Watching people grill drives me crazy
June 8, 2016 5:07 PM   Subscribe

Summer is nearly upon us, and it's not only the temperature that's rising -- it's also my anxiety. At other peoples' lovely homes, I can't enjoy their hospitality because I'm too distraught from the horror of witnessing egregious food handling errors around the grill.

These range from truly terrifying (cooked meat placed back on the tray it came out on raw) to not-so-great (tongs touch raw chicken, then used to pluck out cooked chicken) to is-this-a-problem-or-not conundrums (a single towel-wipe of the hands after handling raw hamburger - is that enough?)

I increasingly feel like I'm seeing these situations with a special pair of glasses that no one else has. I wish I wasn't wearing them; I want to enjoy the conversation, not have my mind madly occupied with tricky strategems to avoid a dinner option I've ID'd as a crime scene. On the occasion I've hinted at maybe doing this or that differently ("say old friend, happen to have a meat thermometer?"), it hasn't gone well. You just can't point these things out without sounding like a jerk.

So what should I do? How do I not turn into That Guy? Does anyone else struggle with this and have good ideas? Am I full of nonsense after all?
posted by _sirmissalot_ to Science & Nature (43 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
I'm that guy. It's ok to be that guy. The consequences are too great. If you have to volunteer to cook or to lead food safety seminars prior to accepting food, by God, do that.
posted by norm at 5:16 PM on June 8, 2016 [5 favorites]

I'm with you, sir. The problem isn't that you and norm (and others, and me) are "too fussy", it's that we just have to put some work and thought into figuring out the best way to communicate this stuff.

The traits that make us careful are what kept our ancestors alive. Stuff is still dangerous, too, especially with antibiotic resistance becoming more common.
posted by amtho at 5:18 PM on June 8, 2016 [8 favorites]

I always couch it in a story (imaginary or real) of how I once got very sick from food poisoning when I handled food the wrong way so now I've checked out where common mistakes happen and I'm vigilant. I just let people know I'm not judging, I used to do it for years till I got sick too. I tell them what I learned.
So long as it's not a lecture but an ,"Oh god, let me preserve you from the seven circles of shomiting hell, if I can." I've found people then love to ask questions about what happened and what I now know. I tell them stories of sick babies and (vulnerable) elderly dead people too. All true stories. Not all my own, but those of people I know.

(My own "hospital for a week with food poisoning" was from a restaurant. )
posted by taff at 5:27 PM on June 8, 2016 [22 favorites]

If you feel compelled to, comment only on the Truly Terrifying. Other than that (and maybe including that), if you've had a typical level of exposure to typical food establishments, or have travelled much at all, odds are good you've already dealt with worse without knowing it. (Like, are you eating hot dogs at these barbecues?) Unless you're vulnerable for some specific reason, odds are super high you're going to be fine. Like everyone else at the barbecue is likely to be. (Except for maybe around the Truly Terrifying events and overconfidence with fish.)
posted by cotton dress sock at 5:39 PM on June 8, 2016 [18 favorites]

I'm going to give you some kinda different advice than the first few commenters. Yes, people should practice good food safety, and you certainly don't have to eat anything you feel was treated in an unsafe way. Maybe for (a small predefined list of) truly egregious violations, like serving meat in the same dish it was thawed in (wtf), you may still want to choose to say something if you see something. (on preview, more or less what cds said, but I would actually enumerate beforehand what you will say something about, and even then only if you happen to see it happen) And this is definitely something I struggle to deal with also so I really feel you there.

But also, choosing to eat at a friend's place has a certain degree of risk built in. You also say yourself, "I wish I weren't wearing [these special food-violation-spotting glasses]" and that you don't want to have your mind "madly occupied with tricky stratagems to avoid a dinner option." Your "is-this-a-problem-or-not conundrums" are especially going to keep your anxiety on an infinite loop because they are unanswerable (there's nowhere you can look up the risk for something that specific) but your brain will continue to try to come up with answers and solutions nevertheless. And then the anxiety can take on a social dimension because you start going into "if I say something will they all think I'm a weird germophobe? can I just take care of it myself or is that even weirder? if I don't eat something what if they ask me why I'm not eating it? and then what if they get offended? how can I discreetly lose this possibly-tainted chicken thigh? should I feel guilty for wasting food? can I microwave it without being seen or come up with an excuse for why I'm heating it up?", etc.

