Monday, September 29, 2008

Dirty Americans?

A guest post from Dr. Val Jones, a blogosphere friend. I was going to have a simple post today to wish my Jewish readers "l'shana tovah", but perhaps this will also get them thinking about those Rosh Hashanah apples in a different way! (BTW, I'll be off-line starting this evening and through tomorrow for the New Year's holiday.)

I took a beginning Spanish course at the University of Zaragoza, Spain, about ten years ago. One day I was at a local grocery store, picking through some apples and oranges when I noticed several women looking at me with utter disgust. I couldn’t imagine what was bothering them and returned their gaze with an innocent shrug.

“Sucio!” [dirty] uttered one under her breath. And the women shook their heads and pushed their shopping carts away from me in a huff.

My mind went into overdrive trying to figure out what I could possibly have done that was so utterly distasteful. I watched other women at the apple bin and slowly noticed that they had a systematic way of selecting their fruit. First they pulled a plastic bag off the roll, then they opened it and put their hand in it (as if it were an ill-fitting surgical glove), and then they began picking up the apples and oranges one by one to inspect them for defects. When they found one they liked, they simply inverted the bag and kept the item inside, without ever having skin-to-fruit contact.

“Ah hah,” I thought, “that’s why they thought I was ‘dirty.’ I was touching the fruit with my bare hands.” And from that day on, I have used the “surgical glove” approach to fruit selection. It’s a cleaner way to shop.

I was at a local farmer’s market today with my husband, and I noticed him rifling through an apple bin with a bunch of other eager shoppers. True to their “dirty” American upbringing, they were all inspecting the fruit with bare hands. I told my husband about my Spanish experience and asked him if he thought all the hands on the fruit might be spreading E.coli or other bacteria around.

He replied simply, “Well, I’d be more concerned about the foreign farmers fertilizing their plants with human manure than about the grocery store buyers touching the fruit. Besides, we wash our hands in America.”

Well, I’m not sure if the second statement is correct – Paul Levy will testify to just how difficult it is to get hospital employees to wash their hands! My bottom line is – please wash your fruit.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I don't remember anyone doing this in Barcelona ten years ago. (Not that that's definitive -- it was ten years ago.) I know I didn't, though.

As a guy who does anxiety disorders therapy from time to time, this looks OCDish to me -- heaven forbid someone teach one of my clients to do this! -- but to each their own.