Follow TV Tropes

Following

Indestructible Edible

Go To

https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/chevyx.jpg
So indestructible, even the box looks brand new.

"Even the long loaf of dwarf bread that he carried into battle, and which could shatter a troll skull, was by his side. Dwarf scholars had, with delicacy and care and the blunting of fifteen saw blades, removed a tiny slice of it. Miraculously, it had turned out still to be as inedible now as the day it was baked."
Advertisement:

Some foods last a really long time. They'll survive weeks in the wilderness, months under your bed, or even The End of the World as We Know It. And after all that, they're still edible... well, as much as they ever were, anyway. Which is usually "not very".

Twinkiesnote  and other preservative-laden snack foods are the ones that most commonly get this treatment, but it's sometimes applied to canned foods as well.

Advertisement:

This trope is extremely common in video games, especially in many RPGs where food can be collected.

Also commonly associated with fruitcake. Expect lots of jokes about using the offending foodstuff as a doorstop, paperweight, etc., or it being passed along between different relatives and friends (or from generation to generation) every Christmas for the past century.note 

If it's a military ration, it's likely to also be Nondescript, Nasty, Nutritious. Compare Inexplicably Preserved Dungeon Meat, It Came from the Fridge, and Way Past the Expiration Date. Usually even rats won't eat food like this. Indestructible Edibles are the perfect edibles to use for weapons and ammo.

Advertisement:


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Fan Works 
  • A.A. Pessimal's Discworld fanfics have its local equivalent of South Africans prize biltong as the human version of dwarf bread. Something you prize as a reminder of Home and only touch if you have to.

    Films — Animation 
  • WALL•E feeds his pet cockroach a Twinkie that's hundreds of years old. Of course, it's not unlikely that a cockroach just wouldn't care.
  • Olaf's Frozen Adventure features a fruitcake that survives quite a number of ordeals (including being snatched from Olaf by a hawk) unscathed.
  • In Wreck-It Ralph, the world of Sugar Rush has jawbreakers that acording to Vanellope, are unbreakable.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • 28 Days Later:
    • When Jim meets the other survivors, they give him packets of sweets, and when he has a sugar crash, she says that right now, she can only give him more sweets, as they've lasted longer than other foods.
    • And in the supermarket, all fruit has gone moldy... except for a single batch of apples, which Dave says are irradiated.
  • In the Ernest franchise film Ernest in the Army, Ernest joins the Army and is deployed overseas. While cooking breakfast for the troops in the middle of the movie, he accidentally adds "Powdered Tank Patch" to a batch of pancakes, making them (much to the chagrin of his diners) an Indestructible Edible. Unfortunately, they're so indestructible that they can't even be eaten. Cut to the end of the movie, and he defeats the film's arch-villain, a deranged Middle-Eastern dictator, by chucking one of the impossibly hard pancakes at him.
  • Zombieland averts one of the most common targets: Tallahassee is devoted to his hunt for a Twinkie because, as he points out to Columbus, they do have expiration dates, and with the apocalypse, no more are being made.
  • In Die Hard, John finds a Twinkie that he says is years old and asks what these things are made of.
  • In Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance, Carrigan is turned into Blackout. When he tries to eat, his Touch of Death causes every piece of food he picks up to become completely molded and/or rotted by the time he gets it to his mouth, except for a Twinkie that is unaffected.

