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.

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.

15 replies 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.

    1. 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!

    1. 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.

    1. I remember those days, and you rowing out in a dinghy to the yacht with the ice and the newspaper.

  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.

    1. 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.

    1. 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.

  6. So many interesting replies Maureen Helen. I too have many memories of the family meat safe and the kerosene fridge that my sister and I had to fill by carrying from the shed, brown beer bottles filled with the smelly liquid We also had to pour the kerosene into the fridge tank slowly and evenly so as not to cause the lit flame to ‘dance’. I quite liked making the flame dance but Mum would be really cross with me if it danced as black smoke would billow out of the top of the fridge from burning excess fuel. Filling the fridge was a fortnightly chore and I loathed it. Ah! We have so many stories to tell and no doubt there are a lot more wonderful stories and experiences in that treasure trove of your rich and fulfilling life Maureen Helen. I am sure we would all agree on one thing Maureen, we are all thankful that you share your stories, life questions, beliefs and life lessons. Thank you Maureen!

    1. Tricia, thank you for your complimentary remarks. As you probably know, I love writing blogs and sharing stories. And I was always in trouble at school for having too much to say.

      I loved your story about the kerosene fridge. I have never thought about how they were fueled and who might have been responsible for filling them. Were you scared you might blow the fridge and yourself up when you filled it? Easy to see why your mother would get cross with you if you made the flame ‘dance’, tempting as it might have been.

      Can’t wait until you start blogging. Your stories and sharing are wonderful, and you’ve had a rich and varied life.

  7. Oh how different my memories are Maureen, having been born and brought up in Scotland! We had no real need for a fridge, as apart from a couple of days in the Northern summer it was always cold enough for food to keep in the pantry. What I do remember though was that in winter the bottles of milk delivered to the front door of the house would be half frozen with the silver foil lids popped off and what equated to ice cream for the top 2 inches of the bottle! Not too good for poring over the porridge 🙂

    1. Rachel, a different world indeed. I can’t imagine that sort of cold, because I’ve never been anywhere cold in winter, and am still waiting to see more than a smattering of snow. I have heard about an Australia living in Scotland and asking neighbour if she could use some space in the neighbour’s refrigerator because she was having lots of family to visit for Christmas. She was told to put things outside if she wanted them frozen!

      I enjoyed catching up with you yesterday, BTW

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