Food Safety Makes Sense!

In my former career, I was a public health inspector/environmental health officer and ran my own business called Enviro-Food Consulting. I trained a large number of restaurant and foodservice workers on food safety techniques. One upcoming project is a book based on my last blog called Food Safety Makes Sense.

Most people do not take food safety seriously. If you have a family member with allergies, or you have purchased a food product that has been recalled or you have travelled or dined out and developed food poisoning, you know how necessary it is for food to be prepared safely. It makes sense for us to remember that food safety is important to all of us.

The Attitude of Foodservice Workers

I have taught many groups of workers from teens to seniors. Working in a restaurant is thought of as just another job. Management is not always supportive. If workers notice that management doesn’t take an interest in them, they are not concerned about food safety. That means sanitizing isn’t done carefully, hands are wiped not washed and dirty cloths are not replaced. As the pandemic has shown us, sanitizing is taken more seriously but foodborne disease outbreaks are still occurring.

Cappucino

Food Prepared & Purchased In A Typical Day

If you think about your typical day, many of us consume food made at home or may enjoy a takeout item including drinks such as coffee. We all forget how much we depend on the food supply chain to provide us with safe food to eat which won’t make us ill. Many cases of foodborne illness are not reported as they mimic the flu.

Breakfast Meals For Take-Out

Breakfast Egg Sandwich

Consider The Following Points:

For example, if you had an egg sandwich for breakfast in a restaurant, do you consider:

How old is the egg that was used in the ingredients?

Did the food handler preparing the sandwich wash his/her hands before preparing the sandwich?

Food Handler Washing Hands
  1. Was the handwashing done properly and not just using a shot of hand sanitizer? Hand sanitizers are wonderful when sinks with hot water and soap are not available. However, in a restaurant kitchen, there is a designated handwashing sink to use. Handwashing with hot or warm water and liquid soap sanitizes hands most effectively.
  2. Was the work area sanitized? This should be done with an approved sanitizer in a spray bottle and clean cloth. If the cloth is dirty, contaminants will be spread around the surfaces.
  3. Was the sandwich cooked to the proper temperature?
  4. Is the purchased sandwich hot, lukewarm or even cold? Uneven temperatures mean the food is in the Danger Zone where various food poisoning organisms can grow.

Do You Still Want To Eat the Egg Sandwich?

After thinking about all these points, do you still want to eat the egg sandwich?

Food safety does make sense!

Take-OutBreakfast Sandwich and Coffee

Opportunities for Young Women in WW2 in England

Women today do not know how far we have come. It wasn’t that long ago that women were raised to get married and that was it. No career was to be considered. Not even university.

A Job in London


While researching my book Olive’s Obsession based on Olive working at the Beaver Club in London during the war, I have found that there were not many choices for young women. Olive, who in real life was my mother, went to Pitmans’ College in London to learn shorthand. She then went on to learn typing and worked as a secretary for such amazing companies as Quaker Oats and the EverReady Battery Company. The Ever Ready Battery Company got bombed during the war and very fortunately all the staff were gone as it was night time so no one lost their lives.

Life in London

Olive and her friend in London in WW2

My Mother always said that she was in London working but did not see a lot of war going on. She maybe said that so that we, my sister and I, growing up would not think she had suffered. They all suffered severely especially with the bomb shelters being in the tube at any hour when the alarm sounded. Also, the lack of food and rationing books that had to be presented when purchasing food. Everything was for the war effort.

Voluntary Work in the Red Cross

Volunteers in the Red Cross

What Were Your Opportunities?

As for the opportunities, you were either a teacher, nurse or secretary. You were expected to marry young otherwise you were considered an “old maid” which many dreaded. If you were a member of the aristocracy, then you were expected to marry high up. No career was in the cards for you. That explains why volunteer work became popular with the aristocracy as they were appearing to do good for the lower classes. The class system existed in Great Britain at the time.

Ladies Having Tea in London

I plan on researching about job opportunities in World War II for young women to find out what their lives were really like.