Anyway your question suggests to me (and I should stress I'm merely someone who is prone to anxiety and has some experience dealing with it and failing to deal with it, I'm not a therapist or anything) that your anxiety is maybe interfering with the main purpose of the cookout, which is to socialize and see your friends, not to be hovering around as the food safety police, a role that seems to stress you out and sometimes annoy them.

Mark Freeman as one example has some great videos on YouTube (e.g.) about strategies for working through OCD/anxiety thoughts about all kinds of subjects (a lot of them are labeled "OCD" but don't let that throw you if you don't feel that precisely describes you, because I have also found them really helpful with things I thought of more as generalized anxiety or health anxiety). The core idea is to avoid performing compulsions (e.g., checking on, trying to make certain about, ruminating about, or seeking reassurance about the object of your anxiety in order to try to get rid of it). Basically, this works temporarily, but in the long run increases your anxiety because it's rewarding. Instead the idea is to try to accept that you are anxious, and that you might even have a good reason to be, and that it's indeed possible you'll all get horrible food poisoning from that hamburger wipe and be shitting liquid for a week -- and to then practice doing the things you wanted to do anyway (e.g. socializing) despite the uncomfortable sensations of anxiety.
posted by en forme de poire at 5:44 PM on June 8, 2016 [42 favorites]

I mitigate 'nosy person who wants to take control' with a little bit of 'helpful guest who is only being helpful!' Like, when I see the meat go on the grill, I'll walk over and grab the plate and say, "Oh hey let me wash this for you! Food's looking good!!" And then I run inside, wash the plate, and bring it back to the griller.

Or I'll strike up a conversation with the griller as they put the meat on the grill, something like, "Can I help in any way? Maybe bring you a clean plate for the cooked meat?" If they refuse (which they shouldn't because someone is offering to help!) then let it go.

I don't worry so much about raw hamburger because tartar! I mean I know it's not quite the same but it's not even close to the same level of horrifying that putting cooked chicken back on the raw chicken plate is. As for the tongs, that one doesn't bother me nearly as much and I can let that go.

I also like taff's method. Might have to use that one myself.
posted by cooker girl at 5:50 PM on June 8, 2016 [34 favorites]

I'd add that not everybody attending social events has declared their immune status and there is a certain degree of stigma around some illnesses that reduce the immunity of some people. I love people with compromised immune systems, my grandfather lost a child to food poisoning and I've been very ill-with a complex medical history. Even if you're just being neurotic, you could well save someone else terrible consequences. It's rare, but it's possible. Why we wear seatbelts and vaccinate and take prenatal vitamins. For the unlikely but truly terrible.
posted by taff at 5:55 PM on June 8, 2016

I don't mean this in a snarky way, but can you not watch? I mean, if you are immunocompromised then that's a whole different thing and do what you have to do. But people can be really sensitive about their cooking, especially if you are telling them they aren't being safe, and are probably going to take offense, no matter how you phrase it. I'd just try my damnedest to not watch the grill. Or resign yourself to the fact that you are, in fact, That Guy.
posted by ELind at 6:06 PM on June 8, 2016 [11 favorites]

Congratulations, you are now a vegetarian at cookouts!

This new strategy opens up two options:

1. In advance of the party, "I'm a vegetarian. Mind if I bring some veggie sausages/portobello mushrooms/marinated tofu thing to cook on the grill?" You now have your own food you can probably cook in a manner to your liking.

2. At a party where you previously didn't announce your vegetarianism or provide anything, "No thanks, I'm a vegetarian." Stick to grilled veggies, pasta salad, chips and guac, or whatever you feel comfortable eating. If you don't want to use the v-word, just say "I'm not eating meat right now" or even just "no thanks" would probably work well.
posted by Sara C. at 6:27 PM on June 8, 2016 [15 favorites]

If you eat at other people's houses, you are accepting bad food handling, in many cases. Grilling just puts it out where you can see it, but if they don't care about raw chicken outside, they didn't care about raw chicken in the kitchen and might not have cared whether or not it was out of the fridge for a long time. People are crazy casual about food safety, and I suppose it mostly works for them because they are still alive.

