A reality based independent journal of observation & analysis, serving the Flathead Valley & Montana since 2006. © James Conner.

17 February 2017

Friday food notes


Just say “No” to “well Yes!” Soups. I’m both a soup and sandwich for lunch man, and a culinary conservative with a narrow pallet. Sometimes I experiment, but I’m never fool enough to eat more than a spoonful of a mistake. My latest mistake? Buying Campbell’s new well Yes! Minestrone with Kale Soup. Yes, it contains ditalini pasta, which fits well in a spoon, and kale, a leaf cabbage that currently has enormous snob value. But it’s short on salt, and even after I added salt had a taste I do not wish to encounter again. The recipe for this liquid may have originated in the marketing department. My verdict? Do I like the soup? Well, No!

Food waste scolds welcome “use by” date “reform.” When a package of broccoli florets is stamped with “Use by Feb. 11,” I interpret “use by” as meaning cook and consume by 11 February or risk a godawful case of food poisoning. My interpretation of “Best if used by Feb. 11, 2018,” is that using it after that date will leave a foul taste in my mouth, and may make my stomach feel as though it’s filled with jumping beans. Therefore, for my own safety’s sake, I treat both dates as “throw out after” dates.

In the eyes of the food waste scolds, that makes me a food waster, an immoral, overly fastidious, selfish, contributor to world hunger whose excessive concern for my own well being results in little children in the inner city or India being denied vital victuals. And not only does it make me a food waster, it makes me a methane generator who helps warm the globe and raise the level of the sea, thereby ensuring that the malnourished who don’t starve to death will drown because I tried to save myself from botulism.

At Think Progress, a website notorious for sanctimonious screeds on food waste, Natasha Geiling writes:

A study conducted by the Harvard Food Law and Policy Clinic, the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future, and the National Consumers League, which surveyed 1,000 American consumers, found that a more than a third of consumers consistently throw away food that is close to or past its labeled expiration date, despite the fact that there is no federally regulated standard for what these labels actually mean. Far from being a hard-and-fast cut-off date for food safety, expiration labels are mainly the manufacturers best guess for when the product is at peak quality — some food products can least a year or year and a half past their marked “expiration date.”

“Millions of Americans are tossing perfectly good food in the trash because they think it’s not safe to eat after the date on the package,” Dana Gunders, senior scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council, and author of the Waste-Free Kitchen Handbook, said in a statement. “This is a critical step toward clearing up the confusion and stopping all of that food, money, water and energy from going to waste.”

Food waste is a huge problem in the United States — around 40 percent of the food produced in this country ends up in landfills, where it decomposes and releases methane, a potent greenhouse gas. Last year, in an effort to curb food waste through legislation, Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-ME) introduced the Food Date Labeling Act, which would have set a national standard for expiration labels, and required labels to clearly distinguish between when food reaches peak quality, and when it becomes unsafe to eat.

I’m all for federally mandated, science based, food labeling that helps consumers better judge when food should be considered spoiled. But the day when that happens will be so far in the future that I may be dead. Therefore, until then I shall continue to consider “Use by” as meaning “No damn good after.” To save my southern exposure, I’ll risk raising the sea and lowering the starving into their graves. If you find my attitude horrifying, know that scolding won’t shame me into swallowing evil microbes, but it may provoke a salty and scalding response.