Friday, October 2, 2020

Andy Young: Exploring the back of the freezer

I had just purchased a generous supply of frozen perishables when a brief but violent storm precipitated a 16-hour power outage in my neighborhood midway through the summer just past. Fortunately there was no spoilage, but that near-miss motivated me to start working on consuming what I have on hand before resuming random impulse-buying in the frozen food section at the grocery store. Besides, I’ve resided in my present home for almost five years, and thus was already thinking of giving the freezer its first-ever defrosting.

My de-clutterization plan involved eating existing inventory from the back of the freezer first, so the initial meal I had was Veggie-Made Zucchini Lentil Pasta, a product which had “shopped while I was hungry” written all over it.  The attractive microwaveable bag it came in said, “NEW!” It also had, in much smaller print, an expiration date which said, “Best if used by Feb. 09, 2019.” 

Maybe it would have been better had I eaten it 18 or more months earlier, as was recommended, but my final verdict on zucchini lentil pasta is that it tastes a whole lot like… pasta.

As the back of the freezer slowly became visible again, I began applying the same culling policy to the aging food in my pantry. The first target: some Fiber One Bran Cereal that may have come with the house. The box’s front declared, “NO high fructose corn syrup, NO colors from artificial sources, NO artificial flavors.” It also should have said “NO discernable flavor.” On the box’s top flap, under “Better if used by,” it said, 16 Sept 2017.

The back of my kitchen cabinet contained a treasure trove of expired items. There was a Chicken Sriracha-flavored gluten-free “protein bar” that looked suspiciously like shrink-wrapped roadkill; it’s “Best if used by” date was 24 August 2019. Next to it was something I assume came in the same Christmas Party Yankee Swap gift some years ago: a Vermont Smoke and Cure Gourmet Sausage, an item which looked like something one would obtain at one of those windowless “adult toy stores,” rather than at Hannaford or Shaw’s.  It probably had no expiration date because none of its ingredients are found in nature, and thus can’t spoil.  

The nutrition facts printed on the wrapper of an 0.5 oz. package of Swedish Fish (exp. Date 8 February 2017) I found near the back of the cupboard claim that 0.5 ounces of Swedish Fish contain 0 grams of fat, 0 grams of protein, 20 MG of sodium, and 22 grams of sugar. That’ll likely still be true if I open them next week, or in 20 years as a treat for my still-unborn grandchildren. But they’ll likely be just as valueless nourishment-wise on whatever date they’re released from their tiny bag as they are today.

There were also several tiny green envelopes of what might be dried garlic peas. Unfortunately, other than, “Product of Taiwan,” all the printing on the packages is in Chinese, so I’m unsure of their age. Or of their nutritive value, if any. 

There were also some very old rice cakes, but I doubt they ever expire. Too-stale rice cakes are like too-wet water.

At this writing my “out with the old” efforts are continuing. I’ve eaten most of the aging inventory, and with no ill effects afterward. But if there’s anyone out there who’d like some shrink-wrapped chicken roadkill and/or an obscene-looking sausage, well, drop me a line and they’re yours. I’ll even throw in some garlic peas.

You can’t have the Swedish fish, though. The grandkids still have first dibs on those. <

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