Brooklyn Boro

Dinner plus restaurant inspections

April 29, 2022 William A. Gralnick
Head shot of writer William Gralnick
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I read two things in the morning newspaper (yes, an actual newspaper) that I can’t fully explain to you or myself why I read them. But I do. One is the obits. This is a habit right out of the commercial about being like one’s father. I got it from him. First, he was curious to know if there was anyone he knew whom he no longer knew. Secondly, he said it was fascinating how many regular people had lived really interesting lives. He probably was a little like Carl Reiner, who said he read the obits first thing in the morning. If he wasn’t in them, he had breakfast. ‘reminds me of Shelly Berman, the Godfather of Jewish neurotic humor who paved the way for the likes of Woody Allen. During his act, Berman was constantly touching his body. When asked about it, he said, “I do that so I can be reassured that I’m still here.” Ba da boom.

The other read is a little nutty too, but it will take us into the commentary. Every week the Sun-Sentinel publishes a different kind of obit. I call it a potential obit. It cites the names of restaurants whose operation had been suspended by the Health Department. The name, address, and fairly pithy description of the offense come with it. For instance, one read, “Twenty flies on meat patties.” Another was the inspector’s sighting of evidence about mice infestation, which he cited in his report. I’ll spare you the details. The report reminds me of the old posters of criminals one saw on the post office walls. This offender was an home-town eatery. I won’t tell you its name. They’ve got enough trouble as it is. The story is an “on the one hand, on the other hand” story.

 While the old saying goes, “Ignorance is bliss,” government, and theoretically, persons in corporate America, are there to protect us from our ignorance. I feel certain that someone sitting down in said restaurant, knowing not what the inspector dinged it for, would not keel over, poisoned to death, either by the end of the meal or at home some days later. That is unless they were on Putin’s “Ka Ka” list. It is inexcusable for food served to the public to have evidence that it was rubbing shoulders with “micelings” or was laying about on a cutting board where the night before roaches were playing their nightly game of shuffleboard. If one reads enough of these reports, one could conceivably look for a restaurant that allows you to bring your own food from home like some do your own wine. They could charge a plate fee to go with the corkage fee. Yes, I am joking.

So inexcusable it is, but on the other hand…this is south Florida. Scientists tell us that roaches will be one of the only things that will survive a nuclear holocaust. Now that’s staying power. If you’ve ever tried to catch a mouse or a rat, you know that the odds favor the rodent, and frankly, having had some success in that venture, I’m always left with a feeling in my stomach gotten as I collected the spoils of war. Again, for those of you who are 4F for that war, I’ll spare you the details.

News for those who live, work and play in Brooklyn and beyond

And flying things? Good grief. ‘you keep bananas in the house? Then you too have these annoying tiny “flylings” all over the place. I keep tropical fish and have a dog, to go with my wife. I can’t set off a Raid house bomb. I can’t be Top Gun with the spray can. Besides the smell…oh my. Turning to Google, I learned these little buggers nest in the pipes in your sink drain. Every week or so one is supposed to pour boiling water down the drain. I’d give it a B-. Then I got a brainstorm. Some of you I’m sure, remember Fly Paper, rolls of sticky stuff that insects see as a free meal and discover it is one from which they can’t leave the table. I’m going to cut it up and hide it so we don’t see it but they will smell it. ‘probably will draw more flies than it catches, but I’m all in for the trying.

Oddly, in Brooklyn, I don’t remember restaurants being closed by the health department. Do you? Remind me. They either went out of business or burned down. Food for thought. I do remember in many a deli having to set up defensive perimeters to guard my corned beef sandwiches. What was an order of spare ribs on Newkirk Avenue without squadrons or flies scoping the room like drones?

No matter where you are from, you’ve encountered tiny, tiny little ants. Down here, they are called sugar ants. In Brooklyn, they were called small ants along with epithets. The little “come in but you can’t leave” boxes seem to underestimate the brains of most of the ants. Powdered boric acid seems to be Mother Nature’s best shot for these. 

And of course, let’s not forget the black flies that are about the size of small bumble bees and buzz like windup toys. Maybe flypaper will work. Here’s a tip. When flies take off, they take off backwards. Thank you, Google. That’s why you mostly miss them. Get a fly-swatter and practice. My mom should have been required to have a permit for a fly swatter; she was deadly with it.

So, what is a poor restauranteur to do? I just don’t see how one can have a hermetically sealed cooking space. Now I can‘t see a kitchen with mice and rat traps snapping at the feet of the employees, ant traps tucked into every corner and crevice, or fly paper hanging down from the ceiling like something in a horror movie, suspending with its dozens and dozen of insects buzzing out their last minutes of life.

It’s a draw. Blessings to the inspectors who are guarding our health. Blessings to the kitchen staffs who are trying to give us a break from the pent-up routine we’re trying to come out of. My bottom line? Unless you have the same neuroses I do, don’t read the restaurant reports. If you get somewhere and the restaurant has been cited, the restaurant, there will be a notice on the door. 

The old radio detective, “The Shadow” used to say, “Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of man?” When you are seated at a table, don’t ask yourself, “Who knows what evil lurks in the heart of the kitchen?” Just chow down and enjoy it.

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