Corona and dirty kitchen

Amal Chatterjee
12 min readApr 9, 2020

Source : Google photo of deadly virus

Synopsis : The whole world is under attack by a deadly Corona virus that has claimed over 70000 lives and continues to kill daily and infect more. While some countries are doing a better job of containing the epidemic ,others are paying the price for not taking ample measures to fight it or are overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of the disaster. At the root of this problem are some dirty habits of some people who eat wild animals that may carry the virus . This dirty habit is closely related to dirty living and dirty kitchens in the lower stratum of some societies. The blog looks at the extreme danger of such practices and suggests ways to avoid the problem in the first place.

Here in the Philippines, the most common question people ask when they come to our house is “where is your dirty kitchen? “ We explain that we do not have a dirty kitchen. We believe that a kitchen must never be dirty so we keep our kitchen spotlessly clean because dirty kitchen implies unhygienic kitchen.

To understand why they ask such questions, you have to see the link between the barrio and the towns. In the barrios everybody has a dirty kitchen because they use charcoal or wood to cook their food that is due to poverty so when they move to towns, they bring with them the barrio culture and traditions and use the word dirty kitchen . Almost everyone in our community has a dirty kitchen they use daily and a clean kitchen which is just for show. They may be afraid of allowing the maids to use gas stove because they may not close it properly causing gas leak leading to serious fire hazard so they keep a dirty kitchen at the back of the house.

So what people do or don’t always has a historical reason behind it and it becomes a part of the popular culture the same way an average American home does not keep matches fearing that the kids may burn down the house while the parents are away. Kids or maids can become careless or may be ignorant of the dangers so people want to play safe and take no chances . I do not blame them.

But the lack of hygiene in the kitchen also spills over to the outside world when we notice that people cooking food wear dirty clothes, have running nose that they keep wiping with a dirty towel they keep on them and use the same hands without gloves to touch food. We see it when we notice that there are cockroaches in soup they serve or give you drinks in dirty glasses that clearly show hand prints. People have found worms in hamburgers, unsafe tap water passed as mineral water, unwashed salads , dirty linen on your table and flies everywhere in roadside eateries and even restaurants that are attracted to the unhygienic conditions. Poor people who open up eateries by the roadside are probably the worst offenders of basic hygiene rules. It is not known how many people get sick eating in such places as no one keeps data on them but street foods can be full of danger where hygiene takes a back seat in most countries.

I have a friend who had just visited Vietnam and where he picked up some nasty bug that gave him stomach trouble so I had to bring him to a hospital for testing and cure. Luckily his problems were spotted soon so he got well.

The offenders are also found in the food courts in malls where they prepare a variety of dishes but are known to recycle the same unsold food the next day so people can get seriously ill eating there. In many countries there are practically no health inspectors who routinely check the food courts or the restaurants and punish the violators, Japan being the exception where they are strict about hygiene.

We had a shop near our house in India where the fellow selling sweets and yogurt was so dirty that it was unbelievable so we boycotted his shop. Here too we boycott any restaurant or food court where we have found unhygienic conditions but boycotting does not solve the problem so what does?

You have to take photos of the cockroach in your soup even if it is a tiny one or worm in your burger and post it in the social media so that people are aware of what is going on and share with others. These nasty insects do not belong in your soup or in your hamburgers. I was told by a friend never to eat airline salads in a flight. Recently a human tooth was found in a hamburger in India that some one took a photo of and posted in the social media. But it is not enough. Such restaurants or places must be closed down by the authorities anywhere.

Now I must come to the main issue in this blog that is the transmission of deadly virus through food that has killed over 70000 people worldwide and more and more are dying everyday in so many countries. Some say that it started in Wuhan in China and rapidly spread from there to the rest of the world because the virus infected people spread it to others in public places or at home. With the dirty kitchen comes the dirty habit of eating wild and exotic animal meat. The lower stratum in any society is more prone to such dirty habits although not limited to it.

Most people in India are vegetarians so they do not eat meat at all while those who do stick to safe meat of poultry, mutton and fish . But the virus does not care if you eat meat or not and attacks indiscriminately anyone. Some terrorists in India are deliberately spreading the virus all over the country and are refusing to cooperate with the authorities when they are caught and quarantined because they are hell bent to use the virus as a tool to spread terrorism the easy way. They are mentally sick people and are a greater threat to the security of the common people than the virus they are spreading so the government in India is showing no mercy toward them and has arrested hundreds of them and searching for the rest to stop them.

In the nature there are deadly viruses present that the wild animals carry with no ill effect on them but when people eat the wild meat, the virus jumps to humans and mutates in the process to become deadly. The Ebola came from monkeys and the Corona is suspected to have come from bats that the Chinese eat. They also eat rats, cats, dogs ,snakes, spiders , frogs , scorpions and all sorts of things that you and I would never consider eating but some people are omnivorous who are not afraid of the risk involved. Such people then start spreading the virus like Corona that is claiming thousands of lives worldwide.

Watch this video of the Tomohon market in North Sulawesi that sells all kinds of wild meat. Selling of monkey meat is now banned here.

Source : U tube video ( it is too graphic so use your discretion to watch )

No one knows how many more will die before a cure is found somewhere so many countries are in total lock down mode like in India. It is causing massive economic downturn from which the country may not recover anytime soon. Worldwide the effect is proving to be catastrophic on their economies. The manufacturing is at a standstill mode, the tourism industry is taking a severe beating and so are the airlines , trains, shipping, hotel and all industries that depend on tourism. We will not know to what extent the people are suffering and what effect it will have on the world economy but one things is sure. From what we know, the total loss will be in trillions of dollars from which many countries will not emerge intact.