Characteristics of the Plot

What characteristics does the writer consider when deciding the characters in a plot? I am working on a future book based on my mother’s experiences in England during World War 2. I know there are a lot of books written about women and the war. However, my mother did something unique. She volunteered in London at the Beaver Club. This was a place where Canadian soldiers could come to get sandwiches, coffee, new socks and maps to get around London while on leave. Of course, I won’t be calling the book The Beaver Club for obvious reasons. The working title is The Maple Leaf Club. The Club had various women volunteering there mainly with the food preparation and serving. Many of the women have long since passed away and perhaps their sons and daughters didn’t know much about it. The book I plan to write includes a murder in the Club and the life of Olive, the main character, who works as a secretary for a British firm and really wants to start a new life in Canada.

Research is required for this book. The photos I have of my Mother are helpful and the reunion photo is amazing. Many ladies fit into one large photo but all in black and white. I once asked my mother if she had dated anyone at the club. She replied, “Oh no, not me. I was too shy!”

What stands out in this story is the selflessness of the women who volunteered their time to work in the Beaver Club in London in the middle of the war. Life in wartime London was tough enough but these ladies volunteered their time to help Canadians. I’m looking forward to researching this book and learning what my mother experienced during the war.

My mother as a young woman in London, England.

Debutante’s Lives in WW2

While researching information for my book Olive’s Obsession, I found a fabulous book called Debs at War: How War Changed Their Lives 1939-1945 by Anne de Courcy.

Debutantes

I was amazed to learn how little the debutantes knew about life. They had been sheltered for most of their young lives. Their main goal in life was to find a good match and marry very well. The higher up the better! Then war came along. Many had servants and maids who did everything for them. All of a sudden, they were thrust into the war effort. Some went into nursing, some worked for the Women’s Voluntary Association, some became pilots and some drove ambulances. One deb was asked what she knew about the gas tank. “It was full of oil and hair,” she replied. Her chauffeur had taught her this but instead of saying hair, he had said air! As for support from their parents, many didn’t dine with their mother or father until much older.

Debs in their evening dresses in 1939.

Life Influencers

The sole influence on their lives was Nanny. They learned all her mannerisms which carried them through life. They were challenged during the war to use skills they didn’t know they possessed.

Female pilots in WW2.

Chosen Paths

Imagine going into culture shock from your world where the lady’s maid looked after all your clothes to one where being inspected for head lice was routine. Some went on to Bletchley Park or became Land Girls. Most went into the Services – as FANYs, ATS, Wrens or WAAFs. The class barrier had existed in England but it dissolved under the love and war or continued on to in superiority to those less wealthy. No one was catering to them when they volunteered.

Character in Book

I will be having a debutante as one of the characters in my book. More details to come.

What Is The Inspiration for a Character in a Book?

What is the inspiration for a character when writing a book? Inspiration can take many forms and ends up providing the author with characters that can be used in the book being written.

Inspiration Helps Authors with Book Titles

What Inspires the Name of a Character?

When I first started thinking of ideas for my children’s book The Fairy Hollow Chronicles, I took inspiration from my own children to create the characters. My daughter loved fairies when she was very young so that provided me with the idea for four fairies. Adventures are always fun when you are a child so the idea that the fairies had to go on an adventure was born. Then, the names came easily as I chose names of her friends from elementary school. Now there are three books in the series. The names in Book 3 – The Fairy Hollow Gold Treasure Adventure came from a few relatives including a great niece and nephew! With pirates names such as Captain Bootlace Bill, Lightning Lance and Notorious Nigel, who can resist finding out where the gold treasure is with their help?

Characters from Book 3 The Fairy Hollow Gold Treasure Adventure

What Should Characters Wear?

Authors need to describe their characters. In The Fairy Hollow Chronicles, the four fairies are tiny so it was easy to have them dressed in ballerina tutus with their hair in buns. Ballerinas always wear buns. Young girls who take ballet enjoy wearing the tutus and having their hair in buns. The mayor in the book needed to be in a suit as he means business. The idea for the toad came from various stories I read as a child and also the toad character fits the mayor character perfectly.

