Written By Galen White
Prior to my divorce and when it came to meal preparation, I didn’t know the difference between sautéin’, charrin’, searin’, scorchin’, singein’, fryin’, burnin’, and blisterin’. I’ve learned a lot since then. Blisterin’ is caused when hot grease pops out onto your hand and raises a blister. As for the other’s, I still don’t know the difference, but I can guarantee I’ve done a little of all of ’em. (Mostly, the burnin’ and blisternin’!)
I didn’t know beans about food storage either. For a while, I fig’erd the best way to keep food from spoilin’ was to eat it. That always worked, but the resulting expenses in buying larger sized jeans and the increase in food consumption woulda bankrupted Bill Gates.
I was lucky, though, for it wasn’t long after my divorce that I ran across an article that contained some guidelines for folks like me. The article didn’t help me out on cookin’, but it sure made sense when it came to food storage. As a result and just in case you may be needin’ a little help, I’m passin’ on to you some of the secrets.
Milk is spoiled when it starts to look like yogurt. Yogurt is spoiled when it starts to look like cottage cheese. Cottage cheese is spoiled when it starts to look like regular cheese. And since regular cheese is spoiled milk anyway, if you can dig down and still find something that’s not green and not too hard to eat, then chow down!
If something begins peckin’ its way out of the shell, odds are that the egg is no longer fresh. It’s a safe bet that green eggs and ham are a definite no-no.
If you open your refrigerator door and stray animals begin congregatin’ around your house, it is probably a good idea to toss the meat in the garbage. And if you ain’t sure what that stuff is in those unmarked Tupperware containers, but are tempted to throw the containers away with the food, most likely it’s well beyond its prime.
A good rule of thumb when it comes to potatoes is this: Fresh potatoes do not have roots, branches, or dense, leafy undergrowth. Another clue is, if the soft, black-lookin’ mass with a green, grass-lookin’ substance growin’ on it is too soft to grab, take a hand saw, cut out the wooden board, and throw the shelf out with the remains of the potatoes.
Now, most folks think canned goods will keep forever. Ain’t so. When canned goods become the size or shape of a softball, they should be disposed of….disposed of very carefully, I might add. The condition of the can indicates the contents are as explosive as TNT.
Another commodity folks believe to last forever is cereal. However, cereal should be discarded when it is two years or more beyond the expiration date. I always toss mine when it no longer falls out of the box when turned upside down. A congealed, hard-as-a-brick mass that refused to budge can’t be good for you.
The only officially acceptable spots on the surface of a loaf of bread is sesame seeds, poppy seeds, and raisins. Fuzzy, hairy-lookin’, white, green, or black patches are good indications that your bread has turned into a laboratory experiment. And flour is spoiled when it wiggles, or things fly out when you open it.
Spices and salt are similar in the fact that they can last for eons, it seems. Spices may lose their flavor, but they will last on your shelf forever. Salt never spoils. However, I’ve learned that it’s easier to buy another box of salt rather than chip bits and pieces off the block.
Although I have my doubts, food producers and canning companies deny any truth to the conspiracy theory that expiration dates are a marketing ploy to encourage you to throw away perfectly good food so that you’ll spend more on groceries. Retailers do, however, move things around after your first visit so you will have to look at more items when searching for the item you came to the store lookin’ for in the first place!
Last, but certainly not least, is my time-honored, rule-of thumb, never-been-wrong, tried-and-proven, test for ruined food. Anything that makes you gag is probably spoiled. Toss it.
Other than that, bon appetite!
Galen White has written articles for several papers in North Louisiana and is now retired.