Leave it to a piano playing mathematician to give us the musical theater version of the Periodic Table of the Elements. And a couple of calender designers (presumably hungry) to give us the edible version, aptly named The Periodic Table of Condiments. The table provides invaluable – if not always accurate – information on the spoilage factor of everyday foods (Twinkie hot dogs are, oddly, absent from the list).

If, like me, you'd never heard of the Periodic Table of Condiments, it was reportedly first included in AIGA's 1997 edition of the “365 Ben Days Calendar”, a mock calendar commemorating 19th century newspaper publisher Benjamin Day's accomplishments in the printing industry. Day is best known for the Benday dot printing technique (combining different colored dots to create a comic-book like image).

Judging by the expiration dates of several entries in the table, Day wasn't as up on his food safety regulations as he was on his dots. Vg (vinaigrette) and Ln (lemon) are both listed as having a shelf lives of 2 months (hopefully we are talking the bottled, not homemade, version of each).

Cz (Cheeze Whiz) and Bo (Baco Bits) and X (maraschino cherries) each get a N/A, presumably because they have enough preservatives to make any target date irrelevant. Others get a bit short-changed. H (honey) lasts indefinitely when properly stored, not a mere 8 months. And if Ta (Tabasco) receives a life sentence of 2 to 5 years, then a Ss (steak sauce) like A-1, with its impressive list of preservatives, surely lasts longer than 1 year?

Let your dinner guests figure it out while you check the use-by date on that ancient bottle of Cp (chocolate syrup) in the back of the pantry.

LA Weekly