime food experience, a challenge, maybe even a meal to be shared with someone you’re with. And you … are inappropriately judgemental.

Unless you’re a Registered Dietition, someone’s doctor, their trainer, or even their lifestyle coach, you have no right and zero authority to use this snide and blatantly offensive comment. Even if you say it when looking at a photo of a dish, you’re more than welcome to slap yourself in the face. People happen to like food, people do like large meals, and if you’re using the current media obsession with “the obesity epidemic” as your basis for saying this you are, again, judgemental and inappropriate.

For example, my wife and I like the Chateau Burger. It’s a one-pounder cooked and served at the Chateau Louise here in Luna Pier. But even when I tell people she and I split the burger, those same people tell me basically that we shouldn’t be having it because it’s just too big. Excuse me, but at that point it’s a half-pound … the same size as a cheeseburger at Sonic, the double at Wendy’s, the double quarter-pounder at McDonald’s … The things they eat all the time. But this info is never good enough for them, because apparently they want to see themselves as “the better, healthier person”.

Gimme a break. You’re a clueless jerk.

Granted, if someone eats like that all the time, that’s a problem. But it’s their problem, not yours. It’s something for their doctor to discuss with them. Now … If you happen care enough about someone to urge them to get help, you’re welcome to do that as well, sitting down with them and having a loving talk about how you don’t want to lose them because of their health. But if you’re going to be snide, insulting, say nasty things about what they’re eating … If you then get slapped or get hot, greasy food dumped on you, you damn-well deserve it.

This same thing goes for those people who claim something will put them into a “diabetic coma”. Have you ever been in a diabetic coma? Are you even a diabetic? Are you possibly just being offensive to diabetics with a snide and insulting remark about an actual medical condition that isn’t always brought on by eating too many sugary sweets? Is there a candymaker standing in front of you who’s possibly proud of their work while you stand there insulting what they do? Those latter two questions are probably more like it. Have some of their work, you obviously need more sweetening.

(The image: The one-pound Chateau Louise burger, as pictured on A Hamburger Today out of NYC. Yes, after shooting that pic I split the burger with Mary.)

1) “Damn, that’s too expensive.”

I’m reminded of a sign that used to hang in the former Bill Knapp’s restaurant in Adrian, Michigan. It listed how much various items cost in 1975. Google the following words:

1975 prices

Look at the results. Gas was 57 cents a gallon. Pretty cheap. Eggs were 77 cents a dozen. They’re only about twice that now.

But then there’s milk.

38 years ago in 1975, milk was $1.57/gallon.

In August 2013 I paid $2.49/gallon. Mary and I both bought milk at school in 1975 at 15 cents a half-pint. That comes out to $2.40 for a gallon of milk when milk was $1.57/gallon.

Yes, seriously. That’s what we paid.

Milk subsidies to farmers have kept gallon prices artificially low. If those subsidies didn’t exist, you’d be paying $7.50 – $8/gallon at the grocery store.

You, my friend, are spoiled.

Here’s the thing: One way or another, you’re paying that $7.5 – $8/gallon, whether you do it in the store or through your taxes via the “subsidies”. It’s the same with corn and other crops and farm products as well. It’s shielded from you so you don’t have to think about it, so it’s out-of-sight and out-of-mind. You are absolutely paying more for some of your food that you think you are. Deal with it.

And then you’re at a restaurant. There’s no “dollar menu” and the 1/4-lb burger is five bucks. You blanche. Right in front of the minimum-wage worker or below-minimum wager server who’s smiling at you waiting for your order, your $50k/year self mumbles “Damn, that’s expensive”. After bitching further about the price of an added drink and fries, you head out to your Lexus, fire up your iPhone and complain on Facebook. Later on after work, that minimum-wage worker picks up their child-support and their public assistance in their rusty used car which is all they can afford because prices at work aren’t actually high enough to pay decent labor wages, heads over and pays the sitter when they pick up the kids, then the rent, the utilities, and hopes to have enough for a couple things at Aldi.

