Sick of the whinging and ridiculous politicking about how Abbott is destroying car manufacturing, threatening pensioners, persecuting would-be ‘immigrants’, and bringing us close to fisticuffs with Indonesia? Food hygiene can be diverting.
I’d had a disappointingly greasy meal at a pub, the Sackville in Rozelle (an inner suburb of Sydney, for those not in the know), where I had eaten well in the past. I decide to buy a single apple when passing a fruit and vegetable shop on Darling Street on my way to the bus. This I thought would counteract the grease and settle my stomach. My intention was to eat it immediately; and hang the desirability of washing it beforehand.
I chose an apple, a ‘pink lady’ if my memory serves, and expressed my wish to buy it. Now the chap serving might have simply said that will be a dollar or something but, no, he had to weigh it. This is where the trouble started because he took it from me and wrapped his largish hand completely around my apple.
Let me explain. He didn’t grasp it delicately between his finger and thumb. He enveloped my apple.
I blanched and said why not hold it by the stalk instead of handling it so. He took offence. He said well I handled them when putting them on the shelf so what’s the difference. You can wash it later if you like.
I glared but made no further comment. I was clearly dealing with a moron, beyond the ken of ordinary folk. I took my apple home uneaten and washed it vigorously. You might think my charge of him being moronic is a little hard. I don’t think so. He is obviously out of touch with human sensibility when it comes to food handling and hygiene and should be compulsorily committed to food-etiquette training.
When we buy a sandwich in town and observe those serving in slim-fitting latex gloves it gives us comfort that everything has been done hygienically. At my local supermarket they supply tongs for self-serving bread rolls and pastries. If unshielded handling has gone on behind the scenes we know nothing of it; and it needs to stay behind the scenes where food inspectors inured to abominable practices can help protect us. This is important for oiling the wheels of polite society. Ignorance is blissfulness.
We have all witnessed the cursory hand washing in public toilets of many of our fellow citizens. Those same hands, wrapping themselves around our food doesn’t bear thinking about. You may have seen and recall an episode of Seinfeld in which Poppy, the father of Jerry’s (at-the-time) girlfriend, who runs a pizza restaurant, is observed by Jerry kneading dough having exited a toilet cubicle without washing his hands. Jerry lost his girlfriend rather than eat “sloppy” Poppy’s pizza.
Then there are sweaty hands and nose picking and the ear exploration favoured one time in federal parliament by our former prime minister. And if a PM gets up to that kind of thing what do ordinary people do? George Orwell in Road to Wigan Pier expressed feelings of dread about bowls of porridge served by his landlord; whose ‘working class’ thumbs he saw intruding into each bowl. My fruiterer on Darling Street is clearly completely oblivious to this commonplace feeling of dread.
Orwell introduced a sexual connotation into his feelings about this kind of thing by noting that a woman’s hands caused him little concern compared with a man’s hands. I tend to feel the same way. Is it a sexual thing or is it simply a rational view, right or wrong, that women are more fastidious than men in their personal habits.
If my fruiterer had been a woman I might have enjoyed my apple unwashed and never given it a second thought. How do women feel about this? Do they distinguish between male and female hands in matters of food handling and hygiene? I don’t know.
Peter Smith, a frequent Quadrant Online contributor, is the author of Bad Economics