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Happy Thanksgiving and take care of your leftoversHappy Thanksgiving and take care of your leftovers

Take care to made sure your Thanksgiving dinner isn’t ruined by uninvited foodborne illness.

Brent Murphree

November 14, 2023

2 Min Read
Raw Turkey
We’ve come a long way from the days without refrigeration or food safety regulations.Pamela D McAdams/Getty Images/iStockphoto

I need to begin this tirade by stating that I believe you should follow the published guidelines for food handling with all of your Thanksgiving Day feast.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has several pages dedicated to food safety during the Holiday season with tips like washing your hands after handling raw turkey, how to cook the bird, why you need to wash utensils after touching anything and the proper care of leftovers.

I come at this from a different angle as a person who eats raw foods direct from the garden and occasionally gobbles raw beef or seafood. I’m careful but don’t avoid the tasty stuff.

That throws me back to Thanksgiving dinners as a kid. The family dinners would be served about 1 p.m. It would sit on the serving table until late afternoon as people grazed throughout the afternoon. Few things went into the refrigerator.

Never once has anyone in my family mentioned a food poisoning event. I come from a long, long line of really good, conscientious cooks – we’ve eaten a lot of crazy things, but no one have ever gotten sick at Thanksgiving.

Where I grew up, Thanksgiving and Easter weather was usually pretty mild and many of those holidays were spent outside in the foothills of the Estrella Mountains or on the old Vekol Ranch. The drinks were in the ice chest but not much else.

Today, there is so much effort that goes into keeping everything sterile, I think we’ve lost some of the excitement of putting together the meals with which we celebrate.

I am a bit of a germaphobe – I bleach the kitchen when I cook any kind of poultry and won’t eat anything with mayonnaise if it’s been left out too long – but I think that is learned behavior.

In college I worked in a number of restaurants. I was obsessed with making sure there were no traces of previous diners on the tables or in the kitchen. The company I worked for had someone called Safety Sally who came around and made sure standards were above county code. She’d look under tables and behind stoves – she was a tough general.

But where have we come, or gone, in the last 100 years when we stored milk in unrefrigerated cabinets covered with, maybe, a cloth or when we hung butchered meat on a hook in a cool, not cold, room?

One hundred years ago, we were basically carrion eaters, celebrating a day of thanks with room temperature dairy and lukewarm poultry. Our digestive systems are mere shadows of the days when Pilgrams shared their preserved meats with Native Americans’ tepid game and vegetables.

But again, I recommend you take care with this season’s Holiday fare – wash your hands, wipe down the counters, don’t serve a raw bird.

Happy Thanksgiving.

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