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Cleanliness Next To Godliness
6/10/2015 11:08:11 PM

By Beverly Gadson-Birch  

I am really picky when it comes to dining out.  I clean my eating utensils with the water or hot water that comes with my tea order.   When I am dining with my son and some of his friends for the first time, he prepares them for what is to come.  He said y’all listen up just don’t pay any attention to my mom because she is going to wash her dishes so just hold onto your plates if you don’t want her washing yours.   He said no one goes through this ritual when dining like my mom.  

I didn’t just get this way overnight; my obsession with cleanliness was passed down from my mom and I am sure her mom passed it down to her. My mom would make you wash her glass and plate over and over with a little bleach in the water. There were no dishwashers back then.  I was the dishwasher and those dishes had to be clean and sparkling. 

In case y’all uppity class folks don’t know about old practices, bleach was used to sanitize dishes and to hold the line on diseases.   It does work because I very rarely get a cold.  I might get everything else but rarely colds.  I may have had five colds in my entire life and believe me when I tell you, I have quite a few years in the bank.  Y’all can borrow some if you like.   

My kids think I am obsessive with cleanliness but I just call it plain ole “old folks” values. My mother’s mother was the same way.  They had very little to work with but water was always plentiful, even if it was rain water, and they did not have a problem using it. 
I am sure I am not the only one out there with the cleanliness obsession.  We all have our fetishes or things that we nitpick at that gets under the skin of others.  I don’t like it when the Wait Staff in restaurants sweep around my table when I am eating.
I often think about some of the restaurants where I dine and I have all I can do to sit there and not peek in the back to see what they are doing.  So, I just pray they are not in the back dragging my food over the floor. 

Cleanliness used to be a virtue, now it is a lifesaving measure in hospitals and schools. Public health officials advocate it everywhere we go because we are in such close quarters with so many people.  Most of my friends carry around the little sanitation bottles to clean their hands before eating or after shaking folks’ hands.  So, it looks like my obsession is now catching up with the world standards of cleanliness to keep us safe from diseases.
Y’all know how we are.  When we patronize black restaurants we hold them to certain standards.  We complain that the food is too salty, too greasy or the restaurant is not clean.  Well, ya’ll didn’t use to complain till y’all got dem dere degrees.  And some of y’all still pigging out on pig feet, butts meats and collard greens when ya home behind closed doors.  So, you think the food is better at those five star restaurants?  And, you think the five star restaurants are cleaner?  

Well, let me tell you I was sitting in one of Charleston’s four star restaurants and a waiter took a broom and swept the table off next to me. I couldn’t believe my eyes.  Then, my husband reminded me of the real meaning of saying grace before you eat.  If that waiter did something like that where the customers could clearly see, what do you think he does when hidden from view?  I thank the good Lord that evening that he was not my server and I was through eating.  So, if you think you have a problem with salt and grease, what about the dirt and germs you are eating.   

Notwithstanding the fact, many of the waitresses do not wash their hands after using the restroom. I don’t know about waiters because I use the ladies restroom and I know what goes on in there.    I’ve been there and seen waitresses leaving the restrooms on many occasions without washing their hands.  If I observe one, I just make sure she is not my server.  So, our expectations should be the same for all restaurants.  Now, don’t go in there demanding too much unless they are preparing your food behind glass walls where you can see what’s going on.  That is the first rule of thumb.
While many of our schools and colleges have culinary arts programs I wonder how many teaches just basic cleanliness habits.  Here is one that just stirs up my wrath.  How many times have you dined in a restaurant, it can be five stars or no stars, and your waiter continues to pull his pants up while serving you.    This is a management problem and should have been dealt with when the waiter was hired.   I don’t want the waiter touching his boxer and handing me my food at the same time.  
A couple weeks ago, I went in a supermarket deli to get a take out and the waitress preparing my tray had her nails in my food.  Now, I tried to hold back my vexation.  I politely asked her to fix me another tray because I could not possibly eat that food with her nails down in my food.  Well, she flexed up at me and said, “don’t you go there with me; my nails weren’t in your food.”  I just stood and gazed at her and gazed at the front of the store and I think she got my drift.  I was about to find the store manager.  

First of all, what are the standards for food servers?  Shouldn’t their nails be short enough to handle food without having them invade your food?  And my other question is why didn’t she have gloves on?   The servers had on hair nets but no gloves. That’s another one of my pet peeves.  

I went to a national chain sandwich shop one day and the young lady started picking up the meat items with her bare hands.  I said wait up.  What are you doing?  Aren’t you going to put your gloves on? The other gentleman behind the counter said that is my wife.  She just washed her hands.  I said I don’t care whose wife she is, she is not fixing my sandwich without gloves.   My son just happened to be with me and he was not going to wait around for the fireworks, so he said that’s alright we will just go somewhere else. I was really hungry.  I was thinking why should  I have to go somewhere else when food handlers just need to play by the rules and management needs to enforce them.  

Why aren’t workers more conscious of their bad serving habits?  Are y’all with me? Please don’t tell me that I am the only one with this problem.  If I am, y’all can sentence me to heavy duty cooking in my own kitchen for the rest of my life.
I just think all food establishments should take whatever measures necessary to ensure that food servers are in compliance with Health Department standards.  

I know many of the restaurants are hard pressed to find workers when there are so many eating establishments to compete with; but, it is just good business practice that restaurant owners ensure that their guests leave with a good feeling so they will want to return or recommend the establishment to their friends.

If y’all are food servers and you are out there reading this, do you think you can just keep it clean?

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