Posted by: foodtalker | May 7, 2011

in the details

Sometimes I can be pedantic.  Especially when it comes to food.  I like to know what I’m eating.  The other day I asked a simple question.  “Does that have onions in it?”  The woman behind the deli counter gave me the basilisk stare.  “I don’t think so,” she replied.  But she didn’t seem to have convinced herself and so stared at the beet salad for a few seconds.  I waited patiently knowing that if it was just a simple question of obvious visibility; I would have been able to answer my own question.

Eventually, and to her credit, she reached the inevitable conclusion.  “I can’t tell,” she announced.

“Can I get a sample?” I asked.  This time a blank stare.  I rephrased my question.  “Can I try it?”  You would have thought I was asking in Urdu for a free bowl of  Beluga Caviar or for her to define the meaning of life.  Although that might have been less perplexing for her at that point.

Maybe she thought I was going to be one of those “problematic” customers who is allergic to everything and was planning to give her a systematic working over about the ingredients of each dish.  Quite the opposite was the case.  I just think that beet salad is so much better with onions in it, and lots of them.  So too bad my reasonable question put her on the defensive, and too bad that the beet salad once tasted, proved onion-less.

There are people who can’t pass by a plate of free food without taking a nibble and have no problem asking for a “generous” sample helping before purchasing anything from salsa to spatchcock.  

But there are some items that lend themselves more readily to a tasting, and then there are those people who will make a whole meal out of being tasters.  It’s sort of a career choice.  But how to supply a taste of  Sole Meunier?  It’s like asking for an elephant sandwich.  The entire creation has to be sacrificed for the one request. 

When it comes to food samples, I’ll only try it if it comes in a sample-sized cup or if there’s a toothpick provided.  I’m not particularly squeamish and have always believed the way to build up immunities is by exposure and conquest.  But is there anything more depressing than a few dry cubes of  sundry cheeses on a paper plate, without a toothpick?  The last thing they are shouting is,  “Eat Me”.  Who even wants to touch them?

“I do,” my friend Jennie says with pride.  “I have extra germ immunity from eating samples people have touched with their grubby little fingers.  Who needs penicillin?” 

Touching fruit slices are another matter. Those slimy nectarine slices – she’ll even touch those.  I told her that she could go on a show like Fear Factor and win a bucket of money for that kind of cool-headed risk taking.

Even with a tooth-pick I’m on the alert.  I’ve seen people double-dip with the same toothpick or even return with a half-eaten morsel, at which point they may as well be rootling with their snouts.

Sneeze-guards on those all day buffets don’t impress me either.  I once read that those germs explode into the atmosphere and travel at 80 millimeters a second.   Sounds to me like they can fly a long way.


  1. You should watch the Seinfeld show about double dipping the chip. It’s on the money!

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