When was the last time you paid attention to that expiration date?
Seriously? I need to open my can of mixed vegetables by this time two years from now? That’s not all: I’ve noticed that my Thai noodles expire in a year, and my five pound bag of corn meal expired three years ago. I bought that bag in 2009 and I’ve only used about a cup since then (I only use it to keep pizza dough from sticking to the peel or the baking stone). I’ve had food expiration on my mind.
Obviously, processed and preserved foods have a ridiculously long shelf life. How do more natural foods compare? Well, the yellow bananas I buy at the grocery last about five or six days before they turn black (this is, by the way, the perfect ripeness for making frozen banana mush). Tomatoes on the vine in my garden have lasted much longer than I expected, especially the small cherry tomatoes – about four weeks. However, many don’t make it that long, and once I pull them from their homes they only last a couple of days. I’m lucky if the package of fresh spinach lasts more than about three days. The shelf lives for whole and natural foods can’t even be rationally compared to those of processed foods.
Something just seems wrong here.
I remember a few years ago when I learned that bags of flour expire. Those were the dark days when I didn’t think too much about the quality of the food I eat. I’ve learned quite a bit since then. If you aren’t already aware of the distinction between a food’s shelf life and its expiration date, it’s the difference between having a reduced quality and a reduced safety. If my Almond Milk is “best by” next Christmas, then it might not taste so great the following Thanksgiving, but it shouldn’t harm me. Likewise, if it expires next Christmas, I better be careful before drinking after that – the chemical processes may have transformed the milk into some mutant toxic concoction by then.
This is really an aside, however. There is a more important issue than making sure we eat our food before it expires. We need to ask ourselves if we really want to be eating something that we can buy the day our child is born and consume the day he rides his tricycle for the first time. That food isn’t normal, and whatever they put into it to make it last that long isn’t going to give up and leave just because you want to eat it.
There are so many directions I could go with this, but I suppose it would be best to take care of those in separate posts. Have a start by watching Stefani Bardin’s video comparing the digestion of packaged noodles versus homemade noodles. This is just one of the many great talks about food and eating that were given at the 2012 TEDxManhattan conference.