U is for Use-By Dates (and the Magical Oven)

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

I’ve blogged before about my stomach’s amazing iron lining thanks to years of childhood sand eating. Thanks to those many years of chowing down on handfuls of sand, I very rarely get stomach illnesses. What I haven’t blogged about is how my mum’s complete lack of food hygiene helped in developing that immunity as well as an immunity to a lot of other illnesses as well.

My mum’s fridge is like a vast, expansive ocean of elderly food products. Jar upon jar, tub upon tub, bag upon bag of random food items are added and then pushed backwards to form an epic wodge of mostly out of date food.

As such, very early on in life, we learnt to distinguish between the (mostly) strictly adhered to ‘Use-By’ date and the general suggestion of the ‘Best Before’ date. When your fridge is overflowing with food products of varying vintages, your selection criteria is carefully planned around which food item is the least out of date.
‘Use By’ items are useable anywhere up to 2 or 3 days after the date on the packaging, but only after careful olfactory and visual inspection. ‘Best Before’ dates can basically be ignored, but a quick visual inspection will tell you if the product might genuinely be well past its best.

This carefully managed system meant that our bodies were trained not to be precious when it came to germs, and I’m absolutely certain that it’s the reason that when I get sick, I get properly sick. None of these 24 hour bugs or mild colds – if a germ is going to affect me it’s going to have to be a gargantuan germ with a posse of equally gargantuan friends.

I don’t want to make out like my Mum was negligent when it came to feeding her kids – we never ate anything that was spoilt. We just weren’t as picky about food freshness as most other people.

We quite often poke fun at Mum and her odd ideas on storing food. We tease her about her ‘Magical Oven’. The Magical Oven is just a regular 1970’s wall oven. Mum will put leftover pizza, still in the box, into the oven (switched off) and store it there overnight, rather than putting it in the fridge. It’s guaranteed good until lunchtime the next day a far as she’s concerned. The same magical oven storage properties apply to various other foods as well, all of which remain perfectly edible until the next day – so long as they’re stored in the Magical Oven.

It sounds pretty bad, but just like a little kid eating sand, this food hygiene thing seems only to have served to make us all stronger. I can’t say that I’ve carried on Mum’s particular special brand of food hygiene – there’s no Magical Oven in my house – but I have to respect that Use-By dates and the Magical Oven are all to thank for my abnormally (and wonderfully) low sensitivity to stomach bugs.

This entry is part of my ‘A-Z of Me’ Series. 26 Days of alphabetically ordered random crap about me and my life. You can read the rest here.


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