Everything Turn, Turn, Turns

January 9, 2011 at 8:35 pm
filed under food

Drake alerted me this evening that he “wasn’t sure” about the color of the shrink-wrapped pork chops in the refrigerator. Pinkish grey, he called them. He has an iron stomach, so this surprised me. He purchased them at the market on Thursday night, and it’s Sunday, and the sell-by date isn’t until Monday. But they’re a little off-color, he told me, and when we opened them we discovered a tiny layer of sliminess that I’m pretty sure isn’t normal. Then he sniffed them, and he’s not got the most discerning of sniffers, but he surprisingly noticed a faint funk about them. I sniffed them too, and I’m the super smeller in this relationship, but I didn’t think they smelled too bad. But they did have a faint funk — about 5% funky, I’d say. But that sell by date of 1/10/11 kept me thinking that they’re fine. But that slightly off color kept me thinking that maybe we should do what Mom tells me to do when in doubt and throw ’em out. I couldn’t decide which weighed more — the expiration date being a day in the future, or our general “hmmm” in regards to their slight peculiarity in potential freshness.

We stared at them, marveling really.

“What do normal porkchops smell like?” Drake asked.

“Normal porkchops don’t smell like anything,” I said, “or else we’d know what they smell like. We eat them twice a week!”

We checked in our freezer for pork chops that were in there to compare the color, and the frozen ones were hot pink while our slabs of slime were certainly drab and greying. Apples and oranges, we said. Not a fair comparison. Maybe freezing the meat makes it brighter.

What ended up happening is that I called the grocery store from which they were purchased for a cool $5. They told me to bring them back, with the receipt, and they’d refund us no problem. Then Drake told me he just threw the packaging away, and a trip outside in this 27 degree weather wouldn’t feel worth it since we were already relaxing in our Sunday worst. Then I consulted my wise older sister, who said her husband would say “Eat them!” and she would say “Throw them away!” So I consulted my other wise older sister, who said “Kerry, throw them away, you could get a parasite.” Well, that wasn’t any help. So I consulted the internet, where everybody and their brother said not to mess with pork, because even when it’s fresh it’s still crawling with bacteria — the bad kind!

And then Drake found a website that said if you rinse the pork and the slime goes away, it’s fine and to go ahead and eat it. I have no clue what website from which he got this advice, but I’ll assume it was not Oscar the Grouch’s Garbage Gourmet dot com. Drake relayed that it’s when you rinse it and the slime doesn’t go away (Dear God, that happens?) that you should worry.

So he rinsed them and we decided they were fair game. We wouldn’t wait until tomorrow, we decided, because obviously they’d just be too putrid by then. For tonight, we could totally eat them. MMMM!

Initially, while the porkchops were still in my mind innocent and untarnished, I’d planned to dip them in breadcrumbs and bake them in the oven, but after all our fussing I decided that I needed to cook them well-done. So I seasoned them and put them in a frying pan with some olive oil until they could get nice and golden. Dark golden. “Pinkish grey” can turn golden, with enough oil and at the right temperature. It’s possible, it really is.

I cooked the crap out of them, basically. This was a conscious decision that both he and I made in order to feel good about ingesting possible parasites. We are medium to medium-rare eaters of meat (he’s got grilling perfect juicy pork down to a science), so overcooking was a mental hurdle for me. But I overcame it, and overcook I did. I whipped up a balsamic glaze and dumped it in to unstick the stuck-on bits and we plated our food (with mashed yukon gold potatoes and oven-roasted brussel sprouts, two of our favorites). I took the smallest pork chop there was of the six in the pan.

As I picked at my plate I realized fast that I wasn’t that hungry. I tried the pork, sniffing every bite, and the 5% funk remained. Even with the glaze and the seasoning, I wasn’t feeling it. Chalk it up to imagining myself coming down with a case of worms.

I ate a few ashy, faintly smelly, moistureless bites, ate my side dishes and pushed the rest away. “I’m not having that,” I said, and Drake shook his head and laughed. He finished his, swearing that we’d be fine, but I know it wasn’t tasty.

I threw the rest out. I wished I hadn’t put the effort into seasoning and cooking them in the first place. I wished I hadn’t put the effort into researching their potential health hazardousness, either. It feels like lots of time and emotion went into whether or not we decided to cook those pork chops.

I’m afraid the decision to cook them was the wrong one, and I haven’t even come down with e-coli yet. If you think something might not be good, and you think there’s a chance that eating it will make you sick in some way, and you spend a few minutes wondering what to do, that should be enough to tell you to throw it away and move on. Even if you do decide to cook it and eat it, what level of “appetizing” remains?

So, “When in doubt, throw it out.” Truly. I’m not just saying that. You won’t regret it. You will regret it if you don’t. And listen to your mother, because she has good advice.

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