Fresh Is Best

The Mothership is closer now. Before we had a buffer zone of 2.5 hours, but now she’s moved to Goulburn so she’s a mere hour away. Close enough to swoop in unannounced for a routine inspection/nagging session.

You may recall the last time I helped her move. Well, she went off to a patchwork class and I did the moving. After that ordeal I vowed next time she moved, she was on her own. When I move house, I take it as an opportunity to purge unwanted items. But Mum doesn’t do that. She brings everything. Last time she didn’t even empty the fridge. We discovered this gruesome fact over a year later, on Christmas Day 2001. Rhiannon went to make the pasta salad and found in the fridge door the salad dressing from Pasta Salad Christmas Day 2000.

I fear for my life when I open Mum’s fridge. You never know what buried treasures you’ll uncover. The problem arises because the woman buys shitloads of food, but never gets around to cooking it. So it sits in the fridge slowly morphing into a museum piece. One cannot just pluck something from the Mothership Fridge and eat it. There’s a lengthy examination process, in which you check for expired use-by dates, wacky odours, strange growths, etc. Then you have to interrogate The Mother. A typical scene:

RHIANNON: Mum, when did you buy this cheese?

MOTHERSHIP: Last week!

R: Last week as in the week just been, or 1986?

M: Last week as in LAST WEEK, you little smart arse!

R: It smells funny.

M: It does not smell funny!

R: It doesn’t look so good either. Have you go any other cheese?

M: You two are so obsessed with freshness!

But we have good reason to be obssessed, especially after the Gravy Incident. Mum wanted to prove to us once and for all that she could actually cook, because we didn’t know, having cooked almost every family meal since we were seven years old. She got out the pots and pans and roasted us a chicken and some vegies. But she was spent from all that effort and asked Rhiannon to make some gravy. Her ill-equipped kitchen could only offer us a box of Gravox.

Rhiannon was stirring away at the stove when she observed: “Hey Mum, this gravy looks kind of lumpy.”


“It does, I tell you. It’s got flaky bits in it.”

“Oh! It must be that new onion gravy stuff. It’s onion flakes.”

“Are you sure it’s not old?”

“Yes I am bloody sure! You two are obsessed with freshness!”

It wasn’t until she’d poured gravy all over my food that she noticed the gravy was actually MOVING. “Oh look! There’s weevils swimming in the gravy! Ooops!”

Of course everyone else’s meal had been spared from the bug bath but mine. Grrr.

And then the Orange Juice incident, again Christmas 2001. I live for Orange Juice. Mum’s too stingy to buy fresh stuff but she does keep some of that long life Berri stuff for me.

“Mum, this orange juice is brown.”


“Shouldn’t orange juice be orange?”

“That’s long life juice! I only bought it the other day!”

“Bloody hell! It expired in May! Are you trying to kill me?”

“There’s nothing wrong with it. You’re obsessed with freshness!”

Then there’s the organic vegies. She has a friend with an organic vegie farm. She calls us up all time, “Do you two want some organic vegies? They’re organic, you know! Organic! So fresh and tasty! ORGANIC!” But the time she gets down to Canberra to deliver the booty, they’re not so fresh and tasty. The bag of Organic Mixed Salad Leaves have become a bag of Organic Green Sludge; the carrots have taken on a deformed twist; the Fresh Organic Lemons are mistaken for limes because they’ve turned powdery green from age.

A particularly disturbing moment was when I went to make some guacamole, and digged through the pantry for some Tabasco to give it some kick. The Tabasco use-by date was June 1982. The current year was 1999.

But just like the bargain shopping, it seems Mum inherited it all from her mother. When I was I kid, I once found a can of pineapple in Nanny’s cupboard that had a faded green price sticker that read 5d. Decimal currency was introduced to Australia in 1966!

My sister and I chose to stop the insanity there, and take a minimalist approach to fridge stocking. Two or three items per shelf at the most. And the orange juice is always orange!

About Shauna Reid

Ahoy there! I’m Shauna, an author, copywriter and content mentor. I love telling stories about life and helping others to tell theirs.

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32 thoughts on “Fresh Is Best

  1. Ewwwww! I hate it when things go funny in the fridge! Actually, it’s time for a clean-out, again. The chooks are good garbage disposals 🙂

  2. Holy Expiration, Batman! Seventeen year old tabasco sauce. Make that seventeen years past the expiration date tabasco sauce? It’s not a refridgerator, it’s a nuclear containment facility.

    I’m not quite so hungry as I just was.

  3. I think it’s a hoarding instinct, rather than general ikkiness. You should’t fret, kitten. You never know when you might need a biological warfare arsenal.

  4. My mom doesn’t hoard things such as canned foods or freezer products; however we do have cloves and baking powder from the beginning of my parents’ marriage (oh, 25 years ago or so.) They still seem to work, but maybe I should be on the lookout for weevils in the future.

  5. Hehe. One of my friends moved into his current house in February 95. There were two tins of home-brand peaches already there (and looking a bit old and rusty) when they moved in. Nobody even touched either of the cans.

    Seventeen flatmates have been and gone through that house while my friend has lived there. About two years ago, one of the cans exploded – presumably from internal pressure from fermentation or something. They didn’t discover this until a couple of weeks later, when they saw some sticky black goop trickling down the kitchen wall under the cupboard.

    They’re not brave enough to touch the other can. It sits there still, to this day.

  6. Heh. My mothership (and fathership, not to mention the littlebrothership) followed me to the Big Apple and are now firmly ensconced 10 MINUTES away. And that’s 10 minutes WALKING.

