Monday, November 24, 2008

The joy of leftovers

Call it a sign of the times but in the last two months I have become hyperaware of leftovers, as in they should not go to waste. As I see it there are four levels of leftover consciousness: the first being not letting stuff hang around the refrigerator and get forgotten on the back of a shelf or the bottom of a drawer; second level may be the hardest and that is accepting the fact that every meal does not need to be a new distraction and can be a recent repeat; the third is not getting too excited when cooking and ending up with a dish that will feed ten when only three or four are eating; and the fourth is don't go to the market hungry, the major cause of buying too much.

On levels one and two I have been feeling righteous of late. I scan the refrigerator for lunch, dinner side dishes and late night snacks and I eat the food, or we are eating the food. Of course if a certain dish was horrible the first time the trick is realizing that no one will ever eat it again and then throwing it out right away instead of letting it just get pushed further back on the shelf and causing daily angst and fingerpointing. Lunch today was a leftover classic. There was a modest portion of couscous with lamb and chicken from a shotgun storefront Moroccan place at 39th and 9th Ave, a still marginalized area that has good reasonable ethnic food. That was takeout from last Wednesday night when I left Manhattan too late for dinner at home. It was still great. Add to that a large portion of string beans cooked in garlic, soy sauce and beef broth over high heat by my wife on Friday, better than great, and then a filet of chicken sorrentino from last night's takeout, and that was a leftover lunch that almost required a nap. Righteous and good, it's like recycling.

On level three I've blown it, but that is what led to my discovery of level three. Reaching a higher level of consciousness is not necessarily easy. Yesterday I made bean soup starting with a medley of seven types of dry beans from an Amish store in Caswell County, NC. They expanded dramatically during soaking. By the time the Benton's country ham, celery, carrots, celery soup, corn etc had been added I had somehow made bean soup for twenty. It in fact may be enough for thirty since the country ham gave it an intensity and heaviness that has no one coming back for more even though all agree that it's both tasty and healthy. I need to find a soup kitchen soon. That may be easier in a few months.

Fortunately level four has been part of my awareness, and shopping at Whole Foods reinforces that. One mistake goes a long way, as in buying their 360 Organic wasabi salad dressing two weeks ago. The logic was that it made no sense so it must be good. It will stay in the refrigerator for a few weeks and we'll see if a college student tries it.

Earlier I spotted a small container, second shelf, back right, of cut up pineapple that was less than half full. That should not go to waste and duty calls now.


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