Food Storage Part 1- Spoilage
By Richard Bogath
Food Storage – You gonna eat that?
I’m not necessarily asking if you’re going to finish your meal because I’m still hungry, I’m asking if the food in front of you is actually safe to eat? Or that knife you’re using to cut up that game meat you took last week—is it clean enough to be using for that purpose? How about the water from that jug of a questionable color—safe to drink?
If ever the uncertainty arises regarding something you are about to consume or allow in any way to enter your body, logic tells us to err on the side of caution and toss it if there’s the slightest doubt, right? Who wants to take the chance on sitting on the throne for hours and hours or worse, offering multiples of the kneeling chum-scream into the porcelain waste-well? Not me.
Of course… that’s a very first-world attitude taken toward a very third-world problem. Hunger changes people, and fast. Can we really say that opening the fridge and “grabbing a fresh one” would even be an option?
The many levels of “spoiled”
By the standards of 2015 America, the determination of “spoiled” is usually made by a date stamped on a product indicating “sell by” or “use by”. We see them all the time. Heck, if you are located in New York City, you’ll even see milk labeled; “Sell by XX/XX/XX date, but if in NYC sell by xx/xx/xx with a date usually a week shorter than the first sell by date. Does this mean that milk somehow spoils faster in the big apple? Weird, right?
Truth be told, those dates that you see on all your food packaging and containers is simply a suggested reference date that is required by law to be put on all consumables including medication and personal care products. Even your toothpaste has a sell-by date. but if we move a day or two past this date, does this mean that our consumable has somehow turned gangrenous? That sipping milk a day beyond the “expiration” will send us lurching to the potty? As I’m sure you’ve surmised by my level of snark, the answer to this is no. The tender tummies of the American populace is very much used to being told what to do and when to do it, and thus our government suggests to us what is good one day and worriedly tells us what will kill is the next day.
So can you drink the slightly sour milk? Eat the bread with the subtle white/green fuzz developing at the crust? Eat the eggs with the subtly growing void of gaseous bacteria as they get older. Sure you can. Can we get sick from it?
And there, my friends, lies the rub. Spoilage is determined by how much bacteria is living and growing on the food. it’s only a matter of time before they consume enough of it to make you notice or make you sick.
Cooking with uncertainty
Not everything has to be funneled into the narrow view of the ultimate SHTF scenario. It’s not always about the government-turned-against-the people, the alien invasion or the zombie apocalypse. Sometimes it’s just about having less than you’re used to. Those of us whom have endured a hurricane, tornado, typhoon or typhoid know what this means. Sometimes, you just have to made due with less and be creative in doing so. As I have said, most of the time our expiration dates are more of a suggestion or a call to attention rather than hard fact of spoilage, but that doesn’t mean we throw caution to the wind and shove it in our gullet.
When it doubt—marinate it.
When extra in doubt—cook it immediately.
In part 2 we will dive into what you should do when you’re not sure what that is (marinades) and 5 uncommon Preservation methods.