Yesterday was Thanksgiving – one of those feasts when a lot of people have way too much food on their table and way too many left-overs. I remember when I made a whole turkey for the first time, and we were only three eaters. I had turkey left-overs for ever so long, and not being used to that, I had no real recipes for them. I was not into turkey anyhow. So, I was not really grateful for all the left-overs. I felt taxed at using them up. So much for Thanksgiving.
Left-overs. I grew up on them, and there were days in my childhood and youth, when a dinner consisted of “yesterday’s left-overs”. My mother was a very economical home-maker, and she was most certainly also a wonderful home-cook. Still, if comparing dinners with friends at school, saying it had been “left-overs”, while somebody else boasted fish sticks or steak (what a luxury in general back then!), was simply underwhelming. Even though I realized early on that the fish sticks were way less flavorful than the pan-fried fish my mother used to make. And the steak I was once invited to partake of was kind of boiled and well-done – I preferred my mother’s humbler pork chops so much more!
It takes a child a while to learn that comparisons can be misleading. That fads don’t last long, and that fancy doesn’t equal good. In short, I learned to love my mother’s left-overs. And later, when I had my own household, I sometimes made extra-big batches of some favorite food, so I could enjoy “left-overs” for a few days in a row. It made it easier, too, when I had extra-long work hours. Two of my favorite dishes are still a chicken soup with rice, and a white bean soup.
Ever since I’ve been living over here, I have made left-overs a “thing”. Usually, I gave one batch to my husband for lunch when he went to work at his office. Sometimes, he let a co-worker have a taste of the goodies, and they even requested the recipes. To them, these “left-overs” were a new flavor, a new dish. It’s all a matter of perspective, you see. These days, my husband is mostly teleworking. So, left-overs become lunch for the both of us.
Yesterday, we had a roast turkey roll, my husband’s favorite – and this year, as he didn’t want me “to slave” in the kitchen (which nonetheless I’d have loved to do), it’s a boughten one. With all the side dishes we love in relatively small-sized badges. Now, the trouble with a turkey roll is that it is not versatile at all with all the spicing inside – your direction in food flavor is limited. Which means I’ll be stuck with the left-overs and might reheat those on a Sunday night or even on Christmas. Whereas with a whole turkey, I can make casseroles, stews, salads, sandwiches, stir-fries, pies … and even the carcass gets used to create some bone broth that makes one drool.
There are people out there who are less lucky these days. A lot of them. There have been long lines waiting for their turn at food banks all over the country these past days. These people don’t even have much of a choice. They are humbled by an unfortunate turn in their lives, and now, they are even humbled more by having to take what is handed to them. And they would probably be grateful for any left-overs they can reheat another day. The thought humbles me.
How easily do we discard our things, waste our food, dismiss our good fortune as a given?! How upset were some of us NOT to be able to see family, NOT to gather with friends yesterday?!
My husband and I had a delicious Thanksgiving dinner for two. We have had the knowledge that our family, who are all far away, enjoyed their feast in comparatively good health. We had a cozy day. We were warm. We had all our creature comforts and more.
I’m looking at my turkey roll left-overs that are boxed and put away into the freezer already. Left-overs. Delicious ones at that. And I know I’ll be grateful and humble when I’ll take them out another day, thaw and reheat them, and count our blessings.
Paul Nimmo says
Leftovers had a different meaning in my family… it meant that we had enough to eat to last for days. My mother is also of German heritage, but a different time has different meanings.
Growing up in a Germany still responsible for WWI debt, when the great depression hit the US, Germany was still responsible to pay, but US credit stopped. My mother grew up knowing the value of a full meal and the greater value of leftovers. However, as a teenager in a country once again at war, she dreamed of having enough to eat, with the idea of leftovers simply not a reasonable belief. Towards the end, her family ate rats and sawdust bread.
Fast forward to a new life in the US, she never let any scrap of food go to waste. Leftovers simply meant a new and exciting dish the next evening, or morning. A favorite was way more mashed potatoes in the evening gave way to potato pancakes in the morning. Fowl was picked to the bone. Bacon grease saved for many uses.
My mother’s influence on this day, I often plan meals with the thought of leftovers feeding us for days in many different forms. Americans in general tend to be very wasteful of their food.
Susanne Bacon says
Spot on, Paul. My mother experienced pretty much the same. And I learned from her how to make use of food all the way. No waste in this household, for sure. Hardships sometimes are the best teachers! And I am grateful that my mother taught me what those taught her.
I hope I managed to describe how children can feel different about things which they later appreciate.