Sunday, July 13, 2008

Food & Cooking, Part 2

We postpone our originally scheduled shopping trip discussion for the following public service announcement:

When you get to a new place, always, Always, ALWAYS check the temperature in the refrigerator!

This is important because of bacteria. While we wouldn't exist without bacteria, it's important not to encourage unfamiliar invaders to mess with us. They mess with us best by growing in unwanted places. Say, our foods or our digestive tracts. Bacteria are very encouraged to grow between 40 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit.

The goal of a refrigerator is to slow down bacterial growth as much as possible. A food safe refrigerator should be at 40* degrees or below. A food safe freezer should be at 0** degrees or below.

If you already have a thermometer in your refrigerator, bring it on the trip. If not, grocery stores usually sell them pretty cheaply in the kitchenwares aisle. We bought one for about $3, but then remembered that CKL bought a nifty little infrared thermometer. It's a multi-tasker***! So we dumped the refrigerator thermometer and now use use the infrared instead.

Unfortunately, we forgot this very important food safety tip when we got to Buffalo. We didn't take the refrigerator's temperature. We cooked a meal and put leftovers into that untested refrigerator. The next day, we went shopping and put all our lovely new food into that same untested refrigerator. Then cooked and put some more tasty leftovers into the untested refrigerator.

We finally took the refrigerator's temperature two days later.

No food item in the refrigerator was under 50 degrees. Some were in the extra-scary 60s. All the perishables had to go. Just thinking about it still gives me the shivers. Thank goodness we hadn't actually eaten**** any of our leftovers!

Thank goodness, almost everything was in the freezer.

Mind you, at 27 to 33 degrees, the freezer was nowhere near food-safe freezing temperature. But at least it was plenty cold enough for refrigerated food and still safe to eat.

* At 40 degrees, bacterial growth is slowed enough to preserve food for a while. Note that bacteria aren't stopped, just slowed. So it's still a good idea not to encourage contamination, especially if you plan on eating that food in its current state.

** At 0 degrees, bacterial growth is stopped. Note that bacteria aren't killed, just stopped from growing.

***In addition to taking the refrigerator's temperature, we've used the infrared thermometer to check stuff out on hot days. On our trip to the Washington Monument, we checked the following:
  • Asphalt: 130s. No wonder feet get burned! Asphalt is a heat-storing monster
  • Skin: 75-98 degrees. Sweating turns out to be pretty good at cooling. Dry skin was in the sweltering 90s. Sweaty skin was in the balmy 70s. CKL's skin was cooler than mine.
  • Plants: low 80s. They were damp to the touch. I guess respiration is like sweating.
  • Granite walkway next to the plants: 100s. Nowhere near as hot as asphalt.
  • Washington Monument: 90s. We forgot to measure it in the sun. Otherwise, I would have expected something more like the walkway. Also, the Park Rangers were on the sun side of the monument. Had they seen us, they would have thought we were weird. If we were lucky. There is a whole lot of bag-and-person searching in our Nation's Capitol.
**** The cats, however, had been eating their refrigerated tuna treats. I wasn't so worried about them. The vet, my cat nutrition books, and teh interwebs all pretty much agree that as obligatory carnivores, cats are much more resistant to food-borne illnesses than people. Food just passes through their digestive systems too quickly.

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At July 13, 2008 at 9:41 PM , Blogger DeeAnn said...

Original post edited to correct some typos that make me look stupid. Of course, now I've told you that I look stupid, which might defeat the point....


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