Taboos and Tableware


“Remember, it is never the knife’s fault.”

Daniel Boulud

The table is a meeting place, a gathering ground, the source of sustenance and nourishment, festivity, safety, and satisfaction. A person cooking is a person giving: even the simplest food is a gift.

                                                                                            Laurie Colwin




There. I feel somewhat better now. Not much but definitely feel an improvement.

I love café society and restaurants and eating out. I love trying new places as well as returning to firm favourites. But something that will spoil the experience anywhere is having to ask for clean cutlery when I see the untrained (I surmise) staff handle the silverware by the blade, tines or bowl of eating implements. I don’t want the gift of their mucky hands, upset tum or anything more serious,

Olive: You and everyone else on the planet feel the same way.

Tilly: But not all hotels, restaurants, cafes, takeaway places … “Food safety involves everybody in the food chain”-Mike, Johanns.

My vivid imagination questions whether they have washed their hands recently – even if they have, they should not be touching the parts of knives, forks and spoons which will go into another person’s mouth – or maybe they have rubbed their nose, or  picked it, ferreted in an ear for that elusive and bothersome piece of wax.

Olive: Oh great I did not need that visual Tilly.

Tilly: It’s life as we know it, Olive!

Horror of horrors, maybe they have visited the bathroom and not bothered to wash their hands or – dastardly habit – merely trickled water over one or two or three fingers in a foolhardy pretence of being hygienic and sensible.

Olive: Sick, just sick… known as icky-poo

Tilly: I have seen similar behaviour in hospitals – by people in nurse’s uniforms … ugh.

It used to be that one was cute and did not eat raw foods in certain countries but now, with the rise in hepatitis A, maybe we need to be more canny in more food outlets.(Hepatitis A is a liver infection, passed on by way of food – usually related to unwashed hands handling the food.)

Olive: Oh, thanks, now I will double-think going out for dinner.

Tilly: I cling to the view that reputable food outlets will be diligent in food hygiene preparation. On holiday in Egypt some years ago, I learned the chefs on the river boat washed all vegetables with bottled water and were scrupulous about handwashing.

If the waiting staff are not properly informed about hygiene and how to handle cutlery, it is entirely possible that those preparing salads are also slapdash about soap and water.

Plastic gloves are not necessarily the answer either. Health inspectors some years ago found they could be as big a risk as chipped nail polish, grubby fingernails and unwashed hands.

Olive: So now what.

Tilly: Perhaps a hand basin and soap just inside the kitchen entry so that no one may touch anything without having washed their hands on entry?

A friend – who shall remain anonymous! – once told me that the staff were reminded EVERY day that whenever they visited the bathroom, for whatever reason, they MUST wash their hands. As the industry was connected to food and cosmetics packaging, all staff were issued with gloves.

One member of staff was seen to emerge from a cubicle, cross to the hand basins, remove said gloves, wash hands with vigour, dry them with care … and replace the gloves to return to work.

Without wishing to be freaky-deaky about hygiene (I have licked the wooden spoon when cooking …), I am well aware that one of finest and simplest ways to reduce, if not eliminate, food poisoning, gastric upsets and galloping gut-rot, is encourage everyone handling food to wash their hands. Mind you, I also subscribe to the philosophy that we can be too clean, that a bit of dirt never hurt anyone that our immune systems are there for a purpose.

“Let your food be your medicine, and your medicine be your food.” – Hippocrates.

BUT We don’t want to need medicine because of what we have eaten.

N.B. As an adjunct to my whinge about greed and wasting food, UberFacts posted a Tweet recently: more people are dying from obesity than from malnutrition.

Tilly: There is also a maxim that more people have died because they went to see a doctor in the first place … but that’s another contentious issue.

Olive: I will stay out of that one.

Tilly and Olive




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  • Jerry Bell

    Yes indeed, I agree. Food safety must be followed wherever there is food prepared and served. I worked as a food service professional for well over twenty years and there are plenty of mistakes that our immune system needs to take care of. The pros need to be on their game 100%. Ladies, thank you so much for bringing the problem to everyone’s attention. It’s bad enough to spend time praying to the porcelain God after a night of drinking. No one needs to do it after a simple snack.

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