At the onset of the pandemic, I relied on gigantic casseroles to soothe my angst. It was still cold in Chicago, I was broke and bummed the hell out, and I was scared of grocery shopping. Thus, I turned to a cheap, comforting dish that could feed me for a week: shepherd’s pie. I toiled over my beautiful pie for an hour, throwing red wine and heirloom veggies into the mix, lovingly taking my time, knowing that the casserole would feed me for days. Forty-five minutes later, I extracted my masterpiece from the oven—and promptly dropped it on the floor. I screamed, then cried, then scooped the top half of the casserole—the part that was only barely touching the floor—back into the dish and ate it for two days, weeping as I picked dog hair and grit out of my teeth.
Was this a smart thing to do? No—I’d classify it as a primal response. Was it in strict adherence to the five-second rule, which states that it’s safe to eat food that falls on the floor as long as it’s picked up within five seconds? Also no; the pie sat on the ground for a full 30 seconds before I attempted to salvage it. Still, I used the rule to justify my behavior. The pie had less than a minute of contact with the floor—so it was probably okay, right?
According to a survey conducted by Cinch Home Services, about a third of people believe in the five-second rule. There’s some merit to it; one team of researchers did find that longer contact did result in a higher transfer of bacteria. Unfortunately, the research also revealed that bacteria transfer was virtually instant for foods with a high moisture content, like my creamy mashed potatoes and juicy beef.
Either way, I’m still here, despite the mental gymnastics I underwent to enjoy my shepherd’s pie. I didn’t succumb to a slow, painful death brought on by floor bacteria. With that in mind, I’d like to hear your thoughts. Do you trust the five-second rule, or is momentary floor content a dealbreaker? Do you find my negligence repulsive? Let’s discuss.