My mother - who is in her 80's (she'd love me for telling you that) just can't seem to get the hang of sell by dates. Whenever we go to her house I am always cringing at the age of some of the food she serves up. She isn't too bad with the things that I suppose really matter like meat and stuff - perhaps only a few days out - but there lurking at the back of her cupbaord will be some hoarded treasure which she decides to bring out at our family get togethers.
Yesterday there were 20 of us for Sunday lunch. Her nephew and his wife had come over to stay from Spain. So she had invited his cousins (me and my brothers) along with assorted aunts and uncles. As the dutiful daughter I was helping in the kitchen. She asked me to assemble an Eton Mess (strawberries, cream and meringue).
Even my limited culinary skills can't go too wrong there. Only problem was the meringues had a 'use by date' of July 2004. When I pointed this out she started muttering about stupid sell by dates etc etc. Anxious not to cause an international incident I checked for signs of mould and made the pudding. It tasted fine. No-one has been ill. Why then say 'use by July 2004'? Is it a ploy to get us to purge our cupboards and then buy more stuff?
I must admit to being a bit of a slave to the date - I do regularly chuck things out when I think they are past their best. But perhaps these things past their prime could be some of the friendly bacteria we hear so much about??