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ramekins vs shakers for salt and pepper


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#1 crepeguy

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Posted 29 September 2014 - 11:30 AM

I’ve recently noticed restaurants that place small bowls filled with salt and ground pepper  (with no spoon) on tables in lieu of salt and pepper shakers. The Mediterranean Exploration Company and Tasty and Sons (same owner) come to mind here. On first thought, I really like the idea as grabbing a pinch and sprinkling it with one’s fingers over the food as it gives more control of flow vs shakers. On second thought, however, I would never use this method as I don’t know where the previous diner’s fingers have been. This, especially in the case of children--and I know a LOT about how they behave in restaurants--I’ve seen more fingers in noses and eating food off the floor than I care to share here. And little kids love to touch everything on the tables.

 

So, my question is this, am I just paranoid or are spice bowls on common restaurant tables a health hazard?



#2 ExtraMSG

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Posted 29 September 2014 - 12:57 PM

Usually when I've seen this persistently used (as opposed to someone asking for salt at a restaurant that doesn't have shakers), there is a small spoon as well (which I imagine is often stolen).


The greatest service chemistry has rendered to alimentary science, is the discovery of osmazome, or rather the determination of what it was. ~Brillat-Savarin

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Formerly, Kenny & Zuke's


#3 jennifer

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Posted 30 September 2014 - 07:34 AM

I remember Tasty and Toro Bravo used to have small spoons way back when.  I would bet Nick is right, people swiped them all. 

 

Most people don't think about the germ factor in this set up.  I envy them.  Things like ketchup bottles, s&p shakers, pepper grinders, shared jam & condiment trays with spoons, etc. all shared by gazillions of random customers, makes the OCD in me freak out inside. 



#4 Nacho_B

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Posted 30 September 2014 - 09:05 AM

Hola,

 

This is the sort of thing I don’t worry about at all. This seems to be a particular US preoccupation. It will all be fine. Tranquilo.

 

Can you get sick? Sure. Hand-washing is the #1 means of preventing the spread of disease, and not everybody does it (or does it well). Are you going to get seriously ill from this? Unlikely. We’re all going to get sick now and then. That’s life. It’s also good to give your immune system a challenge from time to time. One theory about why the US has an increasing rate of allergies (especially food allergies) is that it’s too clean here. Best to give your immune system something to do so it doesn’t turn on you. One quote that stuck with me from National Geographic a few years ago is, “the best thing you can do to prevent your children from having allergies is to move a cow into your living-room”. Vale.

 

I spent some time in India. I got sick in Varanasi, but that’s pretty much a given. It's an old place. Bueennoo. One trick that milk-vendors use over there to maximize their profits is to water down the milk. Savvy customers run their fingers through the milk to check the "milk vs. water" percentage. There is a saying that “the more fingers that have been through the milk the better the flavor”. This would not fly in the US, but they have managed to establish a population of more than 1 billion people in India with this system and the yogurt there was the best I've ever had.

 

There are some serious food-born illnesses, to be sure. E coli, listeria, salmonella etc. Those are nothing to scoff at or downplay. I don’t want any of them. I’d still use that salt though (or any desired table condiment). I’d share a glass/straw/plate/utensil with any of you as well. Tranquilo.

 

There are effects on the body from worry, stress and neurosis. They are cumulative and unhealthy too. I’ll take my chances with the food. I’m careful when I travel (at least at first) and I’m careful when I come back to this country (at least at first). It’s worked well enough for me so far. Here’s to hoping that trend continues!

 

¡Buen provecho!

 

Saludos,

Nacho_B



#5 crepeguy

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Posted 30 September 2014 - 01:52 PM

This would not fly in the US, but they have managed to establish a population of more than 1 billion people in India with this system and the yogurt there was the best I've ever had.

 

Just imagine if they practiced better hygiene there--they may have a billion more mouths to feed than they have now!

 

 

I’d share a glass/straw/plate/utensil with any of you as well.

 

Nacho, you're a braver man than I (and probably more sensible). 

 

 

I'm happy to hear tasty and Sons had little spoons at one point. I guess little spoons can be useful, so it's understandable people would want to inadvertently walk off with them. I don't know, I'm still a bit on the fence with this, but I promise myself not to stress or lose any more sleep over it.

 

Thank you!



#6 polloelastico

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Posted 30 September 2014 - 03:19 PM

How about grinders with big ole chunks of salt in it? Artisan, non-artisan, whatever, anything is better than iodized table salt.

 

I like salt.


“Think of how stupid the average person is, and realize half of them are stupider than that.” — George Carlin

#7 crepeguy

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Posted 02 October 2014 - 06:09 PM

I do like my grinders. Yes, I think grinders are the way to go.

 

I will note that the salt in the bowl (yes, I did use it as I scrunched my nose) felt like Kosher, not iodized. 



#8 nervousxtian

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Posted 02 October 2014 - 06:27 PM

I guarantee that there's a better chance that you'd get sick from shit that was in the salt or pepper (especially pepper) from originally processing then from any fingers that touched it.    

 

People really worry about this kind of stuff far too much.



#9 RM

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Posted 03 October 2014 - 10:39 AM

FYI. These open salt dispensers are called salt cellars and have been around for a long time.

 

From Wikipedia:

 

Use of salt cellars is documented as early as classical Rome. They continued to be used through the first half of the 20th century; however, usage began to decline with the introduction of free-flowing salt in 1911, and at last they have been almost entirely replaced by salt shakers.



#10 crepeguy

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Posted 04 October 2014 - 07:44 AM

FYI. These open salt dispensers are called salt cellars and have been around for a long time.

 

From Wikipedia:

 

Use of salt cellars is documented as early as classical Rome. They continued to be used through the first half of the 20th century; however, usage began to decline with the introduction of free-flowing salt in 1911, and at last they have been almost entirely replaced by salt shakers.

 

I think there's a lot of things the Romans did back in their time at table, that probably wouldn't wash in today's society.  :hungry:



#11 crepeguy

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Posted 04 October 2014 - 07:49 AM

I guarantee that there's a better chance that you'd get sick from shit that was in the salt or pepper (especially pepper) from originally processing then from any fingers that touched it.    

 

People really worry about this kind of stuff far too much.

 

I'm totally against cooks having to wear gloves (but I do expect them to wash their hands often). That being said, many people don't actually wash their hands after using the restroom, and I don't want their fingers in my salt, regardless. Same goes for ATMs, but that's a different matter. 



#12 crepeguy

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Posted 04 October 2014 - 12:36 PM

The other thing is hot tubs, I hate communal hot tubs. There was a time I actually used to carry around a mini Vic Firth pepper mill (because a lot of places never offered fresh ground pepper). I never used it in a hot tub however.

#13 nate

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Posted 27 October 2014 - 10:22 AM

Not exactly a biologist by trade, but it wouldn't surprise me if the osmosis effects of pure salt would be strong enough to kill any bacteria (think of them as microscopic slugs). Viruses presumably would not be affected however. Also pepper would be a bit dodgy, though the only time I've seen that, it was brought from the kitchen for a specific dish (or by request) and I assumed it was freshly ground. In my home I always use a small bowl of salt and don't think twice about it when in a restaurant (though can be annoyed when there's no salt available and the food is clearly under-seasoned).