General Discussion

Health risks while eating "ethnic" food


General Discussion 6

Health risks while eating "ethnic" food

Mr. Taster | May 3, 2004 04:32 PM

I thought the general topics board might be interested in reading my reply to the discussion thread I've linked to below.

Mr. Taster


OK, I should start by saying that this is a bit of a touchy subject for me. As someone who has an intense interest in travel, tasting the food of other cultures and seeing how non-Americans live their lives, I have come to understand (only within the past few years, incidentally) that our way of doing things may be the "safest", but may not always the best way. We as Americans are obsessed with the sanitization and safety of most things in our culture. Remember the 10 foot tall metal playground slides you burned your bottom on as a kid? Have you seen the 3 foot high plastic ones they have nowadays? Were the 10 foot slides really that much of a public health menace that we had to ban them forever? This could easily turn into a critique of the American media and popular culture censorship as well, but don't worry, from this point on I will keep the topic food related :-)

silence9, while I am American and understand the American obsession with cleanliness and safety, one thing that many of us seem to forget is that, for example in this instance, there are millions of Koreans around the world who eat this style of bbq every day and do not contract trichinosis or some similarly horrible ailment. Similarly, to my knowledge we are the only country in the world that forces farmers to boil the flavor and texture out of their cheese (for health reasons, purportedly) yet millions of French people enjoy young raw milk brie every day. If one French person per 1,000,000 contracts food poisoning, they do not sue the cheesemaker for negligence, because that's simply not how you make cheese! It's been their culture for many hundreds of years. I just returned from two weeks in Europe-- upon my return to the US, I must have heard or read 6 different warnings at customs that "all foreign food must be disposed of"... but I've just been eating 2 weeks of foreign food non-stop-- does that mean that I'm now a walking biohazard? Should I declare myself?

You speak of the raw chicken juices as if they were arsenic or nitroglycerine or some other deadly poison that could not be neutralized by the flame of the grill. Think about it... it seems silly to try and oversanitize something when in fact what we're doing is eating a dead animal! By its very nature, even in the cleanest of restaurants, we are ingesting copious amounts of dead bacteria, and some live bacteria as well. At Soot Bull Jeep, even if the same scissors are used throughout the restaurant, the chicken is cooked by your hand, to your level of done-ness, so you have direct control over at what point you feel safe eating the chicken (I prefer my bbq with a little char on the ends anyway).

When I visit an authentic ethnic restaurant, I very much feel as I do when I visit a foreign country, which is that the rules of my culture do not apply. I am open to experience the non-American way of doing things, and for a short period of time I am not an American. And I've gotta tell you, every once in a while it feels really good to forget everything I've been told and just... let... go...! :-)


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