Some of you may know that I spent a huge chunk of my working life as a server. At Disney, and many other places. Some well-known chains, some Mom-and-Pops, a pretty good cross section of restaurants.
And that’s one reason why I enjoy doing restaurant reviews. I love to cook and bake; being a foodie is a big part of who I am.
Now, sanitation is one of those things that everyone who cooks–whether at home or in a 5-Star establishment–thinks about.
When you’re in the business, a big part of your training is in safe food handling procedures.
And that’s as it should be. I’m not trying to say differently.
But some of our attitudes about food, how we prepare it and our relationship to it have become just a bit… shall we say, just a bit overly-sanitized.
Let me flesh that out a little: our ways of preparing and even thinking about food are a huge departure from how humans have done it for all but a tiny fraction of the time we’ve been on the planet.
Two brief anecdotes about my experiences with food and how we prepare it will help shed some light on this.
Unless you’re reading my blog for the first time, you know I love camping and just about anything else one can do outdoors for fun.
And I’m happiest when I’m cooking on my propane, two-burner camp stove. It’s just way too much fun.
This may seem funny, but you should have seen how hard I tried in some of my first outings in the great outdoors to translate restaurant “best practices” into the camping environment.
Yeah, it was pretty funny!
It wasn’t too long into the process that I gave up trying to always keep something more-or-less sanitized–even if just paper towels–between my cooking utensils and cutlery and those not-sanitized picnic tables.
It feels really good now to just cook my stuff, tongs and utensils, ladles and pot stickers, lids, grits and bacon bits, all flying around and coming to rest God-knows-where until the good stuff eventually comes to rest in my belly! Where it should go!
Even I am not OCD enough to prepare my food on one of those glorious forays into the Mom Nature’s back yard the way we do in a decent eatery or even in my kitchen, for that matter.
Last little story about this and how my awareness has evolved: I opened a container of brown rice the other day and found that some moth-like pests had paid a visit between the time I emptied a bag of rice into the jar and that moment I opened it up. And, yes, that had been a long time.
Not sure if they were able to get in there–it was a very cheap container–or if they were larvae who “came of age”. Rice and grits and pantry pests! It’s a thing.
Don’t know. Didn’t have to know.
The “me” before my camp cook’s epiphany would have gone “yuck!” and then summarily thrown out the rice.
The “me” after illumination picked out the corpses of the moths or weevils or whatever the hell they were, cooked the rice and enjoyed the hell out of it.
A little onion, garlic, cumin and weevil protein–loves me some o’ dat!
So I’ve tried to get past some of my silly food phobias and feel like I’ve come a long way.
But I’m thinking that if you go back just a bit further–in terms of human evolution, I mean–our forebears would have handled the bug-in-the-rice thing a bit differently.
No doubt in my mind, that they would merely have picked out the bugs and eaten them!
Dead or alive!
I guess at the end of the day, I’m actually a pretty modern camper!
“Bulldog Ben” Basile
© 2019 Ben Lawrence Basile
Photo credit Benjamin Basile