March 09, 2009

Death By Italian Bread Crumbs

I’m going to do what I call, ‘telling tales out of school’.

I’m going to dump some oddity in-law stuff on my blog.

I loved my mother in law. She was a GREAT woman, and having put up with my father in law, who was a very nasty difficult man, verbally abusive, for so long, she was aptly nickenamed Saint Lou.

But she was also an enabler and many of the issues I see within their family, I place firmly at her feet as well as she enabled the boorish behavior from her husband as well as her children. My husband and brother in law, both having married strong women, are more considerate of others… let us call it ‘wifely training’. For instance, they would never walk into someone’s home 5 hours late for dinner… as my sisters in law did this past week.

But we won’t go there.

The one characteristic that I used to laugh at, however, was my Mil’s frugality. She was a product of the depression, having been born in 1925. Although my father in law LOVES to proclaim the depression mentality, his own sister declares it utter crap when it comes to them as their father had a damn good job that paid well.

Not so for my mother in law.

She saved everything. Every scrap of paper could be used for making grocery lists or taking notes. Every tablespoon of food was saved in a small glass jar to be eaten later. (And it was.) Every plastic bag from a loaf of bread could be used to store something else. Everything could be used and reused.

Her fridge was FULL of little glass jars with a tablespoon of this or a tablespoon of that… NOTHING was wasted… ever.

She was, in essence, an environmentalist before her time, although it was more to her remembering her past than it was the thought of Earth… but as the years progressed, it was Earth in which she thought along with her ‘waste not want not’ views.

An interesting lady, with a brilliant mind, a mathematician by degree, a teacher by trade, I’d find her studying Chaos Theory so she’d… keep up. We’d have discussions on fractals because… we could.

I loved her dearly. (As I love my sisters in law as well... I'm just a little pissed at them right now.)

So it was the saving thing that cracked me up. I understood it… I do it to some degree… but I understand the limits.

She… had no real limits and this has been passed down to her daughters… from where this current story unfolds.

You don’t argue with her daughters. Having inherited their father’s argumentative controlling disposition, I quietly listen to what they have to say, and then do my own thing later.

For instance, I suddenly became owner of a box full of spices from my father in law’s home. I had my middle son sit down with me as I looked to find the dates on these spices.

Keep in mind, my mother in law has been dead for NINE years. Pop has not cooked since.

Some of the spices were 20 years old. Yet… I know, I was expected to use them. The daughters would be horrified that I would throw out spices, even some that were 15 years old and NEVER opened.

So I accepted them graciously, and when they were gone, dumped the spices and recycled the containers.

Not worth the fight.

Or, take another instance, where one daughter brought to me a container of sesame seeds, probably two cups worth. They sat on my counter as I stared at them, fully aware I was going to dump them first chance.

The other daughter said to me, “Bou, throw those away. They’re brown. I have sesame seeds at home… and THOSE are old.”

My reply?

“There was no way I was keeping them for three reasons. First, the handwriting on the label is YOUR MOTHER’S. She has been dead NINE YEARS. Second, she dated it and its dated NINETEEN NINETY-FIVE. Third, the bakery in which they were purchased went out of business in 1997. Do you want this container as it has your Mom’s handwriting on it?

Daughter, “No…”

Me, “I just thought I’d ask… I’m pitching the whole thing.”

And this all brings me to the story from today.

I decided to cook chicken parmesan. I got out the egg, the Italian breadcrumbs, the flour, cut the chicken, put olive oil in the baking dish (I bake mine, not fry it) and put the chicken together, shoved it in the oven and…

… 15 minutes into it, I started to think.

I walked outside where my husband was working with my second son on a Spanish project. Said I, “Hunhead, those bread crumbs. I didn’t have that many left I don’t think. Did you buy some more?”

Hunhead: No…

Me: So my container is now a mixture of MY breadcrumbs and some from… your father’s home?

Hunhead: *blink* … Yes.

Me: So I’m cooking with breadcrumbs that are probably NINE AND A HALF YEARS OLD?

Hunhead: I guess you are…

Me: Did you know some guy died last year from eating pancakes made from old Bisquick?

Hunhead: *blink*


Hunhead: Well, I think they smell OK.

Me: Yeah. I bet that Bisquick did too.

We ate it anyway as I’d cooked it.

