Light-on-subject-matter-Tuesday

>> Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Having observed how, at school in the mornings, Boy #1's teacher achieves quiet in 10 seconds flat simply by clapping her hands in rhythm (clap - clap - clap-clap-clap) I thought I would try it myself. Yesterday evening, when marshalling the troops to get them to go and brush their teeth before bed, I did what I thought of as a more than passable imitation of the Pied Piper of Hamlin, dancing and clapping my way into the hall. I made it as far as the bathroom before I looked behind me.

I was, of course, entirely alone.

Sometimes, I even embarass myself.


Now. There's been some press coverage over sell-by dates recently, and it's got me thinking about so-called 'advice' from companies who's main rationale for delivering such guidelines is often - guess what - to sell us more product.

Having said that, I have to admit I'm a bit of stickler on best-before dates for food, although that is often tempered by my own in-house highly scientific risk-assessment known as 'the sniff test'. (Food hygeine certificated, me. Do my talents know no end?). For example, I see jams etc as pretty-much exempt from any instructions to use before a certain date unless they have developed a beard and are requesting a razor...

With other stuff though - milk, meat, fish - I tend to do what I'm told and get rid of any that are out of date (not that this happens much nowadays with my list culture). (I just had to put that link in to pre-empt comments from everyone taking part in Recyling Week this week, by the way...)

Our grandparent's generation however, were conditioned by a youth in the desperate times of World War II and a more general 'waste not, want not' ethos to stockpile petri-dishes of food in their fridges. These domestic experiments often live on in splendid tupperware-enforced isolation until they reach one of two outcomes. Either the elderly person gets a visit from younger relatives, who systematically go through the fridge on a search and destroy mission, or the said petri-dishes develop personalities, form a trade union and start campaigning for better working conditions with more access to light and fresh air, all the better to plan their drive for world domination...

However, whilst I might be a goody-two shoes on the food front there are plenty of pieces of advice from companies supplying consumables that I ignore...

  • Replacing my toothbrush every couple of months. I mean to, you understand, but it practically has to be threadbare before I get round to it. Which is probably why I spend more money with the hygeinist than I should...
  • Updating my sun cream every time I go on holiday. As in, once a year. If it's still in the tube, I use it. (In my defence, the Boys' suncream gets replaced far more regularly. Mainly because I'm always leaving tubes of the expensive organic mineral sunscreen at other people's houses. Ssshh. Don't tell Husband.)
  • Emptying the filter on the tumble dryer after every use. I know, I know, it's dangerous, but I'm hoping the condensing drawer full of water that I also never get round to emptying will melt and put out any flames before a fire takes hold...
And so on. I know, a wiiiiillld list, huh? I live life on the edge, me. Rock and roll, baby.

How about you?

16 comments:

Mud in the City 23 June 2009 at 13:33  

Iam also sure that a few past their best before dates MUST be good at boosting the old immune system. Although I do draw the line at dicing with whiffy fish. That's too on the edge for me...

But I mean, best before dates on apples? How stupid do you have to be to chuck out an apple because Computer Says So??

Single Parent Dad 23 June 2009 at 13:44  

I have some chicken breasts two days past their sell by date, I'm going maverick and going to stir fry those bad boys tonight. Child will be sparred, but my gut won't.

See you on the other side.

Expat mum 23 June 2009 at 14:21  

Did you also know that you're not supposed to keep your toothbrush anywhere near (or at least within about 6 feet of) a toilet in case floating fecal matter gets on to it. While that's enough to make me vomit, hands up anyone whose toothbrush is not within range of a loo.

Mickle in NZ 23 June 2009 at 14:31  

Oh, you've got me chuckling.....

At the beginiing of the month I was up at the parent's place, preparing for their 50th wedding aniversary do. Knowing we'd need all the fridge space we could get I went through it....

"Mum, the best before dat is back in 2005...... What is this? (dubious looking I don't know what) When did it go in here?"

Then I attacked their pantry too...

Gosh - made so, so much space.

But - a best before date on an apple?????? Pretty darn obvious if its okay or not, lol.

SandyCalico 23 June 2009 at 15:13  

I apply the sniff test to most things these days: food, toothbrushes, babies. I also use my eyes.

What did we do before sell by dates? Oh dear, I'm sounding like an old person. I'll stop now!!

Iota 23 June 2009 at 16:07  

I read recently on a blog (can't remember whose) the thought that we are losing the basic skills that kept our ancestors alive, in terms of being able to sniff out whether food is ok or not. I suppose it doesn't really matter, if a food manufacturer is going to pack the stuff full of preservatives, and label it for us. But I agreed with the blog author. It's a little sad to lose skills that have been honed over hundreds of years.

I'm pretty much like you: jam, cheese, yogurt, can happily moulder away. Meat and fish have to be fresh.

