Am I about to die of food poisoning?
I have an insatiable curiosity. It is who I am. Because of this, I read. A lot! As our plan to go sailing came closer into view, I substituted my reading material of investment prospectus’ and sales related leadership books to boat blogs, cruising guides and technical manuals for the systems aboard Cream Puff. An article I read recently really got my interest. It was about refrigeration. It wasn’t about how it works. It was about what foods need to be refrigerated on a boat and what foods can be stored at room temperature. Many cruising blogs have addressed this same subject. Quite frankly, I thought they did so because they had inadequate refrigeration and were trying to kid themselves it was okay to eat 5 day old cooked chicken stored at room temperature in the tropics. But, when the galley guru herself wrote a post on the subject, it made me say, “hmmm”.
The galley guru I refer to is Carolyn Shearlock. Carolyn, a full-time cruiser, wrote a book which we purchased and read from cover to cover. It quickly became our go to text for all things related to food and cooking on a boat. In addition to her book, she has a website and newsletter to which I subscribe. In the newsletter, she cites not refrigerating mayonnaise. Yep! You read that correctly, mayonnaise doesn’t have to be refrigerated. Who knew?
As a kid growing up in England, I remember eggs being sold loosely and at room temperature from large cardboard egg trays on the counter. I do not recall masses of Brits dying from eating unrefrigerated eggs. It did not surprise me to read eggs will last for weeks without refrigeration. I do not really know when the transition was made to sell them refrigerated. Perhaps it was when I came to America and I figured it was just one of those things Americans do. But, I too have become habitual about refrigerating my eggs. We were spoiled in our old house with a huge, and I mean huge, refrigerator. Remember this before and After picture from our Downsizing post?
At our house, it was overly convenient to just refrigerate everything. Our refrigerator door had the normal who’s who of condiments. Many of which, in contrary to the manufactures label, do not need refrigeration, like ketchup and mustard. It worked out the door was the catch all space for anything we did not want cluttering the kitchen countertops. We had the space so we filled it up. It worked at the house. On the boat, not so much.
We are still spoiled on Cream Puff as we have three refrigerator/freezers. But, the real estate inside these units is precious. I imagine it will become more valuable as we provision the boat for extend trips. So, this is why Carolyn’s newsletter got my attention.
About 4 weeks ago on Cream Puff, I opened a jar of mayonnaise and made the life and death decision to not refrigerate it. My living was going to be determined by something I read on the internet, always a very sound strategy. The apparent key to me not dying is to never put a contaminated knife or spoon back into the container. “Always use a clean utensil”, I read. “Never re-dip the knife or spoon”. I used the jar for about a week. Then, we left Cream Puff to pack up our house in Atlanta. We were gone for 15 days. During this time this little jar of mayonnaise sat percolating on the shelf. Today, I opened the jar for the first time in 3 weeks. I stood back and twisted the top with extended arms expecting a foul rotten egg toxic cloud to hit me in the face. It didn’t. I cautiously moved closer for a better smell. Hmm. It smelt like mayonnaise. Why not make a sandwich and try it, I thought. It tasted fine. But, was it? We’ll know in a couple of hours.