    Jokes 

    Literature 
  • Ciaphas Cain, HERO OF THE IMPERIUM often refers to Imperial standard (corpse starch) ration bars as equally unpalatable and indestructible. The bars he abandoned in a life pod during the first invasion of Perlia may still be good during the second... eighty years later. The bars can survive several forms of Exterminatus, though anyone being around to eat them after is questionable.
  • In The City of Ember, despite having been underground for 241 years, the city still had some canned food, including fruit cocktail and other canned fruit, that had been stocked there in the beginning.
  • Discworld:
    • Dwarf bread is, technically speaking, edible... but it's more commonly used as a blunt instrument. The prospect of actually having to eat dwarf bread is apparently so dreadful, it keeps people going in hopes they can find something else to eat, like roots and berries. Or their own feet. It's also mentioned that "bread-breaking" is a sign of great trust between clans and individuals, often done to seal alliances or big business deals, and that the ceremonial hammers used for the purpose are exquisitely crafted and highly prized family heirlooms. Common dwarf joke: to make a meal of dwarf bread, soak it in a bucket for a month. Then eat the bucket.
      Mad: Why, if it wasn't for our dwarf bread we'd never—
      Rincewind: Have been able to club the sharks to death?
      Mad: Ah, I see you are a man who knows his breads!
      • It is also meant to parody Tolkien's elven Lembas "bread". Lembas can take away a man's hunger with one or two mouthfuls. You usually just need to look at Dwarf bread to not be hungry anymore.
    • This trope also shows up in Unseen Academicals with the "emergency pasta" that Professor Bengo Macarona brought with him from his homeland. It's supposed to keep for years and be just as edible as the day it was made... which turns out to be "not very edible", but the wizards have been cut off from their usual supply of snacks because it's the night before The Big Game, and they're a bit desperate.
    • The Complete Discworld Atlas reveals that there is also such a thing as Dwarf Chocolate. It has a lot in common with Dwarf bread and is described as an arrangement of deadly serrated flat triangular shapes which, if an unwary person attempts to eat them in the usual manner, can cause broken teeth and a perforated palate. It has a suspicious amount in common with the Swiss delight known as Toblerone, which shares many characteristics. And it contains nuts.
    • A Tourist Guide to Lancre contains a brief mention of "Lancre Mint Cake", which is described as "mint-flavoured dwarf bread" and parodies a real product. Nanny Ogg's cookbook offers a version for "lowlanders who like their teeth" and mentions the originals are taken by travelers for occasional sustenance, but mostly to beat trolls to death if ambushed.
    • In The Fifth Elephant, the Scone of Stone that serves as the Dwarf King's throne cushion isn't as indestructible as advertised, but as per the Grandpa's Axe paradox, it's still the same Scone the first one sat upon.
  • In Stephenie Meyer's The Host, the protagonist scavenges Twinkies from an abandoned house at one point.
  • The Lord of the Rings: Lembas (which is not bread).note  As long as it's in the original leaf wrapping, it can stay fresh for a long time, and even if you unwrap it, it seems to last quite a while. (Sam kept an emergency ration stashed away somewhere for several months to no ill effects.) Cram or waybread, made by humans, is a more realistically tasteless long-lasting ration. Lembas, being elven, is still delicious months later. Then again, it is made by elves. All products of elven craftsmanship are at least somewhat magical and are by default ten times better than the equivalent human product. It's how Middle-Earth elves roll. Lembas, however, are not actually an elven creation. The special corn used to make them was a gift from the Vala Yavanna, and the original recipe was a gift from the Maia Melian. Lembas are literally divine.
  • Played for horror in The Mummy Or Ramses The Damned, where the title character tried to use his immortality elixir on plants and livestock to create a famine-proof supply of food. This resulted in cereals and livestock that killed the consumer as they couldn't be digested, and cows that couldn't be slaughtered.
  • John Hemry's Paul Sinclair novel A Just Determination has a scene in which a New Year's celebration aboard a U.S. Navy spaceship includes firing a fruitcake into the depths of space "as a warning to all the universe of the awful culinary weapons available to the human race." It's also stated that billions of years in the future, the fruitcake will be just as edible and tasty as it is at that moment.
  • The sailors and Marines of The Lost Fleet (by the same author, writing as Jack Campbell) frequently have to subsist on ration bars left behind on mothballed enemy facilities in worlds bypassed by the hyperspace gate network. The best that can be said about them is that they make fewer sailors complain about short rations. They're still edible despite being Way Past the Expiration Date—by decades in many cases—is justified by their usually being stored in hard vacuum. A possible example also exists in the utterly revolting Danaka Yoruk bars, which nobody on either side will eat if they have an alternative (They apparently taste better than stale Syndic rations, but that's their only known virtue). Geary is amazed that they're still making the things, given that they were reviled back when he was put into cryo a century previous, and Desjani counters that they stopped making them a century ago, but the Alliance is still trying to get rid of the ones they already made.
