Friday, February 20, 2009


The narrow little pantry off our kitchen has always been a mysterious space, perpetually overflowing with stuff while somehow remaining devoid of anything you’d actually want to eat. Last week, I decided to find out what was really in there. The answer: expired things, and individually wrapped fortune cookies.

I knew we had a few fortune cookies around, saved for my daughter over so many nights of Shing-Yee takeout, but what I found was a full-blown infestation: an entire Easter basket of them on one shelf, a grocery bag of them on another, and families of five huddled behind every box of crackers and cereal. I half-heartedly tried counting them on their way to the trash, but I lost track somewhere around 75.

I threw out a ton of other stuff too, including three different varieties of Teddy Grahams from ‘07, a cup of Split Pea Soup from early ‘05, and a tub of Crisco that supposedly would've been better if used by October of 2006 (I have my doubts).

As I was tossing all this stuff, I started to wonder about the expiration dates themselves. What do they really mean? For example, what sort of line did those Trader Joe's Bagel Chips cross in December of ‘08—was it merely a taste thing, or were they somehow dangerous? I've always suspected that some manufacturers set the dates arbitrarily, mostly as a way to prompt you to buy more.

Once I got into the flow of this purge though, I realized that I didn’t care if I was throwing away perfectly good food—I liked the license that the expiration dates gave me: Yes—I can be free of this accursed box of Triscuits forever! I didn’t even have to apply any judgment—things were either expired or they weren’t.

Which made me think that life would be simpler—or at least less cluttered—if everything bore expiration dates. Hmmm…do I really need to keep this Spin Doctors CD around? Oh look—it expired in 1993! But just as I was getting excited about this idea, I realized that somebody would inevitably start putting expiration dates on clothing, finally giving my wife the leverage she needed to throw out my entire wardrobe. So, you know…nevermind.

No comments:

Post a Comment