I was cooking dinner the other night (pausing here for some of you who are surprised I actually cooked to let the shock wear off…), and I reached for a bouillon cube (second pause for others of you to reflect on the fact I am still using bouillon cubes). Much to my surprise, there were two jars of the cubes, one mostly full and the other yet unopened.
If you are still with me at this point, you are likely thinking that no one needs that many bouillon cubes, and you minimalists have passed out and need reviving, because you would never have two jars on hand to begin with. I am with both sets of you.
I looked at the expiration date on the opened jar of bullion, and it was still a year away. The expiration on the unopened one was three years out. The salty goodness of that ½ inch cube apparently not only heightens the taste of my chicken and noodles, but is self-preserving.
The Bullion Incident, which is how I am now referring to that moment, created a spice drawer cleaning frenzy, once the chicken and noodles were safely cooking. Prepare for some vulnerability: I had multiple duplicates of spices, and here it comes… several were expired.
I set them aside to place them in the trash during cleanup. Were they like medicines and I needed to follow a proper disposal method? Could they just go down the disposal, at the risk of it smelling like Chinese 5 spice or coriander seeds for the next week? Can the plastic containers be recycled?
In the middle of the Spice Elimination determination, my husband sauntered into the kitchen. I showed him my school of expired spices (no, a group of spices in not called a school, but I need alliteration like plants need sunlight). He seemed interested, not a normal state of affairs.
“Well, you aren’t throwing them out, are you?” he asked, and I felt a spicy discussion coming on (see what I did there?).
“I planned to, yes,” I said, not backing down.
He views expiration dates as suggestions, and he told me that as small an amount of spice that I would put in any dish, we wouldn’t expire from having said expired spice in our system.
“Would that also apply to arsenic?” I quipped, the relentless rule-follower me chiming in.
I told him I would think about saving them, but I threw them out the next day, and Honey, if you are just now finding this out, I am sorry. Not sorry.
I once poured a glass of cold milk, never glancing at the jug’s expiration date, dunked a Chips Ahoy cookie right in and took a giant gulp… of sour milk. Some 30 years later, I can remember that taste, and my gag reflex tightens. I surveil milk expiration dates like first time parents listen to a baby monitor.
I have helped people clean out houses or storage areas where canned food surely contains ptomaine poisoning, and they seem unconcerned. #can’t This is one gal you won’t see cutting mold off of cheese and claiming aging enhances the flavor. I guess it’s just the idea that old cheese might taste like old cheese.
A quick search tells me that chocolate degrades over time, and expiration dates, while they might be extended, should be observed. Being as how it is March, and I didn’t even blink before chomping down on a Reese’s pumpkin from October, and I have not yet died, I am pretty sure that is just a ploy to get us to buy more chocolate. As if we needed a ploy.
On a related note, after I told a friend my spices story, she texted to tell me she noticed that Nutella has ‘extinction’ dates. Before I could ponder if autocorrect fixed expiration to extinction for her, her second text said Nutella is only bad if its consistency has changed. The consistency of Nutella is what bugs me about it anyway, so maybe extinct was just a Freudian slip.
Following The Bullion Incident, I have been considering expiration dates on nearly everything. I have determined that my current (and probably future) hairstyle has already expired, and I don’t care. Taming these locks is a full-time job, and I will be doing what works throughout future decades despite my expired look.
I know that the shoes styles which house my ever-widening foot are out of date and expired as well. Comfort over classy is my new motto there.
I have a purse which wasn’t likely stylish when I bought it and sure isn’t two decades and three trips to the leather repair shop later. I know I should have retired it a while ago, as one of the identifiable stains on its beautiful leather is from when my now teenage daughter’s bottle of formula spilled inside it. Even though it is defunct, I just can’t send it to meet its maker.
I have two sets of sheets and a questionable blanket that I keep using on our bed, too, that Oprah Winfrey and other high thread count connoisseurs would immediately pitch, as they even look expired. It would take so long to break in new ones that I myself might expire.
I am guessing many of my jokes, one-liners, narratives about concerts I have attended, and well-shared memories have moved past their expiration date for those who have been subjected to repeatedly hearing them, also. But they are just so good…
My daughter heard me telling a friend about the spices and has since been checking every expiration date on everything, including her shampoo and conditioner, a bag of frozen strawberries, and some lasagna noodles. I disposed of the strawberries and of the pasta, but I took the shampoo and conditioner for myself. Since my hairstyle has expired, using expired products on said hair won’t make any difference, right?
Our Expiration Exploration finally moved to the garage during a weekend cleanout. I looked at a few items and was surprised to find an expiration date. The degreaser in our car kit had a use by date. So too did the paint thinner and motor oil cans.
Perhaps the saddest expiration date appeared on a large bag of grass seed, purchased on a whimsical Saturday, one where we thought we would really begin taking care of our lawn, hoping it would rival some of the luxurious emerald carpets around our neighborhood. I would like to say that a busy schedule kept us from using the seed; truth be told we are a little lazy and haven’t the foggiest notion about what to do with a yard.
I scrutinized the date and began calculating the risk of using the grass seed. I smelled it. I held it in my hand and felt it. I looked for mold. I determined it smelled and felt and looked like… grass seed.
In perhaps the greatest or potentially most catastrophic gardening moment of my life, I threw caution, and large handfuls of grass seed, to the wind… and all over the back yard. This week’s rain followed by next week’s sun will surely give it all it needs to sprout. But if not, I held back one container of expired fertilizer to put down with it.