This is what total lock down in India looks like and it is scary

Source : Google photos of lock down in India due to Corona virus threat

All of this happened because of what? Some people think bat meat is delicious? How can some people be so callous? Are they ignorant of the dangers or are they simply plain stupid , careless and concerned only with their own desires? How can anyone educate them and tell them that eating wild meat can cause major harm to the humanity? These are very serious issues that require a thorough understanding of the popular culture prevalent in some countries where the bizarre is the normal thing to do.

It is hard enough for any government to keep an eye on everyone all the time because there will always be some violators of rules because the rules are not enforced, the shortage of health inspectors, corruption and ignorance. Bigger the country, greater are the problems so it is up to each citizen to understand the danger and observe cleanliness.

Take the example of meat sellers in India or in many African countries. They sell mutton and beef openly anywhere in most unhygienic conditions. The meat is found covered in flies but the butcher just ignores the flies and continues his business. He knows that the flies carry germs and disease but he does not feel bothered by it. The people who buy the meat are also not bothered so the business carries on as usual.

Now you go to any European country meat shop, you will notice that they have air conditioned shops, wear clean uniform, wear gloves and prepare the meat the way the customer wants, wrap it in wax papers etc. and never touch the meat itself. But such high standards are not observed in many countries.

In many countries eating wild meat that may be very risky is prohibited but not in China. or in Indonesia as the video above of a Sulawesi market will show. In the Philippines some people eat dog meat but that is now banned yet some people secretly eat it. I was offered rat meat in Vietnam that I refused but the Cambodian farmers in the Mekong Delta said that it was delicious. So the definition of what is delicious and what is not widely varies from country to country. We have seen them selling fried spiders by the roadside in Cambodia where they drool over ant soup. This hunger for exotic food is decimating the wildlife in many parts of the world where anything goes in the name of food. I can understand if there is a famine somewhere and people are forced to find food and will eat things that they normally do not eat but there is no famine in China or Indonesia so why are they eating wild animals ? They do it in the name of popular culture.

I was ridiculed by an American woman who said that beef is good. Why the Hindus ban beef ? When I said that food is what people eat. It is not food if they do not eat it, she laughed and made fun of vegetarians. She was acting according to her belief and her culture where eating beef was the normal thing to do. Most people behave that way because they are brought up to believe in something and take it as the Gospel truth. It is very difficult for them to see other’s point of view so they use condescension as was the case with the American woman. I clearly understood her dilemma and did not continue the discussion.

If we just notice the wastage of food in the American and European super markets , it is phenomenal. They would rather waste food than give them to the poor and hungry. When a reporter wanted to interview a Walmart manager in America and wanted to know why they were throwing away perfectly good food everyday , the manager clearly became nervous and refused to answer questions and called his boss somewhere to report the matter. The very next day the reporter found the food trash bins containing perfectly good food locked up with huge padlocks. The store did not want anyone to take it so it all went to the garbage dump.

But a friend of mine volunteers to help in the food bank where the bank collects unsold but good food and distributes to the poor and hungry as an act of charity. I too volunteered to stock the shelves and was told that hundreds of poor people in the area take the free food in order to survive so obviously some food companies do donate unsold food to these food banks because they see the merit in doing so.

My friend said the danger comes from overzealous government regulators who descend on the food banks without warning and start checking the labels to see if they are giving away expired food and find a reason to shut down the banks. I too checked the expiry date on packets and found none that had expired.

It is sad to think that there are millions of poor people hungry in the world while the supermarkets throw away good food everyday. There is no worldwide mechanism to collect the unsold food and carry them to where they are needed so there is the tremendous waste . Only the food banks help locally in some places.

In Europe the milk farmers poured thousands of gallons of pure milk on the road because the price was too low and the butter producers did the same but no one stopped them and told them that what they did was criminal . The milk and the butter could have been sent to other countries where malnourished children needed them. You will see hundreds of truckloads of fruits and vegetable dumped somewhere because the price is too low for them. I have never seen such criminal waste in Asia to such an extent but it is common in Europe and America where there is the anti poor sentiment prevalent. In some countries this wastage of food is in direct contradiction of the practice of eating wild meat or road kills by the poor people who are always hungry.

When it comes to eating strange and wild food , I think people should consider how such practices endanger themselves and others . Wuhan virus has killed thousands of Chinese first before it went overseas to cause havoc. This is not the first case of its kind . Deadly viruses have spread from wild animals and took lives of many in many countries including those of caregivers ,doctors and nurses and certainly it will not be the last unless people come to their senses and stop this practice.

We humans are very susceptible to such attacks from virus because it takes time to develop a cure , a vaccine or a remedy while people suffer as they are suffering now. While the scientists have been able to find cures of many diseases and are working to contain others, we as human race may not survive if there is another deadly viral attack somewhere that then spreads rapidly all over the world giving people no time to react and take precautions.

No country in the world can shut down everything and not suffer the repercussions of such shut down. The economic cost of such shut down can be catastrophic for the economy in the short term not to mention the cost in human lives lost.

So it can start with you and your greed for exotic food that may be laced with danger and your dirty kitchen. Keep your kitchen absolutely clean and insist on hygiene not some of the time but all the time. Do not continue the practice of “ dirty kitchen” because you may end up paying a high price with your lives. Stop eating wild animals and stick to sanitized food available in your market nearby. There is a reason why they do not sell meats of wild animals in the super markets of most countries. People with common sense know the reasons but do you have the common sense?

Just ask yourself the simple question “ Is it worth doing it knowing the risk?

Read my previous blog called Precarious living in this context.

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