Weeza and I were talking today about levels of hygiene and scrupulousness/fussiness in the kitchen. We agreed that we all have things that just get to us. For example, a while ago I was going to visit a friend, and texted him to say I was shopping and could I get anything? As I was at the butcher, he asked for a small piece of pork. I took it along, he diced it and added it to vegetables in a pan. Then he washed his hands, made a pot of coffee and led me to the conservatory to drink it. But I was still staring at the chopping board, which was still in its usual place on the counter and, I knew, was covered in raw pork juices. I felt almost unsteady and found it hard not to take it and wash it up immediately, or at least leave it in the sink so there was no risk of anything else being put on it. I had to mention it in fact “Er, you won’t forget to wash it before using it for anything else?” He was amused and slightly patronising as he assured me he wouldn’t.
Weeza can’t bear to see anything uncovered in the fridge. A lid, foil, cling film, whatever – she hates the risk of cross-contamination or unwanted flavours.
I can’t tolerate a dishcloth or teatowel gathering germs. I can almost see them. I use J-cloths and wash them after a day’s use at most (in fact, pretty well as soon as they’ve been used at all), in the washing machine. I greatly prefer crockery to be washed in a dishwasher so that I’m confident it’s clean. On the other hand, if I drop something on the floor I’ll give it a cursory wipe and eat it anyway. I’ll pull a carrot from the ground, dust off the obvious earth and put it in my mouth. When my late dog, Chester, drank out of my friend Christopher’s teacup and he shrugged it off and drank the rest of the tea, I didn’t turn a hair – I’d not have hesitated to do it myself. But when Weeza commented that she couldn’t bear to see someone touch raw chicken, turn on the tap to was their hands and then not wash the tap with soap afterwards (and wiping hands on a damp cloth instead makes her feel ill) I completely concurred. Indeed, when I needed new kitchen taps I chose ones with levers so that I could use my arm to knock it if my hands weren’t clean.
Sell-by dates, pfft – that’s the question Blue Witch asks about today. I prefer to make my own decision and use them as no more than a guide – and as a reason for merriment in some respects.
Weeza said she was relaxed about dust. Blimey, I don’t even see dust until it’s festooning the month-old cobwebs dangling in front of my face. One of the reasons I loved the Edwardian houses I used to live in was the high ceilings – I couldn’t see the cobwebs at all. Here, I have to hoover the walls and ceilings. Occasionally. I remember the late cookery writer, Marika Hanbury Tenison saying how fanatical about cleanliness she was, and that her kitchen floor had to be washed twice a day. Um. I wondered why – did they usually eat off it?
In short, I’m casual about dirt but pretty fussy about hygiene. I recognise that my precise definition of ‘hygiene’ may not be yours, one way or the other. Anything that really gets your hygiene or cleanliness goat?