Well past it’s use by date

The elderly are often gleeful in their consumption of out of date foodstuffs, and they usually blame any resultant illness of the youth of today failing to cover their mouths when coughing. Tinned produce that expired when It Ain’t Half Hot Mum was still enjoying popularity on the television is cracked open and eaten with relish, accompanied by comments along the lines of “they only put the dates on to make you buy more” or “it’s sealed in an airtight tin, how can it go off?”.

On the other hand my generation, the supermarket generation, are full of best before and used by neurosis.We regularly have the conversation “It says use by 7 April, that’s today, is it okay to use or should we have used it before today?” and I know from Facebook conversations I see we’re not the only ones. We’re so removed from actually knowing what has or hasn’t gone off, it’s scary.

When I was growing up we still had a green grocers in the town, and a butchers too. You’d go and buy your fruit and veg based on how it looked/felt. Of course it usually looked or felt unripe because that’s how stuff was sold. If you bought bananas they’d need to sit in your bowl for a few days. There was none of this “ready to eat right now” mantra which sees stuff thrown away from the stores in such quantities.

Buying stuff without a best before date on it is strangely liberating though. It’s like finding out the meat that’s been reduced because it’s gone brown hasn’t actually gone off, it’s just gone brown because meat does that sometimes.

Still, we were round my parents at the weekend and my Dad offered me a couple of bottles of imported dark soy sauce. Pearl River Bridge, if the brand interests you. He said that he’d bought it to make a particular Chinese dish that, after some experimentation, they decided they didn’t like. When we got home I checked the best before date on the bottles. It was May 2004.

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