If we were having coffee today I would be happy if the waitress brought us our drinks. I don’t much like to see the backside of anyplace I eat or drink. Out of sight out of mind, I guess.
I was just talking to somebody about restaurant practices. We all hear horror stories. I’ve had quite a number of jobs and second and third jobs. I was a maintenance man in the student center in college and saw the food service areas up close. That was before I realized what to look for though. At that time, I was more involved with things like pulling the mangled remains of a bent fork out of drive chain of the huge dishwasher. (One time, I mounted one on a piece of wood and gave it to the manager to give out as an award.) This happened a lot. It was great for the workers. They didn’t have to load/unload the dishwasher for a period of time.
My first duty in my first job was sanitizing a soft serve shake machine. We took it apart every night, washing all the inner components and in the morning we’d actually sanitize it with bleach and a half dozen rinses before reloading the precious cargo. Every day. Why? Because the health inspector would periodically take samples from it to check for bacteria.
But wait, what don’t they check?
I’m talking about things I learned at other jobs. Take lemons. You get lemon in your tea or water, but did you ever stop and wonder for just a minute … do they actually wash the outer surface of those lemons? Actually, some places do. Most don’t.
Most everybody loves to get butter on their popcorn at the movie theater. First of all, it’s not butter. It is some vaguely-butter-flavored-foodlike-substance out of a can. Nobody knows exactly what it is or where it comes from. But that’s not my point. When I worked for a movie theater, I never once, not ever, saw anyone wash the dispensing container. It’s low? Open a can and pour some more in.
I was a barista for quite a while. My pet peeve when I got to work, usually after my day job, was the towel used to clean the steaming wand, you know the one that creates that wonderful froth and heated milk for your precious lattes and cappuccinos? After that frothing action, you need to clean off the scalded milk residue. When I arrived for EVERY shift, I would pick up that towel with the tips of two fingers and carefully deposit it with the soiled linens. I’d go through five or six towels a shift but I’d assume the towel I removed at been on duty since the early morning. Hint: forget about the towel … take a look at the wand before you order your expensive drink. I’d rather they wipe it down with a dirty towel than not wipe it down at all. You ever scald milk in a pan on the stove then try to clean the pan? THAT happens to the wand every time.
Espresso machines have another pitfall: the screen. There’s a metal screen up where the espresso head clamps in. Nobody can see it, but if you work the machine you are supposed to know it’s there. You should take it off and scrub it with a bristle brush every day. It screws in with a single screw. It’s a pain. A lot of people skip it because of the pain part but it’s a necessity. Oh, it’s bathed in super-heated steam again and again, but it also sits quiet and warm for a while too. It’s also a good idea to just blow it out several times a shift, run water without the espresso head locked in. That at least blows out the tiny coffee particles that stick to it.
We washed all our drip coffee stuff in the dishwasher, thankfully.
Let’s return to tea. You go someplace and it is self-service ice tea. It’s in that big, dispensing urn, right? It’s big. How often do you think they actually pull that thing down and really scrub it? It probably won’t fit in the dishwasher. Places I worked might swish some hot water through it, maybe once a day. Sweet tea sits in that thing for HOURS at room temperature every day. The health department checks the soft serve? They should check those things.
Some more drip coffee? Sure. The basket and pot have likely been through the dishwasher. Oh and some water, please? No, no lemon, thank you.
What sort of health-impacting issues have you encountered?
Thomas Fenske is a writer living in North Carolina. You can get more information about his books here: http://thefensk.com