Uncle Sam Says Stay Safe for the Holidays

Uncle Sam Says Stay Safe for the Holidays

With only about 28 days until Christmas, it seems important to finish summarizing Uncle Sam’s recipe for happy holidays.

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One item on that list is swapping out incandescent and Compact Fluorescent Lights, or CFLs, for even more efficient Light Emitting Diodes, or LEDs. In the spirit of Christmas, let me sing the praises for this newest form of illumination on the world’s lighting scene.

On second thought, maybe not. At a certain pitch, my singing can make dogs howl and babies cry. But I can talk (or in this case write) about how LEDs have the competition beat by a mile. The first item would be life span. Where incandescents die after about 1,200 hours, or a measly 50 days (a Monarch butterfly lives longer!), and CFLs offer only 10,000 hours, or slightly more than 416 days, the rugged and flexible LED endures for 50,000 hours, or 5 times as long as its nearest competitor, and it does so without using the toxic mercury that makes a broken CFL a reason to call out the local hazmat team!

Granted, Thomas Edison’s invention, the incandescent bulb, has a lot more watts per bulb, and costs a lot less at first glance, but in a penny-per-hour calculation, the LED wins the long race, coming in at about $0.05 for a 40-watt equivalent, while the Edison 40-watt costs $0.12. It’s that 50,000 hours that makes the real difference, and the actual cost of electricity to run these two bulbs, at about $0.11 per kilowatt hour, is a mere $48 for the LED, while the incandescent continues to suck down at least $240 during its brief life.

I’m going to slide right through Uncle Sam’s lecture about the size of food portions during the holidays and the lack of exercise. I can’t speak for others, but I know putting a Thanksgiving turkey and a Christmas roast on the table for eight, with all the trimmings, uses up about 5,000 calories. The shopping before, and cleaning up after, probably account for another 5,000. As the host/chef, you need not feel guilty about eating dinner, but try to have a veggie that you like and focus on that instead of stuffing when you go back for seconds.

We have already covered the packing for a hassle-free flight, and no one I know is bringing gravy! We have also touched on holiday waste, which begins with the ubiquitous battery, and ends with plastic toys that self-destruct within hours of their purchase. You may be stuck buying one or two of these to prevent wholesale mutiny, but if you must, and if they are battery-operated, please also invest in a good battery charger and various sizes of rechargeable batteries.

And the last, keeping food safe and avoiding those nasty stomach bugs that catch some people during these special times, has also been described. I would like to add a few notes of my own, though, from years of cooking experience and not a single instance of food poisoning.

First, one of the most dangerous foods is mayonnaise or salad dressing. The danger appears to be initiated by the preparer’s hands, and then encouraged by the mayonnaise or salad dressing. Expect to see staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus) pop up in ham sandwiches, egg salad or deviled eggs, potato salad and various other foods. Fortunately, most except the ham sandwich are not holiday-type foods. However, if you are cooking a ham for Christmas and planning on leftovers, you would do well to wear surgeon’s gloves, just to be sure. Better yet, because they are both cheap and effective – and without the unfortunate environmental effects of Triclosan (the antibacterial in hand wash and myriad other products) – buy a box and use them often. I do.

Second, get an impermeable cutting board. Yes, I know wood looks so homey, but after a year or two there is no way to get the bugs out of all the grooves, notches and abrasions. Or there is – a soaking in bleach, but you don’t want to cut and trim food on a surface that is just as good at absorbing bleach as it was listeria bacteria.

Buy marble. Pay the extra price and ease your mind when it comes to trimming meat, cutting up a whole chicken or chopping an onion. A good marble board can also be used in making pastry and in making taffy. If you find that the usual 18-inch-square board doesn’t provide enough surface for your more eclectic creations, go to your local tile center and ask them to cut a piece of ¾-inch marble countertop to your requirements.

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