Here's one thing I've learned lately: don't bring an excited 4 year old into a bulk food store. Or else be willing to live with a germ catastrophe.
Before my daughter's birthday party, we went to the Bulk Barn to load up on Bazooka bubblegum and some gummy candies for her candy kebobs. We couldn't pass by the bubblegum bin without her getting one piece for each of her guests. She dug in her hands, counting out each wrapped piece. I thought: no big deal. The candy's wrapped, but out of the corner of my eye I spied a woman scowling at us.
We headed for the gummy aisle, and this daughter was in heaven. We were having a marvelous time perusing all the gummy worms, bears, butterflies, soda bottles, strawberries, feet, frogs, dolphins, and more. And then her hands just flew into one of those bins, grabbing and counting them out for the kebobs. Before I could guide her toward the supplied tongs, the scowling woman came over and loudly declared, "That is just GROSS. I saw her over by the bubblegum and I didn't say anything. But she should use a plastic bag over her hand. See?" She showed me the right way to shop at Bulk Barn. And that just burst my bubble.
And the awfully judgmental devil in me wanted to shout out, "Do you KNOW how many germ violations I observed in YOUR country of origin? Countless!" I know. Shocking thoughts. But because I'm a relatively kind person on the outside, I kept these keen observations to myself. I explained that my 4 year old daughter was just a wee bit excited about her birthday party, and that I would try to help her to be more hygienic for the remainder of our shopping trip.
I knew she was right - that we should try to keep our germs to ourselves whenever possible, but I wondered what she was doing at the Bulk Barn if she was so worried about germs. It is, after all, called the Bulk BARN - doesn't exactly conjure up images of sterility. Surely there would be other, more hygienically secure places to shop for food. Where things are vacuum packaged up and immune to the unpredictable germs of others.
For the rest of the day, I kept observing germ violations ALL OVER THE PLACE. At the pizza place where we picked up a quick lunch? Straws - just sitting there in a box with no individual protective paper wrappings. As I reached for one, I'm pretty sure my fingers grazed one or two more straws. Germs. There they go!
At a potluck? An open bag of chips. You mean people just stick their hands in there and pull out some chips, not knowing whose hands have been in there? Gross.
And what if children (or adults) have not been taught the "no double dipping" rule? Then any hummus or veggie dip is not immune. A regular germ soup. And fondue? Look out.
On our counter? Fruit flies buzzing around the fruit. Who knows where their feet have been?
[an aside: great way to get rid of fruit flies - put some cider vinegar in a wine glass. Add a drop or two of dish detergent. Do not drink. Welcome the fruit flies to the party. It really works!]
I'm not germ phobic, and I'm happy to be that way. I have a somewhat satisfied, smug feeling when I read reports that claim our environments are too clean and sterile and this is leading to more allergies and sickness. I say: not in my house. My house is definitely not germ-free. And we're hardly ever sick!
But I get it: bare hands in Bulk Barn bins is gross. Use the supplied tongs, Rebecca and children.
If you're germ phobic, avoid these things (and probably many more):
* public bathrooms
* restaurants (who knows where those chef's hands have been)
* potluck meals
* outdoor markets
I'll be prepared for our next Bulk Barn experience. Next time we'll put on perfectly sterile rubber gloves before we dig into the candy bins. But wait - what if there are toxins leaching off of those rubber gloves? Apparently vinyl never stops giving off toxic fumes. Do we want toxins in the candy? Or are germs better? And what if my hands touch my gloves as I'm putting them on? Won't there be germs on the gloves then? Is there any way to escape those germs?