  7. I’m not sure if it’s just a Mum thing, or whether it’s exclusively an Aussie Mum thing, but I always remember when we lived in England, my friends would come over and be horrified to find cans in our cupboard that had price tags in cents rather than pence, seeing as we’d moved from Australia 9 years before. And my mother actually brought food with her. I don’t know what she thought English supermarkets would stock, but she sure came prepared…

  8. Shauny, I *love* your stories about the mothership. They’re so funny and delightful. More, please.

  9. Heheh it must be an Aussie Mum thing. This morning my mum found a mouldy bread roll from 2 weeks ago in the cupboard. But usually you can go searching for herbs and cloves that have on them ‘Food For Less 54c’ and stuff like that.

    Shauny – welcome to the joys of Goulburn. Via your mum of course.

  10. Sounds like my Grandma. I reckon the National Museum of Australia just scooped up its entire ‘food in the 1960s’ display from her estate.

    45p? That sounds post-decimal British, not pre-decimal Australian. Pre-decimal would have been 45d, except 45d would actually have been £2/-/5, which in the 1960s probably would have bought you ten hundredweight of pineapples or summat’.

  11. it’s a mum thing, definitely. me, i love to throw away. and i’m also quite fond of the little buffer zone that exists between me and my mum, all the way from london to brisbane!

  12. I don’t think this is restricted to Aussies… My mother, in Oregon, USA, is a hoarder too. I remember jars of home-made jam *still* being on the shelves when I left home at 18, that she made when I was 4. And when I go for a visit, I always inspect the milk thoroughly… poured lumpy milk on my cereal one too many times. erg.

  13. My father’s mother is this way. My mother, bless her, is not. I think it’s the time she spent learning how to teach other home economics … she’s the type that knows when to pull out the stuff to make banana bread when the bananas start going south … 🙂

  14. My mother hoards… inatimte things. Old ice cream pails, yogurt cups, virtually anything that has a lid.

    Yet I’ve been asking her to buy a squeezey bottle for the mayo we use for years, because it comes in a jar too skinny to get a spoon through, so to get the last little bits out you have to jam a knife right down there, getting your hands covered in mayo in the process, because someone never remembers to leave it upside down when it’s more than half empty. . .

  15. Damned wonderful! Your dialogue is one of your best points and when it’s used to recount a talk with the Mother Ship it’s dy-no-mite. I’m sorry the weevils happened to you but take comfort: it was a great moment in the Pussycat annals.

  16. While I absolutely detest old food, too, I have to point out that – like Vegemite – Tabasco sauce never goes out of date. Never. It’ll eat through your intestines, but in terms of actually “going off”? It never does. Fact.

  17. My mother still has some food — a nice big bag of cornflower, for example — which she inherited from her parents. My grandparents died in 1983.

    She is also one of those “oh, just scrape the mould off and it’ll be it’ll be fine” people. Just because it’s covered in fur isn’t a good enough reason to throw it out in her book.

  18. My Mum’s quite the opposite. She is obsessed with throwing things away, raiding the fridge for nearing Use By Dates and making lists of what’s to expire, how it’ll expire, what diseases this specific food can produce, and whether they’re aireborne or not.

    She even throws things away early “just to be on the safe side.” It’s really annoying.

  19. oooooooh .. i was in the middle of eating some curry when i came across this entry.

    the dog got the last bit of it. i just couldn’t .. *shudder!*

  20. mind you .. i do believe that tabasco sauce is one of those things that’s on the official ‘will last to eternity’ list.

    at least weevils can’t live in it ..

  21. I think it was the depression or something that made parents like that. My parents could open up a corner store with what they hoard. Or a nuclear shelter. My parent’s also eat stuff like liver and kidneys and all sorts of blech… to the extent that If I’m at my parents and they serve a meat dish I have to prod it with a knife and ask what it is.

  22. I wait til my parents are on vacation then go clear out their larder and fridge of anything out of date. A few minutes grief when they get back vs a case of food-poisoning… seems an easy choice to me.

  23. What a riot! The man in charge when I was growing up was old country Czeckoslovakian and had a wartime mentality-never, NEVER throw anything away! He’d scrape the mould off and then serve. Yeccchhh! My sister now throws everything away! I don’t go that far, but I definately have a time limit on leftovers and a NO MOULD on my food rule!

  24. wow, my mother is exactly like that too. when i moved out i was searching for food to take with me and found a tin of peaches, use by date 1982, it was 1998 at the time. Thing was, the whole family had moved house only two years earlier. i’m full of such stories. say always says “well someone will eat it”, but they never do. i’ve taken to clearing out her cupboard occassionally and throwing out all the out of date food. she hates me for it, but if i didn’t the whole family would get food poisoning, i swear, as my brother and dad are useless at discerning between edible food and non edible food. anyway i think i’ve ranted for quite long enough. bye.

  25. While I’m not old school in reading your site since day one, I liked your story about old food. My grandmother is exactly like that, with everything. It’s interesting to see old shoes from the 60’s and all, but they really do take up a lot of space.

    There is one good thing about it all. I never got to meet my grandpa. My grandma is a very interesting woman. I think my granpa was too. You can look in his side of the medicine cabinet (you can tell it’s his side because everything is old) and see all his hair tonic and combs lined up perfectly, if you look in the basement you can see odl radio projects unfinished and about 1000 pounds of old parts and tube transisters and such. It’s an incredible look into the life of a man I never met.

    My mother just keeps all the crap she ever bought. Now that is anoying.

    good luck, have a good day. 🙂

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