Expiration dates or use-by dates

Expiration dates or use-by dates appear on almost everything we use regularly. Food, cosmetics, cleaning products, medications. Even cans of food and herbs and spices display dates.https://maureenhelen.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/Check-those-dates.png

Even the ‘fresh’ flowers in the shops near our apartment in Subiaco now show a ‘display-by date’.

When it comes to the food that lines the outside walls of most of our supermarkets, expiration dates matter. People no longer shop every day and so we need to know how long we have before we must eat our fresh fruit and vegetables, meat, dairy, frozen foods.

How times have changed! When I was a child, keeping food cool in temperatures that often reached 36 degrees Celsius challenged everyone. Our family didn’t have a refrigerator. Albert Einstein patented the first electric refrigerator in 1930, seven years before I was born.

We did have a Coolgardie safe, though, an amazing construction of  metal, fly-wire and hessian. Water dripping over the hessian kept food cool, most of the time. It lived on the back verandah.

I remember my mother crying one day because ants had invaded the safe and spoiled the food. Again. Her solution: put the legs of the safe into jam tins half filled with water. Perhaps the ants couldn’t swim?

We also had an ice chest, a more solid cupboard with a zinc-lined compartment on toin which to keep ice. The ice-man came to our street every second day and my mother ran out to buy her block of ice to keep the butter and milk cool.

https://maureenhelen.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/no-expiration-dates-ice-chest.jpg

Courtesy of Victoria Museum Australia

No expiration dates needed

The baker delivered fresh bread in North Perth where we lived. A fishmonger came once a week. The milkman left our milk in a billy-can near the letterbox before we woke in the morning. They all used carts drawn by docile draft horses to ply their wares. Women with babies in their arms and toddlers at their feet, met these delivery men, and each other in the street.

My mother also walked to the shop every day, rain, hail or scorching temperatures, to buy the meat that we ate every day except Fridays. Fridays were fish days in our family. Every single week. Meat featured strongly in our menus then. ‘Meat-and-three-veg’ was the standard evening meal. None of that vegetarian stuff. Did we even know the word?

This is a fun blog, in response to the  Weekly Prompt: expiration dates. If you would like to take part, click on the link in the previous sentence and follow the instructions

I would love to hear your memories of childhood food buying and storage. Please share in a comment.

11 thoughts on “Expiration dates or use-by dates

  1. Oh yes, they were the days. My brothers and i would run after the Ice Man and excitingly pick up bits of ice that fell to the road – we had ICE BLOCKS!! My mother would make attempts to make ice cream and store in the ice chest – exactly like the one pictured in your blog – not much success. But lo and behold, one magic day we got a REFRIGERATOR! Mum’s ice cream was a lot better.

    I also remember a guy coming along regularly to do something with the clothes line? Cannot recall exactly what he did – possibly because I tried to avoid doing anything with the clothes line – reckoned my brothers should have a turn of hanging out the clothes.

    Friday night – definitely fish and chips. Or some rice dish. Of course, Catholics in those olden days were not allowed to eat mean on Friday. Big sin if we did.

    Always love your blogs Maureen – keep it up.

    • Lovely memories, Elizabeth. Don’t think I like the idea of ice from our streets – the horses had a tendency to do very unsociable things on the road, and the men used to sweep up the droppings after them. I don’t remember our first fridge, but I do remember my mother’s rock hard ice cream if she forgot to beat it before it set regularly. We used to have some Aboriginal people who camped at Dog Swamp, not far from our house. They used to sell clothes props door to door. The props were branches from trees with a fork at one end and they were used to hold up the clothes lines that sagged under the weight of sheets and towels not wrung dry. The good old days? I don’t think so.

  2. Great memories, Maureen. I recall a kerosene fridge and then standard fridges; homegrown vegies; picking the top off the fresh loaf of bread as we rode two miles home from the bus stop after school; 4 gallon tins of honey that the ants invariably found; huge bins of flour that we sifted to remove uninvited extras from and preserved fruit we ate long past any modern day tinned fruit expiry date! We lived!

    • Love your memories of country life, Susan, with such huge amounts of honey – more than I can imagine, although I have no trouble visualising the ants! I had completely forgotten preserved fruit. We didn’t have it until after war time rationing had finished and we could buy enough sugar. My mother had a Fowler’s Preserving Kit, and the jars of preserved fruit looked wonderful in a row on top of the dresser in the kitchen. Because we lived in the city, we bought all our staples in small amounts from the grocer who weighed out the flour into paper bags.

  3. Thank goodness for the ice box on a yacht started using one in 1954 and continued until 2009 when I finally decided to retire to dry land.

  4. Oh yes I remember those days. would you believe I still have a coolgardie safe out in my shed. I just can’t bring myself to get rid of it because it reminds me of those days. I was lucky than most as my parents had a corner shop. When we moved into our corner shop we had a big long fridge that also acted as a countertop.

    • You must be one of the few people in Perth who still has a Coolgardie safe, Miriam. They are museum pieces, and much sought after. Your fridge must have been awesome. I wonder if your family kept their personal food in it – the meat and milk and stuff. Thank you for your interesting comment.

  5. Having spent some time on the sick list this week I’m a little late on commenting, my apologies!

    Love this post and the replies you generated. Thank you for linking to us again and for the mention.

    • Hope you are feeling much better, Sue. Glad you liked the post, and I think the comments are really special, as well. I’m happy to link to you and for mentioning you. I hope to take part in more word prompts whenever I can.

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