I grew up in a household where it was normal to have a massive stockpot full of soup, whether it was a pork bone and lotus root or Chinese herbal tonic, sitting on the stove for an entire week without ever entering a fridge. The idea behind it, as my grandma and mom would say, was that if you always left the soup hot or warm, and then shut it off at the end of the night, you couldn’t feasibly put the pot in the fridge because it would be far too hot, so it would probably cool to room temperature by morning, when you’d end up reheating the soup again. In addition, every time you were to reheat the soup, you’d end up killing any germs or impurities anyway, so it was always safe to eat. In addition, we’d oftentimes have Chinese baked goods, with and without meat, dumplings like har gow or siu mai, sitting on the kitchen counter all day long, and they’d always be considered good to eat. No one ever questioned whether it was “safe” or would make you sick.
So imagine how I felt when I started hearing all the food safety regulations being rattled off by people in food groups I participate in on Facebook or at dinner tables around the country where people would flip out if you told them that you ate sushi that was on the counter for over an hour, or that I traveled across the country in a plane with several cha siu bao and other Chinese dim sum delights, and ended up eating the food when I got back here. Germ infestation central! Food poisoning galore! What are you doing to yourself, just asking yourself to get sick from that spoiled food?! I’ve never gotten sick from anything I have eaten that was seemingly not stored the “right” way, and it bothers me that so many people are judgmental about how different people store their foods and what they consider “normal.” To me, it is borderline racist and flat out ignorant. What is “room temperature” in your house may be 68 degrees, but the room temperature in my apartment in New York in the winter time is something like 45 degrees, and it’s something similar in my parents’ frigid house. So storing food in cool temperature environments like that isn’t really unsafe as far as we know. And how do we know? None of us has ever gotten sick from these foods, and perhaps it’s because we’ve exposed ourselves and made ourselves vulnerable that we don’t have weak stomachs like so many of these germaphobe anal freaks I keep reading about. I can’t deal with extremists of any kind.