This post is not for the squeamish. Scroll on, scroll on - click down to the post on Jill if rot and decay worry you.
Yesterday I read something, somewhere (could have sworn it was in The Times, but I can't find it now) about masses of food being thrown out because it is after its sell-by date, even stuff like apples. I guess it might be the way I was brought up, but I've always taken sell-by dates on some things to be purely advisory. Chicken, meat and fish I am very nervous of going over the sell by on and generally don't, and I don't visit our sell by horrors on visitors, but isn't when to eat an apple just common sense? If an apple is still firm and unblemished, it's fine to eat. And even if it's started to go squishy, it will still make apple pie. If it's beyond that, the dog will eat it.
My grandmother had a very robust attitude to food safety. "Got to eat a peck of dirt afore you die," she'd say, as my sister and I dropped yet another biscuit on the floor, dusted it down, and ate it. Mum did make sporadic protests (generally if there was a visitor) but otherwise we went on our foul, Medieaval way. We were fervent users of dog pre-wash for the dinner plates. It wasn't until a friend came for tea when I was in the sixth form, and reported back to the common room the next day: "In Jane's house, THEY LET THE DOGS LICK THE PLATES!" that I realised not everyone did this. Blimey, I thought, haven't we all got precious all of a sudden, remembering a time at Junior School when we'd had someone in to talk to us about not eating food that had fallen on the floor, and other vital matters of hygiene. I can remember the sullen silence that fell, and the universal thought waves of "Oh yeah?" that shimmered about the room at that one. The trick was not to let an adult see you do it. We obviously had extremely robust immune systems in 1960s Northamptonshire.
I'm pretty certain I've eaten much, much more than a peck of dirt in my time. Which child who spent their lives at the stables could say, hand on heart, with the perfect ring of truth, "OF COURSE I wash my hands after I've mucked out and before I eat my dinner?"
The dogs aren't allowed to lick the plates now that I have a husband who came from a better class of gutter. It is one of those wifely compromises I felt I had to make. I work though on the principle that what he doesn't see won't hurt him, and the number of tired vegetables and cheese with the mould cut off that he has eaten, and enjoyed, would I think give him pause for thought (slight dribble of concern there - am I giving myself away? But he doesn't generally read this. I think I am safe.)
He is outnumbered anyway, as our children take a certain quiet pride in our cast-iron digestions and the family's insouciant attitude to the sell by date. They have tackled the pot of death: the double cream that was way over the sell by but still smelled fine. And they survived. I feel a glow of maternal satisfaction that, on my son's year 9 French trip, all about him fell puking by the wayside after eating some pretty dubious chicken, but my son? Untouched. Whatever else I have failed in (and I think both children would argue coherently and with passion that I have a lot of deficiencies as a parent) I've given them darn fine immune systems.