Why the Homeless are Better Judges of When Milk Goes Bad

Every morning I walk to the same corner and wait for the shared cab (monit sherut) that takes me to work.

I always stand next to these two large, industrial size garbage containers.

The other day, a woman swung a white plastic bag full of garbage, and tossed it into one of the bins.

A few minutes later, a man approached the bins. He looked like he was really tired, with a gray beard and tanned skin from being outside too much. He wore a tattered navy blue blazer that was too big on him. I wondered if his blazer was something he found on the street, or was a relic from his old life . . .

The man leaned over one of the green plastic containers and reaching inside. He dug around inside the garbage deposited by the woman. He took out a carton of 3% milk and smelled it. I wondered if it was already sour, or if the woman threw it out because she didn’t like 3% milk, but a boyfriend or friend brought it over. Maybe it was perfectly fine milk.

I tend to not give much notice to expiration dates. With milk, it’s a matter of smell. Same for yogurt. I’ll chop up a “tired” onion, if it’s going into a sandwich or will be cooked. I wouldn’t eat old leftovers; that’s where I draw the line. But if something’s in a packaged container, I’m not going to limit myself to an expiration date that’s someone’s educated guess as to when things go bad.

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