My solution is to whenever possible just not look, because it is going to happen regardless and all it will do is stress me out. There are a few things I have learned to just say no to, like milk (good lord, some people keep milk long past its use-by date) but grilled chicken and hamburger don't worry me too much as long as things are given a good scorching.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:34 PM on June 8, 2016 [5 favorites]

To elaborate a little, one of the fundamental problems with neurotic anxiety is that it's always possible that your neurosis could well save someone else (or yourself) terrible consequences. That's why the anxiety is so hard to shake: because it feels "real" or reasonable on some level.

For example, I think it's certainly considerate to keep in mind that not everyone has the same immune systems and some people may not feel comfortable talking about it, so if you're the one taking responsibility for the cooking, it's good to practice normal good food safety, and it may be worth taking extra care if you know someone is attending with health restrictions. But I also think that at the end of the day, immunocompromised adults are still adults, and you're a guest, not the host: if someone is immunosuppressed and going to a cookout with an amateur cook, that's either a conversation that person needs to have with the host/cook (maybe back-channeled in some way if they're not comfortable, which you can absolutely help with if that person chooses to involve you, or if you know that a specific attendee would want you to), or it's a calculated risk that person has decided to take for themselves.

(Seatbelts, vaccines and prenatal vitamins are all certainly good ideas, but I think they're also not quite comparable, because those are really more about taking care of our own health and the health of our direct dependents.)
posted by en forme de poire at 6:34 PM on June 8, 2016 [12 favorites]

Either don't say anything, or don't go. You'll be a lot happier, and everyone else will be too. Eat beforehand. There is no way you can be that guy without being that guy.

No one came to the party to be lectured by you about food safety. It truly doesn't matter that you're right. You're bumming everyone out, and that's the real point of the party--not the food.
posted by danny the boy at 7:01 PM on June 8, 2016 [8 favorites]

To put it another way, your house, your rules. You're a guest in someone else's home. The only thing you can do without imposing your values on the host, is to choose not to eat the food offered.

This could be about anything: how they raise their kids, their politics, their green lawn in the middle of a drought, whatever. We all undoubtedly think we know the one right way in all those things. But people are allowed to not share our opinion. You do you. Let everyone else be.
posted by danny the boy at 7:07 PM on June 8, 2016 [4 favorites]

Must everything be "values"? If I just forget to get clean tongs, or hadn't considered getting a clean plate (because I have people over maybe once or twice or year of that), a gentle reminder from a friend or a guest doesn't have to be a giant othering shame abyss. You say "hey, should you get a fresh plate," I blush briefly and then get a fresh plate, _thank_ you sincerely, then possibly make a joke at my own expense while telling the other guests that you're a hero for saving all their lives.
posted by amtho at 7:26 PM on June 8, 2016 [13 favorites]

Most people solve this issue with drinking. Avoid pork and choose the beef over the chicken, and drink your drink with a straw as it will get you drunk faster.

It's totally okay to offer to help by running in and getting a clean platter.
posted by myselfasme at 7:28 PM on June 8, 2016 [3 favorites]

So what should I do? How do I not turn into That Guy?

Remain silent, and endure.
posted by Greg Nog at 7:32 PM on June 8, 2016 [10 favorites]

I am totally That Guy. I have professional training in being That Guy.

Here's the thing about being That Guy: it sucks, and at the same time you're ensuring that people who could get very ill (e.g. immunocompromised people who may not want to out themselves for any reason, kids, old people) are safer than they otherwise would be.

That said, do confine yourself to the deadly sins (cooked meat going on raw meat plate; hand washing no a wipe on a towel isn't enough) and use happy helpful ways to get the message across.

