The pot of death

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.


Gillian said…
I have on rare occasions used one of my own sideplates for serving something to the cats, which then gets properly washed. On the whole, I stick firmly to the principle that they have their own dishes and I have mine.
On the other hand, I don't stick religiously to sell by and best before dates. I much prefer to rely on my own senses to tell if something's safe, and I don't seem to come to any harm. If there's just a few specks of mould on the bread or cheese, I pick or cut it off. Unfortuntely, I made a sandwich for a friend a couple of weeks back, without spotting the little flecks of green on the crust. Fortunately she did notice the mould - she wasn't bothered about the mould per se, but only because she's strongly allergic to penicillin. She still ate the ham though.
Jane Badger said…
Gillian - oops! I must admit I have more qualms about letting the cat lick the plates than I do the dog, but goodness knows why. Hsband is the other way round, possibly as cat is more likely to steal things delicately from the plate and disappear, rather than give it a wholesale drenching.

I agree with you: I think it's a matter of relying on your own senses and indeed sense when it comes to food.
Gillian said…
A friend of mine has a theory of 'clean dirt'. If you've washed up a plate, with hot water and washing up liquid, and subsequently find a bit of food stuck on it that you missed- that's 'clean dirt'. After all, that little speck of gravy's been thoroughly washed, so it's not going to do you any harm.

His wife has had a hard time getting to grips with this concept.
Jane Badger said…
Ah, yes. My sister, parents and many of my friends seem to have the same approach to washing up but this is where I suddenly develop Standards. I like things, when I have washed them up, to be clean.
Vanessa said…
Magnus is (touch wood) a very robust child who has always had a lot less sniffles and bugs than his classmates and I think that this is testament to my poor housekeeping skills, patchy attention to handwashing and having animals at home. Some of his wheezing, snotty friends live in the most immacualate homes, Dettoxed and Jiffed to within an inch and I'm sure a few germs would do them the world of good.

We don't let the dog lick the plates though... Mind you, Madam is having a picky phase so probably wouldn't touch it. our previous Lab would have eaten the plates themselves if he could have.
Jane Badger said…
Vanessa - I don't let the dog have the plates either. She thinks this is a Bad Thing. Whether I will revert to letting dogs lick plates when I am a batty old woman living on my own (was it you who said one should be wearing purple at this stage?)I do not know.

I'm sure Magnus is, like my two, robust because of the careful attention we have given to their immune systems.

And a message to all: Vanessa is an ace washer-up! Wonder why we both have Standards about that?

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