Friday, May 1, 2015

Adventures in Food

     The other day my daughter called me for advice. This happens less often than you might think – she’s a very capable and self-sufficient adult, something I’m grateful for since I’ve never felt like much of a fount of wisdom.

          It seems her refrigerator was on the blink, and she’d had to move all the food from the upstairs fridge to the one they – thankfully – had in the basement. This event coincided with a major trip to Costco, the ultimate big box store for everything, where you can only buy toilet paper in hassock-sized units, and butter in four-pound blocks.

          My three grandsons had formed a brigade of food transportation, helpfully carrying the purchases from the minivan and then down to the working fridge. Somehow there was enough room for both the upstairs food and the bounty from Costco. Excellent.

That is until the next day when she went downstairs for milk and discovered that someone (or that mysterious person from her own childhood, somebie, a close relative of not me) had failed to close the refrigerator door.

          The night before.

          So there I was on the phone, 200 miles away, weighing the risks of semi-thawed chicken legs and room-temperature yogurt. Not too taxing, since I wasn’t the one who would be eating it, but then again, I didn’t want my advice to be the factor that wiped an entire branch of the family.

          And I’m probably not the best person for the job. When in doubt, I just check the smell of things instead of their expiration date, operating under the theory that big food companies have really planned on a few days of wiggle room in those dates they print on milk jugs and hot dog labels.

          There are some people who are less flexible about food; they refuse to eat leftovers and become short of breath at the sight of anything unfamiliar on their plate. But then my parents were foodies long before anyone knew what that meant.

          Sunday morning at our house usually included grilled kidneys or maybe kippers and eggs. My annual request for my birthday dinner was always lamb curry with the accompanying sambals of crumbled bacon, chopped peanuts, and chutney.

          My southern heritage added ham hocks and collard greens, or steak with red eye gravy like my grandfather would make when he was out checking the oil wells in Oklahoma. Fried chicken meant that my sister and I always received our favorite giblet – the heart for me, the liver for her. And then we had our own family quirks, like peanut butter, mayonnaise and lettuce sandwiches. (Try it. You might be pleasantly surprised. Just remember to use iceberg lettuce for the crunch.)

          I spoke with my daughter a few days later and she didn’t mention any midnight runs to the emergency room, and stomach pumping didn’t come up once in our conversation, so I guess the crisis was averted in spite of my help.  


  1. I've had this happen a few times. I am a stickler about the 2 hour safety rule...but I tend to feel the containers of anything that might be dangerous after 2 hours. If it's still cool to the touch, I don't worry. If it's not cool...I discard. Better safe than sorry, in my mind. That said, my in laws have no problem cooking a holiday turkey first thing in the morning, and leaving it on the counter for hours before we eat. I tend to NOT eat the meat on those occasions, rather than make a fuss. None of them have died, but... LOL

    1. eww. That would make me concentrate on the vegetable portion of the evening for sure.

  2. Throw a slice of bologna on that pb/mayo/lettuce sandwich and you'll have one of the hubs all time favourites.

  3. I enjoyed reading this, like everything you write! When I was a child, back before there were expiration dates, we went by how something looked or smelled. If the bologna had mold or had turned green we threw it out.

  4. I think your smell test is currently recommended. There is lots of wiggle room in expiration dates. Guess it should also work on food that has lost its cool. Glad no one got sick.

  5. What a disaster. A friend grew up on a farm where use by dates were not yet invented. To this day her mother eats leftovers she has to shift the mold from. My friend figures her mother is 98 because she's become immune to every bacteria that can possibly grow in a refrigerator.

  6. I'm glad it all turned out well. I tend to think that the surrounding foods being cool would have helped to keep everything from going bad overnight. Somebody (smile) is hoping they don't get in trouble for this. Now that's two: the original fridge going out and then the door being left open. What's the third one? :-)

  7. Semi thawed chicken legs? finish thawing and cook them. Then they can be refrozen or eaten. Room temperature yoghurt can be added to a curry sauce, which can then be frozen or used to make a cake, I have several cake recipes which use yoghurt. Refreezing things generally depends on the item and how far the thawing process has progressed. In the case of partially thawed chicken, never refreeze without cooking the chicken first.
    Glad things worked out okay with no food poisoning episodes.

  8. Our refrigerator went out last fall and we had no spare, couldn't get a new one delivered for almost a week. Used ice chests, cooked the chicken and ate some each day. Still ended up throwing away more food than we wanted to.

  9. Yeah, I pretty much go by smell myself. Unless I'm pregnant. Then I can't trust the old sniffer at all! Fortunately it's been 26 years since that happened. We're safe.

  10. I remember my parents eating kidneys. They never shared with the kids.

  11. I think any packages that were sealed -- especially dairy products, and certainly bread and produce -- would probably have been fine. Chicken might be a little dicey, depending on how warm it got. But it sounds like she sorted it all out, so good for her!

  12. Keep the hot food hot and the cold food cold. Room temperature meat is not good.. I think all refrigerators should come with door ajar alarms. I am realy picky about what I eat ...especially at Picnics:)


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