The four fairies in tutus from Book 1 – The Fairy Hollow Chronicles
Character of Mayor Dayle from The Fairy Hollow Chronicles

For my future book on my Mother’s work with Canadian soldiers during WW2, I can draw inspiration from the photo below which shows her dining out with friends in Vancouver. Three women drinking coffee or tea and eating pastries while smiling with their hats on! The hats are quite fascinating and also all appear to be wearing dresses. All these clues help an author when writing a story to place the characters at a specific period in time. This photo was taken on my Mother’s arrival in Vancouver after the war ended and she had volunteered at the Beaver Club in London. This photo will help me decide on the ending of the book!

My mother having tea with two friends.

Photographs

Ideas for other books that I am writing came from photographs. Sometimes a photograph can inspire an author to write a story based on what might be happening in that photo. The photos from WW2 in England are an inspiration and ask me to write about what the young men and women in the photos are laughing about, worried about, thinking about and how the war affected them. As the daughter of parents who went through WW2, I am intrigued to include in my book these points to round out my characters.

My mother and her friend in 1935 – A photograph for inspiration – What is going on in this photo?

Inspiration is the Summary of Many Ideas

The inspiration for characters in a book comes from everything including family, friends, photos, artwork, current fashion, and the author’s imagination. By using all these ideas, the characters come to life which makes enjoyable reading for all of us.

Children’s Books Mean So Much

With the pandemic, children’s lives were affected in many different ways. Whether it was doing school on-line or missing school field trips or being exposed to Covid, many spent a large proportion of their time on-line. Children’s books are meant to challenge their imaginations, provide stories they can relate to and improve their literacy. How do books do this?

Illustrations Are Important

A young reader with the first book The Fairy Hollow Chronicles

As a children’s book author, I know how important it is to have illustrations with the story. The story comes alive when children can see the characters which ignites their curiosity. Movies and videos for kids don’t always allow them to use their imaginations. Imagination is a powerful tool and helps the child create or use their mind to imagine what could be or what the characters could do.

The third book in the series The Fairy Hollow Chronicles – The Fairy Hollow Gold Treasure Adventure

In my Fairy Hollow Chronicles series, my illustrator, Barbara Warwick, used vivid colors and attention to detail to bring the characters to life. What children see on the above book cover are three pirates. However, look at the details which bring them to life. The Captain has a sword and a skull and crossbones on his cap. The second pirate is tall with a black eye patch cover over his eye and is barefoot! The cat looks interesting with the tiny pirates hat on the cat’s head! The third pirate is wearing the large gold buckle on his belt, high top boots and a black eye patch cover on his right eye. Now the reader has a visual description of what the characters look like which helps to understand the story!

Writer’s Tool Kit

Writers of children’s books really need to appeal to children and can do so by challenging their imagination and use of descriptive words. Books can have simple wording or use more complex phrases again to challenge the child’s mind. One tool for the children’s book author is the use of colorful illustrations. Children are fascinated by different color images. In the story above, the child is not just walking down a path but is wearing bright-colored shoes, pink overalls, with flowers, her pet dog and cat, her doll and last of all her baby brother all in the same scene. There is a lot going on in this scene. The reader can discuss with the child when reading the book together which is what the author had in mind.

Stories That Children Can Relate To

Rupert Bear in his famous yearly annual for children

Happy Endings

Children like stories with happy endings. With Rupert, children can look at the world of adventure and fun through different animals who are dressed in brightly colored clothing. These animals would not be like this in real life. However, the characters are helpful to children to think about the world they live in and their friends and family in a different light. They will want to join Rupert and his friends on adventures too!

Sally with her children’s book The Fairy Hollow Chronicles illustrated by Barbie Warwick

The Best Part

By making children’s books colorful, interesting, challenging and fun to read, children are off to a great start in the world of books. They will enjoy reading as they get older and venture into longer books with no illustrations. Most importantly, children’s books help children begin their journey into language which will benefit them for the rest of their lives.

Another young reader with her Grandma reading The Fairy Hollow Chronicles!

Back To School Lunch Safety

Safely Prepared Lunches Are Important

I always get asked questions on children’s school lunches. Parents ask if lunches are not refrigerated, how can they be safe? Of course, most of us attended school and didn’t have insulated lunch boxes or ice gel packs and did not become ill. However, there are some steps to take that will help reduce the risk of food poisoning and provide a safe lunch.

