Tough calls

Here’s a story which was prompted by a similar event today. Several years ago we had arranged to have friends over for dinner. I cannot recall who the invited guests were or why we had invited them over. In any case I had pulled two of our home-grown, organically-raised, range-fed, humanely-treated legs of lamb from the freezer and Joanna was prepared to pull out all the stops and to make the meal an experience our guests would not soon forget. The lamb had just come out of the oven when Joanna called me into the kitchen to do the honors of carving these two beautiful pieces of meat. For those who have cut up anything which is bone-in you will know that the carving knife and fork can take you just so far. At some point the job becomes a matter of brute, manual, force. You have to roll up your sleeves and get your hands on the thing in order to disjoint it to a point where the knife may once again be a useful tool. On this particular evening I was thoroughly involved in the hands-on part of this process when, to my horror, I remembered that I had forgotten to wash my hands before beginning and, worse yet, I had cleaned the litter box moments before Joanna called me into the kitchen. Faced with this difficulty what would you have done? What would any reasonable person have done? What were my options? I could have announced that the meal was ruined and then invited everyone out to dinner. I could have made all of the assembled guests aware of the (very, very, extremely) remote possibility that I had accidentally inoculated all of the lamb with the highly infectious oocysts of Toxoplasma. Or I could have said nothing at all. Before you answer you should know that Toxoplasmosis is a real disease and that infection with the causative agent is a real concern for those who have close contact with cats. I will not bore you with the details, let’s just say that Toxoplasmosis isn’t something you want and that Toxoplasma is closely related to the causative agent of malaria. Anyway, at the risk of offending each and every one of you, I will admit that I said nothing. [To indicate that I really do have a conscience I did tell Joanna the next morning about what had transpired. No one became ill and now, every time I ask to help out in the kitchen Joanna admonishes me to wash my hands.] Why have I told you this? I tell you because this very evening Joanna and I were just too tired to cook (an irony of producing the vast majority of the food we consume here on the farm) and opted for quick-and-easy subs for dinner. I stood at the counter and watched my sandwiches being constructed, and all seemed well. Just as the young woman turned to hand the subs to me she gestured to hold on and then hurled (tossed-her-cookies, vomited, up-chucked, experienced reverse peristalsis, puked, ralphed, threw-up) into a nearby sink. What would you have done? What would any reasonable people have done? What were our options? We could have eaten the subs. We could have refused to pay for the subs and left. Or, we could have paid for the subs and then thrown them into the compost, and that’s just what we did. So, the moral of this story is (in two parts) … always wash your hands before eating … and please call in sick when you are ill. [Many thanks to the folks at Maine Food & Lifestyle for the image of leg-of-lamb.]

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