Ask a Dilettante – Fresh Meat(balls)

Can you tell me how they ever sell and/or keep all of that prepared food fresh at Central Market? I have a hard time believing that those stuffed meatballs I see there on Monday are not the same ones I see on Friday.
— Ahn, A Concerned Prepared-food Shopper

Perhaps you should quit eyeballing the meatballs on Friday and instead buy some. Don’t contribute to the problem, Ahn!

While it’s hard to imagine the aproned workers at Central Market throwing out any of that delicious grub at the end of each day, it seems that’s exactly what they do with their prepared foods (if anything is left). The Central Market website claims their prepared foods are made fresh daily. Not that anyone expects a corporate website to say the company scrapes the dried crust off the top of its stale food each morning and then re-sells it to unsuspecting yuppies.

The thought of Pam’s Pimiento Cheese and those delicious little cornichons sitting in a dumpster instead of in my stomach makes me sad. Perhaps all is not wasted, though, because there are people out there who liberate this sort of still-delicious, if not slightly gnarly, food. Freegans in the UK and dumpster divers in the US scavenge food from supermarket dumpsters. Just because that clamshell of springrolls is dented and those greens are not as crisp as they could be doesn’t mean the food isn’t any good. Right? Right? Okay, maybe it’s not for everyone.

I doubt that dumpster divers have much luck with the prepared foods at Central Market, though. If you go by that place on any given weekend after about 11AM, the throngs of people crawling all over the place would suggest they don’t have much of anything left when they lock the doors at night. I can’t shop there when it’s busy like that because I start experiencing major anxiety. I’m standing at the scale with my bulk granola in my hand, waiting for the woman in front of me in the Crocs to punch in the numbers for her blanched almonds. But she’s not in a hurry. Nope, she’s actually in the middle of a fascinating conversation with her teenager, who’s ignoring her. And there are hundreds more just like her, standing in front of the meat counter, in the wine section, in front of the Amy’s frozen foods, by the cheese. They’re everywhere. Those meatballs probably sell out each and every day.

*While researching the answer to your question, I ran across an interesting use for bacon grease. Now that’s recycling.

[This column originally appeared in its entirety on Houstonist.]

One response to “Ask a Dilettante – Fresh Meat(balls)”

  1. This may inspire me to write down the reasons why I never set foot inside a Walmart*.

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