Z is fussy in the kitchen, in some respects

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?

15 comments on “Z is fussy in the kitchen, in some respects

  1. martina

    Clean up the kitchen while working in it. Just makes life easier and more organized. I cannot leave the house if there are dirty dishes in the sink. They need to be washed, dried and put away first.
    A big deal in the neighborhood blog is about dog poo. People don’t like it when others are walking dogs and put sealed bags of dog poo in the trash cans out on parking strips or in alleys. They think dog walker should carry bag o’ poo with them and dump it in their own cans. Apparently this is a very sensitive subject to others. I used to be guilty of putting dog walk waste in other people’s cans rather than carrying it the mile home-won’t do that any more!

  2. Z

    There are special bins for bags of dog poo in the village, but if I don’t go past one I carry the bagful home. But I’d not get het up if a bag was put in my bin (not the recycling bin of course) – it’s all rubbish after all and not coming back to my house!

  3. Dandelion

    Uncooked meat must never touch anything else ever, and cooked meat and uncooked meat must never be stored on the same shelf in the fridge, or above or below eachother, covered or not.

    Though my fridge is mostly empty, barring nail varnish, mars bars, fruit juice and margarine. Makes me happy just to look in it.

  4. Dave

    Don’t worry Z, I can take a hint, so I won’t invite you for a meal at my house.

    Tea’s made with boiling water, so you should be safe in accepting a cuppa if you come round to view my garden.

  5. Z

    Funnily enough, I’m perfectly relaxed about other people’s houses and accept their standards. I’m only meaning my own kitchen.

    I have the same feeling as you about raw meat, Dand. If I cut up meat I wash the knife before cutting up the vegetables, even if they’re going to be cooked together, though it’s all right to cut up the veg first and then use the knife on the meat. I’m meaning food preparation obviously, not eating at the table.

  6. Dave

    I must admit when your granddaughter dropped her biscuit the other day, and I picked it up, picked off the bit of grass and gave it back to her, I did wonder whether I’d be getting a black mark.

    The odd peck of dirt, in my mind, never did me any harm, and indeed probably helps the immune system.

    Mind you, a peck is equivalent to a quarter of a bushel, which is probably quite a lot in metric.

  7. Z

    No, I’d do that too. Indeed, if the dog licked it I’d probably just break off the soggy bit, if her mother wasn’t watching.

    We were talking about pecks the other day in the shop and I discovered that Al thought it was a small amount, like a pinch. I explained, and he was quite pleased, as American apples still come in bushels as a unit of measurement.

  8. martina

    I’m in Washington state and apples are a big industry here. British apples are delicious too, but they don’t import them here.

  9. Z

    English apples are out of season until late August, there’s no option but to sell imported ones, and that includes American. He also has some Royal Gala apples from Chile at present, as well as New Zealand Braeburn, some from South Africa and other places. He sells English when he can.

  10. luckyzmom

    My very long and thoughtful comment was just lost when I accidentally pressed something I shouldn’t have. It was probably all blather anyway. Suffice it to say that I have pretty much the same view as you.

    PS our landscaping projest is under way and I’ve posted about it on my blog.

  11. Blue Witch

    I can’t bear people who pet their animals then touch food without washing their hands. Or who allow pets on kitchen surfaces, and then prepare food without wiping down.

    I have a friend who has a cat litter tray in her kitchen, right by the table where one eats. I just don’t know how she can eat with that smell lingering.

    Whenever I read about the perils of meat, or redo my Food Hygiene Certificate, I am very happy that I don’t eat meat.

  12. Z

    Some otherwise fastidious people seem to have a blind spot where their cats are concerned. If I had one, it would have to learn not to go on the kitchen surfaces at all, with or without wiping down.

    Dilly has a thing about milk products – she is absolutely fanatical about hygiene there as she did a thesis or something about it and says that milk’s full of germs and must be kept cold all the time. When the milkman had been and we hadn’t noticed and left her milk out all morning, she would have thrown it all away. We used it up over the next few days and were fine. And my breakfast yoghurt today was marked use by 9th June. It was fine. Mind you, the milk bottle is never left out of the fridge unless it’s in use.


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