Saturday, April 16, 2011

Spring Cleaning

If you live in the northeast you already know that spring is very slow to arrive this year. We have had some teaser days but the cold, wet weather just won't let go. Nothing like a dreary day to get one to start cleaning out the closets.

There has been a lot of coverage in the local News lately about food expiration dates.
Apparently the Boston public schools have been trying to pass off frozen meat and cheese that expired back in 2009. When bad things happen to good food discusses how far one can push the limit on expiration dates. Not being in the mood to rummage through a cold refrigerator or it is already pretty cold in the house....I opted for taking a look at my extensive collection of spices and flavorings.

Although I seriously doubt expired spices will harm anyone they will certainly lose their effectiveness after a period of time. I agree with the quoted experts from the The Boston Globe article that "Best If Used By tells you the date recommended for best flavor or quality..." and I tend to use spices well beyond their expiration dates I also struggle with how long is how long. One has to wonder just how helpful a spice can be to taste and flavor if it has lost its potency. It almost is like...why bother.

So, I started to weed out the bottles, lining them up by just how long past expiration they were and using a magnifying glass to seek out a date. I discovered that I had a lot of VERY old containers. You know you are in trouble if you are wiping dust off the top. How did I end up with so many aged spice containers?

A change in cooking style.

Some of the spices were close to 10 year old. Used back when the kids were young and picky eaters. I was happy to just get a meal on the table that was hot and tempting. A number of the spices where also from holiday baking times. Back when Thanksgiving was a bigger adventure than it is now. And, back when I rarely opted for fresh herbs and spices.

Good news is that I no longer need to keep as many dried spices on hand. Our meals are simpler and our herbs and spices are fresh, not dried.

So, the ones in the bowl were tossed and the ones in the box were kept. Can't quite get rid of everything....but it was a good start.