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Mary Rea | Long live leftovers!

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Did you see that news item about the 16-year-old can of soup found in the back of a refrigerator at the Chicago EPA office? I can beat that. The other day, while sorting though a box we’ve been storing for a grown son, I came across a Milky Way candy bar with a sell-by date of 1985.

But it turns out I don’t hold the world’s oldest chocolate. Even though there is evidence chocolate was made in ancient times, not much actual candy has been left uneaten long enough to become antiquated. There is a small box of chocolates in Scotland that was made especially to commemorate the coronation day of King Edward VII in 1902. The chocolate passed from the original schoolgirl who abstained from eating it, mother to daughter, until it was donated to the St. Andrews Preservation Trust in 2008. The chocolates look a bit withered, but what else can you expect after 111 years?

The one food that never seems to go off is honey. Archaeologists in Egypt heated up 3,000-year-old honey, stirred it a little, and found it tasted just about like the honey they had at home in the pantry.

The oldest bottle of wine still in liquid state was discovered in Germany in a sarcophagus. After 1,650 years of aging, the contents were waxy and silty, and the alcohol content was long gone, but it still had a decent bouquet. Recommended pairing is spit-roasted oxen.

I have spices from my grandmother’s kitchen which are at least 40 years old. I hold on to them because of their interesting containers. Unfortunately, I’ve also got spices nearly as old in my own cupboard. After paying $7.95 for a bottle of ground cardamom, it’s hard to throw it out even many years later. Who knows, another recipe may come along that requires cardamom, and I don’t want to have to put out another $7.95.

A friend is still feeding her cat cans of liver she bought in preparation for Y2K. The apocalypse never happened, and she hasn’t had to buy cat food for years. Everything turned out just fine. Does make me wonder though, how many people are holding on to stuff until Y3K.

As for that soup can at the back of the EPA refrigerator, I’m glad nobody checked my fridge lately. It could be downright embarrassing.

Mary Rea of Mazama is the author of the novel “Ladies Night Out.” Her blog, which follows where her mind wanders, is at She can be reached at