Warning: Do NOT Try This At Home
People debate the worst job in the world (castoreum collector, or perhaps deer urine distiller) but nobody has ever mentioned what I seriously believe must be the worst possible career choice ever: Expiration Date Tester.
Haven’t you ever picked up a can of chili, read the “best by” date, and wondered, “How do they know?”
How do they pick that date instead of the day before or the day after?
And why not just have a “Whatever you do, do NOT use after January 10, 2018” or better yet: “Fatal after …”
Which still doesn’t answer my question: how do they know? Unless somebody, somewhere, has the job of Expiration Date Tester, taste-testing jar after jar and can after can and bottle after bottle of consumables, day after day, until the plateau of taste becomes a cliff drop to death and they wake up in a hospital recovering from food poisoning. And then have to start all over again.
And what about the “sell by” date (the last day the grocery store clerk can safely bag the item without wearing a hazmat suit).
“Sell by” is meaningless to the consumer. Great, just great: “sell by.” How am I supposed to know what’s the last possible cutoff date for actually ingesting it? Granted, some things come with their own indicators: lumpy milk, green sour cream, glow in the dark lunch meats, a bulging, leaky can oozing black goo.
But what about the rest of it? What if you find something really, really old in your fridge that looks okay and smells okay? What then?
I’ll tell you what – you eat it.
I found a box of tofu in the back of my freezer. It had a “use by” date on it. In 2001. But then I realized it had been frozen since well before that date, so couldn’t have spoiled before being frozen. And it was sealed in its original light-proof protective wrapping, locked away from bacteria and air.
How could it possibly have spoiled?
So I went to the frozen tofu experts at google. And learned that the number one rule for tofu is to never, ever freeze it. Followed by the number two rule, which is freeze it and it keeps forever.
So I decided to try the number two rule and become an Expiration Date Tester.
I thawed the box. Opened it. Smelled the contents. Didn’t die. Took a taste. Didn’t die. Cut it up and put it into a stir fry.
Still didn’t die.
It did, however, taste like tofu. I remembered I don’t like tofu. Which is why it was still in my freezer after a decade.
Next test: that old can of tuna. At least I like tuna.