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Mad or not, Howard Hughes had a point…

Posted Jan 04 2013 10:48am

As regular readers might know, I’ve been plagued by stomach bugs the past few months. Initially, I suspected that my fridge-freezer was playing up, causing food to go off, but I’ve invested in a couple of catering-grade monitors for both (the sensor goes inside on the end of a fine wire that passes out through the door seal, the monitor itself attaches to the side by magnets).

The result confirms that the fridge is a minimum of 0.4C and a max of 3.4, at which point the cooler kicks in again, and the freezer is between minus 22C and minus 19.7 – the freezer sensor is in the door, the least cold part – in the drawers it’ll be a degree or two colder. Both, then, are more than safe (a fridge needs to be 5C or lower, a freezer at least minus 18C).

However, a run-in with the almost unavoidable Norovirus since Christmas has convinced me that my bugs are being delivered – viral infections by proxy.** After all, I haven’t been anywhere for months to catch anything, so that’s the logical conclusion.

**This overrules previous theories – except for the dodgy Birds Eye pasties, I’m sticking to what I said about those – extensive online research confirms as surely as possible without lab tests, that I’m yet another Norovirus victim. One morning the skin on my arms and hands was massively wrinkled – as if I’d aged 30 years overnight – the NHS website says that this is typical of Norovirus (due to dramatic dehydration, presumably). Back to normal, now, as my recovery continues.

A couple of years ago, during the pandemic that never was, I wrote about how just one sick shelf-filler in a major supermarket could contaminate stock – viruses are tenacious, and can survive for many hours on non-porous surfaces like cans and plastic packaging** – and  infect thousands of people, who would go on to infect thousands more. One infected person could devastate a small town.

**The Hong Kong avian flu outbreak a few years ago was traced to the path of one infected hotel guest as he passed through the building from top to bottom. He contaminated elevator buttons, door handle and push-plates – every hard surface he touched he left a residue of infected snot or sputum, from coughing/sneezing into his hands, presumably.

On a smaller scale, I think that’s what’s been happening to me, with either my mail or supermarket deliveries, or both, carrying their own freight of bugs.

And I haven’t the faintest idea what I can do about it.

One possibility is putting every item of junk mail straight into the rubbish, and handling the legitimate stuff with gloves. A little Howard Hughes, but this really can’t go on. I mean that seriously. Since I’ve been housebound I’ve had at least four separate bouts of gastric grief, not counting the current one, and it simply can’t go on, my system can’t take the constant abuse.

So to a degree, I’m doing the Howard Hughes thing – protecting myself as well as I possibly can – and I can see, already, how this might well have driven him mad.

Another possibility is reducing the amount of stuff that comes into my flat by getting just frozen meals delivered – the desiccating environment of a freezer should see off any bugs – and I’m trying that at the moment. The first batch has been delivered and stashed in the bedroom freezer – which totally wiped me out. Didn’t realise I was so goddamned weak.** I mean, I carried about 5lb of food from the door to the freezer – all of 8 feet away – and stashed it. Then I couldn’t stop coughing, or breathe properly, for over half an hour, despite three large doses of codeine linctus and ALL my sodding inhalers.

**I should have realised. A good indicator of how sick I am is how much I read (a lot, normally, but when I’m ill I either just blank out or watch TV – no real difference!), but I’ve barely looked at my Kindle for a week, and have read exactly 15 pages.

Anyway, first impressions are that portions are pretty small, and feel very light – must weigh them (the weights are declared on the website). There should be a couple of extra-large meals, but when I was putting them in the freezer, they all looked and felt exactly the same. One good thing, though – even if they aren’t a success, I can keep the containers to put up my own ready meals (I just wish I could buy the things**). Like cooking other stuff for the freezer, making six ready meals, with a little organisation, will entail little more effort than making just one – boiling 6 portions of spuds, for example, takes no more effort than one portion.

**They seem only available to the trade. I could use foil trays, as I do now (one for the protein component with sauce/gravy, one for veg and one for spuds), but they’re not as convenient and will take up a huge amount of space per meal. And can’t be microwaved, of course.

However, one thing I discovered, from a trade publication, is that the UK market for ready-meals is 5 times bigger than that in the US – which I find extremely hard to accept given that a) the US pretty much invented ready meals, and b) the much bigger US population makes it unlikely.

Tomorrow, I want to make a sausage casserole with red peppers and fresh tomatoes – served with butter beans and Pink Fir Apple potatoes, this would be great for a ready meal (should have been made today, but not a prayer), if I only had the containers (two compartments, one for the casserole, the other for the veggies, maybe with a little olive oil or butter).

There’s an alternative possibility. I could put the veg – spuds and whatever – at one end of a foil tray, and in the other the protein and sauce/gravy component in a plastic bag at the other end (I’d coat the veg in melted butter or olive oil to prevent freezer burn). That way they’d take up normal freezer space, and can be defrosted, plated, clingfilmed and microwaved for use. Not as convenient as microwaving straight from the freezer, but a workable compromise.

I’ll let you know if/how that works out.

Out of curiosity, I had the above text analysed online, and it has a Flesch Kincaid Grade level, for readability, of 11.05. This indicates that it’s comprehensible to a 17 year old in the US (it uses the US schools’ grade system). Seems about right.


Flesch Kincaid Grade level :






/* Style Definitions */
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mso-padding-alt:0cm 5.4pt 0cm 5.4pt;
mso-fareast-font-family:”Times New Roman”;

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