Dining at the table of toppled cuisine

The Irish Times: We Love Food – John Fleming, subeditor

 John Fleming clears his palate after eating crustaceans found on the sea floor

John Fleming clears his palate after eating crustaceans found on the sea floor


Fried fish fallen on the street outside a city centre takeaway. A plate of bolognese scraped off a carpet on which a cat had recently been caught short. Childhood chewing of pavement tar and discarded bubble gum baked in a 1970 suburban sun.

These are among the many tasty morsels I have eaten.

Dining at the table of toppled cuisine and choosing to eat off the menu of things that fell on the floor has equipped me with the bon viveur’s most useful kitchen utensil: a belly full of the best bacteria.

People fear food. Look at their frightened faces as they peer for the first time into hovels and dives. They project all sorts of filth on to invisible kitchens in foreign parts. A layered neurosis of festering shelf-lives, exceeded sell-by dates, recommended cooking times and other best practices have pasteurised their experience of eating.

A particularly generous portion of fresh horror gets sprinkled over food unfortunate enough to have fallen on the floor. Some of the bravest operate according to a five-second rule – that being the time on the ground after which food is judged unfit for human consumption.

Five-day rule more like.

An antidote to these fears is an expression once overheard in Brooklyn: “God made dirt. So dirt don’t hurt.”

The crumbs that fall from your rich, poor and middle man’s table are often the choicest.

Where others dither in doubt about eating in earthy hostelries with ruddy-faced locals, terrified of random poisoning from less than laboratory conditions, my street-fuelled, robust constitution is invariably fine. Dining al fresco is all very well. But real Earthings dine par terre.

NB The ideas advanced here by Mr Fleming are not widely accepted by the medical establishment

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