Don Schaffner, guest barfblogger: Troubled times had come to my hometown…

Bruce Springsteen wrote those words about his hometown, Freehold, NJ in 1984 for the song "My Hometown" on his Born in the U.S.A. album.

I’m not a huge "Bruce" fan, but for the past 20 years, Bruce’s hometown has also been my hometown so I’ve developed more than a passing interest in the song. (N.B. Bruce doesn’t live here anymore, he lives in a mansion in Rumson, NJ).

Bruce writes about racial strife in Freehold in 1965 "between the black and white".  There is a different sort of racial strife in Freehold now, between Latino’s and whites, and that strife regularly plays out in the editorial pages of our local weekly newspaper, the News Transcript. Like many cities in the United States we have a burgeoning Latino population, and this sometimes creates tension.

But I’m here to write about food safety.  And that’s what you are here to read about.  So what does any of this have to do with food safety?

Well, the story I want to relate starts back in September 2006.  A police officer from a neighboring town, who owns several rental properties in Freehold Borough was cited for having an illegal restaurant operating at one of those properties. The restaurant was being operated by one of his
tenants.  (For more on the story, look here).

While my sympathies tend to run toward leniency when it comes to illegal immigrants (who will cook and wash dishes in our restaurants, cut our grass, and do all the other hot, boring jobs that Americans won’t), and laissez faire when it comes to innovative business practices, given the trouble that legit restaurants have keeping food safe, I’m not sure illegal restaurants are a good idea.

You’ve got to give this illegal restaurant credit for persistence… Flash forward to earlier this summer.  The illegal restaurant had apparently begun operating again. This time the fines involved were almost $11,000.  Maybe everyone involved has learned their lesson.

I doubt I fit the demographic to get served in the illegal "Casa de Mechanic Street", so I’ll have to settle for having my meals prepared by potentially illegal immigrants in definitely legal restaurants elsewhere in my hometown. Maybe at the new Olive Garden?

Don Schaffner is an Extension Specialist in Food Science at Rutgers