Cooking: Walking’s Tricky Pal

10 Aug

I just saw on CNN the other day a two-minute segment on the validity of the Five Second Rule.  They brought in some kind of doctor or a scientist – a real white lab coat and everything.

In case you aren’t familiar with the Five Second Rule, it refers to the length of time something you’re about to cook – meat, is what I generally think of, but it could be anything I guess – can remain on the floor once you’ve dropped it, and still be eligible for entry into your belly.

Two minutes on CNN, sounds pretty valuable.  Sounds like there must not be much going on in the world, if you have a couple of minutes to spare for this.  Tune in next week for Should I Refrigerate My Milk, With Dr. Sanjay Gupta.  I’ll give you a hint – yes!

But what the hell – the Doctor/Scientist guy is here, and he’s wearing glasses, and the reporter is all decked out in her reporter clothes, wishing she were Robin Meade (she’s not), so let’s hear what they have to say.

Say, Mister Doctor Scientist, she asks – is the Five Second Rule cool?  Or is it destroying America?

Well, the scientist tells us, that’s a tricky question. Let me illustrate it by dropping something on the floor, as if that’s a concept you need a scientist to explain to you.  See, whoops, I dropped it!

Interesting, the reporter says, tapping her jawline.

He then explains that there is in fact nothing scientifically significant about that particular length of time.  Germs and bacteria can spread, he tells us, in even in less than five seconds.

This really surprises the reporter.  She thought that Wade the fry cook who trained her at Long John Silvers back in high school, had really seemed like he had his research in order.  Why had he lied to her?

She doesn’t really say all that, I’m paraphrasing this segment, because if I actually typed an accurate transcript of their insipid conversation, I would most likely break my fingers and possibly this keyboard.  This crazy terror we have of germs and our adoration and borderline addiction to sterility – to the illusion of sterility – is something that makes my brain hurt.

When you go ahead and explore it on national news, making it seem like a perfectly serious-eyebrowed, intellectual inquiry, that makes veins stand out on my forehead.  The cats and dogs get the hell away from me, when that kind of thing happens on the television in front of me.

So unfortunately, I won’t be able to tell you the rest of what the Scientist Doctor Man had to say about it, because I put my foot through the screen, Elvis-style, and then launched its sputtering carcass into the street.

No, not really, I just turned it off.  But I’ll go ahead and break the Five Second Rule down for you, if it concerns you.  First, I need to ask you a very important question, actually several of them.

Do you intend to cook this food? 

Do you intend to cook it thoroughly?

Do you know what the words “cook” and “thoroughly” mean?

Okay, if you answered “yes” to all of those questions, then yes.  The Five Second Rule is just fine.  Personally, I wouldn’t get too uncomfortable until about the twenty minute mark, but I’m gross.

Here’s the main thing to remember.  Cooking kills germs and bacteria.  That’s what cooking is all about.  If a grownup reporter and a Mystery Doctor Science Advisor were both in front of me right now, I would feel like I was insulting them by pointing that out.

You could drop a third pound of hamburger onto the floor and then mash it into a patty with your foot, and then when you cooked it – thoroughly – you could eat it, because there’s nothing toxic about your floor.

Ah, but Tom, would you eat off of your floor?

Well, yes, I would.  I think that you would be very surprised how many surfaces I would eat from, but that isn’t even the point.  I didn’t say pick it up off the floor and eat it.  I said pick it up off the floor and cook it.

Here’s a mindbender:  Would you eat off a raw hamburger patty?  No of course not – unless you cooked it.  You do that all the time. 

You wouldn’t eat pickles and cheese and lettuce off a raw hamburger – in fact, you’d eat them off the floor if you had your choice between the two.  But once the magical transformation of Cooking occurs, you’re suddenly just fine with eating those things right on top of the very same patty.

Is it chicken?  Pork?  Do you have a sink?  Go on over and rinse it off, and cook the shit.  It’s fine. 

Make sure and wash your hands when you’re through messing around with it.  Soap and warm water and be really careful – you want to know why?



Posted by on August 10, 2010 in Future Tom Grab Bag


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3 responses to “Cooking: Walking’s Tricky Pal

  1. Bill V

    August 10, 2010 at 10:03 pm

    My first day working in a pizza shop began with the mgr accidentally dropping the dough on the floor and calling the 5 five second rule. In an unusually bold move for a new hire threw the dough in the trash. Even though the oven was like 700 degrees I wasn’t convinced that the sauce would reach 160 degrees. I just visualized the pizza as a culture for new strains of staph or mersa.

  2. theskinhorse

    August 11, 2010 at 2:08 pm

    I’ve always thought of the 5-second rule as applying to something like chips, crackers, or some other mostly dry finger food that will not be cooked. Maybe I just knew dirty kids when I was young, but any of those foods were eligible for eating right after dropping them on a relatively clean, dry, flat surface.

    During undergrad, in a Microbiology course, we did these exact experiments. I imagine any undergrad that takes Micro does them, too. Anyway, yeah, big surprise that nearly everything gets bacteria on it. One of the points my prof made was that most of that bacteria we were picking up was harmless environmental bacteria, stuff you find in dirt. It won’t get you sick unless you are severely immunocompromised. (And if you are, what are you doing eating things that have dropped on the floor anyway?).

    The germaphobe mentality is not healthy IMO, especially when it comes to kids. Attempting to sterilize your kids will not do them any favors in the long run. People need to be exposed to non-life-threatening antigens to help their immune system develop efficiently. Over-sterilization is the problem, not chips with a little (non-life-threatening) bacteria on them.

    • theskinhorse

      August 11, 2010 at 2:14 pm

      I want to note and stress that my comments do not apply to the nasty bugs like Salmonella and E.coli that can be found in foods, especially meats. Obviously, those can be a big problem, and one should take care to clean with those anti-bacterial kitchen wipes. Also, note that I qualified the kind of food I’m talking about and the kind of surfaces on which they are dropped. It is common sense to throw away the oozy, gooey, semi-wet foods that fell on the grimy kitchen or bathroom (what is food doing in the bathroom anyway?) floor or on the carpet that hasn’t been washed in years.


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