Or, as I do not infrequently because fuck it I'm not at work, drink more and hope you avoid any illness. (If I know someone is immunocompromised I'll usually drop a word in cook's shell-like without naming names; "hey um that's unsafe and if there were anyone here whose immune system isn't up to snuff that could make them super no kidding sick, flash that on the grill again and use a new plate?")
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 7:37 PM on June 8, 2016 [3 favorites]

I think if it's something you can solve by helping, you can do that. Like, grab that plate the raw chicken was sitting on, and say "I'll wash this up for you - oh hey I can take the tongs too while I'm at it" and just DO it. You can even bring out some sanitizer. And you can totally tell them that you're extra careful with food handling because you want to save them an experience you had. But... there's only so much you can do, in someone else's home.
posted by fingersandtoes at 7:55 PM on June 8, 2016 [9 favorites]

In fairness people have been cooking this way for like a million years and there are still 8 billion of us. Tongs touching raw chicken and then being used to handle that chicken while it is cooking is exactly how you cook chicken otherwise you would be going through twenty pairs of tongs for every drumstick.

Cooked meat going back on the tray full of raw meat juice is less acceptable. It's perfectly fine to be That Guy provided you are offering solutions rather than just pointing out problems - so "hey, let's use a new tray for that so we don't all get botulism lol!" - because if your friends and family are going to get sore about your hinting that you'd prefer they not poison you to death with their shitty cooking, well, either don't let them cook for you or invite them to your place and show them how to grill properly (without actually saying "come around for education").
posted by turbid dahlia at 7:59 PM on June 8, 2016 [11 favorites]

In fairness people have been cooking this way for like a million years and there are still 8 billion of us.

Life will go on, sure, it just won't go on for you if you eat raw chicken juice.

Nthing the "here, let me help!" with or without lighthearted commentary. If it's a bigger party, I'm guessing the hosts are generally going to welcome cleanup help of any kind.
posted by Beti at 8:47 PM on June 8, 2016 [3 favorites]

Using the same tongs? Probably a small risk, and super convenient (personally I "cook" the end of the tongs to solve this problem). I'd definitely let it go.

Putting cooked meat on the raw plate? What the fuck, why would anyone do that? That seems like a significant risk compared to a tiny benefit (just stack a clean plate under the raw plate and reverse them for the return trip).

Imagine the scenarios played out 1000 times, how many times do you think people would get sick? I would (random guess) speculate that contaminated tongs would have almost no effect, but raw meat juice would have many victims. Totally worth being "that guy" for the egregious cases.

Also, if anyone in the group has a weak immune system or would have a really hard time recovering from illness (young children, old people, pregnant women, people with other health issues) I would personally endure a lot more social discomfort to do the right thing on their behalf.
posted by reeddavid at 8:57 PM on June 8, 2016 [2 favorites]

Tongs touching raw chicken and then being used to handle that chicken while it is cooking is exactly how you cook chicken otherwise you would be going through twenty pairs of tongs for every drumstick.

Not so! Once you're done tonging the raw meat onto the grates, or even after you performed the first flip, just dip those bad boys down into the flame and hold them for a bit. You've now got sterile tongs.

This is a brilliant thing I invented and when I tell people they politely nod and I see a little cartoon bubble float out of their head that says, "That poor OCD bastard."
posted by _sirmissalot_ at 8:57 PM on June 8, 2016 [8 favorites]

It's okay to bring an extra set of tongs and thermometer (just in case it is needed of course) and make a polite request to get your stuff directly off the grill (because you wantbto eat it in that delicious second) and dont address issues unless it is absolutely egregious (omg no to the chicken. I dont care about these things much but no thank you).

Bonus if a tong breaks or a thermometer drops into the firepit, you are the hero of the party.
posted by AlexiaSky at 9:04 PM on June 8, 2016

As a person that does a lot of grilling and practices food safety, I love it when people volunteer to help by handling bringing out clean plates and getting dirty ones in to be washed. Also, while I bring my own, some people may appreciate the loan of a high quality instant read thermometer. Making it easy to be safe encourages it.
posted by Candleman at 9:07 PM on June 8, 2016

Not so! Once you're done tonging the raw meat onto the grates, or even after you performed the first flip, just dip those bad boys down into the flame and hold them for a bit. You've now got sterile tongs. This is a brilliant thing I invented and when I tell people they politely nod and I see a little cartoon bubble float out of their head that says, "That poor OCD bastard."

