It starts with lettuce, and ends with food safety

Published 2:00 pm Friday, February 11, 2022

My husband and I were discussing what to have for lunch. 

I’m never good at coming up with an answer and asked him what sounded good to him.  He mentioned several things, including the option for take-out.  But he also said maybe a salad.  Well, that sounded good to me, so I told him I’d whip up a salad. 

I enjoy making salads and will search through the fridge to find things to throw in.  In fact, earlier I looked at the head of lettuce that I would say looked a little “tired” and decided to pitch it since I had picked up a fresh head of lettuce yesterday.  I also said goodbye to the remaining key lime pie compliments of Marie Callender since the recommendation is that it lasts only 3 days in the refrigerator, and I sadly had to pitch that too.  

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When I began the assembly of our salad, I took out the “fresh” lettuce and when I got it open, it had some brown leaves that I peeled away.  It occurred to me that the lettuce that I just pitched might have some good parts left.  And I may—or may not—have retrieved the head of lettuce to investigate.  

I assure any future invited dinner guests that I do not dumpster dive for leftover food items to prepare for friends and family.  This practice is reserved only for Tom and me.  Many years ago, Tom contracted a severe case of salmonella.  No, it was not from my food preparation.  He had attended a luncheon meeting in Nashville where he dined on a seafood quiche, then headed back to a School of Pharmacy Faculty Retreat overnight at Pickwick.  During the night, he became quite ill.  When he returned home the next day, he was feeling really ragged with fever and chills.  A trip to see the doctor resulted in his being hospitalized for several days.  It was a miserable experience for me and our sons Dennis and Jeff as well since we felt so bad that Tom was so sick.  He finally recovered and needless to say, I don’t think he’s ever ordered quiche again!

We are very blessed that in this country there are safeguards for our food consumption.  The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has safety measures in place to ensure that the American food supply is among the safest in the world.  However, the FDA estimates that there are about 48 million cases of foodborne illness annually—the equivalent of sickening 1 in 6 Americans each year.  Yuck!  What if these safeguards weren’t in place?  

You have probably had the occasion to experience a bad gastrointestinal bout with some food.  I once got really sick from a Burger King burger.  It might not have been tainted food from there and simply a stomach bug, but the memory stuck with me for a long, long time.  In fact, I haven’t repeated that meal since.  

When I was in first grade, my teacher Mrs. Helen Wilson, insisted that all her students show her their food tray before disposing of it to ensure that we had eaten our lunch.  As you might imagine, many youngsters can be picky eaters.  When I approached her one day, the green peas remained on my tray.  When she asked why I hadn’t eaten my peas, I replied (lied) that they made my stomach hurt.  Since she happened to be good friends with my mother, the report of the stomach-ache inducing peas made it back to my mom.  

I anticipate that we will enjoy the salad that I made today.  As I was putting the salad fixings back in the fridge, I noticed the leftover red beans and rice.  I was about to pitch that but decided not to because it would be much more difficult to retrieve from the garbage should I decide to serve it up for supper.  


Bonnie Brown writes a weekly column for The Oxford Eagle. Contact her at