  • A Red Dwarf tie-in book contains mention of the fact that Kryten's pastry can bring down GELF ships when fired at them.
  • Vatta's War: Apparently something of a Vatta family tradition.
    • Kylara's aunt sends her some utterly impervious fruitcakes at the beginning of the series. Ky bemoans their inedibility and stores them away, forgetting about them until after the first novel's climax. Finally cutting one open, she finds it full of diamonds — the fruitcakes are so dense that they block security scans, making them perfect for smuggling, and so unpalatable no-one will cut one up unless the situation is truly dire.
    • Kylara's father and uncle reminisce about "Uncle Evar's homemade sausage", which was "hard as rock" and at one point used to bludgeon a pirate boarding party member to death.
  • In Shards of Honor, Aral claims that his Barrayaran emergency military rations can go for years without spoiling... and probably have already.
  • One of Robert Sheckley's stories had alien astronauts sustain themselves on some super-nutrient nut... that, going on a human technology, takes a hydraulic press to crack.
  • Exaggerated with Charlie and the Chocolate Factory's Everlasting Gobstoppers, which never grow any smaller no matter how long one sucks on them. Willy Wonka's developed them for "children with very little pocket money". Notably becomes a major plot point in the 1971 film adaptation.
  • In the Codex Alera series, ship's tack is treated as borderline inedible — hard, tasteless bits of bread that are valued for their longevity, not their taste. At one point, a Canim wolf-man is offered some, takes a bite, chews, and then reflects that the humans he's traveling with are tougher than he thought if this is what they eat.
  • In Nation, the stores on the wrecked ship include tins of Dr Poundbury's Patent Ever-Lasting Milk, which claims to be as fresh after a year as the day it was canned and very probably is.
  • Holes: Downplayed with Kate Barlow's spiced peach preserves, a cache of which survives for over 100 years in the ruins of her lover's boat. They sustain Zero for days when he's lost in the desert, but overconsuming the fermented peaches gives him an incapacitating stomach ache.
  • The Machineries of Empire: Some varieties of Kel field rations are rated to last over two centuries, though there's a joke that consuming ration bars voluntarily is a sign of mental health problems.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Are You Being Served?: The store's canteen is still serving the same tinned pilchards (sardines) that Young Mr. Grace had made for World War II.
  • There was a joke about this on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, where they find a packed lunchbox from the 70s.
    Tutuola: Okay, always wanted to know this.
    Munch: What?
    Tutuola: Do Twinkies last forever? Give you twenty bucks, take a bite.
  • From Lost:
    Hurley: So, dude? What do you think is inside of that hatch thing?
    Locke: What do you think is inside it?
    Hurley: Stacks of TV dinners from the 50's, or something. And TVs with cable, some cell phones, clean socks, soap, Twinkies — you know, for dessert, after the TV dinners. Twinkies keep for, like, 8000 years, man.
  • Alton cleared up the prejudice towards fruitcake (and provided another form of an above joke) in one episode of Good Eats.
  • Dog's milk, the backup emergency milk aboard the Red Dwarf — it tastes just the same three million years later. Though according to Holly, the main reason why it lasts longer than any other kind of milk is that "no bugger'll drink it."
    • The books go further into this — all the food onboard is "irradiated and vacuum-sealed to last an eternity". The Cat race gained an evolutionary level and ended a famine when they learned how to operate a tin-opener.
  • Monty Python's Flying Circus: Mr. Gulliver from the Cycling Tour episode develops these. He made a cheese sandwich that can resist 4000 psi, and a tomato that predicts when it's going to be in an accident and jumps to safety.
  • In Kitchen Nightmares at the Dovecote Bistro for the "Great British Nightmare" special, Gordon Ramsay is shocked when the owner's daughter informs him that the lamb shank he has just been served has a lifespan of ONE YEAR, and doesn't even need to be refrigerated due to being vacuum sealed. Gordon is so revolted he outright refuses to taste the dish (something he had never done before up to that point in either KN series). He then looks over the ingredients of the lamb shank and is shocked by how many chemicals are in it, upon which he remarks "thank fuck I didn't taste it!"
  • Stuck in the Middle: The fruitcake given to the Diaz family every year by their abuela. Usually discarded unwrapped and uneaten as soon as it arrives. Harley notes that consuming it will result in significant digestive complications.

