Vital Signs

The Stuffed Grape Leaf Standard

Danger lurks everywhere these days, even in five gallon plastic tubs of feta cheese. The containers of feta delivered to our restaurant come embellished with sketches of a baby falling headfirst into a bucket of cheese, which is preserved in liquid, and therefore comes complete with grim warnings of possible drownings in English and Español. Has anyone really ever drowned in a tub of feta cheese, I wondered, as I stared at the toddler going head first into the bucket, or is this warning just the product of a paranoid cheese producer or a plastic pail maker who is afraid of being sued?

The federal government's Consumer Product Safety Commission, it turns out, has been studying the dangers of plastic buckets for the past five years. One of the solutions they came up with was a suggestion to manufacturers that they produce buckets that leak. That solution, swiftly rejected by the Manufacturers' Association, would produce slippery floors in our walk-in cooler, dry cheese on our salads, and icy floors each winter in the trucks that deliver the cheese.

Business owners are nervous these days. Like citizens of a police state, we wait for the knock at the door. Wendy's International thinks it's too risky to sell hot chocolate in America. The Russian Tea Room in New York City no longer sells steak tartare. The Las Vegas Hilton has been sent a message from the legal profession, which sends more messages to businesses...

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