Just back from a trip to Canada where I reluctantly was recruited to drive the fat and always cantankerous (spelling?) Casual Restaurant Critic around, I was struck by some of the rather quaint differences between life in Canada and life in Mexico observed. Here are some:
Safety First in the Kitchen – having had the opportunity to participate – albeit only on the sidelines, chopping red onions as cooks’ helper to a very strict kitchen manager – in a day camp for junior high school age children, I was able to notice the abundance of positively anal rules regarding the handling of food.
When you come from Mexico, where succulent mystery meat tacos are made and sold and eaten streetside, and delicious tamales can be discovered at the bottom of a battered (not breaded; beat up) cloth covered aluminum pot at a gas station, you are bound to be blown away by the rather hysterical regulations regarding food handling and preparation in Canada.
For one thing, the washing of dishes must be done in a commercial-grade dishwashing machine. If that is not available, there must be a three compartment sink available, one for soaking and washing in soapy, xix-filled water; another with ‘clean’ water for rinsing and finally a disinfecting sink with a chlorine solution. There are specific instructions as to water temperature, soap content, and chlorine content as well. These are located on a chart which must be posted at the sink location.
One can’t forget to leave room at the sink for the handwashing poster, which also must be posted there. It instructs one on how to properly wash hands – in a rotary motion and above the wrist and paying particular attention to fingernails – and for how long.
Refrigerator temperatures are controlled as well and must be in a certain range to ensure there is no spoilage. This brings to mind the Comercial Mexicana’s practice of laying out their raw bistek meat on tables in the supermarket, presumably beacuse it is ‘cool’ in the store, thanks to that chilly air conditioning. Of course they are concerned with your health; just look at the ham n cheese ladies: they are wearing facemasks and hairnets. While the raw meat slowly rots nearby.
My hunch is that this is less about food poisoning than it is about legal concerns. In a society where all the basic needs have been met, such as is the case in first-world Canada, people are on the lookout for a problem – any problem, real or perceived – and are willing to sue at the first sign of what they think might be something questionable.
More fun comparisons later!