    Music 
  • The second verse of the Irish Christmas song "Ms Fogarty's Christmas Cake" reveals that nobody could cut the eponymous fruitcake until two of the guests at the party brought in a hatchet and a saw. For reference, this song was first released in 1883.
  • "Grandma's Killer Fruitcake" by Dr. Elmo describes its eponymous cake thusly in the chorus:
    It was harder than the head of Uncle Bucky,
    Heavy as a sermon from Preacher Lucky,
    One's enough to give the whole state of Kentucky a great big belly ache!
    It was denser than a drove of barnyard turkeys;
    Tougher than a truckload of all beef jerkey;
    Drier than a drought in Albuquerque;
    Grandma's Killer Fruitcake!

    Newspaper Comics 
  • A Running Gag in Over the Hedge is the junk food RJ and the other forest animals steal having expiration dates a century (or more) off.

    Radio 
  • A Prairie Home Companion/How To Talk Minnesotan (the latter is based on segments from the former) has Slo-Decay Snack Cakes. They stay fresh forever.

    Video Games 
  • In Space Quest IV: Roger Wilco and the Time Rippers there is the Monolith Burger fast-food chain. The Permabuns used in the Monoliths are 299 years old. Whether the burgers are actually edible is never mentioned.
    • They are technically edible - Roger did eat one in Space Quest III, though it wasn't very good.
  • In Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, there are three foods that will never go rotten (other food makes Snake prone to randomly throwing up at the worst possible time if it goes rotten): CalorieMates™, which are delicious, Instant Noodles, which are delicious and a delicacy, having not really made it out of Japan in 1964, and Russian Army Rations, which are absolutely disgusting, though if you feed him enough of them, he'll develop a taste for them. It's also fairly realistic when you consider the prologue takes place over the course of just one day, and the main mission takes place over the course of four days. Their indestructibility is more in a meta sense - you can go a decade before resuming a saved game, and these items will still be fine while waiting just one week before resuming a saved game will cause your wild-caught foods to spoil.
  • The Fallout video game series.
    • Fallout 3: the canned goods and other manufactured sweets have survived complete nuclear armageddon, which by the time of this game happened exactly 200 years ago, and are still edible — though some cause radiation poisoning.
    • Lampshaded in Fallout: New Vegas. When a cook offers to make the Courier some Deathclaw Omelet, the Courier can say that s/he would be very happy to eat something that was not packaged 200 years ago (with said cook being bewildered people still eat that old stuff). Thing is, you really don't need to in New Vegas, given the abundance of far superior fresh, wild-growing or cultivated edible plants and tasty animals. The Courier should have been glad to eat something besides Banana Yucca and Prickly Pear.
      • Though there is an inexplicable Fresh Apple in the Sierra Madre Vault, a place where no one has set foot in 200 years.
      • Downplayed with "pre-war steaks" found in the kitchen of the Sierra Madre casino. They have a -1 Endurance debuff but that's it.
    • In the intro to Fallout 4, you can inspect some food in the pantry. Your character will check the expiration date, which is Never. There's also the Perfectly Preserved Pie in the main part of the game, something that at least one NPC is skeptical about with regards to its edibility, though it is safe, lacking the radiation of other pre-war packaged foods.
    • Averted in Fallout and Fallout 2, where the only pre-war food items you can find are TV dinners, dried pasta, and cheese puffs, none of which you can eat. Both the Vault Dweller and the Chosen One wonder if the TV dinners were even edible in the first place.
  • World of Warcraft has cooking recipes including Egg Nog, Spice Bread, Hot Lion Chops, Hot Wolf Ribs, Hot Apple Cider, and Hot Buttered Trout and purchasable item Ice Cold Milk. The Egg Nog never gets funky, nobody has ever eaten "Stale, Moldy Spice Bread," the milk never turns into "Lukewarm, Curdled Milk," and the other recipes never turn into, e.g. "Room-temperature Wolf Ribs." Not to mention all the other cooked meals that you would expect to go off after a short time or just be totally disgusting if not freshly cooked.
    • This was mocked in a webcomic that claimed that improperly stored fish had recently caused a rash of food poisoning among various guilds.
    • Graccu's Mince Meat Fruitcake lampoons the common joke about fruitcakes being nigh-indestructible. "Preserved with Graccu's special spices! It'll be a very long time before these turn bad..."
  • The browser game Improbable Island provides players with Ration Packs, which are "designed to withstand being thrown out of a plane, bounced down a mountain, encased in snow and ice, left out in the sun and/or buried in a swamp for up to three years." They contain all the nutrients you need to survive but aren't very pleasant to eat.
  • In Cataclysm, you can loot military rations from military surplus stores. As any jarhead or private will tell you, they're not very good — eating them temporarily lowers your morale.
  • Pikmin:
    • Pikmin 2: Many of the treasures are food and, while it's heavily implied that the planet where you find them is the far future of the Earth, none of it is the least bit rotten.
    • Pikmin 3 has you collecting a variety of fruit, all of which look perfectly ripe and not spoiled in any way despite many of them being found buried in the dirt, submerged in river, lying around in caves or within the guts of large animals.
  • Don't Starve gives us the Powdercake. This meal made of a piece of corn, one honey (which already lasts long), and one twig. It lasts 18750 days before turning into rot. Although it will last only half that being as edible as before, it is still a ridiculous amount of time. It adds no hunger and takes 3 health upon consumption. Nevertheless, it can be used as everlasting bait for traps.
  • Fallen London: Incorruptible Biscuits. The description tells they never go off, though one could argue they were never on. Just a few bites will get you through a long day, but they're gonna be difficult bites; the street urchins call them Dentist Biscuits for a reason. It's rumored crates of them were made for the Napoleonic Wars nearly a century before the game's start and came down as London did, uneaten even through the famine of 1862. Their taste is not remarked on, though Londoner palates can probably use something more normal than their usual shroomy, ratty and even rubbery meals.
  • In Baten Kaitos and Baten Kaitos Origins, most food magnuses usable only in battle will rot away/age into other items in a determinate amount of time but some won't, like honey, chestnuts and deluxe green teas. Camp only food like Shish Kebabs and most pastries won't age either.
  • Ruina: Fairy Tale of the Forgotten Ruins: This is only played straight with preserved foods like jerky, which can be made by combining ingredients with mysterious salt. These preserved foods won't expire, making it possible to hoard them over the course of an entire playthrough. All other foods have a chance of expiring whenever a day passes.

