I have decided to use this newspaper as a means to make a public announcement. I’m coming out. I’m willing to put my reputation at risk because I’ve held these dark secrets inside me for too long.
I expect to be shunned by those of you who know me. As I approach, you’ll purse your lips and shake your heads. You’ll lower your chin avoiding eye contact and you’ll whisper to each other expressing solemn sympathy for my pitiful life. Women will cross the street to avoid passing near me.
OK. Here it goes. I’m ready expose my dirty laundry for all to see.
My name is Barry. I’m an expirationist. The filthy truth is … well … I eat foods beyond their expiration and “best by” dates.
I pay little attention to “sell by” dates. I eat foods from the refrigerator and pantry unconscious of “use by” dates. I have frozen foods in my freezer at least a year old. None of the expiration dates mean anything to me.
For instance. I ate cottage cheese this week stamped with, “Use by July 15, 2020.” It was a month overdue. There were no furry, green stalks growing from it … at least on its surface. That I could see. A little salt and pepper and it tasted fine to my palate. Cross my heart and hope to die. Which isn’t likely since I actually may be strengthening my “constitution” by eating expired foods.
And I ate tortilla chips yesterday that had a “best by” date of May 26, 2020. They were actually more “thin and chewy” than their advertised “thin and crispy,” but that didn’t stop me from eating them. The poor chips got lodged, forgotten, in the back of the pantry and I couldn’t bear to toss them out.
OK, as long as I’m baring my soul I confess I cut and throw away the white and green mold from the long-expired block before eating the cheese. I’ve heard that the tentacles of the “fungusamongus” stretch like an all consuming web of tiny, hidden, yeasty, aliens possessing the entire block of cheese. MWAHAHAHAHA! But a little fresh penicillin never hurt anybody, right?
Exposing my private culinary persona to the public hasn’t been easy, but I’m comforted by knowing that I’m probably not alone. At least with the male of the species and those over age 50.
I’m sure it must be proven scientific fact that those gender differences … the willingness of men to eat “whatever” and women to sniff test freshly opened jugs of milk … come from a weaker “squeamish factor” that men have developed. Known precisely as the “Yuck Factor,” it applies to eating things that might be a little tainted, expired, or “unfresh.” The Yuck Factor has weakened in men over eons of evolution by men eating whatever it took – rotten or not – to chase down woolly mammoths and successfully conclude the hunt. That evolution and its ties to hunting is why men’s weakened squeamish factor applies only to tainted foods and NOT to changing diapers.
To prove my point, I plead guilty to adding some Thai sweet chili to a noodle dish the other day. That condiment has been sitting on the bottom shelf of our refrigerator for years, aging like a fine wine. It’s marked with a 2007 “manufacture date” and a 2009 “expiration date.” Though long past its expiration date, it’s still as spicy and good as the day it was born. Admittedly, though, I have not tested the sweet chili sauce in a Petri dish.
For me, if it’s not green, smells relatively good and has been kept cold in the refrigerator, I wonder, “How bad could it be?” So I admit this, even though it could mean social segregation, public shame, and fewer dinner guests.
Bring on the mammoths!
As far as youth goes, astute study and observation has shown me it’s mostly older men willing to eat “expired” items. Again, it must be scientific fact that a stronger constitution or “bowels” (as my grandmother suggested necessary for a healthful life) must have been developed in older people during times of great sacrifice and need, like when we adults run out of unexpired Cheez Whiz and have to scrape off the scum from the jar found in the furthest, darkest reaches of our refrigerators before microwaving and eating it. Kids just haven’t experienced that kind of deprivation.
Younger people I know – including our own kids – won’t touch anything beyond the “sell by” and “best by” dates, let alone the “use by” or “expiration” dates. Weaker bowels, known in food science circles informally as the “Cheez Whiz Syndrome” or more technically as MED or the “Mammoth Extinction Disorder,” must be why young people throw away lots of edible food.
Now that I’ve come out publicly shaming myself, I hope you can find it in your hearts to forgive me. Being an expirationist is a heavy cross to bear. But I just can’t help myself. I plan to rescue that expired food from our kids’ trashcans and eat it. I may make a rare exception if the cans are bulging.
Newspaper columnist Barry Fetzer writes from his home on Queens Creek.