We Americans are too uptight about our food safety. I came to this conclusion after becoming good friends with people from South America, who leave their food out overnight after cooking it, meat dishes included, and eat it the next day without any implications. As an American, I’ve partaken in this same food and have yet to experience adverse side effects. My Tongan friend’s parents leave meat out for a day or so to let the flavors deepen before cooking… again, no problems. Cheese might get a little soft, but it has no problem with room temperatures as long as it is kept covered. And eggs have no need of refrigeration. Just ask anyone who grew up on a farm in the 1940s.
Since we don’t have refrigeration on The Most Epic Trip, we have taken some food risks on the basis of necessity. One of these is not refrigerating eggs. We found out these little parcels of food keep just as well in the cold as out. You all know how to test for “overripe” eggs, right? If they float to the top of a cup of water, they’re a’goners… otherwise, cook em up. The other is that meat, even raw, can last a day or two if it is thoroughly cooked when prepared. This was discovered when we couldn’t find a dry spot to cook in for a couple of days. (We were once unable to use a package of hotdogs and when we removed it from our “kitchen” days later, the package was bloated. We didn’t use those.)
The trick is to keep foods out of direct sunlight, hot temperatures and by cooking it thoroughly. We check for “off” smells before preparing and make sure the texture seems right. Then we cook on a high setting until cooked through. And we don’t keep meat longer than a couple of days unrefrigerated.
I am not condoning this method of storing food for normal circumstances. If you have a fridge, use it. Why not? But in our traveling circumstances out on the road, miles from electricity and modern conveniences, we still like to eat meat that doesn’t come from a can. Taking what I’ve learned from other cultures, we’re able to enjoy protein dishes from time to time and have yet to experience the tummy troubles we have been warned against.