Uh...actually, I'd be thinking "why is he getting those tongs all dirty with soot from the fire? I hope those sooty tongs aren't going on the food...."

If you want to do something, couch it in an offer to "help" - but help by saying "hey, you want me to go grab an extra plate for the cooked burgers" or "hey, you want a couple extra tongs from the kitchen" or something. Something that preserves the polite fiction that of COURSE your host knows how to do this properly, he just didn't have enough hands or temporarily forgot or something. But yeah, don't do campfire sterilization like that, that's how they cauterized wounds in the Civil War and it didn't work.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:12 PM on June 8, 2016 [9 favorites]

The only thing you can do without imposing your values on the host, is to choose not to eat the food offered.

I personally just don't eat food at most cookouts. But this is not a question of "values." Doctors and scientists agree: there are harmful pathogens in raw meat! And on our hands! To ignore them is to invite suffering!!

And sure, we're still alive and there are 8 billion of us, blah blah, but the concern is mostly not about dying. It's about having miserable vomiting and diarrhea, possibly requiring hospitalization, and the risk/reward is so stupidly obvious it's infuriating.

The suggestion to be watchful and helpful ("Here, let me wash this for you! Brb!") seems like a good solution. Otherwise, I would just look away and make other dinner plans.
posted by witchen at 9:23 PM on June 8, 2016 [3 favorites]

This is a brilliant thing I invented and when I tell people they politely nod and I see a little cartoon bubble float out of their head that says, "That poor OCD bastard."

I'm laughing because I do the same thing, only I don't tell anyone about it. I've actually seen plenty of people do this, it's not just a quirk of us neurotic types. It probably isn't great for the tongs but they are cheap and it certainly sterilizes them.

But really, trying to change other people's cooking habits is a losing game, and rude when you are a guest. I vote for eat it and smile, or make a polite excuse and refuse, but never say something about their food handling or hygiene. Self-medicating with alcohol probably doesn't hurt in this situation, either.
posted by Dip Flash at 9:26 PM on June 8, 2016 [5 favorites]

I'm turning 50 this year.

I'm not going to be passive about food safety any more.

I've lately been the guy to pick up the raw meat platter, right after the meat's on the grill, and go inside and wash it myself. Dry it, then bring it back out for the cooked meat.

Either you think I'm being helpful, or you think I'm being that guy.

I frankly don't give a shit.
posted by yesster at 9:40 PM on June 8, 2016 [15 favorites]

Yes, it absolutely is about "values".

Witness the recent FPP about pork, and all the people within who were absolutely certain that, scientifically speaking, eating pork that is anything other than well-done is a crime against humanity. The US government's food safety guidelines considers the pizza that you order at the beginning of a 2 hour long party to be unfit for human consumption by the end of it. I... disagree.

There's no point in arguing where exactly to draw the line as if there is a single correct standard for risk tolerance. Sure, be helpful if you'd like, or cook your own food, or don't eat at bbqs, or whatever. But if you're looking for some kind of validation that your values are the correct ones, and everyone else's isn't... I disagree.
posted by danny the boy at 10:44 PM on June 8, 2016 [15 favorites]

I'm just saying that sometimes it's a conscious choice, and sometimes it's lack of awareness. Sometimes it's values, absolutely; but a lot of times, it's just an oversight or not knowing the risks. I think it's reasonable to remind each other of stuff -- while allowing that the "reminder" might not actually be adding information, and so it's important to stay open to other ways of doing things.

Keeping social connections going is so important that I hope people can just _talk_ about things without totally derailing what should be a fun event; if not, the whole thing becomes less fun, with people afraid to eat the main food, people not even hearing about others' discomfort -- this just all seems so sad and doomed...
posted by amtho at 11:35 PM on June 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

Last year a coworker invited me to her place for dinner. She was going to make a hearty soup and a salad to go with it. While having some drinks beforehand, she talked about how her boyfriend didn't eat her cooking and how it made her sad.

