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Published on February 12th, 2014 | by Richard Black

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The Edible Game, How to Eat a Three Week Old Lasagna and the Dinty Moore Stew Incident of 1989

As I took a look at a questionable piece of cheese tucked in the back of the refrigerator today it occurred to me that I’ve never mentioned my penchant no, my obsession, with clearing out leftovers.

There are few tasks I perform these days that give me the sense of accomplishment I feel after eating my way through a three week old lasagna or tuna noodle casserole several days past its prime.

Generally speaking I don’t feel like I’m doing my part for the family if I don’t come down with food poisoning four or five times a year. My wife thinks I’m nuts but it’s really just my way of stretching the family budget so that we can afford the finer things in life like electricity, heat, shoes and alcohol.

I call it “The Edible Game” a name that belies the depths of my disorder and has its roots, way back when,as a young tot  in the 1970’s.

If I’ve learned one thing from growing up during the 1970’s oil crisis it’s that our nation must minimize our dependence on foreign oil.

If I’ve learned more than one thing from those dark days it would be that shag carpet hides most bodily fluids and if I’ve learned three things from that experience it would be that food should never be thrown away unless it is in an advanced state of decomposition. Even then it’s probably best to wait a few days just to be certain.

Regarding my stance on the proper length of time foodstuffs should be stored and eaten I blame my father. Someone has to and it might as well be me.

My old man has always been thrifty.

He’d cheerfully buy three cans of okra on sale at the store for the price of one despite the fact that no one in the family could stomach okra, including himself. Still he wasn’t the type to linger around the “Buyer Beware” cart at the end of the dairy section, the one with bulging cans of potted meat products and pearl onions that expired a few years prior to the Iran Contra scandal.

Once anything from the store came home from the store it was going to be consumed.

“A sell-by date is just a suggestion,” I can hear him say after I questioned his decision to open a can of baked beans that was noticeably unstable and ready to Pompeii us with ptomaine.

“It’s why it’s called a ‘Sell-By’ date,” he’d always say, “It’s still good for a few days after that. I ate tins of food in Vietnam that were leftover from the first world war.  Anything in a can is good to eat for fifty years. No one dies from food these days,” I remember him saying after my third trip to the toilet,  “You probably just picked up some bug at school.”

My stepmother was usually in charge of family meals and vehemently opposed to my father’s pathological urge to serve questionable foodstuffs but she was not always around to curb his culinary enthusiasm.

One event  my brothers and sisters will take to the grave involved a few giant cans of Dinty Moore stew with some canned and stewed beets thrown in for good measure.

Up until that point I’d always considered the giant Tommy Gun Magazine sized drums of Dinty Moore stew to be a meal of last resort like the shoe leather sailors would eat when they’d depleted all other sources of nutrition.

The old man thought otherwise.

“1979 was a fine year for Dinty Moore stew,” I can hear him say as if the ancient cans of carrots and petrified beef were akin to a fine Cabernet, “One of the best.”

“Beets never got better after 1965,” he whispered conspiratorially to me as I watched, in horror, as he opened up a few cans of beets and dumped them into the pot.

The alarmingly purple concoction was meant to serve seven and it did, but only because no one had the stomach, or a gun, to put it down. Our toilet, one shared by six children, was stained with a truly startling shade of violet shortly thereafter and remains a deep shade of crimson to this day.

I like to think that I’ve developed a more complex palate than my father but the truth is that I haven’t.  Every once in a while my wife will open up the fridge and throw out
wrinkled carrots, wilted heads of lettuce and a casserole in the freezer that last saw the light of day during Obama’s first term in office.

“I was going to eat that,” I say, prompting my wife to turn around and give me a look one would give a retarded midget without a helmet.

I’ve been on a streak recently and haven’t been laid low by e. coli for a good six months or so and didn’t want to break it .  I took down a beef stroganoff  in the freezer last month with nary a burp and there’s a Chicken Parmesan from the Clinton years I mean to do in as well.

I’ll let you all know how it goes.

 

 

 


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