What is the big deal about expiration dates? I think these additions to food stuffs have created an atmosphere of hysteria. I didn’t grow up with “sell by —” or “best by–” dates stamped on milk. We just used the old sniff test. If it smelled yukky or poured out in clumps, we figured we shouldn’t drink it. Likewise, left-overs fermented in the fridge until they stunk it up or turned green, blue, or gray. If none of those conditions existed, we drank or ate it and lived to write about it.
And I had no idea that spices had a shelf life. I so rarely use oregano, all spice, poultry seasoning, etc. that one small can lasts decades. I thought organizing the tiny tins and bottles on tri-level shelves was going above and beyond spice control until my daughters-in-law started sorting through my kitchen.
The conversation started with, “How long has this been in here?” I checked out the container of lasagne and shrugged my shoulders. I had no idea.
“If you can’t remember, it’s been way too long!” she added ss she handed it to me. I realized she expected me to dump it into the garbage, but I had never thrown out food that wasn’t discolored. I always made sure those scores of Tupperware containers of left-overs bulged with fermented gases before scraping them into the disposal. Waiting for that corrupted state created guilt-free waste, for heaven’s sake.
Then there was the day another daughter-in-law started picking through the spice cupboard. “Hmmmmm,” I heard her quietly mutter.
“What?” I challenged.
“Wow, I didn’t think Safeway made Crown Colony spices anymore,” she smirked. “In fact, I don’t know of any Safeways that are still in business.”
“Wow, there’s not even an expiration date on this nutmeg!”
“Well, there you go,” I wanted to say. “It’s still good!” But I didn’t get the chance, and I watched the rusted antique container drop from sight as it settled in next to the expired salad dressing bottles, moldy sour cream, and brown lettuce.
“What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.” Right?