I was the foreman on that day’s lunch-assembly-line. We were behind schedule, and I wasn’t looking for quality control.
“But it’s got mayo?” He frowned.
“And mayo’s made with eggs?” His voiced trailed off.
“Right again.” I said.
“Mr. Harvick, my life-skills teacher, says bad eggs make you sick.”
“No problem.” I winked. “These eggs graduated top of their class.”
My son chewed on his lip. “I’ll pass on the potatoes.”
“Really, son? Who you going to believe? Him or me?”
I was crushed. It was one of those moments when you know that you’re no longer the source-of-all wisdom for your child.
“Tell you what. I’ll bet you $5 it’s OK.”
“Five bucks?” My son’s interest was revived.
“I’m eating it. And if I don’t die, you owe me a fiver.”
“But if you croak, how do I collect?”
I guess they don’t teach compassion in life-skills.
But, really, how much should you worry about food safety? I’m living proof that the immune system is a thing of wonder. On the other hand, my wife, a nurse, is pretty careful. She throws things out that look perfectly fine. Just because they have “expired.” In addition to the potato salad, I’m making myself a ham sandwich, and I offer her one.
“What’s the date?” She asks.
I glance at my watch. “It’s the 5th.”
“NO. THE EXPIRATION DATE.”
“Oh, I don’t know.” I looked at the torn wrapper and didn’t see it.
“The ham’s from the last Costco run,” she says.
“If you say so.”
“That was weeks ago.” She shakes her head. “You really want food poisoning?”
I look at my sandwich. It looks harmless enough.
“Sam-I-Am ate ham that was green and lived.” I said.
“Did you ever see him in a sequel?”
“Well… no.” I admitted. So I turned the wrapper inside out, and found the magic numbers. “Looks like it’s dated… yesterday.”
“Is that the sell-by date or the use-by date?” She asked.
“Then I wouldn’t eat it.” She warned.
“But it’s yesterday. One day’s growth is gonna kill me?”
“If it got left out…”
“It didn’t.” I said. But I couldn’t be sure, not without watching the surveillance tapes. Maybe it had broken parole and made off with the mozzarella. My wife had planted the seed of doubt. So I went back to the fridge, the land of suspicious lunch meat, seeing if we had something else. “We’ve got some sliced chicken, fresh in the wrapper.”
“Fresh? I don’t remember buying it,” she said.
“I think I did.”
“Expiration?” She asked.
I looked on the wrapper. “Best by …. Last Tuesday.”
“Hey, it’s unopened. No one left it out.”
“It should have been used weeks ago.”
“’Best by…’ doesn’t mean it will be bad.”
“Mystery meat.” She wrinkled her nose.
“It’s chicken, not cafeteria food.”
“No. Thank. You.”
“I’ll eat it.”
“Then I’ll visit you in the ER.” She sighed, “Look. I can make my own sandwich.”
“No,” I said. “It’s my turn and I’ll do it.”
“OK. Then just make me a peanut butter sandwich, please.” She cocked her head. “And you have washed your hands…. Right?”
So I dug around in the cupboard and found a dusty peanut butter jar and a squeeze container of granulated honey. I waved them in her face. “This is what you want?”
“But this stuff has been in there since Y2K.” I said.
“OK,” I shrugged. “Dessert?”
“Maybe. What do we have?”
I checked the fridge, freezer and cookie jar. Nothing. Our daughter had cleaned out the fresh fruit.
I dug deep into the pantry, exploring shelves that I didn’t know we had. There, hidden and forgotten, I found a relic of bygone era—an ancient package of Twinkies.
“Ooooh.” I smiled, and tucked the treat in her lunch. “I found something special just for you.”
I handed her the bag.
“You’ll like it.” I kissed her on the check. “Doesn’t expire until the year 2525.”
Robb has enjoyed writing and performing since he was a child, and many of his earliest performances earned him a special recognition-reserved seating in the principal’s office at Highland Elementary. Since then, in addition to his weekly column on A News Cafe – “Or So it Seems™” – Robb has written news and features for The Bakersfield Californian, appeared on stage as an opening stand-up act in Reno, and his writing has been published in the Funny Times. His short stories have won honorable mention national competition. His screenplay, “One Little Indian,” Was a top-ten finalist in the Writer’s Digest competition. Robb presently lives, writes and teaches in Shasta County.