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The Misadventures of Airman Snuffy McDufflebag

INCIRLIK AIR BASE, Turkey -- What can I say, the Indianapolis Colts went into Texas Stadium 9-0 and the top team in the NFL, they left 9-1 and all I can say is, "How about them Cowboys?", I told Tim (a Colts fan) we would rock them Bamas. Dallas is riding high and primed for a great Thanksgiving football game. That and the fact that Emmitt Smith danced off with the mirror ball. The three-time Super Bowl champion, proved to be as nimble on his feet in the ballroom as on the football field as he was named the winner of ABC's "Dancing with the Stars", again I don't watch that show!

Anyway, with all this cheer in the air, because of Mr. McNabb's ACL, the holiday season seems to be the time of the year where chefs are spotlighting their prowess, everyone is talking about how their momma or grandmama use to throw down in the kitchen on Turkey and people gradually start moving into that mode of being a little kinder to each other. But skimping on food safety can make holiday celebrations take a turn for the worst for hosts and guests, just ask anyone who was at Airman Snuffy McDufflebag's turkey throw down last year.

I ran into Mater Sgt. Johnny Mentor at the commissary. He said he was buying some extra eats for gobble gobble day, because he had invited some of his Airmen over to his house to dine with his family for the holiday. He knew that all of his Airman did not have plans with their friends to celebrate and he did not want them sitting in their room. (Don't forget your Airmen) Plus Sergeant Mentor wanted to make sure Airman McDufflebag did not get his Thanksgiving meal into the stomachs of his Airmen again.

Sergeant Mentor said the biggest concern when it comes to holiday cooking is improperly cooked foods and the improper storage of leftovers. Something hopefully Snuffy learned last year.

Snuffy threw a turkey throw down party in the dorms last year. Apparently, he bought the Turkey a week prior to the big holiday to let it thaw out and soak in its own juices for a week. He heard that meat marinated over a certain period of time tasted the best, and he thought what better way to marinate a Turkey then to let it marinate in itself - Yea, I already know what you are thinking, 'Mmmmm!'

Snuffy didn't want to leave out his vegetarian friends so he made PETA's Vegetarian Nut Roast. I guess it can be described as "tenderer (is that word) than a roasted turkey ... and will please anyone at your Thanksgiving or other holiday meal." Oh, really? Anyone? I'm sure if you make it you will be the talk of Turkey town. Let's just say, the ingredients are primarily cashews, bread, and bread cubes. Pleased yet? Apparently you can shape it like a turkey before serving, for an even steeper anticipation to disappointment curve. I guess PETA's anti-cruelty pledge doesn't extend to hungry humans waiting for their Thanksgiving turkey. Extra points if you can figure out how to make the kitchen smell like a roasting turkey, while actually being devoid of one. Anyway, I digress.

Snuffy spared no expense or ingredient as he made every meal you can think of to please his friends. Anyway, since Snuffy does not believe in washing his hands, I'll spare everything else he made, especially the Koala Chitterling pudding. Just know it was gross.

With empty bellies, all of Snuffy's friends dug in to get that holiday meal into their collective tummies. It was with empty bellies they left the Incirlik Immediate Care Clinic after they at Snuffy's great meal.

Although food safety encompasses a myriad of factors, attention to cleanliness, separating foods, proper cooking and maintaining proper temperatures are significant factors in helping reduce risk.
Before, after and as often as necessary during cooking, anyone handling food should ensure all surfaces that come in contact with food are clean, to include counters, dishes, chopping boards and hands.

According to the Centers for Disease Control Web site, to affectively wash hands use warm water, wet hands, apply soap and rub hands together for at least 20 seconds before rinsing thoroughly.

The Web site also suggests the use of plastic, non-porous cutting boards and paper towels for cleaning surfaces instead of kitchen towels, unless towels are washed frequently in a washer's hot cycle.

Cleanliness also helps reduce the possibility of cross-contamination.

Sergeant Mentor said that cross-contamination is how bacteria spreads from one food product to another. This is especially true for raw meat, poultry and seafood. Experts caution to keep these foods and their juices away from ready-to-eat foods.

To help combat cross-contamination, meats should be kept separate in shopping carts and in home storage. Meats should be stored at the bottom of refrigerators to help ensure raw-meat juices do not drip into other foods. The use of a separate chopping board for meats and separate dishes and containers for raw and ready-to-eat foods can further minimize risks.

In avoiding cross-contamination there are several ways to gauge if meats are cooked fully from ensuring food preparation at correct temperatures for the necessary amount of time to ensuring internal temperatures meet safety guidelines.

Sergeant Mentor added that foods are properly cooked when they are heated for a long enough time and at a high enough temperature to kill the harmful bacteria that cause illness.

Sergeant Mentor said the CDC Web site said the best ways to ensure this is to use a meat thermometer, cook steaks and roasts to at least 145 degrees; poultry to 180 degrees; ground meat to at least 160 degrees; eggs until the yolk is white, firm and not runny; cook fish until white and flakes; ensure there are no cold spots left when food is cooked completely; bring sauces, soups and gravies to a boil when reheating; and heat all leftovers to at least 165 degrees.

Once the meal is over and it's time to put away those often prized leftovers for days to come, ensuring the correct temperature is essential.

Refrigerating foods at 40 degrees or lower is one of the most effective ways to reduce risk of food-borne illness, according to the US Food and Drug Administration and the US Department of Agriculture, Food Safety and Inspection Service.

I know that following these guidelines can help ensure a safe holiday season even after having just one more bite. And to further help safeguard family and guests, know the amount of people you are cooking for, buy foods from military approved sources, prepare foods as close to serving time as possible, store foods in appropriate containers and keep cold foods cold and hot foods hot.

I know I learned my lesson and I won't be eating Snuffy's cooks anytime soon. I hope he doesn't get anyone sick this year, but he is a habitual-line stepper and we all know he will be at it again.