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Cam Marston on His Father's Bravery When It Comes to Food

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My father might be the sole owner of a very special and very rare type of bravery. He will eat anything out of his refrigerator or out of his cupboard, regardless of how old it is. He has no fear of food that was cooked weeks ago and has gone ignored in the fridge for weeks or packaged foods that expired last century.

In perhaps one of the most memorable events in the history of my extended family, my wife and sisters-in-law cleaned out the refrigerator at his cabin in Clark County one fall day and began throwing away jars of food and bottle of sauces that had expiration dates from years and years ago. They competed on who could find the oldest date on some of the bottles. Some were twenty years old. He went to the trash can, pulled a bunch of it back out and, to prove his point, used much of it on his meals that day. The smells and the colors didn’t worry him. “It’s all still good,” he said. “Those dates on the bottles don’t mean anything.” He went to bed perfectly fine. We were expecting to hear some late-night bathroom events. They never happened.

My kids are on the complete other side. They scan the side of jugs and jars and bottles and searching for dates. If the date is anywhere near today, they won’t eat it. Milk is the worst. If the expiration date on the milk is within a few days, they assume it’s bad. They sniff it and claim it smells sour. My wife and I smell it and taste it and assure them it’s fine. It won’t matter. They won’t use it on their cereal – the date’s too close. Neither my wife nor I drink milk, so we end up pouring it down the drain. It kills me.

I’m somewhere between my father and my kids. I feel it’s a responsibility to eat the leftovers rather than let good food go to waste. My wife knows this about me. Last night she said, “I need to get rid of some of this old food so I’m cooking you dinner.” I had left over spaghetti squash topped with some old shrimp. Both were on the edge of being too far gone. I mixed in some oddly colored pork tenderloin from last week that I found hidden behind some Tupperware bowls. It was all topped with broccoli that my wife picked through – choosing the ones that were least brown - and was all served with red pepper flakes, parmesan and feta cheese, some salt and a bunch of olive oil to disguise the smell and taste of decay.

This would have been fresh meal for my father, only being about ten days old. However, I got to thinking, he’s 85 years old. Plays golf. Pickleball. Tennis. He fishes. Hunts. Healthy as a horse. I, on the other hand, am beginning to feel the aches and pains of getting old. Making me wonder if I shouldn’t have let my meal last night age another week or two.

I’m Cam Marston and I’m just trying to keep it real.

Cam Marston is the Keepin' It Real host for Alabama Public Radio.