In most states, minimum-wage laws do not apply to tipped employees, meaning servers. That’s stupid. They make probably $2.65/hour and guests are assumed to make up the rest. That’s even more stupid. Minimum wage laws need to apply to everyone, flat-out and period. Tips are a gift, not a wage. Yes, the cost of a meal will then go up, so what? Those workers will then be better able to survive. Get your prissy self out of your immaculate car in your $200 jeans, shove your expensive iPhone into your … pocket … and man-up to paying what you should be paying for food.

It’s a simple fact that customers refuse to pay higher prices for food, prices that are needed in order for workers to make decent wages, while those same customers pay premium prices for anything and everything else. No, unions are not any kind of answer. Customers simply need to stop being penny-pinching boneheads in any situation having to do with eating. The problem will exist while people keep buying off the “dollar menu”. If you don’t like higher food prices, you should be the one starving for a while so you can see what it feels like, not the people who feed your selectively-miserly, inconsiderate and arrogant self.

(The image: Brina, our server for our 7-Course Dinner prepared by French Master Chef Francois Moyet at his exquisite Henderson Castle Bed & Breakfast in Kalamazoo, Michigan, in late July 2013.)

On Hot Dog ‘Safety’ and Other Weirdness

A package of supposedly “raw” hot dogs.

This morning I ate a Ball Park Frank, uncooked, directly out of the package I bought yesterday and licked the juices off my fingers.

Obviously, I’m a dead man.

Last summer when I ran the beachhouse, serving more hot dogs than I could remember in three months time, I was inspected every two weeks by an inspector from the Monroe County Health Department. During the inspector’s first visit while looking in the fridge she mentioned, “Good, you’re not keeping the proteins (ground chuck) above the raw hot dogs.”

No I’m not keeping the proteins over the … what??

The “raw hot dogs” was a package identical to the above package. I think they’re FULLY COOKED in the package but for some reason I guess I can’t really tell.

Geez …

In the Off Duty section of Marine Corp Times for June 6, 2009, in an article titled “Grill Instructor”, the instructions echo what I’ve been paying attention to since that health inspection:

Internal Cooking Temperature; Here are some guidelines … Precooked sausages and hot dogs: 165 degrees.

Pat, I’d like to buy a vowel: Y??

Looking around online I found the following … The USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service has this to say toward the bottom of their Hot Dogs and Food Safety page:

The same general food safety guidelines apply to hot dogs as to all perishable products — “Keep hot food hot and cold food cold.” Although all hot dogs are fully cooked, always reheat before eating. Use a food thermometer to make sure hot dogs reach 165 °F or are steamy hot throughout … Studies have shown a high level of the harmful bacteria Listeria in hot dogs. Thus, for added precaution, persons at risk may choose to avoid eating hot dogs and luncheon meats, such as bologna, unless they are reheated until steamy hot.

Listeria. Nasty stuff. Causes Listeriosis, which is described over on the site from the Centers For Disease Control:

Listeriosis, a serious infection caused by eating food contaminated with the bacterium Listeria monocytogenes, has recently been recognized as an important public health problem in the United States. The disease affects primarily persons of advanced age, pregnant women, newborns, and adults with weakened immune systems. However, persons without these risk factors can also rarely be affected. The risk may be reduced by following a few simple recommendations.

Would those recommendations also include hot dogs? By golly they do. But there is some other info in there as well:

Recommendations for persons at high risk, such as pregnant women and persons with weakened immune systems, in addition to the recommendations listed above:

  • Do not eat hot dogs, luncheon meats, or deli meats, unless they are reheated until steaming hot.
  • Avoid getting fluid from hot dog packages on other foods, utensils, and food preparation surfaces, and wash hands after handling hot dogs, luncheon meats, and deli meats.
  • Do not eat soft cheeses such as feta, Brie, and Camembert, blue-veined cheeses, or Mexican-style cheeses such as queso blanco, queso fresco, and Panela, unless they have labels that clearly state they are made from pastuerized milk.
  • Do not eat refrigerated pâtés or meat spreads. Canned or shelf-stable pâtés and meat spreads may be eaten.
  • Do not eat refrigerated smoked seafood, unless it is contained in a cooked dish, such as a casserole. Refrigerated smoked seafood, such as salmon, trout, whitefish, cod, tuna or mackerel, is most often labeled as “nova-style,” “lox,” “kippered,” “smoked,” or “jerky.” The fish is found in the refrigerator section or sold at deli counters of grocery stores and delicatessens. Canned or shelf-stable smoked seafood may be eaten.

