My refrigerator is full. Actually it’s stuffed, each shelf brimming with plastic containers, food-storage bags, jars and cans. In this land of abundance, I have more than plenty, and in a world with so much need, that makes me lucky. Very.
I am so aware of my good fortune, so grateful for this comestible wealth, that I go to great lengths to ensure that leftovers are not discarded willy-nilly. Whatever food we buy goes down someone’s gullet, in one fashion or another.
That gullet, by the way, is usually mine. I’m the leftover queen, ruling over a kingdom of Tupperware and Saran Wrap, forever fending off mold and waste.
I’ve been known to lunch on the same dish for two or three days straight, until all vestiges of the original meal have been consumed.
I also combine totally mismatched foods to clear the last bits and pieces taking up space in the fridge. Cantaloupe with rice pilaf? Why not. Green bean casserole on leftover cheese pizza? Interesting.
This habit makes my children wince. And The Hubby turns away when I open a resealable storage bag and cheerily announce, “Passed the sniff test!”
My family thinks this scrounging habit can be traced to a Dickensian childhood. Not so. I did not grow up poor. I did not grow up wanting. (At least not for food; my parents never did buy me those white go-go boots I so desperately desired.)
I did not go to bed hungry. On the contrary, I was cajoled and bribed into eating because I was a thin child in a culture where having a little meat on one’s bones symbolized prosperity and affection, protection against all manner of hardships.
Then again, I did grow up in a household where nothing was wasted, where everybody ate the same meal regardless of preferences, and where you refrained from spending a fortune on mangoes from Peru in December.
I’ve been thinking of leftovers since reading about a campaign to convert the British to the doggy bag. According to the BBC, many diners are embarrassed to ask for a box to take home, resulting in 21 tons of food waste per restaurant per year —about the weight of three of those quaint double-decker buses.
To me, that’s an affront to commonsense, an appalling expression of disregard for the value of a dollar or, in this case, a pound.
But I know how hard it is to spread the gospel. After years of futile attempts to win converts, I’ve concluded that the world is divided into two kinds of people: those who eat leftovers and those who turn up their snobby noses at a reheated plate of yesterday’s dinner. The latter are missing out on some unexpected gastronomic pleasures, particularly during these Passover/Easter holidays.
But I’m doing my part . I’m working my way down the leftover list, refusing to buy groceries until every morsel in the fridge is appropriately dispatched. There are children starving in Africa, for heaven’s sake!
Follow Ana on Twitter @AnaVeciana.