She prepared the vegetables and the chicken for the soup, put it on to cook, and then went to make to make the salad - using the same chopping board and knife that she'd used for the chicken. I ate two serves of the soup, since it was delicious and had been cooked through, and was conveniently too full for the salad. I wondered whether there was a reason besides a taste for junk food that the boyfriend avoided food that she prepared. But I wasn't going to make a scene by trying to educate her on food safety, since (as evidenced above) it's not considered socially acceptable to do so.

If I'm in a situation where I am concerned about the safety of the food I avoid the riskiest foods, try to limit my serving sizes, and drink a glass or two of wine with my meal. Wherever possible, I'd also takes steps to prevent other people from contaminating the food. Eg. When someone has finished preparing raw meat, I'll wash the knife and chopping board so that someone can't come along and use it to prepare something else.
posted by kinddieserzeit at 1:47 AM on June 9, 2016 [3 favorites]

I've got an offspring who had a similar issue about eating at other people's houses in general because of contamination concerns. It doesn't matter that he had many reasons to be concerned and he was right (raw chicken knife used on salad greens type of things), the issue was it interfered with his ability to enjoy his life.

He's at the OCD Institute at McLeans Hospital in the Boston area in a day treatment program. One of the things he's learning to do which takes TIME and is NOT easy is exactly as en forme de poire says is to continue doing the thing you are there to do without trying to reassure yourself.

In this case, you continue to socialize, you do not side eye the grill, you do not offer to wash a plate or tongs or become a vegetarian.

You continue to socialize. And perhaps, you bring a non-mayo-based BBQ food to share and you will avoid the food cooked on the grill.

The hard work for my kid is that fine line between having an actual reason to be concerned about your health and pre-emptively dealing with it versus worrying about possible things that could happen interfering with the actual stated purpose.

It's really hard to do, but the best thing is to step AWAY from that voice that needs reassurance and get back to the task at hand while taking completely normal steps to not get food poisoning.

Lastly, I recommend reading Imp of the Mind; it does a great job explaining how that little voice wants reassurance and how you can stop it.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 3:08 AM on June 9, 2016 [4 favorites]

Let me go get a take off plate. Then they won't cross contaminate by putting cooked food back on raw plate. You might need new friends or family, some of these things are things that only really dumb people do, or people who just don't pay any attention. Try saying something in a non lecture-y way.
posted by fixedgear at 3:55 AM on June 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

In fairness people have been cooking this way for like a million years and there are still 8 billion of us.

This argument falls apart against the dramatic changes in animal husbandry that have taken place in the last sixty years, and particularly the last thirty, which have contributed to a greater prevalence of pathogens in food. At the same time, humans have become less tolerant of microbial interference due to our ever-more-sanitized surroundings.

I'm pretty casual about this stuff, though. I agree that there's nothing about cookouts that's especially risky, you're just being exposed to the standard stuff people do in their kitchens, which you normally wouldn't see. I would offer to wash the meat-juice tray, but I would not worry excessively about the tongs. Since everyone understands the immunocompromised issue, what about saying (sure, it's a lie) "I'm taking a supplement that suppresses my immune system, so I have to be extra vigilant right now?"
posted by Miko at 4:39 AM on June 9, 2016 [6 favorites]

She prepared the vegetables and the chicken for the soup, put it on to cook, and then went to make to make the salad - using the same chopping board and knife that she'd used for the chicken.

I would try to be polite, but I'd definitely say something right there and then. That kind of behavior is simply unacceptable.
posted by yesster at 6:36 AM on June 9, 2016 [2 favorites]

So, I am 100% like this by inclination. Emotionally, it's a quasi-moral "YOU'RE DOING IT WRONG". But it's really disconnecting to the people I'm there to enjoy and spend time with.

So, a few years ago, I went to dinner at an old friend's house, and she put the burgers back on the plate she had brought them out on (raw), and I just decided that I wasn't going to say anything, because the whole reason I had driven all this was was to reconnect with her, and she does this all the time, and it apparently doesn't kill her.