Holy whaaa … Whassup???

Let’s start with another sentence from the above-referenced CDC’s page on Listeriosis:

Healthy adults and children occasionally get infected with Listeria, but they rarely become seriously ill.

Looking at the breakdown of the 2,500 or so people in the U.S. who become infected each year, it becomes apparent healthy adults are the exception, not the rule. And looking at all the nastiness on those pages on who is susceptible to Listeriosis, it doesn’t look as though I’m going to be keeling over from this morning’s snack of a “raw” hot dog.

Then there’s the rest of the list. No “raw” bologna, especially deli meats. God forbid I should down a package of Buddig sliced corned beef … Juice from a package of hot dogs seems to be toxic, anything unpasteurized will cause warts, homemade liverwurst paté is a death sentence, the jerky shop here in town where everything is made in the back is a disease waiting to happen, and those who keep Kosher or are from Sweden are probably on their death beds.

Not. Unless I’m pregnant. No, I’m just bloated …

In Canada from 2007 to 2008 a certain meat plant outside Toronto manufactured products which caused 22 deaths from Listeriosis.

Back on the USDA’s page: “Studies have shown a high level of the harmful bacteria Listeria in hot dogs.”

From the CDC’s page: “In the United States, an estimated 2,500 persons become seriously ill with listeriosis each year. Of these, 500 die.”

Where were these people? What did they eat? Where was it made? If it’s bad enough the Canadian’s went bananas about 22 people dying from Listeriosis, why aren’t the 500 deaths in the U.S. more in the news? Again, the CDC:

The risk of an individual person developing Listeria infection after consumption of a contaminated product is very small. If you have eaten a contaminated product and do not have any symptoms, we do not recommend that you have any tests or treatment, even if you are in a high-risk group.

In other words, “Not to worry, nothing to see here, move along.”

That’s the reality here. There’s really nothing to worry about. If you’re high-risk, especially where the higher CDC statistics are, you might want to take it easy. Otherwise, it’s probably alright to eat the hot dog right out of the fridge … as long as you bought the hot dog fairly recently and the fridge has an average temp of 38 degrees F. Know that the hot dogs in corn dogs that are even from the carts at the county fair likely never reach 165 degrees F internal temperature because of how corn dogs are made. And jerky? I know where you can buy some good stuff, even jerky made from turkey and buffalo.

I think I’ll go get me some. That Cruisers Car Hop serves hot dogs right next door, too. Maybe I’ll have a coney island, too …

Photo Essay: Deep-Frying A Turkey

One thing I’d never had in my whole life … well, at least since it’s become popular … is deep-fried whole turkey. No, not the whole turkey … I can’t eat that much … well, maybe … anyway … I digress.

Yesterday I was finally able to enjoy some fresh, hand-dipped, deep-fried turkey! And it was good!! I’d always thought it’d be a bit weird, maybe a touch on the greasy side, possibly missing that “something” that makes for an excellent roasted turkey. You know, the kind you get at the Turkey Roost up in Kawkawlin, Michigan, slow-roasted for hours and served within minutes of your ordering it since it’s, like, already perfectly done.

Yesterday for Mary’s Aunt Betsy’s 80th birthday, Mary’s cousin Steve deep-fried a turkey in his garage./ Ok, so the deep-fryer was in his garage … really, it’s a pole-barn that’s built to be a garage … there’s a funky butterscotch Chevy Nova in there …

By the time we got there just before 2 p.m., Steve had the whole assembly set up. The turkey deep fryer had come from the Cabela’s store in Dundee, Michigan. They have an incredible selection of various types and sizes of deep fryers in the store, including specific ones for fish, turkey and other “designed-for” uses. The majority are intended for outdoor use and, like this one, are powered with a simple LP gas bottle you can get just about anywhere. Steve had placed the deep fryer near the open garage door on a large piece of drywall to protect the floor. With the turkey mounted on its spit/base and the wings secured using the twine that had held the legs together, he’d added enough cold peanut oil to the pot to cover the bird by an inch or two. He’d then removed the turkey, wiped the oil off it, then preheated the oil to 375 degrees F. There’s a lengthy InstaRead thermometer hanging through a hole in the fryer’s lid, making this a simple temperature to adjust to.

