I love my local produce market. It’s not only cheap; it’s also exotic. It keeps me from getting homesick for Asia, with its glorious collection of weird veggies that can’t be found anywhere else in town: bai tsai, haricot verts, cactus leaf, escarole, and scores of other things I genuinely can’t even identify.
What also keeps me from getting homesick is the other customers, most of whom seem to be recent immigrants. They’re running about speaking to one another in Cantonese, Vietnamese, Russian, Spanish, and sometimes, joy of joys, Mandarin. Normally, it’s a great place to hang out and get my weekly dose of multiculturalism.
But one day, I was picking through the produce when an emaciated old man entered the store, sneezing and coughing into his hand. Or worse yet, not into his hand. He walked around me picking up fruit, squeezing melons, sniffing cabbage. And coughing and sneezing with admirable enthusiasm all over the grapes and the tangelos, as well as on everything else in range of his powerful sinuses.
My cart was nearly full, but I had the sinking feeling Typhoid Larry was a regular customer. Ewww.
I went directly home and started cleaning the produce. Typhoid Larry had set my Spidey Senses tingling, and I wasn’t keen to share his sickbed.
So here’s the process: One clean sink full of cold water, with 1/2C bleach. And a second sink with running water. (Yeah. I live in Seattle. Running water is not something we feel guilty about here.) And a cutting board, good knife, and a collection of containers and lids.
I stack all the produce on the left side of the sink, run it directly through the bleach bath, and then rinse it in cold running water. As the produce begins stacking up in the dish drainer on the right side of the double sink, my teenager gets to work chopping fruit and veggies and putting it all into containers. I then move those filled containers directly to the fridge.
Miraculously, that de-germed produce lasts twice as long in the refrigerator as it used to before we started cleaning veggies straight from the grocery store.
And the best part is that when we’re grazing, all the work’s been done. The food is ready to go, day or night. Nobody gets to whine, “But there’s nothing to eeeaaaattt!” We have an entire refrigerator full of ready-to-eat food. No excuses!
Bless you, Typhoid Larry. No, really. Gesundheit!
Today’s soundtrack brought to you by the fabulous Miss Peggy Lee: Fever (1958).