Leftovers: Principles and Practices


Recently, I was foraging in my refrigerator for something to eat and remembered that I had some left over pasta with an alla vodka sauce made with fresh, farm cream and wild boar sausage. As I evaluated the food storage containers, I discovered that my pasta was no longer among them. I scanned the dish rack and sure enough the aforementioned container was there, now empty. It made me think about leftover ownership and to reevaluate leftover worthiness.

First of all, leftovers have a bad rap or at least a bad name. The word leftover conjures up something discarded or unwanted. “Oh, sorry, I didn’t think you wanted those leftovers,” said the now-full, leftover-eater.  Or that your thoughtfully prepared meal is up for grabs to the can’t-be-bothered-to-cook-their-own-meal perpetrator.

Just think about the word doggie bag used to describe the container used to carry away your meal at a restaurant you couldn’t finish.  You, of course, want to love up your fur babies when you get home but not with your expensive surf & turf dinner. “Mr. Hucklebee, I brought you some lobster with a buttery garlic sauce!” The food I give my dogs after cleaning out the refrigerator sometimes can be mistaken for the contents of a petri dish.

Once, my husband and I, were eating prime rib at a restaurant and we wanted to take home the rib portion of our meal to use as stock for French onion soup. My husband asked the server for a doggie bag. The server inquired about our dog. Since we had no dog, my husband quickly made up a story about owning an Irish Wolfhound named Zeus to cover up our embarrassment of asking for bones.  Years later, we eventually did get an Irish Wolfhound and we fittingly named him Zeus, though the prime rib bones continued to go directly into a stock pot.

If the meal being served was no good to begin with then by all means a negative connotation for the word leftover is appropriate. But when on the rare occasion that happens, it duly goes straight into the doggie bowl bypassing the refrigerator completely.

I think that whoever cooked the meal is entitled to do with whatever they see fit with the  leftovers and they are not available to whomever happens to find them. I am not referring to my husband or any kids that I didn’t have, but to the people who work and live on my farm. Since we share a kitchen, I often find my leftovers have gone missing. A man staying on my farm once, would immediately eat any leftovers right after dinner. Since he eliminated any need for putting away leftover food, we quickly gave him the nick name “Tupper” short for Tupperware(R).

When there are leftovers, do you think they should only be up for grabs to the people who were in attendance during the original meal? If you invited them to share in the dinner in the first place, then shouldn’t the leftovers also be available to them. I think this is more appropriate than for someone to consume leftovers who wasn’t invited to eat the dinner in the first place. In both instances, it is polite to first ask if not invited to share.

Of course, there are always leftovers that aren’t actually a meal. For instance, leftover rice, potatoes, oatmeal, green beans, etc. which are usually stored in individual containers and aren’t part of a prepared dish. We had a man stay on the farm once who would gather up these foods and mix them all together in a bowl topped with excessive hot sauce. He called the dish farm mash and it was a meal I never partook in.

Leftovers might need to be renamed. A few more positive suggestions are surplus-snacks, legacy-lunch or vestige-vittles. Really the name has little to do with it, it’s the actual holding on to your leftovers and not having them disappear into someone else’s mouth that’s important. Maybe a post-it note applied to the leftover container with the words don’t eat or die.

In my mind, leftovers are like prizes – food all prepared, in a neat little container, might not even have to be heated up to eat. How convenient! After a long day on the farm, the thought of not having to prepare a meal makes me overly excited. Yesterday, I made a roast beef and today we’re having roast beef sandwiches. I’m truly looking forward to it but part of me wants to stand guard by the refrigerator making sure the roast beef isn’t engulfed by uninvited leftover fans. To those people, I simply want to say, please make your own dinner and eat your own vestige-vittles!








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