I have grown sloppy and complacent. In the past, I’ve avoided fresh raw food in a package, my idea being that the reason it’s in a package is in order to hide defects. For example, if you buy romaine lettuce (even the organic ones) in a bag, you’ll notice that the “clear” plastic bag will always have an opaque colored band at the bottom and usually at the top. The purpose of course, is to prevent the customer from seeing the ends and tops of the lettuce where the rot or insect damage are respectively most evident.
But if you shop at Costco or other big-box stores, you know that everything is packaged, they have no provision for bins of loose fruit, vegetables, meat, etc. And in fact, it’s almost always of exceptional quality. This has made buying in packages a more acceptable choice since I’ve never had a disappointment buying anything at Costco.
Unfortunately, this doesn’t extrapolate to the large chain grocery stores at which we do our shopping most of the time. Case in point: Two days ago I bought a nice large Atlantic salmon filet from our local Metro Plus (I think it’s the largest grocery chain in the Province).
Last night we had planned to eat late, around 8:30 PM. I was looking forward to a simple Greek recipe of salmon covered with a tepanade of capers, olives, sun-dried tomatoes and feta cheese, baked in parchment paper. I took the salmon out of its shrink-wrapped package (clear plastic top with the salmon lying skin-down on a Styrofoam platter). I washed it under cold running water and flipped it over to the skin side. There I noticed lots of discolored patches as well as several large un-erupted pustules. Piercing one large pustule, it began to ooze a nasty pink slime. Clearly, this was one sick fish. I Googled “Pustules on salmon skin”, and found, as I had suspected, a host of parasitic and bacterial diseases as potential explanations. There were no benign explanations, by the way!
The salmon went into the organic recycling bin, I’m out $20, and lessons learned:
1. The people who handle our food generally don’t give a shit, so don’t count on them to protect you.
2. Never buy salmon filets with the skin off since it’s a great indicator of the animal’s health.
3. Never buy fresh food in a package if the unpackaged version is available.