For the Love of Taco Night

If you’ve been here before, you know that I freely admit to some neurotic tendencies.  Some are more rational than others.

Today, I present to you my fear of food borne illnesses and how I, uh, swallowed that in the name of a great Fordeville tradition:  Taco Night.

I’m one of those people who is leery of undercooked food.  Not at nice restaurants or — for the love of all things holy — sushi bars.  I’ll eat beef tartare or some sashimi at a nice place.  Any day.  But in my house, when I run the stove, I’m conservative.  I don’t like to poison people.  Well, maybe there are a few people I have been tempted to undercook for.  But that’s a different story.

On a related note, I also file food expiration dates under “things we should abide by.”  My husband, ever the skeptic, likes to think of them as mere suggestions.  You know, if we’re within a few weeks of the date, it should be fine.

Those are meals he eats on his own.

Anyway.  Back to Taco Night.

Taco Night is a year-round occasion in our house.  It’s more frequent in the colder months, but we still tend to go for it once in a while during the summer too.  And we were overdue.  I had all of the ingredients on hand.  I was ready to go.

Then, right before I started cooking, I saw this online:  “Ongoing Salmonella Outbreak Linked to Ground Turkey Unsolved.”

Of course I read it.  Which I never should have done.  Because there was zero helpful information.  They don’t know the source.  They don’t know if it’s contained.  They’re not sure if they’ve given a complete list of impacted brands.

All this, as I stared at the package of ground turkey on the counter.

Fuuuuuuck. I love Taco Night.  I don’t want to give it up.

Now, as much as I can be neurotic, I’m also prone to gambling.  So I considered that only 77 people nationwide have died of the Salmonella outbreak since March — most of whom had compromised immune systems.  OK, yes, hundreds of others got sick but whatever.  I spun the Salmonella Roulette Wheel in my head and decided I would go for it.

With a few conditions.

First, in my state of justification, I figured I’d cook the meat to the point of no return.  I mean, I wasn’t making burgers that had to be juicy — or recognizable, for that matter.  This is ground meat that’s getting saturated by taco seasoning in the end anyway.  It’s just the vehicle for flavor.  So I decided that cranking the flame up well beyond a normal “done” status would kill the germs.  And since my husband got home late, it had to be nuked again later.  Score.  More Salmonella-zapping heat opportunities.

Then, I looked at the incubation period for salmonella poisoning.  12-72 hours.  This does present a problem.  We have some big plans on Friday to go away for the weekend with friends — a trip we’ve been looking forward to for a long time.  So as I’m charring the hell out of the meat on the stove, I’m praying that I won’t have to miss the fabulous spa appointment I have booked at the hotel Friday evening.

Because my priorities are clearly in order.

Then I decided — based on my vast expertise in science — that we’d be more likely to get sick within 48 hours, which would give us just enough time to bounce back for half of the weekend.  You know, if it came to that.  Plus, after our recent road trip to North Carolina, we are accustomed to people vomiting in the car.  So we’d be OK.

Did I mention we love Taco Night?

This was verified by my husband’s reaction to this evening’s menu selection.  It’s sort of like a fist pump/guy/sports thing.  I think.  Or maybe just a little dorky holdover from the 80s.  I’m not sure.  I don’t want to know.

The point is, my decision to gamble our lives for Taco Night was met with appreciation.  Well, and mockery.  Let’s compare the time we have spent worrying about us contracting Salmonella.

Him:  0.8877664 seconds.

Me:  3 hours and 12 minutes, consecutively, since I read that first headline.  And counting.

But now we were in it together.  We were both going down if we lost the spin of the Salmonella Roulette Wheel.

So I savored the tacos, knowing they might be my last meal for a few days while I’m hospitalized and hooked up to an IV.  With that in mind, it made perfect sense to give that wine glass an extra pour or three.  I mean, hospital food is horrible so I may as well enjoy this.

At one point during our last meal, my daughter came over to the table (the kids had eaten something in the Breaded-Nugget-No-Flavor Toddler Food Pyramid earlier) to see what we were eating.  As my husband went to hand her a bite of the taco to try, I sprung up to swat it out of his hand.  Like one of those dramatic slow-motion reels, complete with “Nooooooooo!”

He stared at me in cluelessness.  Because his 0.8877664 seconds of thinking about Salmonella poisoning had ended light years ago.

He wondered why it was OK for us to eat the probably-only-contaminated-in-my-mind meat, but not the kids.

“Well, because we really love Taco Night.”

“We really do.  Hey, is this the sour cream you asked me to throw out last week?”

{If anyone wants my appointment for a killer massage on Friday evening in Rhode Island, I’m now accepting names for the wait list.}






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  1. Glamamom says:

    We love a good taco night too. I share your concern, not for me or my huz but I saw one of those documentaries like Food Inc where the mom whose kid died for eating a burger became a lobbyist for safer beef standards and now I make sure any meat my son is going to be well done no matter what it tastes like. Besides, with all the toppings on a taco, it could be ants underneath it all and you couldn’t taste a thing…Buon appetite!

  2. seadragon says:

    I think that being pregnant and feeding a newborn makes you extra aware of food expiration dates, rate of bacterial growth, etc. We threw out so much milk/formula the second it passed the maximum time allowed after touching the baby’s lips.

    However, I did manage to give us food poisoning within the last year from pork ribs. Husband, three year old, and I all ate some, but I was the only one who got sick that night. We thought it was just a bug, but then the next night my husband had leftover ribs and, as if on schedule, was sick later that night. It was only then that I realized the pre-cut ribs had come in three packages, so probably only one of the packages was bad.

    I haven’t eaten ribs since.

    So… hopefully you’ll be fine, not only because it would be horrible to be sick, but I’d hate to see tacos ruined for you.

    • fordeville says:

      If tacos were ruined for me, it would be a travesty. Mostly because one of my menu staples would be gone and I’d need to invent another.

  3. alicia says:

    Well done.

  4. So…how are you feeling today? I think you were right to cook the bajezus out of the ground turkey. My best friend got Salmonella poisoning after eating a chicken sandwich at a fair. She wanted to die. Never saw anyone that sick in my life. Scary stuff.
    PS, funny as always. Wish I knew how to inject the funny into my posts like you do!

    • fordeville says:

      At the 15-hour mark, all is well. Thankfully. Although, literally 10 minutes after I posted this last night, the massive Cargill turkey recall was announced. So I had to dig through the garbage to see if our meat was part of that. It wasn’t, but that gives my neurotic brain little relief — I think this is going to spread to more brands.
      But so far, so good. And thanks for the compliment, though I think you are short-selling yourself on the funny.

  5. i’m totally a food neurotic, if i wasn’t also loyal to things like taco night i would totally go vegetarian.

  6. Ed says:

    I have a compromised immune system. I’ve also had salmonella. I think I would’ve thought about it before eating tacos slightly longer than your husband; perhaps 4.3333279 seconds.

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