Life is Too Short to Eat Out

| March 9, 2016 | Reply

Life is Too Short to Eat Out

A play in three acts

Prologue: Maybe not if you’re twenty, but if you are over fifty, and have fewer days ahead of you than you’ve already lived, you might want to carefully consider where you eat out, or if you go out at all. Now that I grow my own food, I am ever more mindful of what’s in my food, and how it’s been grown and handled.

My Easy Ratatouille-the dish

My Easy Ratatouille with all vegetables grown in my garden

Act I – Wine Bar, Santa Monica, three weeks ago – The ambiance was very pleasant, and we sat at the large bar, where I had a direct view of the prep kitchen. The venue serves appetizer plates to go with the wine. I made a mental note that the workers preparing the plates were not wearing gloves. Some background: In January of 2014, a new California law required restaurant workers to wear disposable gloves. There was a huge backlash, in particular from sushi chefs, and the law was repealed by June of that year. And the plastic waste from millions of gloves would have been enormous.

Two days later, I was very sick with an intestinal virus which required a trip to the doctor. Since we had also eaten breakfast out the following morning at a Santa Monica main-stay cafe, and my husband didn’t get sick, I didn’t lay blame for my illness on either eating establishment. There’s a lot going around, the doctor had said. I managed to weather this, without pharmaceuticals, but losing four days of productivity was something I would like to have avoided.

Act II – Same wine bar, two weeks later – We gave the wine bar a second chance. Again, I had a direct view of the kitchen. The workers were handling the food with bare hands. I observed a young restaurant worker, standing idle, waiting for the next order to come in, cough into his left hand. He caught my gaze, and quickly ducked his hand behind him. He leaned back against the counter, talking to a co-worker. I watched him for a couple more minutes to see if he would wash his hands at the sink two steps away. He didn’t. According to the USDA Cleanliness Guidelines to prevent food-borne illness, the first and foremost way to prevent illness is to wash your hands with warm, soapy water for at least 20 seconds. Click the link for more information.

Act III – Palm Springs Night Club, 2014 – I was among 80 guests packed into a small supper club closed for the private birthday dinner party of a friend. The wait staff was overwhelmed trying to serve so many people so quickly. I observed a waiter rushing a tray of drinks to our table of 12 or so people. He stopped short of the table, looking at the tray, confused. I watched him carefully. He picked up one tall, iced drink and sipped from the straw to taste it. Now sure, he handed that drink to a particular man who was in conversation. It was noisy and I was at the end of the table, and my impulse was to jump up and say, “No! Don’t drink that!” But, the guest took the drink and immediately sipped on the straw.

Late Bloomer Lesson (LBL), Be Observant

From the Centers for Disease Control: Food borne illness is a common, costly—yet preventable—public health problem. Each year, 1 in 6 Americans gets sick by consuming contaminated foods or beverages. Many different disease-causing microbes, or pathogens can contaminate foods, so there are many different food-borne infections. In addition, poisonous chemicals, or other harmful substances can cause food-borne diseases, if they are present in food. More than 250 different food-borne diseases have been described. Most of these diseases are infections, caused by a variety of bacteria, viruses, and parasites that can be food borne. These different diseases have many different symptoms. The microbe or toxin enters the body through the gastrointestinal tract causing nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps and diarrhea.

Epilogue: No doubt, these exchanges of germs take place in food establishments all over the world, every day and night. (Usually customers cannot see what goes on in the kitchen.) People are not perfect. That’s what a healthy immune system is for, right? But, for one whose immune system is compromised, or who has severe allergies, they must be even more careful eating out. Even when you put the wait staff through the third degree, so to speak, it’s not a guarantee you won’t get sick. Recently, a friend of mine* with severe dairy allergy, became very ill from a small amount of dairy in her meal when she ate out.

Take care where you eat out, or grow your own and eat at home! Great in theory, right? But people working 15 hours a day ~ especially inner-city folks who live in “food deserts,” where no healthy food markets or farmer’s markets exist within a 10-block radius ~ do not have time to shop for healthy food, or cook meals at home. More must be done to bring healthy food to food deserts. A producer and I are developing a reality series which will highlight these issues. With the tsunami of Type II Diabetes cresting over our nation, there isn’t a minute to lose introducing healthy eating to a wider populace.

Life is Too Short to Eat Out - Pinewood meal

Meal from Pinewood Store & Kitchen – ©MuroPhoto

*Mee Tracy McCormick, author of “My Kitchen Cure” is owner and chef at Pinewood Store and Kitchen, where they serve farm-to-table organic food, customized for anyone’s dietary requirements. I’ll be happily eating there in April! Mee cooked her way to wellness and shares her recipes on a Nashville, Tennessee, TV program, and in community workshops.


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Category: Community, Food Security, Garden Musings, Sustainable Living

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