There are two types of people in a marriage. Those who heed food expiration dates and those who disregard them.
One of the laws of the universe is that an expiration heeder (EH) always marries an expiration disregarder (ED…not to be confused with erectile dysfunction). EH’s and ED’s tend to argue about these dates. EH’s find themselves secretly throwing away food (and stuffing it way down in the bottom of the trash can so that their ED partner will not see it) in an effort to save their family from the pain and suffering of botulism. ED’s make a fuss about wasted food and money and talk about how expiration dates are not real and the food is still good.
My name is Matt, and I’m an EH. My wife is Allison, and she’s most definitely an ED. We have spirited discussions about our food perceptions and the potential lack of safety of various foods that have occupied our fridge for some length of time. Who is right?
There are variables that muddy the picture. Some of the time, food is clearly marked as having an expiration date. EH’s love this. It is clear and concise and tells you the exact moment an egg becomes fraught with danger. ED’s do not like this, as they wish not to be told by anyone when a food has reached the disgusting point. ED’s much prefer their food to say either, “Best before” or “Sell by” dates. This gives them the leeway they crave. ED’s believe that eggs, for example, are still good weeks after the “Best before” date. Apparently they are satisfied eating a egg that is “not at its best” but is still probably not going to kill you. EH’s wish that manufacturers would just grow some cojones and put a definitive date on the things. If you give an ED an food inch, they’ll take a mile.
Here’s when things really get fun. Sometimes, an egg carton with have only a date with no words. This, of course, is interpreted by EH’s as a strict “Expires by” date while ED’s believe this to clearly be a “Sell by” date. In these situations, separate vacations may be needed to help cool things off.
Well, I was faced with an interesting spin on this whole food thing last weekend when we were dog-sitting for our neighbors, who had gone out of town. On Saturday morning, my toddler made it clear to me that she would eat an egg for breakfast, and ONLY an egg. This was a small problem. We were out of eggs. After trying to tempt her with a variety of edibles that we actually had in the house, such as cereal, hash browns, waffles, pancakes, etc, she reiterated that she would not even consider eating anything other than an oval thing that comes out of a chicken.
The easy solution hit me! Our neighbors were gone, and we have a key to their house in case of emergency, such as needing an egg! Surely they had them. I wouldn’t have to make a quick trip to the store in my sweatpants (many of you know what happened the last time I tried that.)
I made my way over there, whistling a happy egg and toddler tune. In no time, I’d have a yummy scrambled egg whipped up, and no more would I have to listen to the early-morning screams of “I DON’T WANT A WAFFLE!! IT’S YUCKY!!!”
I entered their abandoned abode and went directly to the fridge. I opened it, and *GASP* I was immediately faced with a dilemma. They had two egg cartons. There were four eggs remaining in the first carton, and they had an expiration date (that’s right EXPIRATION, not BEST BEFORE, at least in my opinion) of a few days prior. Since I am an upstanding EH who cares about preventing food poisoning in my only child, I could not take one of those eggs. The problem, however, is that the second carton, with a beautiful expiration date well into the future, was full. If I took one from that carton while a few eggs remained in the top carton, it would be obvious at some point to my neighbors that one had been used, which could lead to a case of mistaken identity and a huge fight.
I know my neighbors well, and I am certain that one of them is an EH while the other is an ED. Once one of them realized that an egg had been used from the bottom carton, either the ED would be angry with the EH for not using one of the older, “still-good” eggs, OR the EH would be angry with the ED for being a hypocrite and taking one of the EH’s new eggs after endlessly preaching that expiration dates were for fools.
I like my neighbors, and I could not be the cause of marital discontent. I stood there, with the fridge door open (I can picture my parents in heaven admonishing me for letting all the cold air out.) What was I to do? I closed the fridge and decided I was going to have to mull this situation over for a bit. While thinking, I did what anyone would do. I walked about the house eating some of their potato chips, found some old love letters my neighbors had written to each other (they were buried at the bottom of one of their closets), plopped down on their couch, put my feet up on their coffee table, and started reading. At some point during an “I miss you so much” letter, the solution finally came to me! I would just take the whole, full egg carton home, go the grocery later that day, and give them a whole new egg carton before they ever got home. That way, my toddler would get her much-needed and completely safe egg. We would have all the eggs we might need that day. My neighbors would have an even newer dozen of eggs to go along with their decrepit, expired partial carton, and they could work out what to do with the 4 rotten eggs themselves!
Satisfied with my decision, I stuffed a few of the love letters in my pocket, brushed the chip crumbs off my shirt, grabbed the unspoiled dozen eggs, and headed home. They’ll never even know how I saved them from an argument. Man, I’m the best neighbor ever.
p.s. My kid didn’t want the egg once I had made it.