When it comes to a food’s expiration date, maybe you only think you know what that means …
BANTER BITE BACKSTORY: Red expected the simple task of cleaning out our mother’s pantry would be a mindless, yet productive, way to spend her Saturday; whereas Black was concerned it might be a day filled with sad memories – we were both wrong.
Our mom had passed in mid-December, and Red had decided the first part of her house she’d tackle was the walk-in pantry. And while Black thought it was an odd place to begin, she figured it would go quickly as she expected it would be a well-curated collection of expired products, and couldn’t help but wonder if some of them dated back to when our parents still lived in our childhood home in New York. (Black remembers them shipping pantry items and old plastic food containers when they moved to Texas decades ago.)
For years, Red had wanted to “freshen up” the pantry or, at the very least, throw out anything “dated” more than a few years ago, but our mom was a self-proclaimed depression-era child, so wouldn’t waste anything. Now, Red faced row upon row of cans of salmon and tuna next to jars of gefilte fish and mayonnaise, much of which expired when her younger daughter, today a college freshman, was still in middle school. And she couldn’t help but feel an odd mix of bewilderment and amusement, with a bit of “yuck” thrown in for good measure.
As Red started to send Black photos with the stamped dates to “prove” why she was trashing so much (and to help ease her guilt of getting rid of things that our mom thought worthy of saving), she noticed that some items had “expiration dates” while others had “best by,” “sell by,” or “use by” dates, and wondered about the differences, and was surprised when Black commented,
Actually, except for baby formula, those dates are not federally regulated. So, I think of them as mere suggestions. I can remember explaining that to a former boyfriend who was trying to clean out my pantry. Think about it. What can “go bad” in dried pasta or matzo? Items that, in many ways, start off stale.
At first, Red started to panic because if that were true, she’d have to reevaluate the mini grocery store of old, expired items she’d already trashed. But then she stopped and quietly laughed to herself when she realized it didn’t matter as the dates were so far in the past that it was a no-brainer. And the good news is that when it comes to the pantry, if you wait long enough, some suggestions become obvious decisions.
This is one of Red’s favorite Banter Bites in large part because of Black’s “corny” puns, but also because fresh corn is a summer staple – whether cooked on the grill or in the microwave, whether eaten on its own or as a primary ingredient in refreshing summer salads …
This may be one of the corniest things you’ll ever read.
BANTER BITE BACKSTORY: It’s just a vegetable, so how can it possibly elicit such a strong reaction from Red, while, for Black, it’s more a source of amusement and even, it turns out, admiration?
Corn. That’s what immediately came to mind when Red started receiving emails from Dewberry Farm about its annual fall festival. It was a family tradition when the girls were growing up, and between the fun but often frustrating corn maze (she and the girls were lost for a few hours one year), the corn cannons, and all the other activities, it was a marathon day that always seemed to be the unofficial start to fall (even if the day meant 90+ degree temperatures since, after all, it’s Texas). Of course, enjoying all the incredibly delicious food, like freshly popped kettle corn, from outdoor stands made it even more special.
And Black’s reaction to all these corn-related memories? Red was expecting sarcasm, but not this,
I knew I would get an ear-ful from you but am glad you did not send any corny jokes. Given how much you love fall, and everything associated with it, I expected many kernels of truth in your sentimental memories. However, I have one question, I am sure it was ear-ie when you got lost in the maze, but did you feel like you were being stalked?
The funny (not punny) thing is that Black’s comments, although somewhat out of character, reminded Red of our dad and his endearing sense of humor. So, when Black added that as long as Red had brought up the subject of corn, she might be interested in the Corn Kid, Red thought she was referring to a goat that ate corn. Until she discovered the best corn story – about how a little boy who simply loved corn became a viral sensation. (Red also loved his appearance in a Chipotle video because she, too, loves their corn.)