If we’re dead tomorrow… you know it was Pop’s bread crumbs.

These folks are making me insane…

Posted by Boudicca at March 9, 2009 10:08 PM

Hope the bread crumbs don't turn out to be fatal! :)

I must admit I'm guilty of having some pretty old spices in the cupboard, mostly the little used ones which you buy for one recipe that requires 1/2 tsp, lol

Posted by: Amanda at March 10, 2009 02:01 AM

I come from a long line of packrats. Only recently have any of us started to throw things out. My one sister has spices still in metal cans? Remember those? We are talking from the 60s.

Luckily, we've thrown out all medicines in glass bottles.

Posted by: Jerry from Indiana at March 10, 2009 03:39 AM

Ramon noodles, breadcrumbs... our life is never dull. hahahahahah

Posted by: vw bug at March 10, 2009 05:17 AM

One way for dating some spices,

Posted by: jon spencer at March 10, 2009 07:36 AM


You are SO giving me flashbacks.
My MIL is still living, and I'm pretty sure she currently has nine year old spices.

I'm just going to shudder for the rest of the day now. Thanks.

Posted by: Roses at March 10, 2009 08:41 AM

When we moved Mr Weenies grandmother out of her house in the early 00's and went though her cupboards, good lord we found salad dressing from the 70's.

She was from the depression era and saved everything.

I'm talking 1" pencils and candals, wouldn't throw out anything because that was wasting things.

Posted by: Quality Weenie at March 10, 2009 08:58 AM

When I cleaned out my mothers home after she moved, I found 2 bread bags of bag ties and dozens of cottage cheese cartons. Amazing!

Posted by: sailynn at March 10, 2009 10:37 AM

When I cleaned out my mother's home after she moved, I found 2 bread bags of bag ties and dozens of cottage cheese cartons. Amazing!

Posted by: sailynn at March 10, 2009 10:37 AM

You will also want to avoid eating any of these cakes:

Posted by: Roses at March 10, 2009 12:36 PM

I've already done a post about my idea of expired food (about 1 week in the refrigerator) vs. my MIL's idea (never expires) and how she'll feed my niece 3 week old food.


I know I'm neurotic on the expiration date issue, and likely food lasts longer than I think. But, I don't like to mess around.

Posted by: wRitErsbLock at March 10, 2009 03:14 PM

Amanda- I'm alive! I've been guilty too, of having old spices. 20 years did take the cake and I did find some old anise oil? It was in a bottle from... oh...the late 70s?

VW- I think my breadcrumbs beat our your Ramon Noodles by 6 years!

Jon- That is the site we used. I did a post on it about a year ago. My son and I went onto that site and plugged in the numbers and found them to be either 16 year old.... or 26 years old. We're thinking 16...

Roses- Does she still use them? They DEFINITELY lose their potency that long. Is her cooking kind of bland? Heh...

QW- YES! The one inch candles! YES! Tiny little pencils. EVERYTHING.

Sailynn- She had a special place for all the ties. She saved all the ties from all the bread bags and all the bread bags inside bread bags. There was definitely a method to her madness... things got used.

Roses- I need to look at that link...

Writersblock- I have this thing about food poisoning. I don't want it. Its bad enough to get it at a restaurant, let alone at my own hands. NO. I don't eat leftovers that have been in the fridge for more then 3 days.

Posted by: Bou at March 10, 2009 09:27 PM

When my mother died, we inherited the contents of her jam-packed freezer. Some of that stuff was many years old. The kids got in the habit of asking whether a given meal was from Grandma's freezer after a while... if it was, they'd refuse to touch it. And I cannot blame them.

Spices? Gawd only knows how old some of that crap was. And I still have a box of strawberry Jell-O from her pantry... it was 14 years old then... now it's 35 (!) years old. No plans to ever eat it, but when was the last time you saw a box of Jell-O for 29 cents... with the price stamped on it in blue ink?

Posted by: Elisson at March 10, 2009 09:33 PM

Experts say you should dump spices that are maybe a year old, but I've never heard of anyone getting sick from the stuff. It's a taste issue, not health. With old spices, you might as well be dumping dust off the furniture in your food for all the flavor it will add.

Food poisoning? I survived several trips to Mexico without getting "revenge." Only time I got it was from too-old leftovers. NOT a good way to lose weight.

Posted by: George at March 11, 2009 10:27 AM