Here are safety tips for parents:

Temperature Control

** When preparing sandwiches, use either frozen bread or refrigerate the night before. Otherwise, pack with cold drinks, a frozen juice box or an ice pack in an insulated lunch box and that will keep food cool enough until lunch time.

Sandwich

** Remind children to throw away perishable leftovers and recycle packaging when possible. Use individual containers and don’t re-use food packaging as this increases the risk of cross-contamination. As allergies are an increasing concern with children, any re-used packaging could contain an allergen, eg. peanut butter, which can be placed onto another food, eg. cheese, causing an allergic reaction.

** Wash all fruits and vegetables with tap water and then dry with paper towel before adding to the lunch box.

** Insulated bottles can also be used to keep hot food out of the temperature danger zone. Fill the bottle first with boiling water, empty and fill with the hot food.

Sandwich & Salad

** Most importantly, wash your hands before preparing your child’s lunch.

Stay on the Right Track

School lunches safety prepared will help children start back to school safely and ensure a great start to the new school year!

6 Summer Food Safety Tips

Summer Barbeque

Even though the weather is extremely hot right now, summer provides us with good times outdoors to enjoy family picnics, holidays and camping. As with all meals, food preparation is the key especially when family members and guests represent all age groups. Food poisoning can easily be prevented. Here are some tips for summer food safety.

Foods To Avoid This Summer

Raw Milk, Juices & Cheeses

Raw Milk

Raw milk is unpasteurized and can contain bacteria and viruses which cause food poisoning. Unpasteurized juices and cheeses are also unsafe. Stick to pasteurized products as the heat treatment of pasteurization destroys these disease-causing microbes.

Raw Sprouts

Raw sprouts should be avoided because the danger exists in the growing process. Many outbreaks have occurred in countries from sprout contamination mainly caused by the germination process where the seeds are sprouted in standing water which grows bacteria.

Raw Sprouts

Raw Oysters

You’ve heard about raw oysters before! Foodborne illness outbreaks linked to shellfish have increased steadily due to global warming. Warmer water increases microbial growth, and filter feeders such as oysters pass the micro-organisms into their systems when they filter the water. Vibrio is one example of an illness caused from eating raw oysters.

Raw Oysters

Raw Flour

Raw cookie dough treats are popular, but the flour is cooked before the dough is made. However, uncooked flour can spread bacteria such as E. coli. Outbreaks of food poisoning have occurred from eating raw cookie dough so it’s not a good idea to consume this.

Raw Flour

Raw Meats & Fish

Sushi is great but must not sit out in the sun or in the Danger Zone for longer than 2 hours. As we are in a hot spell this summer, sushi must be consumed in a shorter period of time as the outside temperature when on a picnic or camping is higher than normal. Raw fish and raw meat contain bacteria. It’s not worth eating raw hamburger or partially cooked meat as bacteria is still present in the raw product. This can result in E. coli which causes kidney failure among other symptoms.

Raw Meats

The Best Tips for Safety

It’s always best practice to wash your hands before, during and after food preparation.

There are five steps for proper handwashing: wet hands, lather with soap, scrub for 20 seconds, rinse, and dry. Many people forget or don’t scrub their hands for 20 seconds which allows their hands to remain contaminated. This then contaminates the foods they are preparing or serving.

Handwashing

Handwashing

Watch The Danger Zone

Courtesy of USDA

Use a food thermometer to check menu items such as meats and fish when cooking. The thermometer must go in the center of the product and reach the appropriate temperature as shown on the chart.

Be Safe

Most importantly, remember that handwashing will be your best preventive tool. If you touch a platter of raw fruit after handling raw meats, you will then contaminate the raw fruit. Even condiments and bags of chips can help spread disease-causing organisms via cross-contamination. Children touching playground equipment in parks and backyards can allow microscopic amounts of bird droppings on hamburgers, hot dogs and other foods. It’s especially important when camping to wash hands correctly after playing outdoors and swimming in lakes or other waterways.

If you follow these tips, you will have safe meal preparation this summer!

Summer Picnic

Source: Food Safety News July 2, 2022

Foods to avoid this Independence Day and tips to avoid holiday food poisoning by Jonan Pilet

6 Tips To Reduce Produce Food Costs

Salad Greens

We are all feeling the inflation rise with higher prices for fruits and vegetables.

