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Monday, May 2, 2016

Expiration Dates

Thursday, August 14, 2008

I was cleaning out my refrigerator today and noticed, to my horror, that I had, way in the back of the top shelf, a small carton of sour cream with the expiration date of 12-22-07. I have always wondered how can you tell with sour cream. Can it get too sour, or if there isn't green mold growing on top of it, is it OK to eat it? But that date was staring me in the face. Let's see, that is only not quite nine months past the date it was promised to be good.

Since we are not desperate for sour cream, I decided it was best to discard it. When even the outdoor cats wouldn't eat it, I decided it was probably the best idea.

When I was the Coordinator of Community Outreach we were often given quantities of produce from dairies or bakeries that had passed the expiration date. We were told that the quality of the food would decrease after the printed date, but it was still safe to eat. I always worried a bit about that, so we tried to give it out as quickly as possible while the quality was still high.

I always check the date on the gallons of milk that I buy, but I seldom check on boxed foods unless it is at home when an unpopular dry cereal stayed on the shelves for a long time. I suppose it would be good to always check on anything we buy, but I am usually in a hurry in the grocery store and looking for those tiny printed dates would slow me down too much.

But that brings me to thoughts about myself.

I wonder if somewhere on my sagging body there is a little code printed that has my expiration date on it. It could read, "Better if used before..." or possibly, "Not guaranteed for usage after...".

I haven't found any such notations, but I'll have to admit that I can't really twist enough these days to search out any changes on my body. Looking for a possible tick can be quite a gymnastic feat for me so I usually wait to see if there are any itching spots before I worry about it.

But I doubt if the expiration dates would itch, if there are any, so I guess I won't worry about them either.

I know from my experience with my refrigerated foods, that if food is well cared for, kept in the proper storage areas, covered as needed, that it will last much longer than any date that has been printed on the container. Likewise, a bottle of milk that was left on the dining room table between meals will sour days before the printed date.

So now I have to wonder. Have I been kept in the proper environment, given the care that is needed to let me last past an expected expiration date? Or will I be past pleasurable usage long before that ominous date because I wasn't coddled enough?

I don't think I have any way of knowing any of this, so I don't know why I even bring it up at all. It's just that I got so shook up when I realized how careless I had been about that sour cream that I needed to divert myself.

One thing can reassure me, if there is such a date for me it didn't start with 19. Most of these dates substitute the century years with an asterisk but put the month number and the day first. I can be sure that if there was a '99 or earlier on my date, I beat the rap.

So if there isn't any mold showing, maybe I can still enjoy several more years. Oh, oh, what's that on my big toe?

Carolyn Gray Thornton
Middle Age Plus