When I was a kid, my Mom had a plaque on the wall that said: “My house is clean enough to be healthy and dirty enough to be happy.” Never one to be happy living in dirt, or even disorganization or clutter, I was never really fond of the damn thing.
Sure, there are times when a little dirt won’t hurt us. And yes, studies are all very clear on the fact that children exposed to dirt and germs end up being much healthier than kids brought up in sterile environments, particularly because all the cleaners used to make the environments so sterile are probably making them more sick than the dirt might.
In the kitchen though, poor sanitation habits can indeed make us sick.
The problem is that we have really poor role models.
This piece on the Guardian’s blog discusses how UK food TV personalities have really crap habits when it comes to kitchen sanitation. Because of editing for time, you rarely see chefs washing their hands or cleaning tools. We assume they do it, because many of them were properly trained, but it’s not obvious. And for people whose cooking role models are TV personalities, particularly ones who are not formally-trained, it’s even worse. I cannot watch Nigella with her hair hanging in the cake batter, licking spoons like she’s trying to be coy and sexy. Or worse, with her kids and their dirty little paws in the dough. Ugh.
It’s no better on this side of the Atlantic, though. Rachael Ray, who proudly proclaims that she is not a trained chef has the worst habits of all. On the very first episode of her talk show, she reduced her 30-minute meal to an 8-minute meal. Serving sauteed chicken on a bed or arugula greens, she flattened two raw chicken breasts and used a tongs to transfer them to a heated pan. Then without washing the tongs, used them to toss the salad greens. It’s Rachael’s special salad with salmonella dressing. YUMMO!
The terrifying part is that these are most people’s cooking role models. And they think, hey, if Rachael Ray does it this way, it must be okay. If they have no experience with basic kitchen sanitation – even a high school home ec class – they just don’t know what is right and wrong when it comes to not poisoning their family at dinner time.
TV chefs need to clean up their act. As boring as it is, safety and sanitation need to be part of every cooking show.