“Yes, you’ve told me to stop doing it.”
“How long would you say I’ve been asking you not to do it?”
I gave it some thought. “About forty years.”
Her lips tightened into a line. “You really are a slow learner.”
Mrs. Chatterbox and I are usually sympatico—Tweedledee and Tweedledum joined together at the hip—but on this we’re worlds apart, hostiles on opposite sides of the Neutral Zone. My blood sugar was dropping and I wasn’t in the mood for battle. I chose my words carefully. “I’d think that after forty years you’d catch on that no matter how much you nag me I’m going to sniff the milk in the fridge before I pour it on my cereal.”
“It disgusts me to see you sniffing the milk carton.”
I considered listing a few things she does that disgust me, but decided it best to keep those worms in the can. Besides, that was a battle I couldn’t hope to win—I have quite a few disgusting habits. “I don’t want to pour sour milk on my cereal and have to pour it all down the garbage disposal. I hate the taste of sour milk.”
She sighed the sigh only the wife of a truly stubborn man can sigh. “Just check the expiration date.”
This was the battle cry that had launched our Forty Year War; it had little to do with me sniffing the milk carton and everything to do with her desire to convert me to her philosophy of expiration dates. She rose from the barstool and walked over to the fridge, where I’d returned the sniffed milk after deeming it worthy of my cereal. She checked the date on the carton. “This expired yesterday,” she said smugly. “That’s why I bought a fresh carton yesterday at the store.”
“If you didn’t want me sniffing the milk, you could have thrown it out yesterday when you brought home the new.”
She spoke slowly, as if explaining God to a toddler. “Yesterday, Sweetie, the date hadn’t yet expired.”
I hadn’t seen the new carton because, like most guys, I suffer from refrigerator blindness; only humans with uteri can find things in the fridge. It’s a scientific fact that uteri function like tracking devices, making it easier for women to find things. Not that I would have chosen the new carton had I been able to locate it lurking behind the pulpless orange juice. I would have chosen the old one because I don’t believe in expiration dates. Why throw out perfectly good milk just because of a number stamped on the carton? I sniffed the milk and it was fine. A cow gave its all for this milk and I wasn’t going to pour it down the drain until it plopped out of the carton in congealed, semi-solid form.
For years we’d gone round and round on this business of expiration dates. I’m of the opinion that the date alerts supermarket personnel that the product shouldn’t be sold after this date; Mrs. Chatterbox believes it shouldn’t be consumed after this date.
Several times I’ve asked store employees to weigh in on this. They should know, right? They always side with me. But this isn’t good enough for Mrs. C., who I suspect has climbed out of bed to toss out groceries whose dates expired at midnight. It’s a good thing there isn’t an expiration date on our wedding license or I could now be reeking of
curdled milk while living in a Dumpster.
So how does it work in your family: does the product expiration date mean the store should no longer be selling the item, or does it mean it’s no longer safe to consume it?
Note: today is Mrs. C’s birthday and it’s a momentous one. I expect most of you to side with her on the above question, so this will be my first birthday gift of the day to her.