We all turn into our parents.
At least, that’s what people say and if that’s true, then my family better start developing cast-iron stomachs. Stat.
When I was growing up, my mom was notorious for never throwing out anything.
“It’s still good!” she’d snap as my brother and I wrinkled our nose at whatever foul-smelling container had been unearthed from the depths of the overstuffed fridge.
One time, I went to pour some milk and as soon as I opened the container, I knew I was in trouble.
“This is bad!” I said.
“No, it’s not,” she snapped.
“It is,” I insisted and looked to my dad for backup. He is even more sensitive than I am about rotting food and hyper critical about dairy products past their prime.
He stuck his nose into the carton opening.
“Oh my GOD!” he yelled and started to retch, which I thought was just him being overly dramatic until he turned the milk upside down and…. glug… slug… ka THUNK. It was chunky. That carton of milk was three-quarters of the way to some sort of unholy buttermilk-cottage cheese hybrid. I am still scarred by the memory.
In my mom’s defense, she hails from the Philippines, a country in which some of the “delicacies” sound like the kind of thing that would be served in a foreign prison not particularly known for its humane treatment of detainees: for example, isaw, a “street food” of grilled chicken or pork intestines that are speared onto skewers or balut (which autocorrect doesn’t even want to acknowledge exists), a fertilized duck egg boiled and eaten with a partially developed embryo tucked inside. Of course the woman didn’t think curdled milk was bad!
So when No. 1 was making her lunch for school the next day and asking what mayo should smell like and if she should be concerned that it seemed kind of off and her dad insisted mayo doesn’t smell bad, I felt compelled to jump in.
“Mayo stinks like rotten eggs right when you open the jar. It reeks even when it’s not old,” I said. Not being mean, just being honest. And no, I’m not a fan of the condiment. “Why do you ask?”
“Because this jar says ‘use by Jan. 12,’” No. 1 said.
“Of this year?” I shrugged and waved my hand. “That wasn’t that long ago. It’s not like things instantly turn bad by the magic date on the label.”
Now, my husband and I share the same political views and tend to have similar tastes in food and movies and TV but we differ, passionately, on expiration dates. He thinks stuff should get chucked the week before what’s stamped on the label. I, however, am more liberal in my bad-food stance. I’ve read enough articles in reputable sources about how manufacturers arbitrarily put expiration dates on things and then that results in produce getting thrown out needlessly early. I say, give peas a chance.
“Well, it’s been a month,” my husband said.
“Not quite,” was my rebuttal.
Let the record show the calendar read Feb. 6.
“Plus, it’s not like we don’t have a second, opened container of mayo in the fridge anyway.”
Because that’s how we roll — people can’t find open containers in the fridge if they’re not on the shelf right at eye-level and automatically open up the auxiliary stuff stored in the pantry. This is why we have three opened jars of mustard.
“You’re starting to sound like your mom….” my husband teased, eyebrow raised.
“HEY! I’m not that bad….”
I’m not. Just don’t tell my family that I grabbed a container of Thai chile garlic sauce from the pantry the other day and scooped out a spoonful before realizing it had been opened — according to the Sharpie date I’d scribbled on the jar — two years ago. But, there wasn’t an expiration date on it, so…. it had to be fine. Plus, no one was hospitalized.