A little game called “food safety”

Growing up in the Great Depression drove Mom into Mega-Packrat Overdrive.  None of us worried about international logistical meltdown and food shortages as the “Y2K” crisis loomed.  Mom had enough food stored to feed a small European nation*.  Not to mention toilet paper, light bulbs, cat litter and Tupperware containers from the 1960’s.  We weren’t scared.  The bunker was ready.

There is, however, the challenge of the “use by” date.  Mom’s definition of “it’s still good” is a liberal interpretation to say the least**.  We generally exercise caution when going on a “munchie expedition” in the house.  This is complicated by the fact that we were raised on junk food and candy, and even as adults, will instinctively root through the house as soon as we enter, our little “lizard brains” forcing us to seek sugary, chocolaty goodness.  Not unlike zombies on a quest for tasty brains.

Today, upon return from the cardiologist, both T and i were in full “munchie” overdrive.  She went through all the usual candy hiding places, but came up empty.  Between DQ, Jr discovering most of the candy caches, and the fact that Mom hasn’t been out shopping in many months, the cupboards were bare.  We got desperate.  While DQ and i were beating through the new medication dosing schedule, T went to the refrigerator in the garage, and returned with a giant Ghiradelli chocolate bar and a box of foil-wrapped Christmas chocolates.

T:  Do you think these are still good?

daisyfae & DQ (in unison):  Whoa!  Careful – if there’s white stuff on the chocolate, don’t eat it!

Mom: It’s fine!  It’s been in the refrigerator.  Chocolate doesn’t go bad***.

T (sniffing foil-wrapped chocolates):  Smells ok…

daisyfae:  You first.  If you don’t die, we’ll be right behind you!

T (nibbling chocolate):  It’s ok.  How about the chocolate bar? (unwrapping the bar, revealing a leprous, ‘undead’ surface…)

daisyfae:  Wouldn’t risk it.

T (returning from second trip to the garage):  Hey!  I found this box of Pettit Fours!  Think they’re ok?

daisyfae:  i love those!  i’ll try one if they don’t stink… 

Sniffing it, there was a pleasant, chocolatey aroma.  Encouraged, i took a healthy bite.  The fucking thing exploded into dust in my mouth!  It was beyond dessicated.  i spit it into my hand – while T, DQ and Mom laughed their asses off…

T:  Well, it had a date on it – i think it was like 2002 or something… (more laughter)


* Perhaps two or three if they are in Eastern Europe… provisions probably still go further there.

** Mom has a 7′ long chest freezer in her utility room.  It could easily hold three dead bodies, perhaps five if they are efficiently processed.  It was last opened perhaps 10 years ago – and she produced meat that was freezer wrapped and dated 1971.  Mom ate a piece of zucchini bread from the mid-70’s and pronounced it “a little dry, but not bad!”  On one of our many attempts to de-clutter the house, we weren’t sure it was even running – making the prospect of removal that much more frightening.  i took a stethescope to it, and determined that the compressor was still running.  We may yet tackle the “freezer removal” this year… Stay tuned.  Excavation of the contents is certain to yield at least one blog post…  i know there are archeological food treasures that we could sell on eBay.  Perhaps “Antiques Roadshow”…

*** Mom also told us later that “meat doesn’t go bad as long as it’s been frozen”.  DQ then told us that she had to intercept a batch of frozen *green* hot dogs that Mom sent home with DQ, Jr. last year.  Barbeque, anyone?

17 thoughts on “A little game called “food safety”

  1. Oh dear, that’s awful!

    Reminds me. When Mr. Wonderful’s mother died, we cleaned out her apartment and she had a stock pile of 40 cake mix boxes and, like, 20 cannisters of frosting. Like when the bomb came, she’d be a-bakin!

  2. My late wife came from depression-era folks too – and farmers to boot – so I’m well versed in the types of indulgences your Mom has vis-a-vis food and food storage. And me, being part Scots, I guess, have a hard time throwing anything that might have value or that I paid money for away (although I’m getting better…)

    Having said that, Ann was horrified to find a jar of canned salmon (canned in a canning jar, mind you) with a date of 1992 on it. It was canned by my dad, actually…and he died in ’94.

    It’s not from the ’70’s, mind you, but I don’t think we’ll be eating it…

  3. My mother had a freezer that sounds like yours. She also had a refrigerator that was worse. She had more biochemical experiments going on in the salad dressing, vegetables, fruit, leftovers and more, than you can imagine……. Everytime I came home I quietly disposed of outdated freezer stuff and refrigerator stuff. She would quiz me on what I was doing and if I fessed up, she would take charge. If I politely answered that I was cleaning out the frig or freezer of stuff that was moldy or freezer burnt, that was OK. I think I prevented early salmonela (sp), and other maladies from mom. I was gone too much to prevent the same from dad. Keep up the good work.

