By Larraine Roulston:
Family celebrations usually result in leftovers occupying several shelves of your fridge. Some people groan at the thought of being served the same meal the following night. Others may not be enamored with a reheated casserole along with bits and pieces of salads, cheeses and broken crackers.
In an article entitled An Economic History of Leftovers, Helen Veit details the American society’s ever-changing concept of “leftovers.” Her narrative begins with the early twentieth century and explains how the idea of eating leftovers has evolved to modern times. During the war and Depression years, people spent approximately 40% of their wages on food. As every morsel was valued, leftover food was part of one’s diet, either to be eaten the next day or to be preserved. In fact, it was even patriotic not to be wasteful. The catch phrase “Waste Not, Want Not” was heard by many a child during this period. As time passed, Americans began spending a much smaller percentage of their incomes on food. This affluence led to leftovers being viewed as closer to garbage, and sparked the slogan, “When In Doubt, Throw It Out.”
Today, on average, we spend approximately 10% of our income on food, a lower percentage than that of any previous population in history. At the same time, however, we are now more aware of the environmental resources of land, water and energy as well as costs and efforts that go into the packaging and transportation of food. We also know that rotting organics in landfills contribute to greenhouse gases.
Personally, I delight in digging into all those leftovers. By simply reheating gravy and adding extra potatoes and carrots, it becomes an effortless meal to prepare! If you tire of eating too much reheated squash, peel it away from its skin to make a creamed soup. Most chefs will attest to the fact that most foods added to casseroles have a better taste once the flavors have had time to mingle.
Potatoes are perhaps the most versatile vegetable to enjoy in the ensuing days. You can slice them as home fries—yummy potatoes that have been baked and basted with gravy. Or mash them as a topping for a shepherd’s pie. They can be included in vegetable soups or blended with stock to make a creamed soup. Mash them with a little sour cream, separate into balls, roll in bread crumbs and flatten to be enjoyed as fried fritters. Another option is to cut them up cold for a potato salad.
Leftover cranberry sauce can be added to an apple crisp, drizzled on ice cream and puddings, or put into a smoothie.
When you freeze portions of your turkey, also freeze leftover gravy for hot turkey sandwiches at a later date.
Discarded food is just one of the environmental issues we have on our plates. We live in a society that maintains that “it’s always best to serve more than less.” When dining out, unless individuals request smaller portions or request a doggie bag (best to take your own container to avoid Styrofoam), food will be trashed. Some foods do taste best when fresh; however, leftovers are in a league of their own. When world renown chefs feature their specialty leftover creations; when menus list soups, pot pies and casseroles from leftovers; when television cooking shows demonstrate how to use leftovers; when food critics expect to be commenting on leftover dishes; when magazine articles feature “recipes from yesterday’s dinner”; when celebrities promote their favorite leftover soup; and when there are cafe scenes in movies that say, “Hey, this is really good! What’s in it?” leftovers will finally obtain the credit they deserve.
Along with composting food preparation peelings, at least one environmental problem — that of food waste in the home and restaurants — will be addressed. Perhaps in the near future there may even be a restaurant chain promoting “Mom’s Yummy Leftovers.”
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- What to do with your Thanksgiving leftovers
Larraine authors children’s adventure books on composting at www.castlecompost.com