And Red could relate to the Corn Kid’s love of corn,
I never realized how much I love corn, not only for its taste but for all the memories associated with it. Whether turning a can of cream corn into soup (just add a little milk) when I was recently sick and realizing that I hadn’t had it since our mom made it for me as a kid. I know food triggers many memories; for me, it’s corn (including candy corn), although my love of popcorn is about more than memories!
Think you can avoid artificial intelligence? Think again …
BANTER BITE BACKSTORY: Red already fights technology at every turn, preferring to keep her ostrich head in the sand, plus, she finds Artificial Intelligence (AI) scary; whereas Black knows ignoring reality merely postpones the inevitable, so she’s started playing with AI to understand it better …
Red knows that she has the ability to learn how to use technology, so tries not to default into freakout mode. However, when it comes to AI, it’s an entirely different story, and she lets her theater degree and love of movies take over,
AI reminds me of the 1968 movie “2001 A Space Odyssey,” the computer named HAL, and the potential of machines to harm vs. help us. And while some, ok many, people might accuse me of being overly dramatic … am I?
Usually, Black would tell Red that her theater degree’s showing and to calm down. But when it comes to generative AI (it “studies” existing data and generates “new” content), many of the leading experts, including the “Godfather of AI” and one of the creators of ChatGPT (a leading AI system where users can pose questions) are the most vocal critics. They’re warning us of the potential dangers of the technology and the need to slow things down and have guardrails in place.
Unfortunately, Black knew that taking emotion out of the equation and focusing on the pragmatic would not ease Red’s mind, but that didn’t stop Black from explaining,
AI can be used to help solve some of the world’s most challenging problems but wherever there is opportunity for good, there can also be bad actors. I have played with it and seen firsthand how quick and easy it is for AI to generate intentional misinformation (including visual images) that seem plausible and real.
So, do we need to be worried? Well, as AI becomes more integrated into our lives, it will be critical for all of us to understand what it can and cannot do … meaning critical thinking will be more important than ever.
P.S. This content was NOT generated by AI. It was created by human authors (although Red claims Black’s a Vulcan) without the use of artificial intelligence or machine learning algorithms.
A man better known for his death than his life, although Red, the straight-A student and history lover, immediately thinks of the costly and controversial movie of his life. (Well, technically, it was the life of Cleopatra.) Black, of course, focuses on business – leadership lessons, including the power of words, although she surprises Red with some food trivia. But the fact July’s named after him is the perfect excuse to rerun one of Red’s favorite Banter Bites …
Quick! If someone says "Julius Caesar," what comes to mind?
BANTER BITE BACKSTORY: Almost everyone has heard of Julius Caesar, but how many of us really know much about him, or at least that's what Red starts to wonder when she receives the usual flippant, but still accurate, reply from her sister, after feeling very proud that she knew that July was named after the famous Roman.
Which is what got Red to realize, much to her surprise (shock, if truth be told), that even as a straight-A student with a love of history, that when it came to Julius Caesar, a famous historical figure and possibly one of the greatest generals and statesmen of all time, she couldn't tell you dates or battles or anything "historical" associated with him.
Even as a theater major in college, she never read Shakespeare's "Julius Caesar," although she knew just enough about the play to know that it was where the fortune teller warned Caesar to "Beware the Ides of March." Instead, her knowledge of Caesar came from her love of movies.
My first, and probably my most enduring, memory is of a brilliant general who not only commanded armies as he conquered lands far from home but was a great statesman who was also involved with one of the world's most beautiful women. And while he was Julius Caesar and the woman was Cleopatra, to me, they'll always be Rex Harrison and Elizabeth Taylor in Cleopatra, a movie almost as controversial as the general himself.
There is much we can learn about leadership from Julius Caesar, whether on the battlefield, in politics, or in business (start small, take risks, communicate well), including what ultimately led to his death (always consider worst-case scenarios, never get complacent or arrogant). Many of his quotes speak (pun intended) to his powerful way with words, and the ability to not only deliver a message but to inspire (and story tell), with my favorite being, "I came, I saw, I conquered."