The scary thing here is that sell-by dates are much longer. I think that is because people have huge fridges and huge amounts of storage space, so they don't shop very often. They like to buy in bulk, so that puts pressure on the retailers/manufacturers to sell stuff that keeps for ages. My evidence for this is that my local supermarket sells packets of 36 chicken drumsticks, 24 pork chops, 10lbs of mince, milk in 8 pint containers, etc. You think I'm exaggerating? Trust me, I'm not.

Iota 23 June 2009 at 16:09  

The reason I say it's scary, by the way, (and you can tell I'm busy this morning), is that I assume they put vast quantities of preservatives into the food to make it last.

Bread, for example, lasts much longer. How can that be, in a warm, damp climate?

Help. Get me back to the UK.

Potty Mummy 23 June 2009 at 17:05  

Mud, I know. Madness. (Glad your leg's finally been diagnosed, btw!)

SPD, you devil, you! Just mask it with a jar of stir-in sauce and you'll never notice the slightly odd taste...

EPM, eeeeeuuuuurrrrrggghhhh! ('nuff said). I am now going to do the literal equivalent of acting as if I never saw that and forget you wrote it. (If you know what I mean).

Mickle, hello, and thanks for visiting and commenting. As for your parents, you realise they won't thank for that? Your dad will be looking for that 10 year old jar of pickle to go with the left overs from last month's roast and your name will be mud (no pun intended, Mud in the city, btw).

SC, thanks for stopping by and commenting and I know. That old person thing seems to happen to me more and more these days. (Note to self; must make of an effort to be young and hip and down with the kids...)

Iota, absolutely, get back here pdq! (But not for those reasons, obviously...). Have to say I agree with you. When I look at factory farmed chicken with a bbdate of some time next month it does make me wonder what they've fed the poor beast on.

nappy valley girl 23 June 2009 at 18:30  

My usual rule is, if it looks OK and doesn't smell, don't worry too much. But meat, chicken etc I usually use by sell-by date and fish I would only eat fresh. Totally with you on suncream and toothbrushes. (And makeup - I own some make up that's over 10 years old and still fine, despite all that stuff you read in women's magazines about replacing it all the time).
Having said that I agree with Iota about US food. Some of it doesn't even seem to display a best-before date and everything is sold in enormous quantities that you couldn't possibly eat before the use-by date.

The Green Stone Woman 23 June 2009 at 20:07  

If the jam has a little mold on it. I scrape that away and use the rest, it has been sitting in the refrigerator after all. The same with cheese, scrape the mold away and it is fine. I use the sniff test for everything else, except for fresh meat and fish, that's too tricky, although you can tell when it's really off. Bread is easy to smell if it's moldy, I keep mine in the refrigerator too, it lasts longer.

Tracey 24 June 2009 at 02:37  

Gee, you'd think an Australian would have known about use-by dates on sunscreens, but I've learnt something new here today!!!
As for the rest I'm like the rest of you all - can't decide whether to rely on the look and smell, or whether to religiously stick by the use-by dates. Having just cleaned out some kitchen cupboards, i've had the kids laughing at 2006 use-by dates on products. I'm still debating over a tube of caramel topping that has a use-by of 07 (it's all sugar! - surely it can't go off!) and packet of dates with no discernible use-by date. (No pun intended!)

amy 24 June 2009 at 07:14  

great post! We have the two day rule at our house, if it has gone past the best before date its got two days before it makes its way to the bin. and obviously the well tested 'sniff test'.

I love your list:

toothbrush: i do the same

Dryer: I've not emptied the filter either but i love the theory with the water lol!

suncream: My bottle is about 2years old (whoops!) xxxx

Potty Mummy 24 June 2009 at 09:15  

NVG, make-up, yes, make-up! I should definitely put that on the list.

Irene, another manifestation? It's a good thing you use photos or I would never be able to keep track. And bread, yes it does keep longer in the fridge but there's never enough space for it in ours (due to the out of date pickles etc, you understand!)

Tracey, well I suppose that the fact you don't know the sunscreen fact means one of two things: either it's not true and is another marketing ploy, or in Australia every one is so much better at using it that it never has the chance to go out of date...

Amy, I like the 2 day rule. Is that like the 5 second rule? If food falls to the ground for less than 5 seconds it's still OK for the kids to eat it...?

Claire 24 June 2009 at 10:36  

Pffft, if it doesn't smell funny, grow fluff or look funny then I'll eat it. I have to say I rarely get ill and I never get belly ache from eating anything (only by eating too much!!).

Tattie Weasle 24 June 2009 at 22:40  

Much easier way of getting through that sell by date problem - freeze the stuff. There is a basic rule which says anything frozen is good for five years - ask my parents!

clareybabble 25 June 2009 at 21:33  

Ummm I do everyhing on that list too!! I always go by use by dates but best befores are just a guide. I'm still using herbs and spices that went out of date a while ago, all that happens is the flavours aren't so strong x

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