Thursday, October 15, 2015

Food? Shelf

We have a great local food shelf here. Steve has been using it for several years now, and since I'm living here too these days, so am I. They do, of course, limit us to one visit a month, so while I am registered for it, if Steve goes I can't.

Seems more than reasonable.

Quantities are generous. There are always about 8 full grocery bags to unpack and put away. Of those, however, there are always a couple bags' worth that go straight to the garbage can.

You could say we're fussy, I guess. Maybe we're spoiled by never having to forage through dumpsters to avoid starvation. I still have high standards for the quality of food I eat. And I don't think I'm unreasonable about it.  I don't mind the very overripe bananas. Those can always be used in cooking. I do mind asparagus where the last inch on the end of every tip is slime. I have a hard time with salad bags where a quarter of the greens are also  disintegrating, apples and peaches with rotten cores.

I don't really blame the food shelf for how quickly the pasta, dried beans, and rice gets buggy. Everything not sealed tight down here does that. It could just as well be us, not them. We've learned to pop them in the freezer, then into a sealed container, which better be round and have a good screw top to qualify. Whatever isn't eaten by the time to head north goes into the car with us, after a quick check for bugs, of course. And I've just ordered a case of No Pest Strips to hang up just as we take off to deal with those opportunistic pests. Those should be good for three or four summers.

I just don't think we're too fussy, that our expectations are too high. After all, the mandatory two cans per month of green beans find a home here. (Steve says he'll eat them.) Apple sauce cans well past the sell-by date are welcomed, as long as the can is in good condition, though I do admit to treating them with a suspicious eye upon opening to make sure the sauce is not brown, growing mold, or tasting either like something else entirely or nothing at all. Canned soups, tuna, gravy, sauces, all are found a spot for as long as one of us can figure out a way of using them.

The breads are generally OK, mostly heading straight into the freezer. Steve likes the simple ones, I like the nuttier and whole grain ones. But the week-old bagels are problematic, especially since they are so carb-dense, as are all the sugary snacks which are generously included. Most of those arrive stale or are wrapped to become stale within a day or so, way faster than either of us can fit them into our carb allowances. When it's regular bread that's stale, it can be crumbled, dried out completely, and saved for holiday stuffing.

See? Not that fussy.

But all of that has become expected. People contribute to food shelves according to what they can't sell or nobody else would ever eat. OK. I get that. But last night was the final big tease. It looked like we could finally have one really wonderful meal, that three things would go together perfectly. We planned our supper together, a rarity for us for a variety of reasons, and both scheduled our carb intakes around the dinner hour.

I got out the can of parmesan cheese, tightly sealed, the jar of spaghetti sauce with mushrooms, which both of us like, also tightly sealed, the both to lavish over the package of spinach ravioli. It was organic, not that organic mattered to us, and looked a bit squished and stuck-together, again not that it mattered to us, and even came in a package which informed us the carb count was perfect for the two of us. That did matter to us.

While the water was coming to a boil, I opened the cheese can. It was brown and grainy, smelling like... well, I don't know what since I've never had that particular experience before.


The spaghetti sauce, once opened, had the top half dried out and stuck to the rim of the jar. While the rest of the sauce looked just fine, to get at it one had to pour through the solidified stuff, knocking it into the bowl I was going to use to microwave the "good" sauce in.

Again, toss.

Oh well, the ravioli solo should still be OK for a meal. It looked well seasoned, herbs and clumps of cheese sticking to the tops of each piece. The water was just hitting a boil, so I hurriedly pried the patties apart to slide into the water, being the economical sort who doesn't want to waste cooking gas.

Especially after just paying the electric bill from having the house air conditioned over the last month.

Once the patties were all slipped into the water, and I stirred them gently according to package directions, I looked at my hands prior to washing them. What was that blue fuzzy stuff? I was afraid I knew all to well what I was looking at, and went back to take a closer look at the ravioli.

Now that they were separated, I could plainly see the patches of mold that had been hiding between the patties, or raviolis if you will.

And hey, I've no doubt that, as advertised, the mold was completely organic too, just like the ravioli was.

A perfect three for three.

On the bright side, this morning was garbage pick-up day.

At least there were some still-edible chicken pieces in the fridge.

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