A whopping case of food poisoning has made for a rough week. I should have known better, but misplaced trust and my inner cheapness conspired against me. I have nobody to blame but myself.
The nasty little beasts hitched a ride into my gut last Friday. I’d paid a pretty penny for a thick ribeye steak the previous Sunday. No oven-broiling or pan-frying for me. A steak that nice has to be grilled, but the weather didn’t cooperate until Friday.
With few exceptions, I hate putting proteins in the freezer. Not for taste reasons, but because I have to think about what I want to eat far enough ahead of time to thaw something out. And if I change my mind, I can’t refreeze it. So I pulled the ribeye out of the refrigerator and checked the label. The sell by date was March 20 — Thursday — just the day before. No worries, right? To be sure, I opened the package and sniffed.
Next time I’ll shake my head, wipe a tear from my cheek, and toss the rotting meat in the trash. But the aroma was faint, the meat was expensive, and only one day had passed since the sell by date. Besides, I was hungry, and pretty sure cooking the meat to temperature would kill any bacteria.
After slathering lemon-pepper across the top, I tossed that bad-boy on the grill and closed the cover. Exactly seven minutes later, I turned the steak and was thrilled to see a beautiful sear. After another seven minutes, I let the perfectly cooked meat rest before taking a bite. Tasted fine, so I ate half with a baked potato and had the other half the next day on a salad.
I was fine Sunday and figured the threat had passed. The ex came over for dinner and, after I told him I was relieved not to be sick and why, he said I could get sick up to eight days later. Dammit! He was right too. I was fine when I woke up Monday morning, but by bedtime, the shit had hit the fan.
As far as food poisoning goes, mine was a mild case. No vomiting, but I felt like hell all day Tuesday and Wednesday. Thursday I had to drive 120 miles to teach an all-day workshop. I picked up some imodium on the way out of town and, after struggling with the damn packaging for thirty minutes, popped a couple. I taught all day and made it home without incident. My appetite didn’t return until Saturday — and even then, I was careful. Bland, bland, bland.
I checked with a friend who’s an expert in food safety and food borne illness. She said the sell by date hinges upon the meat staying below forty degrees the entire time. An hour or so from the store to home shouldn’t hurt, but much more is asking for trouble. Maybe my refrigerator isn’t cold enough. Or maybe the open-air shelving in the store didn’t keep the meat cool enough. Inspectors check, but a lot of factors can influence the temperature. In the end, the reason the meat had gone bad doesn’t matter. When in doubt, toss it out — and I didn’t.
I hate going to the grocery store, but going once a week isn’t working for me. Come Sunday morning (grocery day), any meat in the fridge goes to the freezer, and stays there. Having been sick all week, the meat I bought last Sunday didn’t get used before the sell by dates. I threw it and what had been in my freezer — chicken mostly — in the trash. Better safe than sorry.