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.
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.