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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.

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".

Twinkies[1] and other preservative-laden snack foods are the ones which most commonly get this treatment, but it's sometimes applied to canned foods as well.

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

Compare It Came From the Fridge. Usually Even The Rats Won't Touch food like this.

Examples of Indestructible Edible include:


Film

  • 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.
  • When Jim meets the other survivors in 28 Days Later, 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 the irradiated apples.
  • Down Periscope plays this as a joke. When the cook opens a can that expired in 1966, he eats some and can't see what the problem is as it still tastes like creamed corn... except, it's deviled ham.
  • 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.
  • Exaggerated with Everlasting Gobstoppers, where they last forever while being eaten.
  • 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 Vengence, Corrigan 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

  • What will be the four things to survive a nuclear holocaust? Cockroaches, Twinkies, Canada, and Chuck Norris.
    • Alternate answer: it was cockroaches, twinkies, Cher, and Mick Jagger.
    • In a similar vein: When the end comes, there will be only three things left -- twinkies, cockroaches, and fruitcake. Then there will be only cockroaches and fruitcake. Then... Fruitcake.
    • Of course, everybody seems to have forgot... It's Twinkies, cockroaches, and all of Nintendo's products.
  • A common Finnish joke states that Dried Oat Porridge would withstand dynamite.

Literature

  • In Harry Potter, Hagrid's rock cakes can break people's teeth.
  • In Stephenie Meyer's The Host, the protagonist scavenges Twinkies from an abandoned house at one point.
  • 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.
  • Kylara's aunt sends her some utterly impervious fruitcakes at the beginning of Elizabeth Moon's ~Vatta's War~ 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.
  • Dwarf bread in Discworld 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.
    • Common dwarf joke: to make a meal of Dwarf bread, soak it in a bucket for a month. Then eat the bucket.
    • 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.
  • John Hemry's 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.
  • Lembas bread. 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.)
    • Lembas, being elven, is still delicious months later. Cram or waybread, made by humans, is a more realistically tasteless long-lasting ration.
    • 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.
  • In the first novel of the Vorkosigan Saga, Aral claims that his Barrayaran emergency military rations can go for years without spoiling... and probably have already.
  • A Red Dwarf tie-in book contains mention of the fact that Kryten's pastry can bring down GELF ships when fired at them.
  • 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.
  • 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.

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 and Order SVU, where Munch tries to get Fin to eat the contents of some long-dead kid's lunchbox.
  • 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 a recent 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 because "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.

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 4 there is the Monolith Burger fast food chain. The Permabuns used in the titular Monoliths are 299 years old. Whether the burgers are actually edible is never mentioned.
  • In Metal Gear Solid 3, 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 (tm), 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.
  • Fallout 3: the canned goods and other manufactured sweets have survived complete nuclear armageddon and are still edible -- though some cause radiation poisoning.
    • By the time of 3, that would be over 200 years.
  • 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 which 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.


Web Comics

  • Parodied - and taken a step further - in Schlock Mercenary, where MREs from hundreds of years ago have somehow aged into delicacies.
  • 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.

Western Animation

  • On Family Guy, the family goes on a journey to find a twinkie factory after a nuclear apocalypse, figuring that the twinkies would be the only thing to survive.
  • 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 takes the Twinkie stereotype a step further when an enraged customer crushes one under his foot 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.
  • 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.
  • The Earthworm Jim episode "Trout!" had a nut log that was a running joke turned Chekhov's Gun, as the 'foodstuff' in question was hard as, and heavy as, a rock.

 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 Chekhov's Gun part comes into play 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.

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.
  • Ship's biscuits or hardtack, a very durable cracker/biscuit, has a few samples in museums that are a century and a half old. Some say the 'hardtack made 140 years ago "tastes just as good" now as it did back then.' This is not an impressive claim; however, it may be as close to Defictionalization as dwarf bread will get.
  • In Egyptian pyramids, honey has apparently been found which 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. And Now You Know).
  • 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 was in Russian Army standard issue rations. A couple of years ago 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.
    • Permafrost's done better than that. For centuries, natives of northern Siberia have been stumbling over frozen mammoth carcasses and eating them, with minimal ill effects, more than ten thousand years after the animals died. Even the undigested grass seeds in the mammoths' stomachs could still be consumed.
  • 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.
  • One celebrity guest on Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me claims to have a twinky he obtained at the start of his career that is still as spongy as it was when he bought it. While he's never opened the wrapping, this might indicate that the expiration date on twinkies means about as much as medication expiration dates.
  • Straight granulated white cane sugar only goes bad if it gets wet. Otherwise, just keep it stored away from insects and children.
  • 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.
  • Certain dried goods last for a while if properly stored. 28-year-old oatmeal was considered edible (in an emergency).
  • World War 2 American D Rations were bars of chocolate that were essentially bricks that tasted like cardboard. They were so hardy that they were used in a tactic to feed trapped pockets of your own soldiers, firing "D shells" from heavy artillery that deployed parachutes. Apparently they could survive even if the chute didn't deploy.
  • 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 pack contains 500 calories). They 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, the above references the cured, fermented, air-dried (and rather expensive) product as opposed to the machine-dried tripe offered by the majority of delicatessens. That stuff will grow fur after a week or two even if refrigerated.
  • The Cheeseburger Museum has burgers from McDonald's that are two decades old and look exactly the same as they day they were bought.
  • 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.
  • Meal, Ready to Eat. Shelf life is considered two years so long as it is kept sealed. In long term storage, it is kept at -18 degrees Celcius (0 degrees Farenheit) and can last longer without affecting the quality (which in the earlier ones was certainly dubious).
  • 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.
  • 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 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.

Notes

  1. Which, contrary to popular belief, last about a month before they go bad. While this is still significantly longer than that of many other pastries and baked goods, it's hardly the centuries-long shelf life that urban legends claim.
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