    Web Comics 
  • One Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal comic had a pie last for eons.
  • One character in Nodwick drank "five hundred years old coffee". It's amazing stuff. It's implied he actually used that coffee to melt the walls.
  • Parodied - and taken a step further - in Schlock Mercenary, where MREs from hundreds of years ago have somehow aged into delicacies. They apparently follow a parabolic path, first declining in quality and then (around the 70-year mark) rising again until they end up surpassing their original levels.
  • The residents of Endtown mostly live on canned beans scavenged from the surface, since D-bombs destroyed most of the plant life. In this comic they come across a grocery store where low levels of Amesworth radiation disintegrated the beans in their cans, but not the Twinkies.
  • Fruit cake receives this treatment in Manly Guys Doing Manly Things. The Commander uses it for wilderness survival kits, as it's calorie-dense and lasts forever. One of his fruitcake stashes lasted for hundreds of years and didn't taste any worse than when it was made.

    Web Original 
  • One of Ashens' main recurring features is predicated around this. Usually proving that no, things generally don't last forever.
  • In If the Emperor Had a Text-to-Speech Device, Rogal Dorn cooks waffles that can withstand industrial drills.
  • Plonqmas: Almost invariably applies to Plonq’s holiday meal, which is usually a variant on “Christmas Dinner-in-a-Bag.” Inverted at the end of “A Plonqmas Tale — 2019,” when he enjoys a standard sushi meal at a nearby restaurant.
  • Steve 1989 MRE Info is the chief of the YouTube Ration Reviewing community for his mettle examining vastly out of date rations, rather than just stuff expected to be edible. Some highlights:
    • He has a great love for can-era US military peanut butter, which he's had over 60 years old and is still perfectly good besides oil separation.
    • Coffee Instant Type 1 and non-dairy creamer from a 1942-dated US Army ration, enjoyed in 2017.
    • Civil War-vintage hardtack. He said it tasted like how old mothballs and library books smell.
    • Boer War-vintage dehydrated meat and cocoa powder.

