Life Advice



Ask Amy: Germ risks also contaminate relationships

Amy Dickinson, Tribune Content Agency on

Dear Grossed Out: This is extremely unappetizing, not to mention unhealthy. If your mother-in-law handled uncooked chicken or shellfish and then plunged her unwashed hands directly into a bowl of mashed potatoes, for instance, this could cross-contaminate foods and spread food-borne illness. If you were pregnant and contracted Listeria from these unsanitary practices, it could be disastrous.

The CDC offers recommendations for safe food handling practices – and washing utensils and hands are paramount ( Because your husband was raised by his mother and is also grossed out by this, one wonders if she has always done this, or if this is a new development. If it's new, his mother could have her own health issues leading to this behavior. Bringing this up shouldn't cause conflict, though your mother-in-law might be a little stung. Try saying: "Mom, I'm very concerned about hand-washing in the kitchen. Can you help me out here? I feel like I can't eat comfortably unless the cook washes her hands often. I love your cooking, but I can’t eat after I’ve seen your hands in the food.”

(January 2011)

Dear Amy: My husband and I frequent a local restaurant every week. We have been going to this place sometimes two or three times a week for the last four years.

There is one waitress who insists on serving us. She is good at her job, but every time she greets us, she kisses us on our lips.

It makes me very uncomfortable. I have mentioned to her a few times that I have a cold and so "no kisses for me," but then the next time we go in, she does it again!


– Diner in a Dilemma

Dear Diner: The only thing left to do is to tell this person, "I apologize because I should have told you a long time ago, but I really don't like to be kissed when we come in. It makes me very uncomfortable. I hope you understand." If she won’t respect this boundary, you should mention this to the manager.

(March 2011)

Dear Amy: My in-laws think nothing about putting a spoon they licked back into the coleslaw or potato salad, or double-dipping chips into salsa or dips. My kids were taught not to do this. We've mentioned this to them a few times, but they get offended and believe we are insulting them.


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