  4. Chocolate goes bad? Maybe that explains the urgent and sudden trips i’ve had to make to the loo after finding candy from Halloween 1998. Can’t i just brush the white stuff off? Like cutting off the moldy parts of the cheese? I’m revealing much too much, aren’t i…. [grin]

  5. Whaahahahahaha. My granny is just like this. She has crisps and peanuts in her cupboard that have the consistency of wet cardboard. And green meat. And she reuses clingfilm. And foil. She’s a ninja-depression baby. But it’s naaaaaaaaaaaasty for those who aren’t used to eating 100 year old musty dust. Pfffoooooffff.

  6. Ha! yes my parents are a bit the same, either that or I’m just a sook we’ve got biscuits (cookies for you I suppose) and there only a few months out of date and I refuse to go near them.

    I still have to wonder about y2k, I dont see how a computer is going to freakout by 99 changing to 00. Why was that going to do anything, thats what I want to know.

  7. heartbreaktown – didn’t see “bake a cake” in those 1950’s “fallout shelter” videos. were the mixes from the 1970’s? Mom’s are…

    rob – i’m an odd combination of “frugal” and “lazy”, so things hang around a bit longer than they should in my fridge. the phrase “How old is this cheese?” is often uttered by the desperate and hungry human standing in front of it seeking sustenance… but old salmon? that’d be a “no”…

    gubment – we have to sneak things into the trash, too. mom has bad eyesight, but good ears and can hear the sound of food going in the trash from the other room!

    gnu – When chocolate “goes bad”, it can also be a problem for the rest of the pantry. Vandalism, harrassment of onions and potatos, theft of smaller treats… it’s not pretty.

    kyknoord – in my house, it never lasts that long. except for the bags of “chocolate vaginas” that i bought last february at a performance of The Vagina Monologues. No matter how bad the cravings are, none of us seem willing to eat the vaginas… i give them as gifts…

    dolce – mom re-uses plastic tableware, but we’ve cured her of wiping down the “good” disposable plates. we think.

    alex – in hindsight the Y2K thing was a bit silly. fear-mongering at it’s most hideous. i didn’t make any preparations. other than to drink a bit…

    b4by – Welcome to The Park – and a very happy birthday! yet another Gemini party-gal! Thanks for the cake! I’d offer you more chocolate, but there’s none here!

  8. oh dear. i suffer from the same freezer burn of the brain… (mind you – i test all the really old stuff on myself first), and i reuse EVERYthing that can be washed and dried.
    i actually have a chart that gives a rough estimate of how long goods last beyond the sell-by date… and lemme tell you –
    whoever complied it doesn’t know shit about mayonnaise *heave*

    i didn’t suffer through a/the great depression, other than my own… obviously it had lasting effects though too 😉

  9. Did you ever see the movie ‘Strange Brew’, when Bob McKenzie (Rick Moranis) drinks all the expired chocolate milks from the machine that has been unplugged for weeks? Beauty, eh?

  10. It was my grandparents that had the pantry from hell. My mother apparently went the other direction from being a depression baby, thus her reaction to oatmeal and cornmush. But I could tell tales of cleaning out my grandparent’s homes. Hmmm, another blog subject.

  11. oniongirl – i hate to see things go to waste, and am trying to do a better job planning my provision purchasing. well, since i quit going to the grocery, that kinda helps. my cupboards are pretty bare… on the bright side? you probably have a healthy immune system!

    MdW – a few years back – on one of the ‘cleaning’ runs – we found some museum quality canned goods. unfortunately, they were bursting at the seams, and in addition to being biohazardous, they were an explosion risk!

    uk – yes, i’ve seen it. spent some time trying to remove that mental image from the ol’ memory banks, thankyouverymuch!

    silverstar – i love your “tales from home”! looking forward to the next installment!

  12. My mum (who isn’t so fond of the aged octagenarian – looooooooong tale of woe) says our only hope of my granny kicking the bucket is botulism. So we don’t interfer. How twisted are we? Sheesh.

  13. dolce – saw a comment elsewhere from a friend that said “sometimes karma needs a little help”. suppose leaving granny to the botulotoxins is somewhere in the spirit…

    az – i kinda have a soft spot for things that squirt in my mouth. that gum? love it… hmmm…

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