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organic but eating Fritos vs. spoiled snacks: my verdict? “should” ruins eating…

Posted by on Apr 23, 2013 in Blog Posts | 9 comments

moldyMy husband recently sent me a link to this Podcast, with “Judge” John Hodgman and guest Alton Brown, who help a couple decide who is right or wrong around eating decaying food and more. It’s worth a listen, and if you don’t want any “spoliers” (haha) stop reading, listen to the podcast and come back. Who is “right?” Never so simple around something as fundamental to life and self as food.

Husband: Eats spoiled food, rotten food, from the trash if he has to, fallen fruit on ground with dog poop. He also doesn’t order at restaurants and waits to finish what others are eating.
Wife: Buys lots of organic produce, and hates that her husband eats spoiled food. She even puts soap on food so he won’t eat it.

Simple, right? What husband is doing is gross and he must stop! The podcast is full of interesting tidbits about decay, avocados, and food safety, but what it came down to for me was this: Both of these folks let “shoulds” rule and ruin their relationship with food, and I’m sympathetic to both parties.


: says he hates food waste, (I would have liked them to probe a little more into his past, as I suspect food insecurity or poverty may have played more of a role), but it seems like an extension of his general desire to not waste anything, and maybe a little passive aggression thrown in. He thinks he “should” eat any food rather than let it go to waste.

Wife: Thinks she “should” eat healthier and so buys lot of organic produce that rots, since she’d really rather eat—and does eat—Fritos. To be clear, I have nothing against Fritos or organic food, but the point is she buys the organic, thinking it’s the right thing to do, but she doesn’t really seem to want to eat it, and doesn’t much of the time.

(Here is an older post about “should” and eating.) I too have had the virtuous food purchase (shocker, it was kale) rot in my fridge. I also grew up with a father who ate foods well past their prime, “It wants eating” he would say, gazing at the moldy cheese, and I would answer, “No, it wants throwing away.” (My father grew up in post-war rationing in Britain, where every crumb counted.)

Turns out my dad was right, as was the husband, at least with cheese and yogurt, and most things in the fridge in terms of safety, and if everyone consumed the way these two men did, our environment would be a lot better off, but I digress.

The verdict basically was for the wife to stop buying stuff she doesn’t eat, and for the husband to stop eating mangoes that have fallen on the poopy ground, and a few other things not in the fridge.

Seemed like a fun podcast to share and think a little more about how shoulds can spoil eating.

What are your shoulds? Do they help you feel good about food, eating and your body? Does it “work?”

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  1. Chris

    I’m curious about old cheese and yogurt being safe choices? I’m totally paranoid about old food and mould. And have resolved a while ago not to let my life be ruled by shouldding!

    • katja

      Apparently it’s not so bad, but if you’re paranoid and can afford it, throw it out…I will occasionally cut a little mold off of very hard cheese, but that’s about it.

  2. megan

    this is pretty fascinating. as a mom of 3 (6, 3 & 1) with a personal history of not knowing what to eat or when (long, not very interesting story), I have come up against a lot of habits, expectations, etc. I have SUCH a hard time figuring out what to do with food that has been delivered (by request) to children but not touched or only partially consumed (hungry or not, I tend to eat it rather than compost it so now I tend to underserve myself until I see what’s being left on plates… I can’t imagine that’s the best solution.). I call myself a grandchild of the Depression (there was a lot of “clean the plate club” discussion in my childhood coupled with shaming undercurrents for being fat – so confusing!). I will eat past the “use by” date, trusting my nose, etc. but my solution is generally to keep my refrigerator very lightly populated. too much in the fridge makes me VERY nervous. I am getting better at buying up on vegetables & fruits because worst case, you just eat them and forget the meal planning. last night, the kids & I had pork chops, strawberries & avocado and it was one of our more harmonious meals of late.

    • katja

      The stories my readers share are so wonderful! If money is tight, and it works, there is nothing intrinsically wrong with waiting to see what kids leave to fill up on. I imagine generations of parents have done so, as long as you get enough, and it isn’t triggering too much anxiety or resentment! My dad always finished our plates. We called him the “human vacuum.” He has a metabolism that is super-revved, and remains to this day, rail thin. (He also is a total exomorph, craving exercise and activity.) How confusing and hard to be told to eat up, and then shamed for your body. What about too much food in the fridge makes you nervous? Glad you had a great dinner and sounded so yummy too! Are you able to do smaller, more frequent shopping trips? I loved living two blocks from a little coop a few years ago. I could shop every 2-3 days. Sounds like you are still evolving, and that you are being aware and kind with yourself in the process. Good stuff!

      • megan

        Yes, we do frequent shopping trips. I have such an abhorrence of letting produce spoil – that’s what makes a too full fridge nervous for me. I don’t buy many processed foods (I guess then they wouldn’t spoil…!). 🙂 no one has ever accused me of being rail thin, but I am constantly working (so much work…) on (re-)learning to understand what my body wants. the message was never very strong or it was not allowed to be heard for soooo many years. I was trained early to judge my “hunger” by whether everyone else was having 2nds (therefore it must be “ok”). honestly, I have the slowest metabolism. I wonder – if I’d been allowed to explore & manage my own eating how it would have all turned out.

        • katja

          Yes, many folks wonder that… I am so glad you are learning again to trust your body. Be kind with the process… Hang in there! Thanks for commenting!

  3. elizabeth

    I work in a natural foods store. Even so, I had to make a rule: never buy greens unless there is an immediate plan to use them that same day. I’ve composted more organic greens than I care to think about.

  4. anna

    This is really interesting actually – I’m a big “Gross food” eater, but not as much as my grandmother is (My Dad recalls when she once served rotten horse meat for dinner, Dad refused to eat it and Mum ended up getting painfully sick.). I will eat things past their use by date. My housemates are often like the wife in these stories, buying “should” foods and not eating them – which means more slightly old food for me! I can’t rule myself out either – I constantly buy broccoli and forget to eat it. I like broccoli, I just never feel like it and then it goes off.

    I’ll have a big think about “Should.” I think the traces of “I shouldn’t eat so many sweet things” still lingers at the back of my mind, but I’m working on getting over that.