I've also been told I have little tact, so if this offends you simply ride on.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Expire this

I don't know about the rest of the world, but as a nation quite a few of us have a legitimate concern about expiration dates.  When you buy a quart of milk you do want to know how long you will be able to let it sit in your refrigerator before it starts to turn.  I'm sure most of us who enjoy cream in our coffee have experienced that one moment when the flavor was just a little bit off, or looked down to see flecks of curdle swirling around as we stir our spoon.  Expiration dates also give us an idea of just how long that quart of milk has been sitting on our grocer's shelf.  Some people, however, don't understand expiration dates.  They feel that at some point in it's life a product is going to expire.  I have had people ask me if the batch number on the top of a paint can contains the expiration date.  No, it isn't.  I'm sure if you contacted the manufacturer they could tell you when that paint was manufactured, but that's about it.  I always tell people, paint is not like food, it doesn't go bad.  Keep it tightly sealed and it will last for years, and years, and years.

There are those who think the day a product reaches its expiration date you need to throw it away.  Let me give you an example.  I was in the produce section of my local Giant supermarket filling my cart with fresh vegetables (I almost always eat fresh), when I noticed a woman in front of the baby carrots.  I like baby carrots, they're a nice snack.  Grate them up, add a dash of olive oil, garlic salt, salt and hot pepper flakes and roast them for a nice side.  As I slid my cart in beside her's and reached for a bag, she stopped me.  "Those are expired," she said.  Reaching into her own cart, she grabbed another bag.  "Here, take these, they're still fresh."  I thanked her and moved onto the mushrooms, wondering if I should tell her that carrots are a root vegetable.  Before refrigeration, people used to hang them in root cellars, in bunches, for months at a time.  They may not have been as fresh and crisp as the day they were pulled from the ground, but they didn't make people sick.

Now I can understand the rationale behind expiration dates, making sure your grocer rotates his product so you don't end up purchasing food which has been sitting on the shelf for nine or ten years.  But they've also become an easy way to get shoppers to buy more.  There are a lot of people out there, like the woman with the baby carrots, who believe that once a food has hit it's expiration date it needs to be thrown out.  Produce shouldn't need to be dated.  If you can't tell when it's going bad, then you shouldn't be buying it.  If a peach has little, fluffy mold spores building a metropolis, then it needs to go in the trash.  So what if the Rotini pasta in your cupboard expires in a week or so, it's dried.  It's not going to cook up differently because it's passed its expiration date.  Just use a little common sense.  Unless you're one of those people who needs to be told what to do and when to do it.  When I meet people like this I usually just smile.  What I really want to do is say "expire this."    

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