What Can You Do?

Fresh Strawberries

Here are some tips to help you make wise decisions when buying these items and also help you keep produce safe.

Choose Quality

It’s best to choose produce that is not damaged or bruised.

When buying pre-cut, bagged or packaged produce, such as salad greens or half a cantaloupe, check that the produce is refrigerated or surrounded by ice.

Bagged Kale Slaw

Store Safely

Most of us know to always store fresh fruits and vegetables separately from raw meats, poultry and seafood when taking groceries home from the store. There was a case of raw blood from a torn hamburger meat package dripping onto raw salad greens which caused an outbreak of E. Coli! This was preventable if the products had been packed separately at the grocery store.

Separate For Safety

Use separate cutting boards for produce, raw meat, poultry & seafood

It’s very important to keep raw fruits and vegetables separate from raw meats and seafood, and also to use separate kitchen utensils for these items. When finished with food preparation, always wash the knives and cutting boards in hot soapy water or the dishwasher.

Saving Money

Raw Carrots

Tips To Follow

You can save money on produce with these helpful tips:

*Buy produce which is cold and refrigerate immediately when home.

*Use clean and sanitary utensils for food preparation.

*Cut away damaged or bruised areas on fresh fruits and vegetables before preparing or eating.

*Do not wash fruits and vegetables with soap, detergent or a commercial produce wash as these steps are not effective.

*Even if you do not plan to eat the skin of fruits and vegetables, wash with water first to prevent dirt and bacteria transferring from the surface when peeling or cutting.

*You can use a clean produce brush to scrub firm produce with water such as melons and cucumbers which will also remove surface contaminants.

Salad with a meal

By following these tips, you will reduce produce wastage and reduce your food costs!

6 Facts About Cream Teas That You Didn’t Know!

A cream tea – Cornish or Devon?

It does seem like everyone drinks a large amount of coffee. However, tea is still popular too. My British parents drank tea with milk daily. Coffee wasn’t in our house as tea was the way to go! I always remember my mother, who lived through WW2, saying that she had to give up sugar in her tea, then milk and also get used to plain tea. She was so thankful when she could finally have milk back in her tea. One thing she never had was cream in her tea!

Cornish Cream Tea

What is a Cream Tea?

That brings me to cream teas. If you visit Victoria, you will have the chance for afternoon tea in various restaurants from the Oak Bay Tearoom, Butchart Gardens and even the Empress Hotel. Afternoon tea was introduced to England, in the year 1840, by Anna, the seventh Duchess of Bedford. She would become hungry around four o’clock in the afternoon. The evening meal was served fashionably late at eight o’clock, which left a long period of time between lunch and dinner, so the afternoon tea was born. Others liked the idea and, before she knew it, the afternoon tea had become all the rage which included tea, dainty sandwiches and scones with cream and jam. Cream tea became part of the afternoon tea as well.

Cornish Cream Tea with Scones, Jam and Clotted Cream

Devon or Cornish – Which Is The Best Way?

Tea with scones and jam in Cornwall

What is the Difference?

Definitions:

The traditional cream tea, also referred to as Devonshire cream tea, is a specialty of Cornwall and Devon in England where a pot of tea is served with scones, clotted cream and jam. The scone is a single-serving unsweetened cake, with typical ingredients of flour, butter and milk. Clotted cream is a smooth, thick cream traditionally made in Devon and Cornwall. Unpasteurized cow’s milk is heated and left in a shallow pan for many hours which causes the cream to rise to the surface and “clot”.

Devon Cream Teas

The cream is like the butter. You wouldn’t put butter on jam.

Jam was expensive so you only needed a small amount on top.

You can get more cream if you place it on the scone first!

Devon Cream Tea

Cornish Cream Teas

It’s easier to spread with the cream on top and jam on the bottom of the scone.

You can taste the cream better on top!

You wouldn’t put cream on the bottom of a fruit salad.

Cornish Cream Tea

It Doesn’t Matter!

The main thing is to enjoy the cream tea or afternoon tea and use the cream and jam whichever way you like!

Afternoon Tea at Butchart Gardens in Victoria

I will be including a recipe for scones in my upcoming cookbook.