I was eating breakfast and reading the paper when I dropped on the floor the slice of toasted sourdough bread smeared with butter and thick orange marmalade out of which I had taken only two bites.

Of course it landed jelly side down. Instantly I bent down, picked it up, brushed it off as well as you can brush off marmalade and, following the five-second rule, ate it all up.

You remember the five-second rule — if you pick up within five seconds food you drop, it’s OK to eat it.

I’m good with that — even though a food microbiologist at Rutgers University concluded after a two-year study that no matter how fast you pick up food that falls on the floor, you will pick up bacteria with it.

I chose to go with a study in England which reported that food picked up a few seconds after being dropped is less likely to contain bacteria than if it is left for longer periods of time.

The Rutgers study found that carpet has the lowest rate of bacteria transmission compared with tile and stainless steel. Wood surfaces varied.

Apparently they didn’t test dirt. Maybe kids today are more health conscious but seeing kids pick up food they’d dropped on the ground, nonchalantly brushing it off and popping it into their mouths was a common sight I remember. I did it myself.

Who started the five-second rule? It is vaguely attributed to Genghis Khan, who declared that food could be on the ground for five hours and still be safe to eat. And who was going to argue with Genghis Khan?

I still have on my conscience the time I spilled a cakepan of batter onto the kitchen floor, scraped it up and baked it. I belonged to a group that met every Wednesday night at 6 for potluck dinner before figuring out ways to peacefully integrate our city.

Wednesday was my newspaper’s tense deadline day and I barely made it home in time to cook the Coca Cola chocolate cake I made each week to take to the meeting. It was easy to make and quickly baked in a sheet pan and then topped with a fudgy frosting.

But the pan was cheap, old and warped and as I bent to shove it into the oven, it buckled and the batter spilled out onto the floor. The floor was at its cleanest as my cleaning lady had been there that day. I looked around desperately. Seeing no witnesses, I scooped it back into the pan, baked it at 350 degrees for 25 minutes, smoothed on the thick frosting and rushed off to the meeting.

As always, people bragged on it and ate it all up. Except for me. I passed.

A survey has found that 81 percent of women would not eat anything that lingered on the floor compared with 64 percent of men.

I won’t either. Unless it is a piece of fresh sourdough bread, toasted and slathered with butter and thick orange marmalade.

Mary McClure lives in Lawton.

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