Taking Stock - December 12, 2011

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WHAT’S lurking in your kitchen cupboards?

These days we’re all worrying about what we eat, whether it be counting the calories or just making sure we’re not going to make ourselves ill.

But, I’ll guarantee somewhere, lurking in the deepest, darkest depths of your larder there’s a mysterious box, tin or packet.

It might be missing a label.

Maybe it’s a supermarket impulse buy or an one-time purchase to test out the latest food fad.

But it will be there and the chances are it’s well past its best before date.

In the past I’ve been foolish enough to attempted opening one of these cupboard horrors, but not once has one made it anywhere near the pan, never mind my mouth.

At other people’s homes I’ve not been quite so fortunate.

From a jar of salsa (which released an interesting cloud of spores when opened) to mustard powder (best before 1997, which actually made it from the cupboard to my plate), through any number of interestingly coloured or furry items in the fridges of friends and relatives, I’ve seen my share of foods which almost certainly pose a danger to public health.

But how do we lose track of our most exotic food stocks?

I can understand tins and jars.

They go in the cupboard, you forget about them, they gradually make their way to the front (possibly by walking) and all of a sudden you’re looking at jam which may, or may not, contain the secret to eternal life (or more likely a swift trip to the Vic).

But fresh produce – really there’s no excuse.

For a start, it never hurts to make sure you’re buying something which is going to last.

I’ll never just grab a loaf at the shop.

Instead, I’ll go rummaging through the shelves until I find the new ones, hidden at the back, with one extra day of life in them.

Not that, with three children, it’s ever going to last that long – it’s the principle.

Those shelf stackers are sneaky types, trying to outwit us through the cunning positioning of old toastie loaves, but the savvy shopper knows better

As for cheese, I know that has to be eaten quickly – after all, just because something starts off with mould on, or in it, doesn’t mean it should be allowed to grow more.

And meat – well, that’s a no brainer.

Unless of course, you don’t read the fine print.

That’s how My Good Wife ended up eating pate which had been open for a good fortnight.

“It doesn’t go out of date until January,” she argued, having failed to notice the consume within two days rule, tucked away in the kind of tiny writing which used to be reserved for eastern block spies.

Thankfully there were no ill effects from her disobedience of the best before rules, but she’s learned her lesson.

Maybe now I should be playing my part.

It’s time to dive into those cupboards and unearth the monsters lurking within.

I need to dig out those boxes, tins, jars and packets which for too long have been lurking in the shadows, trying to avoid my gaze.

I’m not going to do this, you understand, in a bid to ascertain the contents or check those vital dates.

No, time is up for those products that dwell in the dark corners of the kitchen – they have had their day.

After all, if they haven’t been eaten by now, in date or not, I can pretty much guarantee they’re never going to get eaten.

That way, the next time friends call, or My Good Wife gets peckish, at least I don’t have any nasty surprises in store.