05 August 2010

What's a savvy host to do about Double-Dipping?

Continuing to share some of the best, brightest & most creative resources for entertaining - and overall savvy perspectives - let's introduce Saucy Dipper, an expert in Hosting your Own Dip Party, who's bringing some focus to an issue of etiquette (and guest health ;-) - asking "What's a savvy host to do?".

The human mouth has somewhere between 10 to 50 billion bacteria hiding out (source NPR), which includes up to 100 different species of bacteria. Some bacteria protects you mouth and health, but the bad bacteria—the kind that will rot your teeth or cause illness—is swimming around in there, too.

This kind of information is not necessarily useful to the average person, except when you are a savvy host and have 12 mouths to consider at your dinner party. The truth is that you don’t know what’s happening inside your fellow party-goer’s mouth, and this is cause for a strong stance against double dipping. In case you don’t know, double dipping is the practice of dipping a single chip or single veggie into a bowl of dip more than once.

In 2008, Clemson University published a report in the Journal of Food Safety that was inspired by a Seinfeld episode. In the episode, “The Implant,” Timmy, an incensed party goer, becomes enraged with George Costanza saying: “That’s like putting your whole mouth right in the dip!”

Soho Platter & Serving Dish
The results of the Clemson report found that Timmy was correct (as reported in The New York Times article “Dip Once or Dip Twice?”). The lead researcher of the study responded to the findings saying “…before you have some dip at a party, look around and ask yourself, would I be willing to kiss everyone here?”

The study found that 
  • Three to six double dips could transfer 10,000 bacteria from your mouth to the dip.
  • It’s possible to transfer 50 to 100 bacteria from one person to another with only a single bite.
  • The more acidic the dip, the less bacteria will transfer; and the thicker the dip, the less bacteria will transfer to the bowl.

What’s a savvy host to do about their dip?

I recommend making dip that doesn’t allow for—or discourages—double dipping and one that minimizes the risk of bacteria transfer.

Three Tips for Creating a "Safe Dipping Atmosphere"

Napa Vines Serving Set
1.     Watery dips transfer more bacteria, so make a thick dip that is sure to stick to the cracker.  In other words, avoid salsas, layered dips, and fruit-based dips/sauces.

2.     Make an acidic dip. Corn, meat, beans, nuts, gravy, yogurt, buttermilk, and sour cream are all highly acidic foods. FYI: Avocados, tomatoes, artichokes, and spinach are alkaline foods.

3.     Choose a dip that works as a spread. You can either set out knives and crackers alongside the dip or you can pre-make the appetizers. While individual portions may be more work for you, they do prevent guests from dipping into a bowl.

If you are hosting a dip party  and have no choice but to set out bowls of dip, then preventing double dipping will become a big task. You should enlist the help of your guests and do it like they do in fondue. Tradition has it that anyone who drops their bread in the fondue pot must buy a round of drinks or kiss the person next to them (everyone’s a little different). Why not initiate something similar for those caught double dipping?

Sara Lancaster cooks and writes for the Saucy Dipper, a blog devoted to sauces, dips, and bacon. She periodically hosts Dipstock, a weeklong dip-making festival that encourages readers to host their own dip parties at home.  

Follow her on Twitter - @SaucyDipper 

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