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What’s an Expiration Date?

by Julia Bendis

May 27, 2011 | 1:44 pm

The other day I had a very educational conversation with my son.  It involved those small letters and numbers that most normal people know as “Expiration Date” printed on many food items that we purchase…  To my Russian family they were known as nonsense writing that meant absolutely nothing.  The conversation went something like this:

- “Mom, we don’t have any bread to make a sandwich with!”, as my 11-year-old pulls out a loaf of bread.

- “Son, what do you think that thing you are holding in your hands is?  Looks like bread to me.”

- “Mom, THIS bread expired a week ago!”

- “So?  Is there mold on it?”

- “No…”

- “Then eat it!”

- “But Mom!  The date on here specifically says May 21st on it!  You can’t eat something that’s expired!”

- “Son, I have never gotten sick from eating things that were expired, especially if there was no mold on it!  And even if there was mold on it, you pick it out, throw it away and eat the bread!”

- “Mom, this isn’t RUSSIA!”

End of conversation.

As you can see, my children do not understand the way it works.  My husband on the other hand has long accepted the fact that if we haven’t finished something, it will remain in the house until it is completely finished or has mold growing all over it.  He has succumbed to receiving food that may have been expired a few days prior or a week, and learned to check the bread before putting it in his mouth.  The other day, I swear I saw him pick out a mold spore, throw it away and continue to eat the sandwich.  That was the proudest day of my life!  I was grinning from ear to ear knowing that I taught him well.

I realize that my children will not be following in the same footsteps.  For my husband, who doesn’t cook its as simple as this: he either accepts the food I make or he doesn’t eat.  The choice is simple, especially since he’s never actually gotten sick from expired products, or knows how to cook.  For my kids its not that simple.  They have been born, raised and educated here in America, the land of plenty and plenty of wastefulness.  They know that if its something they dislike or expired in this case, they can throw it away and Mom will make them something new.  I don’t know if I like this “educate the kids”, and “give them what they want” world.  My brother and I never had a choice about what food we got to eat, we accepted what came our way and were grateful.  So what if the opened bottle of apple juice had fermented sitting on the kitchen counter instead of the refrigerator?  So what if we bit into a worm while eating an apple picked from a tree on our way to Grandma’s?  We spit the worm out and kept eating the apple.

Seems like common sense to me…  Maybe if we stopped worrying about an end date for everything in our lives, we would live much happier and waste-less lives.  I urge you to count the number of foods you throw away on a regular basis just because its “expired”!  Then count the amount of money you had spent on all that food.  You’ll be amazed, especially since a little mold and bacteria never hurt anyone…  Hell, I’m still here alive and kicking!

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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I was born in Ukraine, in the former USSR, and grew up in Riga, Latvia which is on the Baltic Sea.  My family and I immigrated to the United States in 1989, right before the...

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