Wednesday, September 20, 2006

The Spinach Crisis

My condolences to those poor souls who either died or got really sick from the e. coli contamination of fresh spinach. When your food becomes your poison something is really wrong.

I know the farmers are having a hard time with this not only economically but they also have feelings and do not want to see anyone harmed. In my restaurant, Vivande, I simply removed all spinach dishes whether raw or not. I think it helps the mind to know that the problem simply is not present. You know, if someone had a plate of sautéed spinach with garlic and extra virgin olive oil and had the flu and did not know it at the time, and a few hours later had the stomach gripes, you can guess what the reaction would be. Fear is not rational, always.

Anyhow, I think the answer will come, and in the next few short weeks we will have spinach again.

And if this does not convince you that contamination is insidious and shows up in the least expected places, now you know. Tough as it is there must be diligence in protecting the water supply and fertilizer supply, but don't forget machinery. For short periods of time dirty machines can harbor all kinds of bad bugs.
Most of all, don't forget the human element. You will not believe how dirty humans are, how poorly brought up most people are especially regarding dangerous uncleanliness.

Far too many people don't wash their hands after eliminating, whether it be liquid or solid and how many folks who are conscientious don't know that hand contact with doorknobs and doors and surfaces have to be considered dangerous places that harbor bugs – you don’t know who was there before you. . So, wash, wash, wash! And Health Departments listen up - you are NOT doing a good enough job reinforcing correct and safe hand washing and appreciation for how a bug you can't even see can kill you. You may be bug police but your biggest job is educating.

One last thought: How come you cannot give a massage without a license, or cut someone's toenails without a license or wash and curl their hair without a license, do plumbing or electrical work without a license, yet you can be a "cook" with the filthiest habits known with the potential of wiping out an entire restaurant population due to no training or simply not caring? Isn't it time that everyone in the food industry be qualified? Who cares if you are cute and entertaining, like some of those clowns on the Food Network who wipe their sweaty upper lips with a side towel and then wipe the cutting board with it, or tasting with a spoon and then shaking the remnants back into the pot, or you make apple pie better than granny when you possibly are killing people because of your stupidity, or socially destructive attitude. I think this is the real terrorism - watch out.

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