At 2 p.m. Steve began the process of lowering the bird into the pre-heated oil. This is downright dangerous!!! The turkey has moisture all over it, throughout the inside and, as this was a Butterball turkey, within the meat itself. Steve mentioned the oil might explode if something went wrong, and as I’ve seen it happen I know what he means. With his welder’s glove on it took Steve a whole 5 minutes to lower the turkey into the violently-bubbling oil.

Now … yes … we know … BARE FEET????? If something had gone drastically wrong, if the bIrd had slipped off its rack and dropped right in, those feet would be in a burn ward. GET SOME FRIGGIN’ SHOES ON!!!

Simple physics: As the bird goes in, the oil level rises. This was a big bird, so the oil was about as high as possible as the dip was finished. Be patient, and don’t hurry. Oh, and wear shoes …

After the 5 minutes it took to get the bird into the oil, the oil will still bubble as the moisture level on the bird itself subsides. Gently place the lid on, with the thermometer in the oil.

The temp of the bird itself dropped the temp of the oil to about 300 degrees F for the one-hour duration of the frying. This is one reason people like to deep-fry turkeys: It doesn’t take all day. One hour, tops.

Removing the golden-brown turkey from the oil at 3 p.m. took much less time than it took to put it in. You still need to be careful though as the hot oil will drip. Jabbed into the cooked bird, the thermometer showed 200 degrees F internal temperature for the meat. So, maybe 45 minutes next time.

The fried bird was placed in a foil pan on the drywall to drain and rest a bit before being taken into the kitchen to cut. That crispy skin is an amazing treat, and needs to be eaten as freshly as possible. Especially the stuff at the bottom of the bird where it had cooked the longest.

Thanks, Steve, for a great turkey meal!

Strong Comments on Local and Global Food Safety, Part 4

“Uncle Dave, are we there yet?”

In Part 1 of this multi-part series (maybe we’re finally at the end), I laid out some of what I felt is wrong with food safety issues in this country. In Part 2, I looked at a few of the differences between the U.S. and just a couple other countries with respect to food safety. In Part 3, I described some common myths that are still perpetrated by food safety “experts” in this country, along with some other serious annoyances in the arena of “political food correctness”. From Part 1 from this morning:

Here’s the reality: Regulators are focusing on all the wrong areas of food safety. When it comes to the editorial in yesterday’s Blade, I’m in full agreement. But frankly, the whole so-called “food safety” system in this country needs a flippin’ overhaul.

In Part 1, referring to the Blade editorial, I wrote, “As in any good editorial, the writer gave their own suggestions”. So, without further ado, here are my own thoughts on things that should be done from the federal level:

  1. Outlaw political correctness from any and all previous, current and future food regulations.
  2. Direct the National Restaurant Association to further their efforts in policing themselves via ServSafe, providing partial funding.
  3. Continue retail and non-profit foodservice inspections via county health departments, while allowing for the use of “common sense” during facility operation. Make 100% of restaurant and facility inspection reports available online at county levels across the U.S.
  4. Simplify permits for events lasting less than 96 hours overall, with more simplification for single-day events.
  5. Require each K-12 school kitchen or cafeteria (public or private) be inspected twice annually, and that the director of each cafeteria system be ServSafe certified.
  6. Combine the FDA and USDA food-related inspection and regulatory agencies into a new, single entity.
  7. Ramp-up inspections of both domestic and imported foods in an effort to reach 80% of all products within 5 years.

