Month: January 2012

Eating in public #4
Waitress, there’s a fly in my pie

I’ve often heard people remark that if you could see the kitchens of most restaurants you’d never eat there. The implication is that sanitation standards are not a high priority. This may be true, but think of the things that we do in our homes. How many of you have a teenager who drinks directly from the milk jug? Enough said.

While I don’t think sterile utensils are necessarily the goal, I’ve noticed some things that, while not necessarily a risk to health, are blatantly gross.

There are of course health department standards for what can and cannot happen in a kitchen. For example, when a cook accidentally whacks off his index finger while separating a joint in a piece of fowl, it is expected that the mess be cleaned up, and the meat be disposed of (the bird that is – the appendage may be a candidate for reattachment). But there are many more disturbing things that go on behind that magical swingy door.

There often are common preparation areas that many meals travel through. Have you ever gotten a lone onion ring with your french fries? That’s an added “bonus” that you can see. Imagine what you cannot see!

Have you ever taken the time to watch the journey that a restaurant wiping rag takes? One rag with, hopefully, some cleaning solution on it, sees a lot of action.. After about thirty minutes that rag is starting to get ripe with onions, mustard, lettuce, mayo and who knows what else in it. All of those great edibles are fine when served up on a clean plate, but put them together in a rag for a couple of hours and something starts to ferment and grow that isn’t suitable for bottling under a fancy cork.

That’s bad enough. But often that very same rag is used to wipe off seating surfaces. The rag that wipes the area where many a butt parks itself is wiping the table where my naked utensils have been resting. Just imagine those rotting mayo goobers and butt residue dancing all over your fork and knife.

Most cooks need to taste their food during preparation. We all understand that. It doesn’t mean that they’re stealing food throughout the day. No, they want to make sure they’re doing it right and that what they serve is good. If the chef didn’t occasionally taste the food passing by I would suspect that said chef was dreaming about a career change to NASCAR. But using one’s fingers or the same old spoon to snag the sample is unacceptable. Those of us eating in public don’t want their phlegm and spittle added. Salt and pepper are fine, thank you very much. But I suspect we get the former nonetheless.

I’m not a hair-toucher. Okay, I don’t have hair. But if I did, I wouldn’t be touching it whilst working with food. Hair is greasy and oily. Especially around my food I don’t want the cook’s nor server’s hair cooties. So think about those little scratches made to their itches or the re-arrangements to their coifs. That’s getting on their hands and then getting on the utensils and food. Think of the grossest person you’ll see today. Imagine dragging a fork through that person’s hair before using it to take a mouthful of creamy cole slaw. Doesn’t evoke images of grandma’s kitchen now does it? Unless your grandma was a greasy slob in which case you’ve probably got more important issues.

Hair causes yet another problem that most people overlook. I’ve got nothing against long hair but servers need to think about where their hair is when they hoist that big serving tray up on their shoulders. Time and time again I see them heft the big load of plates up there only to have the hair on the side of their head drag through the food. I’d say that most of the hair that we find in our food didn’t come from Stan in the kitchen. It came from Stella’s pony tail.

The at-table refill procedure is, on the surface, a great advance in customer service. The at-table refill entails the server bringing a pitcher to the table to refill your beverage. On the face of it this isn’t a bad way to go. If nothing else they limit the number of beverage containers that must be run through the dishwashing process. However the pourer is often not paying attention to straw location. Think about where the mouth-end of the straw is during the refill. Often it’s bouncing around the spout of the pitcher.  That means that all of the cooties from hundreds of straws are now crawling around near the spout of the pitcher. Those cooties are desperate for a new home on your lips.

I’m pretty sure I’ve just technically Frenched the tattooed trucker in the corner by sipping on my straw.