Are Expiration Dates Real?

Typically, I look at expiration dates on food with a skeptical eye. It’s always been my opinion that these dates are determined by a person with very thick glasses who toils in a the basement of some government building in Salem. Or maybe Portland. There’s no science involved, just a guess based on this person’s current state of mind.

Complicating these dates is the fact that my bride, Diane, is famous for saving money at the store by frequenting what she calls the Ding and Dent aisle. Each kind of food has it’s own area for Ding and Dent sales. She gets Ding and Dent cake, Ding and Dent steaks, and Ding and Dent Half & Half, to name just a few. Sometimes she gets Ding and Dent vegetables, too.

Ding and Dent items are generally placed on sale because their Expiration Date is getting close, or has already passed. Since most of the Ding and Dent food gets cooked, there’s no danger of catching some catastrophic ailment by ignoring that date.

Until now …

I ran out of Half & Half a couple of weeks ago so I put it on the shopping list. I find it necessary to put a lot of H&H in my morning coffee to make it taste better. This is necessary to help erase the memory of many days aboard ships and various military bases where I didn’t have time to doctor the brew, drinking it black. I kept my cup topped off all day long. It kind of leaves an after taste that last for years.

The next trip to the store Diane found this…

She bought 4 of them. Little tiny pints for 50% off making them cost a paltry 25 cents after using a few coupons she normally has in her purse. Although the stamped date is labeled “Sell By”, it’s really an Expiration Date.

The photo is of the 4th pint as I drained the other 3. Number 4 was opened this morning and I poured a little of it into my cup in a dimly lit kitchen so as not to wake anyone. I drank that cup of coffee with no concern and it seemed to be fine.

When I got around to pouring my second cup it was full daylight and adding the H&H to my cup made the lumpy mess exiting the container quite apparent. To confirm my suspicion, I poured the remainder into the kitchen sink and saw that it was indeed lumpy. I did that because Diane was watching and would have objected had I capped it and put it back in the fridge. But it didn’t really smell bad so I figured that had I shaken the container it would have been just fine. The Expiration Date was only 8 days prior, right?

So, as I sit here waiting for my bowels to go on alert to explosively expel my first cup of coffee, which probably won’t happen until we’re in church, the “Lesson Learned” from this is that I should shake the heck out of these things before opening them, and prior to each use, to liquify those lumps and integrate them into the surrounding fluid thereby eliminating the threat of gastric issues. I’m pretty sure it was OK and I’m a little worry that I poured it out. It just looked really bad and we all know looks can be deceiving.

dot dot dot dot

It’s much later now and I can share that I safely made it all the way through church, retaining that first cup of tainted coffee. All I have now is the memory of the lumpy mess glopping out of that container. Perhaps I’ll just start drinking my coffee black again.

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