There is ample information on kitchen hygiene; this by no means is a comprehensive “what to do” and “what not to do” in the kitchen. I already dealt with the washing of poultry; I also made comments here and there in the various recipes. Some things are just plain common sense, such as not to cut raw meat and bread on the same surface. The following remarks are my pet peeves with fellow cooks and chefs, yes; chefs have BAD habits too. It takes conscious revision of one’s cooking but only for awhile. Good kitchen hygiene can be every bit as habit forming as careless handling of food.
Most cooking, unless painstakingly measured out, requires tasting the food during preparation. Please keep in mind not to double dip the tasting spoon. Rinse it under running water or get a clean spoon for each scoop from the pot. Digestion begins in the mouth. How close do you want to get to the cook? Double dipping is actually the bacterial equivalent of French kissing. TV chefs are notorious for double dipping. Apparently 73% of all cooks double dip. If a chef does that on TV, what else does he do when nobody is looking? Respect the food you share with others.
Don’t lean OVER the pot. If you do, you are depositing billions of microbes into the food from your body and clothes. We are walking farms of bacteria, we have more bacteria inside and on the surface of our bodies than human cells. We are literally covered head to toe with bacteria; even the air we breathe is full of living creatures.
Don’t lick and smack. Licking does not substitute wiping or hand washing. Once I couldn't escape from having to eat the same jam filled crepes I just watched the cook roll up with saliva laden fingers. Lick and roll, lick and roll... there was not a single crepe on the platter without a layer of saliva.
Leilah, my girl is cursed with hair in food. We sit down to a nice meal in a restaurant, and 8 times out of 10, she will find hair in the food. She is not imagining it I have seen it. She sends back the food, gets a plate of fries and free dessert but the enjoyment is gone. There is a reason why the kitchen staff wears white and hairnets [well sort of]. Of course the servers don’t. They wear black and would you believe it they are the ones cleaning the restroom. OK enough said. Manly men cooking without a shirt beware of chest hairs and women past forty shedding hair into the food. Please don't follow me around while I cook. I can see strands of hair clinging to your clothes. Here is what I do when I cook for company. I put on fresh clothes that went through the drier, I wear an apron, and I fully cover my head with a bandanna. I don’t find it comfortable and it ruins my hairdo, but it would be far more uncomfortable if my guests found hair in the food.
One Christmas a friend’s trifle was decorated with 8 long dog hairs, Fifi rest in peace, but I ate the plum pudding. People are generally impervious to their pet’s hair in the food, but not all guests are immune to pet hair. Also, I don’t want to share my bowl with your cat, pet bowls and human bowls are not interchangeable. I know they are family, but please don’t let me see you rinse Bunny’s bowl in the same sink that you washed my plate. And if you are using fancy dishes, chances are they were never sanitized in the dishwasher.
If you have a dishwasher and don’t use it, your utensils are dirty. Quickly rinsing your forks leaves crusties and I don’t want to pick them out under the tablecloth. If your dishwasher doesn’t do a good enough job, call a repairman. In my youth when I had to wash everything by hand, I regularly bleached my pots and flatware and poured boiling water over my dishes.
I will never forget one of the Hungarian aunties waiting for us in Jim’s birth village with a pan of delicious squares; her whole kitchen filled with sweet plum aroma... and flies. I still feel bad for her when I think about it, but even today, older and wiser I could not eat those fly kissed squares. I told her we just ate, I knew I could not bring myself to take a bite without gagging. Flies are filthy creatures. They fly from poop to food to poop again spreading their regurgitated flecks of bacteria-saturated poop. Unless overrun by flies, our immune system is generally sufficient that a few flies will not pass on some deadly disease. However, I cannot eat in the presence of flies. Come to think of it, I never could have been a world traveler.
Cleanliness in the kitchen is vitally important. I am not a germaphobe and my kitchen is often a mess; I cook after all. But practicing good kitchen hygiene and awareness of cross contamination will go a long way to reduce intestinal infections and making me come over for a meal. There are reasons why I prefer my own cooking. Oh my God! I have become my own grandmother!
- It began with posting a few recipes on line for my family. "zsuzsa is in the kitchen" has more than 1000 Hungarian and International recipes. What started out as a private project turned into a well visited blog. The number of visitors long passed the two million mark. I organized my recipes into an on-line cookbook. On top of the page click on the cookbook to access the recipes. I am not profiting from my blog, so my visitors will not be harassed with advertising or flashy gadgets. Feel free to cut and paste my recipes for your own use. Publication is permitted as long as it is in your own words and with your own photographs. However, I would ask you for an acknowledgement and link-back to my blog. Happy cooking!