You Food is Trying to Kill You! Food Hazards Nobody Talks About
Cholesterol, pesticides, spoilage, and preservatives – you’ve heard everything you need to hear about safe eating right? Wrong! Stay alert for these lesser known food perils:
(1) Pizza Cheese Burns and Grease Valleys of Death – Pizza’s geometric flatness, unenclosed nature, exposed cheese, and tendency to be served piping hot, are a dangerous mix for a food that is so delicious you somehow forget the second degree burns from the last time. And not only is your mouth in danger, but so is your chin, arm, shirt, pants, chair, and bjorned baby – unless you maintain perfect balance and control as you bite and/or fold your slice. Grease Valleys of Death are threats of nature second only to tsunamis, tornados, and woodchuck trampling.
(2) Stabby Foods (Mouth Cuts) – Crusty bread and un-soggy cereal can be virtual razorblades to the roof of your mouth. If you don’t gingerly bite and chew, your meal is going to come with a coating of mouth blood. Consider the rules of good sandwich construction in your choosing bread. And let large, jagged cereals soak for at least a minute before taking a heaping spoonful.
(3) Concealed Spice – Spicy foods are a sneaky devil. If you are not a fan, spiciness will make even the most delicious food inedible. And those who like spice have their threshold. And if your taste buds are scorched on the first bite, the whole meal can be ruined. That’s why you have to ask a lot of stupid questions when ordering something like buffalo wings or Indian food. “Are the hot wings, very hot?” is a foolish question. And your well-meaning server’s answer is mostly useless, “Pretty hot. It depends on how much heat you like.” Tips:
(a) Menu Context: The menu will provide some clues. For example, if they have “thermos-nuclear” as an option, then the regular buffalo wings are likely mild.
(b) Order backup Food – If you’ve never tasted the food before, your best bet is to order two things, one at the threshold of your spice-index and one certainly below, as your safety food.
(c) Don’t underestimate Hot Mustard/English Mustard – You like mustard. Hot mustard sounds exciting, right? Ask for it on the side. Mustard in all forms is notoriously over-used but hot mustard is a sneaky devil. The first bite will seem okay at first – mustardy. Nothing to fear. Then it’ll attack your nose and never let go. And good luck scraping that flavor off of your sandwich. Pro tip: Beware of “English Mustard.” It sounds enjoyable and innocuous like Mr. Bean. No. Some English mustard will kick your ass harder than Jason Statham.
(4) Eating and Walking – Look both ways before crossing the street, especially if you are double fisting tacos. In a big City, your best mode of transport is by foot, which can be treacherous if are distracted by the best slice of pizza you’ve ever had. Eating while walking may be a necessity, an indulgence, or a hobby for urbanites; and avoiding collisions with cars, bike messengers, and vagrants is the hungry pedestrian’s duty.
(5) Eating and Driving – Texting and driving is illegal almost everywhere now. But for those of us who are more distracted by food than socializing, the law remains forgiving. So the driver-eaters have got to self-police and be responsible. Car foods must be enjoyed one-handed. This does limit you, but there are still a lot of options.
(a) Kid Germs – There are two types of people. Those who eat their kids’ unfinished food, and those who don’t. If you are one who does, please let me know, I’d rather fist bump than shake hands. You are, by association, a germ factory. Touched by a kid = instant contamination.
(b) Germs/Dirty hands – Dirty hands in an urban environment is the biggest challenge to walking and eating. Always keep the wrapper around your food and don’t touch your food, unless you like the flavorings of grime and urine. And don’t be afraid to drink your food – chips being an excellent example.
(c) Ground Germs – The three second rule is a nice gimmick, but science has shown its no more than a complex food justification to convince yourself its okay to eat off of the ground (it is).
(d) Sneezegaurds – Pop quiz – if you witnessed the sneezegaurd perform its job perfectly – fully blocking a sneeze… would you eat the mac and cheese below it…ever? The only true sneezegaurd is a wall.
(7) Adequate Chewing and Choking – The scientific establishment (okay, the internet) says that you should chew each bite 32 times. This is one safety rule that’s hard to follow – especially with Jell-o. The desire to swallow is always paramount. If you are eating something gross, you want it down your gullet and out of your mouth as soon as possible. If you are eating something tasty, you want to make room for another fresh, delicious bite.
(8) Bite Your Tongue (or Fork) – There are certain types of pain that are surprisingly – perhaps in part because you have nobody to blame but yourself. Biting your tongue is right up there with the funny bone and stubbing your toe. When you were a kid, and you bit your tongue (or your fork), some smart-ass parent or sibling might quip, “Does it taste good?” or “Why would you eat that? You have food right in front of you.” It wasn’t funny then and it’s not funny now. First you feel (and even hear) the crunch of tongue flesh between your own incisors. Then taste of fresh blood is fills your mouth. Worst of all, eating is a misery for at least a few days. Or if it’s a bite into your fork, the painful shockwave goes from the fork into your brain, right through your teeth, like an idiot’s tuning fork.
(10) Milk out of the nose – (read in a Seinfeld voice) What’s the deal with milk coming out of people’s noses? Why milk? Is milk more prone to travel up the nasal cavity? What about orange juice up the nose? Tomato juice. Why is everybody laughing at their milk? Is milk funny? Let’s give milk a sitcom.
(11) Calculated Risk of Poopage – You are out to eat or amongst friends, or on the road or on a date. Your favorite meal is also the one that will induce a significant gastrointestinal issues. When do you take the risk? Maybe carry Imodium as insurance? Are you comfortable taking a 10-15 minute bathroom break while your friends wait in the lobby? Consider the next destination – if it’s a New York apartment with the bathroom adjacent to the living room – beware!