    Western Animation 
  • The Earthworm Jim episode "Trout!" had a nut log that was a Chekhov's Gag, as the 'foodstuff' in question was hard and heavy as a rock. When they fight Queen Slug-For-A-Butt, and the log becomes the perfect counter to her nigh-indestructible scepter. The 'nigh-' part coming into play as the log is thrown at her and parried with the scepter, only to shatter on contact. Yes, the scepter, not the nut log.
    Peter Puppy: I don't think it was meant to be eaten, Jim. I think it was meant to anchor ships in a heavy storm.
  • The Family Guy episode "Da Boom" involves the family going on a journey to find a Twinkie factory after a nuclear apocalypse, figuring that the Twinkies would be the only thing to survive.
  • An episode of Futurama involves an auction for a tin of thousand-year-old anchovies. Although everyone else finds Fry's anchovy pizza utterly disgusting when they try it, Fry and Zoidberg don't seem to have any problems eating it, implying they are still at least fresh enough for an anchovy lover to eat. In fact, part of the auction guaranteed their freshness.
  • From the Kim Possible episode "Sink or Swim":
    Ron: ...Well, if we pry up the floorboard like so, we'll find my secret stash of snacks.
    Tara: Cool!
    Kim: Tara, those are ancient!
    Bonnie: G-ross!
    Ron: Pop Pop Porters food-style pork wafers have enough preservatives to last for decades!
    Tara: (tentatively tries one) It's definitely... food style...
  • The Simpsons
    • The Twinkie stereotype is taken a step further when an enraged customer crushes one with his hands ("This is what I think of your store!") before storming out of the Kwik-E-Mart. It quickly pops back into shape after Apu picks it up.
      Apu: Silly customer! You cannot hurt a Twinkie!
    • Apparently, they can also ferment, as Homer kept one in the wall safe for ten years to see if it turned to liquor. The next scene has him drinking the filling through a straw, clearly drunk off his ass.
    • A deleted scene in "Mother Simpson" shows that the twenty-year-old candy in the never-delivered care packages (including Space Food Sticks from the 80s, which are no longer made) was still edible, Homer all-too-eager to scarf it down.
  • In Fillmore!, Vallejo worries about cookie dough O'Farrell is eating, from the 1940s. After Ingrid reads off some ingredients, she comments it'll "outlast the Sphinx."
  • In one of the old Pac-Man cartoons, Pac-Man finds Power Pellets in a mummy's tomb. "A little stale, but still good!" he quips.
  • After the titular Sam and Max get dropped into the Junglenote  in "We Drop At Dawn". Sam happens upon an overgrown hotdog cart and helps himself to a sausage, which according to him "the overabundance of chemical preservatives, has kept this long forgotten frank, farm fresh!", the same could not be said for the sauerkraut nor the mustard. Hilariously even when disposing of the cart he stuffs a few more franks on his pockets.

