Growing up, it was a normal thing in our house for my grandma or mom to make a big pot of soup, stock, or congee/jook, and leave it out on the stove overnight, then reheat it each morning or time they wanted to eat it again. We never considered that unsafe, and the logic behind it being safe was that if any weird bacteria were growing in it, boiling it again to reheat would kill them all anyway.
As a result of this, I’ve also done similar things as an adult, though most of the time, I do put these things in the fridge. I’ve left food out at room temperature for several hours. I’ve even taken leftover food from my Seamless work lunch, gone out after work, then taken it home (while it was sitting in my backpack the entire time). I’ve never gotten sick.
But in the U.S., everyone seems to think that everything needs to be refrigerated or frozen immediately. I don’t really get it. Leaving food out at room temperature is apparently a breeding ground for bacteria growth and inevitable food poisoning. When some colleagues of mine did a group lunch order today from Luke’s Lobster, when the food arrived, they were in a meeting. Another colleague panicked, fearful that they would get food poisoning, and put all the food in the fridge. They were just going to be out of their meeting in another half hour; no one would have died. And to add to this, the air conditioning was quite high in the office since we’re pretty much in summer time, and so the office was quite cool already.
The level of panic around food safety here is always mind-boggling to me; if these colleagues knew what I grew up with and what I do at my own apartment, they’d probably wonder why I haven’t already died from food poisoning.