And I made a pact with myself: I will keep my mouth shut and suspend judgment until I get food poisoning. I'm healthy, and I live in a city with more hospitals than you can count, so I'll get through. And until that happens, I won't make people unhappy about things that are unlikely to happen.

Which is important, because while there are all these behaviors that people go through because of a risk of foodbourne illness, the odds of getting anything even if you ignore them is still quite low. Illness is still the outlier, not the norm. So this is my own sort of exposure therapy. And so far, so good.

(Last year, as the high point of this, I ate salad dressing that someone had made with garlic scooped out of the steak marinade. Not dead yet!)
posted by mercredi at 7:17 AM on June 9, 2016

I work in public health, so, hey, I'm with you. You're not crazy at all, you're educated. I deal with this by eating vegetarian while I'm at people's houses. Actually, anytime I'm not 100% comfortable with the meat/fish on offer (so this includes restaurants that don't serve high quality meat), buffet lunches at conferences, potlucks, etc, I eat vegetarian. Especially when you're talking ground beef from god knows where. This means I pretty much only eat meat at a couple of places I know serve high quality food, and that we cook at home, because I know where it's from and how it's been cooked. But I'm also happy to eat vegetarian 95% of the time, so it's not an issue for me, and most people think I'm vegetarian.

I started this policy after a couple of rounds of food poisoning from chicken, once from a restaurant and once from a friend. No thank you. It took me like 5 years before I could even stomach eating chicken again after the last time.
posted by john_snow at 7:46 AM on June 9, 2016 [2 favorites]

I don't worry so much about raw hamburger because tartar! I mean I know it's not quite the same

I want to point out that raw hamburger is far more dangerous than raw steak...steak is one piece, hamburger comes from endless sources and can easily have tons of bacteria in it.
posted by agregoli at 8:58 AM on June 9, 2016 [5 favorites]

Tartare, like good hamburger, is typically made from meat ground on site, with no sketchy origins.

I like a hamburger done medium, and I have no issue enjoying said in a joint that's grinding its own meat. I feel the same way about my once-in-a-blue-moon craving for Tartare.

I wouldn't order either in a place that bought pre-ground meat.
posted by uberchet at 9:26 AM on June 9, 2016

Absolutely speak up for the egregious things. Don't allow your correct evaluations of food safety to be pathologized -- this isn't OCD behavior any more than insisting that the driver of the car you're in not blow through a red light is.

If after some gentle coaching your hosts can't follow basic procedures, you should stop eating there altogether. I also wouldn't go to a person's home if they insisted on cleaning their loaded firearm in my presence.

I don't understand why people think eating vegetarian is a solution. If the griller thinks it's OK to put cooked goods back onto the plate that raw meat came out on (I'm getting nauseous here), they're not going to think twice about cross-contaminating your veggie burger or whatever with salmonella juice. See the above stories about unwashed cutting boards.
posted by 0xFCAF at 9:39 AM on June 9, 2016 [3 favorites]

Also, what about if there are kids sharing , especially very young kids? They might not handle food poisoning well at all, and what if you could have prevented it? And what about the potentially catastrophic coat of an emergency room visit, especially if you or your friends don't have great health insurance? And what about normalizing cultural behaviors that make disasters more likely for everyone, including people who would suffer horribly if they got food poisoning?
posted by amtho at 10:18 AM on June 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

I don't understand why people think eating vegetarian is a solution.

Especially because fruits and vegetables are responsible for the majority of food-borne illnesses.
posted by Miko at 10:28 AM on June 9, 2016 [3 favorites]

Since everyone understands the immunocompromised issue, what about saying (sure, it's a lie) "I'm taking a supplement that suppresses my immune system, so I have to be extra vigilant right now?"

As someone who occasionally needs to take medication that does this very thing, please don't do this. You have a legitimate reason to be concerned and there are many excellent suggestions in this thread on how to express that concern without making up a medical condition. It's easy enough (and the literal truth) to just say you're avoiding Food X right now.

One nice thing about bbqs is that people often bring an extra dish. Make something yourself that will sustain you and bring it with. You can even bring it in a pretty dish that you give to the host.
posted by Room 641-A at 8:06 PM on June 9, 2016 [2 favorites]

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