1. Outlaw political correctness from any and all previous, current and future food regulations.
Yes, some people need to lose weight. Why does the government, or anyone else, feel they have the right or the authority to regulate this, to throw calorie counts in people’s faces, to make the entire restaurant industry change ingredients, change how they operate, just to satisfy political correctness? With the exception of true “companion animals” and real animal cruelty (which excludes the whole foie gras fiasco), what’s on anyone’s dinner plate is no one else’s business.

2. Direct the National Restaurant Association to further their efforts in policing themselves via ServSafe, providing partial funding.
Restaurants owners, Chefs, cooks and the countless others who work in food service, understand their business better than anyone else. To regulate these people without listening to them, as with trans fats, restaurant nutrition info labeling, etc., is more than Orwellian. It’s downright nauseating. Cooking is more art than science, and to involve science to regulate every last aspect of the food industry will only ruin it. These people know their jobs. Help them do it better, trust them with it, get ServSafe built to involve everyone in the industry, and the resulting food will be so much better.

3. Continue retail and non-profit foodservice inspections via county health departments, while allowing for the use of “common sense” during facility operation. Make 100% of restaurant and facility inspection reports available online at county levels across the U.S.
Food inspections are sometimes full of nonsense. Inspection reports such as this one are reported as, “Inspectors observed ‘Several food items at unsafe temperatures’, turkey was being improperly thawed, and other food items weren’t being reheated correctly.” Were they really? Or is this some of the non-common-sense items from that county’s health department? It’s difficult to tell, really, what some of these statements actually mean. But the fact is, some of these processes may have actually been fine. This is where the whole “common sense” aspect comes into play. Counties should post these kinds of reports verbatim. The City of Chicago at least allows you to see the real language of a restaurant’s violations online, so this is certainly possible for most localities to accomplish.

4. Simplify permits for events lasting less than 96 hours overall, with more simplification for single-day events.
Is a full inspection really necessary if a Scout group wants to sell hot dogs and hamburgers at a local fair? Puh-lease … get a responsible adult to understand they’re solely liable if anyone gets sick, and everything will be fine. These people likely cook at home anyway and know what they’re doing. Stop insulting their intelligence by implying they haven’t a clue.

5. Require each K-12 school kitchen or cafeteria (public or private) be inspected twice annually, and that the director of each cafeteria system be ServSafe certified.
This isn’t difficult. Really, it’s not. I’m sure it wouldn’t be difficult to find ServSafe-certified chefs or cooks who could take on this inspection task locally to ensure their own and neighboring kids are eating in a safe facility. Again, these pros know what’s needed. Give them a minor stipend, hold their butts responsible, and you’ll have 100% inspections in no time. As to directors being certified, that should be a given.

6. Combine the FDA and USDA food-related inspection and regulatory agencies into a new, single entity.
I could never figure out how and why this split happened. How much duplication of effort is there? Probably substantial. This whole agency thing should be modernized anyway, with less bureaucracy, and more real effort toward solving real problems.

7. Ramp-up inspections of both domestic and imported foods in an effort to reach 80% of all products requiring inspections within 5 years.
Streamlining the agencies into one single entity, no longer playing the “political correctness” game, letting restaurants police themselves as they should … yup, should end up with plenty of qualified inspectors needing jobs.

This is “quick and dirty”. I’ll probably expand on this later. But I should really finish up, especially since …

While I was finishing this up just now, this comment came in from Ria over at the Our World and Everything In It blog here on Here’s part of Ria’s comment:

What I’ve seen, read, heard, and witnessed myself, we’re eating crap anyway, so overcooking or undercooking crap is of no consequence. It’s not so much the food prep, the animals are cute, how long is it cooked, it’s how it’s raised period.

Exactly, Ria! From Part 3 of what I’ve written today:

In the mid 20th century, most pork had to be cooked well done because of the fear of trichinosis. But today pork is fed and raised differently and the meat is safe to heat when cooked to an internal temperature of 160 degrees F. If the juices run very light pink, the pork is done.

This is not so difficult. Let the restaurant industry police itself. Use government resources, and the resources from individual food production industries, to properly take care of food where it’s raised and processed. The pork industry has proved how this can be accomplished.

Ria gets it. Do you?