DEAR READERS: I'm stepping away from the "Ask Amy" column for a week. Please enjoy these hand-picked "best of" columns in my absence.
DEAR AMY: I have a dear friend who announced she was going to start her own catering business. She is a very talented cook and enlisted my help. I had not been to her home prior to this, and when I got there I could not believe my eyes.
There was mud tracked all over the floor; the stove and counters were encrusted with various types of spills; the cabinets and walls had drips and smears all over them. She has cats, and I even saw one trying to eat out of a pot on the stove. But by far the most horrific thing I witnessed was this ratty sponge she had. Not only did she wash dishes with it, but she would halfheartedly clean the counters with it, and once she wiped up a spill off the floor with it. Then back in the sink it went.
Whenever I gingerly addressed the cleanliness issue, I was met with a shrug.
Don't get me wrong, I am not antibacterial-crazed, but this experience crossed the line. As she is doing this out of her house and not fully established yet, calling the health inspector is not possible. — So Incredibly Grossed Out (2004)
DEAR GROSSED: Pets probably aren't even the primary problem here. As you note, the sponge your friend uses is its own weapon of mass destruction.
I found a very helpful website sponsored by the Partnership for Food Safety Education (fightbac.org). You can download fact sheets about safe food handling in the home to share with her. Perusing the site, I learned, for instance, that we should be washing our hands with soap for a full 20 seconds before and after handling food. Twenty seconds is a long time. The site also has tips on safe food handling techniques and recommendations for how to clean, cook and store food.
Obviously, if she produces food for the public out of this unsafe environment, that is an extremely serious issue. Food-borne illnesses sicken thousands of people a year and can lead to other chronic illnesses. You don't make it clear whether your friend has actually started her catering business, but if she has — even informally —I think you should contact the health department to see what it recommends.
DEAR AMY: I am 23 and living with my dad in my grandmother's house.
My father treats me with respect and like the adult I am. Most of all, he respects my privacy.
Grandma is another story. I pay my rent on time, plus whatever else I may owe, but she gives me grief about my finances — and lots of other things.
Mainly, she seems to hate the fact that I have pen pals. I enjoy writing letters, and I have pen pals scattered across the U.S. and Canada. I've been writing to most of them for more than five years.
My grandma thinks this is the stupidest thing she has ever heard of.
Four years ago I got a P.O. box because she was complaining about how much mail was coming into the house. Yesterday I came home, and she was reading one of my letters, retrieved from my bedroom. How can I deal with this? I'm unemployed at the moment and living off savings, but I am looking for a job to try and move out. — Kylie (2005)
DEAR KYLIE: I priced some security options for you and your mail. One product I saw is a small safe that has a locking mechanism that even a determined grandmother might find impossible to crack. It is made by a well-known manufacturer and costs less than $30.
After you tell your grandmother that you don't appreciate her ongoing invasion of your privacy, you should get yourself a reasonably priced safe to store your documents. Let this episode be another very good reason for you to get a job and move out.
Oh, and tell your grandmother she can come in and read my mail, any day. I've got plenty to go around.