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Items on the spice rack

One of the consequences of living in the same place for a long time (43 years) is that one accumulates stuff. That coupled with the fact that I don't often throw things away has yielded a rather full spice rack with many unused items - some of which are antiques. Rest assured that most are recent.

For example, the ginger on the lowest shelf near the middle has 47¢ stamped on the bottom and the container doesn't have a bar code. The expiration date on the baking soda on the top shelf is 01 28 91; this baking soda still works for odor control and rising (one recipe we use) has baking powder and baking soda. The ginger has a faint smell but of course it hasn't been used since we use fresh ginger. It is possible that one or more of these items predates moving here.

I'm actually going to throw out some of this stuff since we want to relocate some other stuff to the top shelf.

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Where did the spice rack/shelf come from? Steve built ours (I like to think I contributed to the design) and it's quite lovely. Constrained as to what will fit, but probably better in shaky land.

When I first moved into this place (rented the top 2 floors of a 3 story house which I later bought). I was about to be married; we got the place on about May 25 and were having the wedding reception on June 25 in our apartment and there was lots to be done. I removed a wall and cut a hole between the dining room and the kitchen, framed it and built the first tier of the spice shelf above the hole. (Yes I "told" the landlord before I did it). We also had floors sanded and painted everything. Some time later the second shelf was added and then raised a bit. Yes it is crude, but it works.

Doesn't look crude to me, looks perfectly good. I must say, I've never seen a spice shelf not jampacked, especially when the owner is a packrat. Odd.

baking soda is a pure chemical (sodium hydrogen carbonate) and as long as it isn't contaminated will have an infinite shelf life at ambient temperatures. It makes no more sense to have an expiry date on baking soda than it does on table salt (sodium chloride).

I own a still shrink-wrapped bottle of activated charcoal (ingredients: charcoal, sugar) with an expiration date in 1991. I expect it'll last at least another century.

I'm told that the EU's recent obsession with expiration dates has produced brandy with a stated lifetime of five years. <eyeroll>

as long as the bottle stays sealed. Charcoal will adsorb volatile compounds from the atmosphere -- that's how it de-stinks a fridge. In that way it's rather like a sponge - and eventually it gets saturated. But keep it closed, still good next millennium.

I understand that the EU is also going after synthetic food colouring - which is imperilling Battenburg cake, which has a windowpane check of yellow and pink; but the pink is in the sights of the EU mandarins. Likewise Smarties(tm), multicoloured chocolate buttons (English version of US M&Ms) are now down to a very much smaller variety of colours, and dim and unattractive. Grrrrrr.

Trawny, are you talking charcoal, baking soda, or both?

I was actually referring to activated charcoal when I was keying in that sentence, but it applies to baking soda too - both have a limited capacity for de-stinking, just as sponges can only contain so much water.

I'm actually okay with going after the food dyes -- that stuff is bad news. (No, I'm not a Feingold proponent. But I don't feed my kids dyed food if I can avoid it either.)

Between the baking soda and the cream of tartar is a set of food coloring. I think I last used it in ~1968 to make stained glass cookies.

the food colours will probably be good too. And at 40yr old, you've probably got Red #2 there (since removed from the market as over-stimulating ADD chillens).

I'm not as pro-removal as keene is. I seem to have survived brilliantly (not to say luridly) coloured Smarties(tm), and they're part of my childhood I'm not anxious to lose.

I have a jar of sage that comes from my ancestral manse in Marblehead, and was sold by A&P. I suspect it is close to 40 years old. I never use it and should chuck it.

And, for trawnapanda, "if salt loseth its savour, wherewith shall it be salted?"

which goes to show you that Jesus was a theologian, but not a chemist.

salt never goes bad by itself, the only thing that can happen is you can adulterate it by adding something else. And it will always have the same flavour. Leave it in a closed container, it will be salt centuries later.

- - trawnapanda, BSc, MDiv

So perhaps Jesus meant that if you take a box labelled salt, pour into it about a tablespoon of salt and a couple of cups of, oh, say, flour, then that box that says it's "salt" won't have any saltiness.

Actually, as I don't have either an MDiv or a BSc, but just a lowly BA, I'd better stop.

I notice that jwg, our lovely and glamorous blog host, has a container of MortonsTM salt on the top shelf. That has been adulterated, but in a controlled way, twice: a) it has an agent (probably calcium silicate) to absorb reasonable amounts of moisture, which keeps it free-flowing, and b) potassium iodide - almost all table salt today is iodised, it heads off a lot of thyroid problems in humans. But both of those adulterations are in very minor, and controlled, proportions; and don't affect the flavour and chemical properties of the salt itself.

As to the carpenter from Nazareth: I think he was making a point about substances losing their essence, and being discarded because they're no longer what you thought they were. The theological point is fine, but he used a poor exemplar. Perhaps(*) better would have been to use a herb or spice of some description, since they DO lose their flavours over time (as their essential oils either dissipate in the atmosphere, or break down chemically).

(*)nb use of the conditional - I'm not about to correct Jesus' theology.

The box says it has Calcium Silicate.

It also says "This salt does not supply iodide, a necessary nutrient".

It also has Morton Salt Household Hint #1: "To clean silk flowers, place them in a large bag and pour in one cup of Morton Salt. Shake vigorously. For more Household Hints visit www.mortonsalt.com"

I'd better hurry up and get some silk flowers and keep them around for a while so they need cleaning.

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