Germ Warfare – 1

Lemon Meringue Pie
Lemon Meringue Pie

She was holding back tears of frustration. It had failed, again.

Every time she’d tried to duplicate her mother’s lemon pie, all she could produce was lemon soup.

She had asked her mother.

The many possible explanations made her head swim.

Were the eggs too small, too old, or too cold?

Was the cornstarch under-ripe, or were the lemons over-ripe?

Was the water filtered? The sugar sifted?

How many times she’d watched Mother make that pie! She mentally ticked off the ingredients, desperate for a clue . . . .

She forgot one ingredient.

No, she did not omit anything on the recipe card. Actually, she forgot to examine carefully one item that she always, unthinkingly, added to her mother’s formula.

Human saliva.

Yes, in her youthful ignorance of scrupulous hygiene, she always sampled the pie filling with the same spoon, several times. Her family often shared apples, ice cream cones, and drinking glasses, she reasoned. No one would care, or even know.

M-m-m! So delicious! Sure hope it sets up this time…

If you have ever fed a child from a jar of baby food and refrigerated the left-overs for later, you may have had the same experience of soupy consistency. The food isn’t exactly spoiled—just somewhat digested. God created the enzymes in saliva expressly for that purpose and they work very well.

Cleanliness in the kitchen is of crucial importance. The lack of it is considered rudeness.  In this country, a guest has a right to decline to eat where food is not protected from contaminants. You wouldn’t expect a person to eat a helping of casserole with a fly on it, right?

That’s because of the germs.

The battle against germs must be fought on all fronts, though. The ice-cube that hits the floor, the meat juice on the cutting board, the dust in the vent hood, the film on the refrigerator handle, and the licked spoon are some of the prime targets in this battle.

And if you think your hands are pretty clean, I challenge you to try this for one day: rinse them a little and then dry on the same white towel each time you begin to work in the kitchen.

The importance of cleanliness skyrockets, though, with the added factor of food storage. I mean, why bother to preserve dirty food? It is especially important to realize the part that germs, enzymes, etc., can play in the failures experienced in dry storage and raw storage. Uncooked food stuff can save your life or kill you, depending on its quality.

Generally, home dried food that is quick-dried and then stored frozen is safe. Some of it is delicious. Peaches are superb. If you dry food out-doors, though, do use netting to protect it from insects and do not choose a day when dust is blowing everywhere. If you use a mechanical dehydrator, clean it between uses. Check it for six-legged occupants.  In fact, if you know that your house is not bug-free, you should clean every utensil you need for each meal.

When you prepare foods for storage, clean your kitchen counters and tables first. Use an ammonia based spray, dish water, baking soda, or vinegar. Any of the extreme acid or alkaline substances usually does a good job of killing and removing bacteria, etc. Then spread clean towels over the work surfaces you plan to use. I use towels from garage sales and bleach them often.

Next wash the utensils. The colander is dusty, the tongs are rusty, and the cutting board is musty!

I hope you have a wooden cutting board because they are the most sanitary.

Wash the jars, carefully. Hold them up to a light to check for little bits of last year’s food. Wash the bands and flats. (Especially the flats, because they have direct contact with the food, just like the jars. They can have metal filings, stray bits of rubber, mildew and roach hairs on them. Ick.)

Tomorrow, the food.


Photo credit: David Maddison

Published by Katharine

Katharine is a writer, speaker, women's counselor, and professional mom. Happily married over 50 years to the same gorgeous guy. She loves cooking amazing homegrown food, celebrating grandbabies, her golden-egg-laying hennies, and watching old movies with popcorn. Her writing appears at Medium, Arkansas Women Bloggers, Contently, The Testimony Train, Taste Arkansas, Only in Arkansas, and in several professional magazines and one anthology.

4 thoughts on “Germ Warfare – 1

  1. That is so interesting! so interesting that I let my Rhubarb and strawberries boil over…Oh dear I had some wiping down to do of the hob…all done, clean again and we had the rhubarb and strawberries with fresh cream, yummy. Thanks for all the tips above

    1. Oh, bless you Lesley!
      A HUGE welcome to Home’s Cool! I am so sorry for my fascinating part in your spillover! Oh, Dear, I guess it’s not really my fault, though I do understand. I have tried mixing computer with cooking before and “Tsk, tsk. M, m, m.” as my mother used to say.
      You’re welcome to the tips and do visit again! 😉

      P.S. I have some ice cream . . .

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