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Five Lies You’ve Been Told About Leftovers

Are you doing aluminum foil wrong? Will worms eat your leftover flesh sack when you die? Let’s find out the truth.

The world is full of lies, and it’s hard to get through life without taking a few on board. Luckily, we’re here to sort the fact from the fiction, and find the plankton of truth in the ocean of bullshit. This week: Leftovers. Are you a cheap bastard if you ask for a doggy bag? Will what’s left of you after you die get eaten? Onwards to honesty…

Lie #1: Asking for a Doggy Bag Is Kinda Rude

It’s a bit, well, common, isn’t it, asking a restaurant for a bag to take home your unfinished meal? It’s hard to picture James Bond doing it, for instance — asking a waiter if he can take the last bit of a big pie home to reheat for lunch tomorrow.

One theory of why they’re known as “doggy bags” is that it allowed people to bring food home under the pretense that it was to give their hound a treat, rather than to finish it off themselves. But is it really something to be ashamed of? You’ve paid for the stuff, after all, and food waste is a massive problem — sending a bunch of perfectly good food to the trash is arguably a lot worse than risking looking cheap. If your options are tossing it, taking a doggy bag or shoving so much food down your throat that you’re a sweaty, vile mess, bag that shit up.

A 2014 survey in France — a country that takes fine dining pretty seriously — found that while 75 percent of the public were theoretically up for taking leftovers home from restaurants, only 30 percent of them had ever done it. In 2016, the country introduced a law that made it obligatory for restaurants serving over 180 people a day to offer up containers for patrons to take leftovers home. While in some circles it’s still seen as a slightly gauche American habit, campaigns like Gourmet Bag – C’est si bon je finis à la maison! are changing classy Gallic minds.

Lie #2: Aluminum Foil Has a Right and a Wrong Way Round

Aluminum foil, the best friend of yesterday’s meat, has a shiny side and a matte side. There’s the glamorous, smooth, Hollywood side, and the more rough-and-ready, indie one. Turns out they’re the friggin’ same though — the difference just comes from how foil is manufactured. It’s thin enough that the milling process (which heats and stretches it) would break it if done in single layers, so it’s done two sheets at a time. The outside ends up shiny, and the inside dull, but the difference between the two is eff-all. In other words, you’re doing your sandwiches no harm at all wrapping them up wrong. 

Lie #3: Leftover Weaponry Is Always Dealt With Responsibly

Um, no. Since World War II, huge amounts of unwanted munitions have been dumped in the sea, in a sort of “screw it, what’s the worst that can happen?” approach to safety. Generally, the weaponry is loaded onto boats, which are then sunk in the middle of the ocean and never thought about again.

The U.S. and U.K.’s cheerily-named Operation Davy Jones’ Locker ran from 1946 to 1948 and involved sinking 11 ships containing up to 40,000 tons of captured German munitions and chemical weapons in the sea around Scandinavia. Operation Geranium, in 1948, dumped 3,000 tons of lewisite, an incredibly unpleasant chemical weapon that causes burns, liver necrosis, blindness and pulmonary edemas, into the sea off Florida. Operation Sandcastle, in 1955 and 1956, involved sinking 16,000 bombs filled with the nerve agent tabun (or, to use its catchier name, Ethyl dimethylphosphoramidocyanidate) off the coast of Ireland.

Shall I go on? Okay. Operation CHASE (short for “cut holes and sink ’em” — no, really) ran in 12 stages from 1964 to 1970 and involved sinking boats filled with everything from terrifying nerve agents like VX gas to excess bombs. 

On multiple occasions, this led to unexpected underwater explosions. Great! The sea is really big, but we still probably shouldn’t be filling it with so much deadly shit. After all, fisherman keep dredging it up and dying

It’s fucked up. And we’ve kind of fucked it up.

Lie #4: Expired Eggs Will Destroy Your Innards

If you leave an egg (making it a “left ova,” no YOU shut up) beyond its expiration date, it’s a salmonella guarantee, right? Not necessarily. Expiration dates are a bit overzealous, especially with eggs. If in doubt about the quality of an egg, float it in a tall glass of water. If it sinks, it’s good. If it floats, it’s a baaaaaaaad egg.

Lie #5: When You’re Dead, You’re Worm Food

Oh, if only. The way people are traditionally buried, they’re filled with embalming fluid, which is highly toxic. It’s a combination of formaldehyde, phenol, methanol and glycerin, all of which adds up to a deeply unpleasant and potentially carcinogenic combo, and about two tons of crap being placed in the ground per corpse. No discerning worm wants to eat that shit. 800,000 gallons of formaldehyde entering the water table every year isn’t exactly ideal either — we’ve somehow found a way to keep making the world shittier even after we die.

Biodegradable caskets, low-fi natural woodland burials and “green cremation” using alkaline hydrolysis are all lower-impact ways of having your body disposed of, but still not as good as just being devoured. Annoyingly, while the Shark Trust takes donations, it only takes them in the form of money — i.e., you can’t sign up to have your dead body torn apart by Great Whites, which frankly seems like bullshit.