    Real Life 
  • DSV Alvin, the submersible that explored the Titanic, was once lost at sea with its hatch open. When it was retrieved ten months later, the cold and lack of oxygen had rendered some sandwiches left aboard soggy, but edible.
  • While not entirely indestructible, Chocolate can last long after the best before date says it can and still taste good, if stored in proper conditions. On occasion, chocolate can bloom, in which fats and sugars come out of solution and crystallise on the surface, but melting the chocolate down, pouring it into a mould and setting it usually fixes this minor issue.
  • Ship's biscuits or hardtack, a very durable type of cracker/biscuit. It's so hard and dry that century-old samples can be eaten, if one really had to. Samplers will cheekily note that ancient hardtack "tastes just as good as when it was made." Modern airtight packaging has now made hardtack's infamously hard and dry texture unnecessary.
    • A common way to eat hardtack was to pound the thing back into flour with a mortar and pestle and re-cook the resulting paste into gruel. It can be argued that hardtack is not so much food as a semi-processed ingredient.
  • Honey virtually never goes bad. It may crystallize, but just heat it up to liquefy it and it's just as good as the day the bees made it. Honey from thousands of years ago, including that found in Egyptian pyramids, is still edible. This is because honey is both a natural source of hydrogen peroxide (an antiseptic) and is a supersaturated sugar solution, which acts as a desiccant. Bacteria can't live in it because osmosis sucks all the water out of them. Some microbial spores can survive in honey, however, even if they can't propagate (amongst them spores for bacteria that cause botulism, which is why you never feed honey to infants).
  • Food exposed to sufficient levels of radiation will be sterilized and can be stored indefinitely at room temperature. Most commercial food irradiation facilities subject the food in question to short and extremely intense bursts of gamma radiation that are enough to kill or at least deactivate most single-cell organisms, but as the cells in the food itself are generally already dead, it doesn't do much to them. And the duration of the pulses is insufficient to cause noticeable degradation in the proteins and such.
  • Straight granulated white cane sugar only goes bad if it gets wet. Otherwise, just keep it stored away from insects and children.
  • Similarly, vinegar. This is basically because vinegar's an "already-rotten" product, the result of natural sugars in the original base substances being twice fermented, first into ethanol (which is already toxic to a lot of single-cell organisms) then into acetic acid (which is even harder on them). Keep the stuff bottled up and it'll last a very long time.
  • Hard liquor and the like doesn't spoil for the same reason as vinegar (it's technically already spoiled). At worst, some of the alcohol in it may evaporate over time.
  • Turbatrix aceti, the "vinegar eel", is a type of nematode that feeds off of the microbial culture that ferments sugars and cellulose and is thus often found in "mother of vinegar" (a jelly-like stage between cider and vinegar, with LOTS of active bacteria). If the resulting vinegar is not filtered, one can find ugly (but harmless) little critters swimming in it. They don't affect the vinegar, though.
  • Rich fruitcake can last a century or more, being full of sugar and soaked in alcohol. If it's covered in royal icing, it'll last even longer, since the icing is pure sugar and forms an airtight seal with the plate.
    • A century-old fruitcake was discovered at the Cape Adare camp in Antarctica from an expedition that ended in 1911. Because of the extremely cold temperature, the cake itself was perfectly preserved and is still edible, even though the tin that contained it had rusted away.
  • Certain dried goods last for a while if properly stored.
  • Military rations:
    • From the predecessor to the MRE: at his retirement ceremony, Col. Henry Moak opened and ate a 40-year-old canned pound cake that was originally issued to him in Vietnam.
    • In 1908 the Arctic expedition of Baron Toll left a food cache in the permafrost of Novaya Zemlya island, consisting mostly of the canned foods that were Russian Army standard issue rations. In 2008, another expedition opened that cache and tested some of the cans — both chemically... and directly. The permafrost had done its job so well (hey, it's -40C below there!) that the food remained perfectly edible for a full hundred years. Or at least as edible as it had ever been.
    • World War II American D Rations were bars of specially formulated chocolate that were effectively just bricks of nutrients. Eating them took a bit of work since biting straight into a bar might just break your teeth. They were so hardy that they could be fired from artillery cannons to soldiers who were trapped behind enemy lines. The military commissioned Hershey to make the bars so unappealing to soldiers that they wouldn't eat them unless they absolutely had to.
    • British Army ration packs ("rat-packs") first assembled in the 1960s were still being issued in the 1980s and were still as fit to eat as they had been twenty years earlier. The knowledgeable could date them pretty much exactly note  because they would contain chocolate bars or sweets that had long since been discontinued for general sale to the public.
    • Meal, Ready to Eat. Shelf life is nominally three and a half years at 27 degrees Celsius (81 degrees Fahrenheit) so long as it is kept sealed. In long-term storage, it is kept at -18 degrees Celsius (0 degrees Fahrenheit) and can last longer without affecting the quality (which in the earlier ones was certainly dubious, leading to nicknames like "Meal, Rarely Edible").note  Modern examples are more palatable, but servicemen will still damn their taste in the same breath used to recognize their durability:
      Colonel North K. Charles: "We all anticipated leftover roast beef and turkey for midnight chow, but then the Taliban attacked. Somehow a lucky shot from a rocket-propelled grenade hit the container with all our Thanksgiving leftovers. We couldn’t even salvage some pumpkin pie. In a cruel twist of fate, an R.P.G. also hit our supply of [M.R.E.s], but of course most of those accursed things survived the attack."
    • In his memoir One Bullet Away, Nathaniel Fick recalls his friend opening a packet of M&M's from an MRE and realizing that it was about ten years old because it was advertising a sweepstakes for the 1992 Barcelona Olympics.
    • The aforementioned Steve 1989 MRE Info, an enthusiast of military rations around the world, discusses that MREs from the late eighties and early nineties tend to hold up and taste better than newer MREs still within their recommended three-year shelf life because, he says, of the trans fat content in those older ones.
