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So last month there was a story that made the rounds of the various local news broadcasts, online media outlets and the occasional blog about the County of L.A.’s Health Services Department offering on its website a home version of the very same checkpoints they use to scrutinize and grade area restaurants. Of course, it’s strictly a self-inspection. It’s not like for real where a duly authorized department official comes out and gives your kitchen the third-degree. So in other words, it’s open to, say, “flexible interpretation” of some of the various yes-or-no inquiries to be answered about food prep, temps, handling, storage, et cetera.

For example: Food in my refrigerator is well spaced so that cool air can circulate freely.

I went with a “yes” to that primarily because it’s true, but also because “well spaced” is not defined. Fact is, the freezer’s often stacked and packed. But then again, they didn’t ask about the freezer… they asked about the refrigerator. See? Loopholes abound.

In terms of the section on vermin things got a little sketchy, such as when asked for a yes or no to the statement “There are flies inside my home.” From a cursory examination of the residential interior at my seat in the library in front of my computer I was able to ascertain with a modest degree of certainty that there were not any flies presently within it. Thus and to the best of my knowledge, no. If the statement had been “There have been flies in your house,” I would’ve been stone busted.

Then there are statements to be answered such as “I remove all jewerly from my hands and maintain my fingernails trimmed before I prepare foods.” I answered yes in protest because while I mostly keep my fingernails trimmed and clean, I object to the department’s trivialization of the institution and symbols of marriage — especially mine. Since Susan and I were wed, I’ve never once been separated from my wedding ring and I damn well ain’t going to take it off when I’m boiling water for my friggin’ instant oatmeal, so there!

Anyway, the penalty for naivete or absolute honesty is probably a “C” grade placard or perhaps worse (is there a “D” out there?) mailed to your house. The reward for culinary sainthood or fudging a bit is the coveted “A,” which is what was bestowed on me upon successful completion and online submission of my answers.

The magnetized sign, a mini version of what hangs in every A-rated restaurant in L.A. County arrived a few days ago and has attained its appropriate place of honor on the side of the fridge. Where a fly just landed on it.