2008 12 22

What does the Best Before Date really mean? I love thinking about this kind of minutiae at this time of year when everything’s so macro.

Ask yourself: Would you eat a Raspberry bio-enhanced yogurt stamped with today’s date? Maybe that’s not a great example; it is bacteria after all. Personally, I think you’d know right away if after the first bite you’d made the wrong call. Someone at work today suggested that Best Before is the date the grocers use to indicate when an item is to be removed from the shelves (or fridge). In that case, it’s surely safe for consumption for days afterward. Hold off on the fridge purge! There’s hope for that half-jar of browning pesto!

Then again, why risk it?

A few years ago I was in Amman, Jordan tooling around the old section of town in a beat-up Datsun with an interpreter named Merza who must have been a stunt driver in his spare time. It was a warm day, but not too hot for September. We stopped at about lunch time and got some gas, and Merza beckoned me inside to meet his friends. We shared some smokes and pulled at a pile of flatbread that was stacked in the corner. Then Merza took a cup and scooped what looked like milk from a large brown vat. The others had already partaken from the shared cup by the time it got to me. As the first gulp went down it occurred to me that the sour room-temperature cream-like drink was probably not pasteurized. But it was too late.

I spent the next few days with the cold tile of my hotel room bathroom floor the only comfort to my sweat-drenched body.

I’d felt best before.

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