  • Plumpy'nut is a type of peanut butter used to fight malnutrition in famine-stricken countries by having an extremely high-calorie value (a single 92-gram pack contains 500 calories). It can be stored without refrigeration for up to two years and requires no cooking or preparation.
  • Salami is actually an exception to this trope — not in its indestructibility (properly processed chubs will remain edible for up to ten years), but in its edibility; it's amazingly tasty. Of course, this applies to the cured, fermented, air-dried (and rather expensive) product as opposed to the machine-dried stuff offered by the majority of delicatessens. That stuff will grow fur after a week or two even when refrigerated.
  • McDonald's food can maintain their appearance for longer than one might expect due to their lack of moisture, as their burgers are thin and fries heavily salted. As detailed above, mold needs moisture to grow.
    • The Cheeseburger Museum has burgers from McDonald's that are two decades old and look exactly the same as the day they were bought. It's presumably not safe to eat them due to bacterial growth.
    • An extra feature in the DVD for Super Size Me has Morgan Spurlock keep various McDonald's burgers and fries in jars to see how long it takes for them to go bad, with a local independent burger joint providing a control. The indie burger and fries went bad within the first week. The McBurgers lasted a few weeks longer. The McFries went for ten weeks without looking any different, at which point the intern accidentally threw the fries away. One could infer that the fries could last even longer. This was intended to imply how artificial they are, but anyone who knows basic biology will know that mold requires moisture to grow, and the McDonalds burger and fries were much too thin to hold water for long, which combined with their high sodium content meant that they were an environment that was simply too dry for anything visible to grow.
  • This video showcases someone casting a fresh McDonald's cheeseburger and some fries in epoxy resin, creating two paperweights with food in them, then leaving them for 60 days to see what happened. After 60 days, both were in pretty great condition, though as the bread dried out, it left a noticeable dent in the plastic in the case of the cheeseburger. After cutting the two paperweights in half, to which the person reported it still smelled as fresh as the day he bought them, he proceeded to paint one of the halves with another layer of resin, while leaving the others untouched, then waited another 60 days; the unprotected cheeseburger dried out further and showed signs of some growing mold on areas that hadn't been infiltrated by the plastic, while the re-sealed half showed no further signs of degradation. It goes without saying that you probably wouldn't want to eat either though.
  • Tiny airtight-sealed condiment packets can last quite a while without refrigeration, so long as they remain intact. Tabasco lasts the longest at 3-4 years, but even mayonnaise can go up to a year without spoiling, which is at least triple as long as an opened jar of mayonnaise will stay good in the refrigerator.
  • A singular dairy example: buttermilk. It's got more in common with yogurt and sour cream than your regular moo-juice. The bacterial cultures present in the buttermilk are still barely active and create an acidic environment unwelcoming to other biological contaminants. However, the buttermilk itself, as a result of the good bacterial activity, will keep getting thicker and more intensely flavored. Only when it's too thick to pour does it need to be thrown out.
  • Several of Noah "The Spoony One" Antwiler's old gaming stories mention a pizza joint called Peter Piper Pizza, which served some of the most godawful, greasy pizza known to man. One story in particular involves him finding a month-old Peter Piper's pizza in the bathroom of the gaming store that he worked at. Instead of rotting, growing mold, or decaying in any way, the pizza had become glazed over with a barrier of hardened grease, leaving it looking more or less normal save for a weird plastic-y sheen.
  • For thousands of years, people in parts of Europe, particularly Ireland and to a lesser extent Scotland, buried large lumps of butter and other fats in peat bogs in order to preserve it. Hundreds of these masses of preserved fat have been recovered from bogs; the oldest known, from Ireland, is about 3,000 years old, and it was still being made in the Middle Ages. They still have the look and texture of butter or margarine, and sometimes still smell like dairy. Supposedly, it's still edible, and quite a few people have eaten small samples; it's said to taste like a hard, sour cheese.
  • Archaeological evidence indicates Paleo-Indians used a similar technique with meat in North America during the Ice Age by storing it underwater in lakes and ponds. Experiments conducted with lamb, venison, and horse meat have shown the cuts would retain nutritive value for at least six months (although they might have wanted to trim the edges before serving it up).
  • While liquor is famous for getting better with age, provided it is stored properly, the people who salvaged the Vasa took it to extremes. The Vasa was a galleon, which sank in Stockholm at the start of its maiden voyage in 1628. When it was salvaged in 1961, the excavation crew found a keg of vodka. The contents were not only perfectly palatable, they were served as a pre-dinner cocktail at the Vasa Museum inauguration dinner.
  • Pemmican, a blend of powdered dried meat and saturated fat, was taken along by polar explorers and would last for years at room temperature.
  • Subverted with woolly mammoth meat. Despite a persistent Urban Legend about mammoth steaks being served at a paleontologist convention, woolly mammoth carcasses that have been found frozen in Siberia or Alaska have all spoiled almost instantly upon being thawed and have been completely inedible.
    • In one instance, DNA analysis of the "fossil meat" served at a dinner revealed it to be flesh from a Green Sea Turtle. Exotic, but not what the host had claimed.
  • A YouTube video exists of a twelve-year-old Pot Noodlenote  being reconstituted with boiling water. And eaten. Chicken and mushroom flavour, apparently.
  • Soy sauce won't expire unless given long exposure to heat and sunlight because of its high salinity. Old soy sauce is, in fact, a cooking ingredient in its own right.
  • Salt, being an inorganic mineral substance and a natural desiccant, can potentially last indefinitely so long as it's not dissolved. The oldest known salt deposits on Earth, found within Australia's Bitter Springs Formation, are ~1.17 billion years old.
  • The reason Spam and other canned meats are so popular in tropical places like Hawaii and Guam even as the mainland U.S. shuns them is that they can keep unopened without refrigeration for years, which makes them a lifesaver in hot climates.
  • This Reddit user took a photo of a cupcake left in their manager's office for a year due to the COVID-19 lockdown that had completely solidified and become rock-hard.

Top

How well does it match the trope?

Example of:

/

Media sources:

/

Report