All of us like to eat out at some point, at least once a month. It is an experience in itself. The decor is amazing, the music is playing in the background, with guests chatting, the staff handling the requests and the cooks doing their thing behind closed doors away from the guests. On the front end everything looks splendid. Dealing with food and handling it requires the knowledge of science, of food groups itself, of pathogens, of allergens, of temperatures of tolls and vessels. The knowledge of mixing concoctions and of recipes draws the fine line between success and failure of such establishments. They also need to have a taste for food presentation, an appreciation for cleanliness and a person who is friendly, easygoing and loves the company of his or her guests at the eatery. A smile is required and is not an option. It also must be coated with passion and love for the food that is being served. This is what gives the finishing touch to it.
Food is a must for all of us to live. But there is a big difference between eating to live and living to eat. Anything in moderation is good for the Human body. Excess consumption will result in obesity. Starvation and malnutrition is just the opposite. Food prepared and made in healthy environment, with major emphasis placed on cleanliness is very essential for it to be safe. Food poisoning and food allergy is gaining popularity due to its rather common occurrence in each and every restaurant and eateries around the World. Just like anything in life, eating out costs money. It may also be taxed. So far we see that everything has been taxed except the air that we are breathing. That might be taxed in the near future. We may never know. it is highly possible. We might all be carrying metered oxygen cylinders on our backs. It might come in sooner than we think. I think we have done enough damage to the environment already.
Brushing our teeth twice a day, flossing our teeth once a day, having a daily shower, trimming our nails, being well groomed, changing into clean clothes daily, Washing our feet before entering our house, keeping shoes outside the house, washing our hands before we eat and gargling our mouth with water after each meal are the basics of Hygiene that we are taught to learn from early on. This habit will follow us through adulthood to end of life. All of us know that our home food is the best food that we can ever have. It is made with Love, freshness, healthy, tasty, aromatic and a sight to behold. It is in fact pretty, tasty and filled with scent. Any food that we consume outside of home is left to chance and comes with risks.
Nowadays allergy to nuts, dairy products, seafood, shellfish and what not has become commonplace. This is seen in schools and at place of work. Just 30 years back we ate anything and everything, even food that was exposed to flies, dust and other contaminants. We played with dirt on dirt. Ate food that fell on the floor, washed it and ate it. Are we overprotective to our kids or are we overprotective of ourselves that we have sanitizers hanging all over the place, soaps in every nook and corner and dozens of toxic detergents to kill both dirt and us. Today we are also spraying our bed and clothes with highly toxic chemicals for it to smell fresh. We have in fact created a very artificial World for ourselves that is filled with more detergents and soaps than the entire population of bacteria and viruses combined. No wonder these detergents have done their job. The soaps have killed the bacteria. Now that we are not being exposed to different pathogens that are naturally occurring in nature, all of us are getting sick much more frequently. As we age this speeds up exponentially to provide a living for people in the healthcare community and the pharmaceuticals. What better way to cause a problem and have the solution for the same. Even better is to get paid for it.
How frequently do we eat out? More often than never. So what are the chances of someone allergic to seafood getting an Anaphylactic reaction in today’s World. That would be an astounding 99%. Every kid today is walking around with nebulizers/inhalers for their asthma and epinephrine syringe for their ever possible chance of an Anaphylactic reaction? Why is it a commonplace occurrence and what is causing it? We all know that it is happening all around us but no one seems to have an answer. Kitchens are a very sacred place for us and for the food that we eat. How did plastic, a petroleum byproduct or waste end up conquering and taking up shelf space? All of us know that it is toxic, but still we have welcomed it into our kitchen with open arms. Is it because we have no other option other than breakable glass?. Is this a wise choice? Can it come back to bite us in the near future? Probably.
The cutlery and plates in our kitchen are always spotless and clean. What about the ones in our neighborhood restaurants, food trucks and other local eateries? Most of them use plastic spoons and disposable plastic or plates and cups. We get it. But what about reusable stainless steel cutlery and porcelain plates, cups and bowls? Are they clean? Are they sterilized? Are they required to by law? When we go to visit our Dentist, our Physician, our optician or our Ob/Gyn, we expect all of them to have disposables products and /or sterilized instruments for use in these Professions. Of course they are all governed and regulated by local, state and federal regulators and their regulating bodies who in turn are directly or indirectly tied to law makers and policymakers. When it comes to food eateries, they are governed by sanitation departments, local and federal Health departments.
When we go to a restaurant do we know what we are putting into our mouth including the reusable stainless steel cutlery the plates or the wine glass is clean. Do we know if it is cleaned well, if cleaned at all? Do we ever ask? If no, why not. As we all know most people have gum disease( periodontal disease) and many do not even know that they have it, maybe due to ignorance or less awareness of the disease. Many do not even go to a Dentist periodically, Many do not even brush their teeth and many others do not care for their Oral Health a bit. As long as there is no pain, they are happy eating what ever. Imagine this person sticking that fork or spoon into their mouth. If this is not cleaned or sterilized well, can it spread the germs between patrons. Maybe. It is anyone’s guess. Do guests care to ask about its cleanliness or care to eat their food. Most of the time it is the latter.
Where there is food, there are pests such as rodents, cockroaches and what not. Since food and other staples travel thousands of miles to get here, these pests do get a free ride to the restaurant or roadside eatery. They do not even have to pay rent, heating or cooling. They get to stay free and eat free as well. In return they may work behind the scenes marking their territory with urine and feces. Food does not belong in this room where it has been marked to be contaminated with dangerous bacteria, fungi, or viruses that cause diseases. There is a saying within our society: If the restrooms in a restaurant looks clean and smells good, the kitchen must also look and feel the same. At least in theory. But anything is possible out of sight.
Here are the tips for eating out:
- Food Safety is number one. Food poisoning is on the rise.
- Acute cases of Anaphylaxis is also on the uptick. Ask questions about ingredients that are being used for the dish that you order.
- Talk to the chef. Ask questions. It’s better to be forewarned than after the fact. Waiters and waitresses should be trained to recognize food allergies and act accordingly. Are they trained to act in case of an emergency. Do they have systems in place? Do they have an emergency kit on site and do know how to use it right?
- Chef should have a check list of all ingredients listed in black and white (maybe even tabulated and highlighted )for all guests to see. It is good to have it in plain sight for all Menus that they serve.
- Be careful on what you are ordering. Know you allergens well. You know it better than anyone else.
- Do a little test by tasting a bit of food before indulging in it, just to be sure.
- Have your nebulizers/inhalers and epinephrine syringe with you at all times when your travel. It has to be on your person at all times both at home and when away from it. You never know when you may need it.
- Is the restaurant or eatery clean? Is it clean inside and out?
- Ask and check about how the utensils and cutlery are being cleaned. There is no harm asking. It is good to know. Because we are the ones who will be sticking the fork and spoons into our mouth.
- Requesting a small kitchen tour. It may or may not happen depending on the restaurant.
The above list is just a tiny tip of the iceberg. Allergy, anaphylaxis, cleanliness, emergency, pests, food poisoning etc are all the most commonly heard buzzwords of today in the food World. Many people use one cutting board for vegetarian and non- vegetarian foods resulting in cross contamination. Likewise there could be contamination between dairy and non-dairy. This list can go on and on. Each of us should have our own list of food items, list of ingredients, allergens etc that is specific to our body, Because we know our body better than anyone else in the whole World, that includes our parents.
Keep in mind that each of us are individuals and each of us are an island with its own feelings, taste, likes, dislikes, passions and hobbies. This is what that makes us unique to each other and to us.