Pork chops are my go-to meal when my wife is away

Pork chops are my go-to meal when my wife is away

I think I’m a much more cautious person today than I was just a week ago, and for good reason. No matter how well you know and understand something, you’re still at risk of throwing knowledge, reason and brains aside when your stomach is growling.

It was later in the evening, and I had not yet had any dinner. The little one’s dinner was already in the works, and I pulled out a package of two pork chops I’d picked up a few days before. Pork chops are kind of my go-to meal when my wife isn’t home to share time with; you can do a lot with something so simple and often inexpensive.

Opening the package, all was well, or was it? The chops felt a little slippery, enough so that I checked the package date. The “sell by” was three days in the past. At that moment my brain stopped working as my cheapskate nature kicked in. “They smell fine,” I thought. “I’m sure they’re fine.”

So I gave them a good sear and cooked them with a little wine, garlic, herbs and stock for sauce, making sure I hit the recommended 145 F so as not to be risky. They were delicious with polenta and warm grape tomatoes, and I settled in next to my young son to polish it all off before moving him on to bath and bedtime.

The next morning I felt a little off, which I chalked up to a sleepless night. By noon I was feeling seriously nauseated and was relieved to get back home from errands. Soon after, I was textbook sick, with chills and all of it. I immediately fixed blame on the pork chop and fessed up to my wife about the expiration date gamble. She had little or zero sympathy for someone who had been so foolish.

“How often have you written about food safety?” she asked. “You know this stuff. What were you thinking?”

Chastised, I retreated to the bathroom from which I feared I’d never escape. I remained almost exclusively in that room or others like it in other buildings for two days. I couldn’t get warm. I had shortness of breath. It looked like a pretty good case of food poisoning, with no one to blame but myself. For those two days, I couldn’t bear to take in anything but water.

In the predawn hours of the morning of the third day, I felt a nudge, and my wife said, “I don’t feel good.”

By sunup she was in the same boat, with tidal fevers, chills, headache and nausea. By noon she was so sick she could hardly stay on her feet. She took to bed for two miserable days.

I hadn’t had food poisoning at all. Over the Memorial Day weekend, my son and I spent quite a bit of time at the park, sliding on slides, climbing, swinging and playing. I must have picked up a stomach bug there, which passed to my wife fairly quickly. I’d tried to mitigate such risks by gooping up with hand sanitizer and seeking washrooms right away, but it was no use. Playgrounds and rides and children are germy things, and we adults are only as strong as our immune systems. My son, fortunately, emerged unscathed.

Even though the pork turned out to be innocent of causing illness, I think I’ll change that go-to dish to something like chicken thighs. The pork may not have made me sick, but thinking it had changed my perception. It’ll be a while before I have a pork chop again as it is the victim of guilt by association. I’ll never again cook a protein even an hour past the sell-by date.

Also, there’s a tummy bug going around, so wash up carefully.

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