November 24, 2006

The Little Tin that Could

We received a strange piece of mail today which offered a warning that some of the spices in our home might be *gasp* expired! According to this letter, from the totally unbiased McCormick and Company, the average lifespan of common household spices is approximately two-three years. It cautioned every homeowner to examine their spice rack carefully and verify that none of the spices contained therein are past their prime (they also offered "helpful" advice on which brand of spices to purchase in order to replace the ones you will invariably be throwing out). They even described some of their older packaging to make the search for dangerously elderly spices that much easier. Apparently, McCormick stopped packaging their spices in those familiar little rectangular tins (except, oddly enough, for black pepper) in 1991.

Well, I had a strange suspicion that I'd seen just such a tin in our own spice collection, so I decided to take a peek for myself and find out if any of our beloved spices had lost their oh-so-fresh feeling. The results of my search were shocking, to say the least. As well as a bit entertaining.

Exhibit 1: A rather suspiciously bedraggled tin NOT containing black pepper. But wait! This is a tin of Schilling spice. So, despite the fact that I do not recall ever using ground oregano while cooking, let alone purchasing this tin, we may not actually be in danger of owning 28 grams of 15 year old ground oregano. You cannot imagine the relief I felt at this point. That is, until I turned the tin on its side.

Uh oh. Not only was this tin manufactured by the aforementioned McCormick and Company, it was made the same year Sonja was born. Somehow, this little tin of oregano has accompanied me since I was four years old. While I certainly don't remember spending my weekly candy allowance on oregano, the evidence is irrefutable. Obviously, I must have inherited this tin from the kitchen of my youth at some point. And considering the fact that I didn't start accumulating my own spice collection until I moved into my own apartment in college (sometime around 1996, if I recall correctly), that means this oregano was already 19 years old when it was given to me as part of what I vaguely remember as a "starter kit" Ziploc baggie full of assorted spices and condiments. Gee, thanks, Mom.

Fortunately, I am not very spice-savvy when it comes to preparing food, a fact I attribute to growing up in Minnesota, where the primary spices used in everyday cooking are ketchup and salt. So I think it is safe to assume Sonja and I have never ingested any of this dangerously expired oregano. I can't begin to imagine what might have befallen us had this not been the case.

We then had to decide what to do with this rather historic spice tin. We certainly couldn't just throw it away. I mean, aside from the obvious environmental implications of tossing it in the trash, this little tin has somehow become a part of who I am. Trashing it now would be like throwing away Grandpa-Dog! And that certainly wasn't going to happen. So the choice was actually rather simple. We opted to stick it back in our spice box and try to forget about it for another 29 years. We figured if it was this exciting discovering a tin of 30 year old oregano, imagine how ecstatic we'll be to find a tin of 60 year old oregano!

It was about this time that Annie decided to come investigate what all the fuss was about.

After a few exploratory taps...

...and a sniff or two...

...things got rather exciting. It was then that we learned yet another interesting factoid about McCormick's ground oregano from 1977. Oregano is a perennial herb belonging to the mint family Labietae, a group of plants that also includes Nepeta cataria (a.k.a., Catnip).

The next ten minutes involved a great deal of swatting at the tin and knocking it onto the floor, rolling around, perturbed looks (see above), and just general chaos on the kitchen table.

Eventually, however, amends were made and Annie finally came to terms with the fact that the "little tin that could" would continue to be a part of the family for many years to come.

1 comment:

Janine Renslow said...

Cute BLOG Paul!! You are so entertaining!! You have such a way with words!! You should write children's books until a RANGER PAUL job comes your way!! It was nice talking to ya on Thanksgiving...wish you both could have been there! Good luck on your interview on Monday...let us know how it goes!! Oh, Sarah thought Grandpa Dog was cool!!! She plans to keep her little white tattered "BABY" bear forever too! I think Rick still has "LAMBY", and I know Chris still has that goofy elephant looking creature.(What's it's name Chris???) I have my "Holly Hobby" dolls & my paper dolls...the girls LOVE playing with them when they convince me to drag them out a few times a year!! Do you have anything nostalgic (sp?) from your childhood Steve, besides the autographed football you so fairly traded me for that priceless yellow clipboard!! :o) You always were such a sly businessman!! Anyway, have a good weekend everyone & Happy Holiday shopping & decorating!!
Hugs, Janine (Your favorite sister!!) :o)