Our supermarket sells two kinds of bagels. They’ve got ones they bake themselves, which taste like they’re made from the same dough they use for hamburger rolls, and they’ve got ones from Au Bon Pain, set apart in a little Au-Bon-Pain-branded kiosk across the aisle from the aforementioned store-baked bagels.
(Let’s be clear up front that I am not claiming that these Au Bon Pain bagels are any good either, or that they should even qualify as bona fide bagels in the first place. Real bagels are small and chewy and taste like bagels, whereas these ABP bagels are huge, puffy, soft, and taste like toasted bread. But they’re better than the store-made jobbies, and they’re all we’ve got.)
There are nearly a dozen varieties, each species in its own clear acrylic bin, and the lid on each bin is clearly and prominently labeled “Please Use Tongs”. Beneath the matrix of bins is another, larger sign, admonishing us once again to use the tongs, along with a threatening reminder: “State law prohibits the use of hands.”
This all makes sense, you might be thinking. You don’t have to be a germophobe to oppose bare-handed bagel-bin rustling. But these tongs at the Stop & Shop are disgustingly filthy. Filthy, I say.
The tips of the tong-arms are covered with some sort of moist, brown sediment. My best guess is that it’s residue from some of the “fruitier” varieties of bagel, like Cranberry Walnut. Who the fuck is eating Dutch Apple with Streusel bagels, anyway?
Whatever this crud is, it would hardly be more revolting if the tongs were covered with ants. And trust me, you do not want to peep inside the cubby hole where the tongs are stored. Trust me.
I would sooner use a pair of dirty socks to touch my food than use these tongs. And indeed, despite all the “Use the Tongs” propaganda at the Stop & Shop Au Bon Pain bagel kiosk, there is a tissue paper dispenser under the tongs. I, of course, use the tissue paper. But every time I pick up a bagel, I wonder if it has been touched by those tongs. This dictates how I choose my bagels -- I pick from the back, looking for the bagels which appear least likely to have been contaminated.
For the love of cream cheese, someone ought to report these tongs to the FDA or EPA. Or at the very least, the store manager. Not me, of course. I’m not a complain-to-the-manager sort of guy.