Tastes Like Chicken

Tuesday, August 12, 2003
_Tasteless, yet it still tastes like chicken wings
From a single Florida beach bar, Hooters has expanded to 342 locations (27 of them, ahem, abroad), four lines of retail food, one golf tour, and two car-racing circuits (stock and drag). If you laid out the 30 million pounds of Hooters wings served each year, they'd encircle the globe at the equator. If you piled up the 15,000 current Hooters Girls ... well, they'd really be stacked.

_Mmm, tastes like rat droppings!

How lovely of the post to run a nice, big, detailed article on restaurant inspectors and exactly what makes them so necessary.
Barbecue grillers washing chicken wings in mop water; pantry workers scooping sugar out of rodent-infested paper sacks; restaurant managers stringing dead ducks from clotheslines in back alleys; sandwich makers surrounded by various and sundry vermin; rat droppings, cat droppings, water dripping; and cockroaches -- everywhere -- in doorways, in dumpsters, on countertops, in soda dispenser spouts, in soda, anywhere they can scurry, all over the place, in many of the 5,000 restaurants in Washington.
Ah, Washington, D.C., the home of chicken that tastes like mop water. Or, perhaps, mop water that tastes like chicken.
That's why we have Ronnie Taylor and his 16 fellow sanitarians. They work in basements and backrooms that smell of damp towels and spilled Coke syrup, and they watch generations of service industry workers commit the same cardinal health-code sins year after year after year. It is civil servitude at its messiest and least gratifying. There will always be restaurant inspectors because human memory is short, Taylor says, and people rarely learn their lessons.

...District restaurant inspectors are headquartered in a sixth-floor office in Northeast Washington, next door to a restaurant they closed some months ago after one inspector discovered one of the most egregious code violations anyone in the department had ever seen -- a kitchen so overrun with cockroaches that chefs were brushing them off cutting boards, "as if they didn't even notice anymore," Taylor recounts, and plucking them out of dishes about to be served.

...Then came the delightful if terrifying news that the cafeteria in the U.S. Department of Agriculture -- the restaurant run by the people who are supposed to make sure our food is safe -- was ordered to immediately cease and desist all operations because an inspector found mouse droppings scattered around the salad bar.
Oh, joy. Just in case it wasn't clear enough, "Taylor says he would never eat at many Washington restaurants. Neither would Sudler."

It turns out the health inspectors also cover pools, leading to this lovely recent anecdote:
Taylor gets a call asking him to drop by the Fort Lincoln Swimming Pool, where, as it happens, a man and woman were found floating dead in the deep end a few days before. Police ruled the deaths accidental, but before the pool can reopen, a sanitarian must deem it safe. Rather than drain the pool at peak season, the managers have decided to chlorinate away all the bacterial hazards and unpleasant associations.
Double joy.

For my own food industry misadventure, last Sunday I dropped into the recently discovered local node of the thrift store chain at which I used to work. They didn't have what I was after, but I got to talk to the old-timer manning the register. OK pal, you woulda scored a lot better if you'd stopped talking right before you drawled on about sub-continental Indians. "I declare that race must have been put on this earth for no other purpose than to torment us all," and on, and on... Thanks, buddy, I really needed my faith in humanity restored.

_Speeding ticket thresholds in Boston

Your odds of getting a ticket versus getting a warning if pulled over in Boston. Interesting, but of course it's an incomplete picture since it doesn't say anything about your chances of getting pulled over in the first place.