The 5-Second Rule Isn't Real, But I Still Eat Raw Chicken and Garbage Cake

My approach to food and its freshness is something I have long-called European -- I keep my eggs on the counter and have been eating from the same year-expired jar of mayonnaise with mild trepidation but no intention of letting its contents go to waste.
Publish date:
December 12, 2012
germs, cake, food poisoning, 5 second rule

Sunday night I spent a few, horrific hours worshipping at the porcelain throne. I wish I could tell you it’s because my Saturday night had been so wild that, whilst I gyrated up in the club, I was plied by a small army of lantern-jawed dudes being all, “No, Becca, let ME buy you the fanciest of cocktails garnished with a gummy bear.” But I am not that awesome and was home and in my jammers by maybe 11 pm on the outside.

The culprit was not my rocking bod twerking it out on the dance floor, but rather some undercooked chicken that, in all my gluttony, I had removed from the oven and consumed prematurely.

A normal person would’ve cut the chicken open, seen that it was chilly and pink as a human organ and been all, “Well clearly I shall have to wait before I eat this because I am not a feral cat.” The idea did occur to me, but instead of doing what was reasonable, I opted for sprinkling a little cheese on top of it and reassuring myself with some vague recollection of Gordon Ramsay berating the public at large for over-cooking their poultry.

Sure that the most furious ginger-chef on the planet would gaze down on my meal with approval, and feeling not a little continental, I sat down and demolished my meal.

I cursed my dysfunctional taste buds not 45-minutes later as I fished my glasses out of a toilet full of the chicken my body had seen fit to reject. With each heave I could practically hear my gut yelling, “OH MY GOD REALLY? RAW-ISH CHICKEN? REBECCA.” I fully admit that this was stupid of me, and I paid in full with a rainy night of dry heaves, reading too much about Joy Division’s Ian Curtis, and a lingering taste of the meal that had undone me.

The embarrassing thing is -- it wasn’t the first time. I mean, to give myself a modicum of credit, it was the first time it happened with raw meat, but I’m a notorious consumer of things like rancid butter (“I mean, it’s a little sour but it’s not going to kill me.”), moldy bread (“It comes off.”) and chunky milk (“I THOUGHT IT WAS ARTISANAL!”). My approach to food and its freshness is something I have long-called European -- I keep my eggs on the counter and have been eating from the same year-expired jar of mayonnaise with mild trepidation but no intention of letting its contents go to waste.

My inability to be reasonable about my noms has probably also sabotaged my love life. Not long after I started a temp job, a couple years back, there was an office birthday complete with office sheet cake. A co-worker had been unable to finish her slice of cake. That statement is to me an oxymoron.

Once her shift had ended and she was out the door, I fished the cake slice out of the garbage can propped on my lap. I was just about to dig in as I felt eyes upon me. Of course it was this hot if slightly vacant dude I had been mentally willing to notice me. Behold the power of positive thinking. We never dated. The cake was delicious. I regret nothing.

What I call “European” is probably mildly offensive to all Europeans everywhere, or was at least to one English friend. She shook her head in horror as I recounted eating at a Chinese restaurant, finding a live bug in my food, removing it, and continuing on with my meal. She said that I ate “like a 90-year old man who never recovered from the Great Depression.” While I could not out and out agree with her, I have been known to supplement my leaky winter boots with plastic bags around my feet, so, yeah, there’s that.

I think it probably goes without saying based on what I’ve just shared that I am an ardent follower of the 5-second rule. If something falls on the floor, and if I swoop down on it within 5 seconds, it will remain as pure and unsullied as if it had come straight from its packet or pan. I don’t think I ever once believed this to be scientifically sound, but there was something reassuring about how there was a rule that existed that civilized my gnarliest of habits.

Sure, one or two science-entertainment outlets (are those a thing?) have called out the rule as phony, but one or two “that food is poison” articles were not enough to swear me off floor food altogether (see: ate raw chicken). But now with Vsauce,’s science channel adding their voice to the anti-floor eating debate, I can escape the fact that the only thing keeping me from basically being your crazy great-grandfather is gone for good.

Not only does anything you drop on the floor immediately come into contact with bacteria, but the longer you leave it there, the more bacteria it picks up. I mean, essentially this is incredibly obvious. But try reminding me of this whole “science” thing when someone has dropped a chocolate pudding pie face down on the floor.

It’s amazing the things you can chose not to hear when you are bemoaning a spoon’s inability to thoroughly collect whipped cream from the floor. I would be lying if I said, in instances like this, that licking had not occurred to me. But, because there are only so many lines you can cross before you are trying to assert dominance over you cat through hissing and eating out of their bowl, my floor remains a tongue-free zone.

Are you guys gross like me? I kind of bet you are.