Despite what you’re thinking, I’m not one for desserts.
Sure if you throw a hunkering piece of cherry pie in front of me I’m going to reach for the nearest fork, but I don’t go out of my way to order dessert with dinner. Especially now since I’m on a diligent quest to lose a hundred pounds – only 40 more to go!
But there’s that ONE friend of mine, who’s name I will not mention to protect the guilty, who tries to get me to buckle under the pressure and head to the frozen yogurt place at least once a week.
“It’s low fat.”
I don’t care.
“We’ll split it.”
I don’t want any.
“Just a little.”
I don’t like it.
“We can park in the handicapped spot behind the place.”
Despite how tempting that parking spot may be, nope.
Between you and me, it’s not the calories, it’s not the difficulty of finding a parking spot, it’s not because it’s “yogurt” it’s because of something my father told me early on in life.
“They don’t clean the machines.”
For some reason that stuck with me. Shortly after marrying my mother, dear old dad left the State Police and began working as a food broker. For nearly his whole life he’s been in and out of restaurant kitchens and bakeries getting a glimpse into the world very few of us ever get to see. At 88 years old, there’s only a few restaurants he will eat in because he “knows the kitchen is clean.”
As a youngster, when we would go out and I would see the red and purple liquid flowing around in a fruit punch dispenser, I knew better than to ask him to buy me a drink of it. “That’s nothing but belly wash. They don’t clean the machines. You drink that and you’ll get sick.”
Pay no attention to the fact that I just spent the last three hours playing in dirt.
When it came to ice cream, soft serve was out of the question. Even though Dairy Queen was only a few blocks away and one of his childhood friends owned the place, a cone of vanilla was out of the question. Why? Because “they don’t clean the machines.”
I guess it’s time to thank my dad for bestowing upon me the bacteria-phobia that keeps me away from soft serve ice cream, fruit punch at the mall and the skins of baked potatoes.
About five years ago when we moved one of my companies, Solid Cactus, to a new facility, one of the things we added was a deli that served breakfast and lunch. The first summer we were there we put in a soft serve ice cream machine. I was excited as this was my time to rebel against my father and spend every afternoon sucking down rich and creamy chocolate ice cream without having someone telling me not to eat it because “they don’t clean the machines.”
When we purchased the machine the first thing the sales rep told us was, “if this machine isn’t cleaned properly, it can be lethal.”
I remember saying to myself, “Jesus, after all these years my father was right!”
We had the choice of two different machines, each with their own unique way of sanitizing themselves to ensure that nobody would succumb to a cone of vanilla. The machine we opted for pasteurized the product each night to make sure harmful bacteria didn’t grow. Each night before shutting it down, all the external nozzles and parts had to be sanitized. Then every 14 days, the machine would shut down on its own and we would have to empty it, disassemble all the parts and super sanitize the whole thing before adding fresh product.
It turned out to be a hell of a lot of work!
This machine was located in Pennsylvania where a license is required to operate it. In addition to a license, each month, a lab would come in and draw a sample of product and take it back to be tested. If high levels of bacterial were present, they would call and you would have to empty the machine and sanitize it again.
Knowing just how hard it is to keep these machines clean and the product bacteria-free is enough to keep me away. Sure that inspector may have been here yesterday but he won’t be around for another 30 days! What happens next week when the machine wasn’t cleaned properly? Montezuma’s revenge is a horrible thing to suffer from!
Recently there have been more and more of these self-service yogurt places popping up. The premise is simple, you walk in, fill up a bowl with any one of a dozen different flavors, top it off with a selection of toppings that would make Willy Wonka jealous and then fork over about $4.99 a pound.
I’ll be honest with you, those places scare the shit (no pun intended) out of me!
When asked if I want to go for some frozen yogurt, the first thing I hear is my old man saying “they don’t clean the machines.” The second thing that happens is I have a vision of a dozen people walking up to each machine with their dirty hands, touching this, sampling that, sticking their dirty fingers into a bowl of gummy bears or chocolate chips and all of a sudden, my bacteria-phobia kicks in and even the promise of that great handicapped parking spot behind the place isn’t even enough to make me drive by the joint!
I may be over reacting, but besides the fear of a dirty machine, the fear of vomiting makes this fairly rational man stay far-far-away from the frozen yogurt place.
But that’s a whole other story for another day. I’m a little too freaked out now to talk about dirty hands on bread and sneezing old ladies at the salad bar.