Taste Scene

Michael Devlin

The gloves are off

I was cooking for our two little humans last week and the biggest one says, “Daddy, have you washed your hands?”

I have to say, I was more than a little affronted.

“Of course,” says I, nice and casual but my gast had never been as flabbered.

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I was doing spaghetti carbonara at the time (more about that in the coming weeks) and I had already decided I wasn’t going to add the whisked eggs to finish the dish. Had it been me and Herself I wouldn’t have thought twice but since it was for the off-spring, I harboured second dubious thoughts.

In reality, I’m permanently at pains to be hygienically precise when I’m preparing food for people at home (a lot of Ps in that sentence wasn’t there?).

You might say that I’m even (here’s another one) pedantic about things and consequently, I habitually wash my hands multiple times before the food reaches the table. My perfect nightmare would be a bout of upset tummies or worse still food poisoning for the little humans due to something I’d done incorrectly.

Ergo, you might also say I’m fastidious to a fault when it comes to prep and hand-washing and cleaning up after myself. I often wondering though, as my hands crack and hacks appear… am I washing them too often?

The reason I mention their tainting-avoidance affair is because a friend recently pointed out that McDonald’s staff don’t use the plastic gloves when they prepare food; to be honest, I’d never noticed nor even looked.

The absence of gloves prompted my friend to compose an email to McDonald’s asking about their hygiene policy and there returned a lengthy response from customer services on the company’s policies and procedures regarding best hygiene practise.

Confirming that gloves are not worn, the helpful customer service chap explained that food handlers are required to follow a strict regime when it comes to preparation and must wash their hands every 30 minutes and with antimicrobial soap for good measure.

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I instigated a similar conversation with Subway some years ago although it turned out to be entirely one-sided ie, I garnered no response.

My quibble was: I was in a Subway once in an unnamed town and I noticed a server cough into a gloved hand before turning to ask as to my pleasure.

Instead of asking if she was going to change her sullied gloves before making the sandwich, I made an excuse and exited the premises. It was only later that I penned a missive to customer services outlining the scenario.

However I received no response and I duly boycotted Subway for about a year.

I finally gave in and returned with my custom after I arrived at the realisation that eating out in any capacity, whether it’s Subway, McDonald’s or a Michelin starred restaurant, requires a certain trust on the part of the patron – gloves or no.

Remember the food-poisoning outbreak at Heston Blumenthal’s Fat Duck restaurant in 2009? Plastic gloves wouldn’t have made one bit of difference in that instance, when some 500 people were struck down by the norovirus due to contaminated shellfish.

The aforementioned McDonald’s customer services response was detailed and sounded like stringent hygiene practice if followed to the letter.

But my friend remains sceptical about their no-glove policy.

He feels it can’t legislate for a staff member scratching a particular part of their body and then continue to prepare food with bare hands.

I suppose the moral of this windy story (if there is one), is that there’s no substitute for washing your hands after you touch anything that isn’t food related.

Personally, I don’t wear gloves at home when cooking for Herself and the little humans but at the same time I want the dishes to be entirely nefarious microbe free and as hygienically perfect as possible. And, if that means me washing my hands umpteen times a day and suffering the hacks thereafter, then that’s how it has to be.

I therefore shouldn’t be too affronted when one of the little humans checks to see if my hands are washed. She’s just checking, I suppose.

The affront I can’t set aside or ignore is when, after I’ve gone to all the trouble of making the carbonara (multiple hand-washes etc), and they ruddy-well don’t like it!

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