Thursday, 1 September 2011

Finger In Too Many Pies

What makes you squeamish? Blood and guts, pus, vomit, the dentist's chair, drills and needles, or the overpowering smell of decay. Maybe it's bugs, even ones so microscopic you can't see them. Me? A single letter of the alphabet sums it up. The letter my name is shortened to. The capitol letter H. Hands and Hygiene. H-classified areas guaranteed to make me say “Yuck!” or feel faint. Before I pass out I'll delve deeper...

We all have our own yuck-meter. A personal measure of “It freaks me out!” Bothered by or unable to observe some things more than others. What governs this I wonder... Blood or needles are typical “I feel faint” culprits, but these have never fazed me. Poor hygiene is my bugbear. I hate feeling grubby. Clean hands, my number one rule if you want to come anywhere near me. Everyone washes their hands don't they? Hmmm, depends what you mean by wash. A quick splash, no soap the majority. Believe me, I've seen this plenty.

The thought of where hands might have been often puts me off tinned or cook-chilled food. In my mind's eye, all I see are factory floors with big vats of ingredients. Soups, stews, and sauces bubbling away. Workers clothed in white and hairnets, focused on their roles. Peeling, chopping, sorting, overseeing the production line... A seamless operation of quality control. Why for me does this rate high on my yuck conveyor belt? I think it's the number of hands food goes through, even with gloves and machinery. The menacing image of Sweeney Todd overshadowing the positive. Do we really know what we might be eating?

I understand the need for manufacturing, especially today. Many hands make light work as they say. We all benefit from this process in some way. A packaged sandwich, sausage roll, or tinned spaghetti hoops. All churned out quick, and it's this that makes me nauseous. Have we gone a step too far in what we manufacture? More convenient to grab and buy, than make your own at home. Are we giving manufacturers too much trust in the hygiene and safety stakes? HACCP is by no means a guarantee. There's too many fingers in too many pies for my liking.

Is there a way to avoid this? No, afraid not. It's impossible. You could not eat out, cook only from scratch, and boycott all processed goods. If the thought of this is making you giddy, then take my advice: keep it simple. Wash your hands, don't think, and for God's sake don't watch Gordon Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares!