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These boxes have
vintage cookies

I just ate some antique cookies—I know, true antiques are over 100 years old, so these cookies were just "vintage." They weren't dated (always dangerous), but from the clues I think they were between three and thirty years old.

I don't consider three years very old for food—at least packaged food (I think we had a pumpkin on our fireplace for over a year—but that was decorative, as is the Christmas tree we've had up for over two years).

At the British Museum they have some food that was packed with mummies three thousand years ago. I remember reading a card that said the rice and other things could still be eaten—so I was pretty sure someone had tried while everyone else's backs were turned.

While my wife's back was turned I extracted the cookies in question which arrived in a holiday gift basket from a friend. He didn't know they were vintage because the basket was all sealed in plastic. But when I unsealed it and saw that some items had expired in three years ago, I figured we were talking vintage food here.

Maybe it was what they call "New Old Stock," which means that it hadn't been used but it was old selling as new. That's a good thing for things like watches. Not a great thing for good gift baskets. Or maybe he got the basket himself some years back and "re-gifted." I don't know the exact provenance of the present and think it would be impolite to ask—or to not at least try the vintage cookies.

I knew the cookies were older than many wines. I knew that some other items in the box were so moldy they looked like something from a horror movie. But I figured that the ones that were sealed would be OK—so I zeroed in on some chocolate covered cookies that looked Belgian but had absolutely not information about where they came from (I thought that was illegal, so maybe the basket was made before these laws).

I opened one box and took a bite of a cookie that looked like it had seen better days. Yes, I know, any sane person would have looked at the cookie, perhaps smelled it and thought, "I don't think so," but not me. I didn't want to be judgmental. I wanted to give the cookie a chance. And besides, we had no other cookies in the house and I was desperate.

I took a bite and it tasted kind of the way tires smell. Since I prefer my cookies to taste like baked goods as opposed to automotive hardware, I threw these away. Normally I put old food outside for the raccoons and skunks, but I'm not one to be cruel to animals.

After this trauma I was able to ignore the other boxes of cookies for weeks. They sat under a chair in the living room. Biding their time. I'm not sure why they stayed there—I can only imagine my wife was afraid to touch them.

But soon I heard them calling my name (though the sound was muffled since it had to come through both a cardboard box and a layer of shiny silver wrapping).

I pulled out one of the plastic-wrapped trays and shook it. I am not sure how I thought I could divine freshness (or lack thereof) from this audible test, but they sounded pretty good.

I tried to unwrap them. The wrapping was of a kind I suspected could be sent on a mission to Mars. It was thick silvery plastic, and no matter how hard I tugged I couldn't open it. I learned, years ago that tugging too hard usually leads to cookies all over the room, so I found some scissors and opened them. Half of them were crushed, but at least they smelled like baked goods.

I took a small bite, lest they taste like Michelin Radials, and amazingly, they were good. Very good. Aged! There were round chocolate ones, and square chocolate ones, and the best ones were the almond cookies that had long since been reduced to a kind of magic cookie dust.

As I was eating them (a whole half of a box, to be honest), I did think about Peter Pan. Or Captain Hook, actually, and the green birthday cake he had made to poison the Lost Boys. But I hadn't seen any hook marks on the package and I know my friend wouldn't intentionally poison me, and besides, they tasted good.

So there, I've admitted it. I'll even admit I'd consider eating cookies from the Eisenhower administration if they didn't smell like an Edsel. That's just the kind of person I am.

Daniel Will-Harris

P.S. Listen to my weekly radio interview on www.jesseberst.com Thursday night at 7:30, pacific time.

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Free Art Parts For All Your Arty Parts

If you're looking for good, fun clip art for your site, look no further than Art Parts, at www.ronandjoe.com—They offer some great free stuff, and more than that, some great stuff that's worth every cent you pay for it. Their art has graced national magazines and t-shirts (sometimes even magazines on t-shirts) as well as popular books (and even one I wrote).

Their art is known for its sense of humor—and while some are outrageous, most can disguise themselves as perfectly appropriate for business sites and presentations. And when you buy clip art from them, you get much more—like a free Fez or fortune telling fish (aha—now you're interested!)

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Enhance Your Digital Photos
With An Autoeye

Did you get a digital camera for the holidays? (Or did you already have one?) A friend recently recommended software that automatically enhances digital photos or scans. It's called AutoEye http://www.autofx.com/detail_pages/aedetail.html and what's so remarkable about this software is how much it can do automatically.

Run a photo through it, and it seems like the program has somehow magically peels away a layer between you and the image. The image is noticeably sharper. The colors are brighter (but still realistic). If the original image was too yellow or too blue, somehow this program fixes it and makes it "normal." The improvements can be astonishing.

Now, there are times when you may prefer your original, even if it was a little too dark or soft, so the program saves to a new file name leaving your original untouched. And you can use a manual mode to see how various adjustments will look before you save. Either way—if you have a digital camera, consider AutoEye an essential addition to your computer

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Space Food Sticks

In my previous SchmoozeLetter I mentioned a memory of Space Food Sticks, and was surprised how many readers remembered them fondly, too. Carrie Loving wrote to tell me that there's actually a web site about them at www.spacefoodsticks.com.com - it has a history of the ""non-frozen balanced energy snack in rod form containing nutritionally balanced amounts of carbohydrate, fat and protein," along with a form you can fill out to help get them back on the market. It's a blast from the past.

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Coomaps Component Tracks Your Web Building Time

With this new component you can easily keep a log of all the time you spend building websites in Fusion. TimeTracker is a valuable tool for accurately billing clients and for answering the nagging question: "Where does all the time go?" http://club.coolmaps.com/component_detail.cfm?nfx=97

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This Screensaver Helps Save Lives

Intel has created a new, free program that lets you donate the unused processing power of your computer to medical research. This "virtual supercomputer" uses peer-to-peer technology to make unprecedented amounts of processing power available to medical researchers, thus accelerating the development of treatments and drugs with the potential to cure diseases.

There's no cost to download and run the program, and no noticeable impact on your computer's performance, because the medical research programs take advantage only of processing power you're not using. http://www.intel.com/cure/

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Do Good With A Click

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ONE MORE THING:

While I'm fine with old cookies in a gift basket, I have no patience for old web cookies on a hard disk. I checked and at one point I had several thousand which didn't expire till something like 3022. I just deleted them all—and now I go in and throw out the cookies once a week.

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The SchoomozeLetter is ©1998-2005, Daniel Will-Harris, all rights reserved. If you'd like to use any article on the web or in print, please ask for permission. If you're an agent or publisher looking to publish these pieces, just drop me a note.