How did my generation (and those before) ever survive without freshness dates. Those dates that counsel that food is “best by” or a store must “sell by” or you have to “use by” — a certain date. How did I live? I will tell you how . . . .
My father would take a sniff of the carton of milk that had been in the refrigerator since before I was born – and say “it’s okay. Drink it.” And I would. I remember going to my grandmother’s apartment once. She made me a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. I took a bite and started chewing. I looked at the sandwich and then at my grandmother. Mouth open. About to heave the whole thing onto the table. She picked up the peanut butter. Waved it under her nose. And made a face. “It’s rancid” she said [I swear those were her words]. “Okay – spit it out.” And I did. My cousin Wayne came over to our house one day. I was perhaps seven or eight. He went into the frig and pulled out the orange juice. Poured a glass. “Ouch!” he said. “This stuff is baaaadddd.” My father took a whiff and said “it’s just a little over the hill.” “Over the hill” as in enough botulism to wipe out the entire State of Pennsylvania. I’d been drinking it sporadically for the last few weeks. Or months.
I’m sure my experience is not unlike many of those reading this post. We’ve become a nation of wimps. Allowing the “freshness date” to dictate whether a food is good. Or not. What about letting the old sniffer make that determination? But for the fact that I have granddaughters (who will never know the meaning of the word “rancid” or “over the hill” except as it applies to me), I might be using the “sniff test” to determine what’s good. And what is. . . . yuck. Then again . . . .