What’s for dinner?
A question we hear or think about nearly every day. Nothing very special, just routine. But when you hear “let’s have a picnic”, well, that refers to a meal also, but everyone’s ears perk up at the sound of those words. It means a celebration of family, friends, food and the blessings of nature, something to enjoy and look forward to. Picnics are always great fun, whether held in the backyard, on the water in the boat, or at a park somewhere.
Good food is always at the center of this event but many times the location presents some challenges to keep our food clean and safe. No one wants to top off a wonderful time by getting sick, so here are a few things to help you prepare for a summertime feast. Our goal here folks is to help everyone avoid food borne illness, or food poisoning as it is commonly referred to. According to the Center for Disease Control, (the CDC) literally millions of people suffer from this every year. While most cases are not serious, it can become so, and even deadly under certain circumstances, so let’s avoid that shall we? For in depth information we encourage you to go to www.cdc/gov, but right now let’s take a look at some simple steps to make that perfect picnic.
Avoiding food borne illness starts with preparation. There always seems to be a flurry of activity in the kitchen when getting the portable meal ready, so take a few moments to make sure that all foods are processed separately. Counter tops or cutting boards should be thoroughly cleaned between each type of food so contamination doesn’t occur, as an example, between uncooked chicken juices and fruit, raw hamburger and chopped veggies. Speaking of fruit and vegetables, make sure they are washed thoroughly before being processed also.
They may seem harmless, but they too can carry harmful bacteria. I don’t know anyone who isn’t eager to dive into the picnic feast as soon as possible, but take a little time here also to make sure that foods are cooked completely to kill bacteria. Well, now that the table is set and the food is out, let’s make sure that it is all kept at the temperatures that will keep it safe. Usually it’s the stuff that we need to keep cool that presents the biggest challenge.
The need to keep things chilled is paramount, since the growth of bacteria in some instances can occur relatively quickly. Be liberal with the ice if you can, fill trays or pans with ice and then place the containers of food on top to maintain cooler temps. Be especially careful of foods that contain eggs, such as mayonnaise, and also pay attention to seafood , as some foods deteriorate quicker than others. Keep things out of the direct sun if possible by the use of covers. I’ve heard of some folks using cool damp towels to great effect. Well our food has been cleaned and processed properly, cooked to perfection, and all laid out to enjoy. I’m drooling, are you?
So let’s dig in to this perfect picnic and enjoy the bounty before us. And as we relax and enjoy a stress free time surrounded by family, friends and loved ones, a thought occurs to me; shouldn’t every meal be a picnic?
Ken Elmore, Markey Township Firefighter