There are two kinds of people in the world: Those who do leftovers, and those who don’t.
My mother, rest her soul, would save two green beans in an empty jelly jar. I do the same, except I up the ante to three: three beans, three bis of bacon, three bites of cottage cheese. Another difference: Unlike her, I actually eat leftovers instead of pawning them off on my (nonexistent) kids.
Mom was a master at cooking two dishes: Hershey’s cocoa fudge and chickenandpastry (pronounced as one word. Outside of North Carolina’s Cape Fear region, it’s called chicken and dumplings.)
Her fudge was dark, rich with butter and grainy with sugar—no nuts or that marshmallow fluff nonsense. We devoured the thin, bittersweet squares like starving wolverines; there were never any leftovers.
Her chickenandpastry recipe was simple. She boiled a stewing hen, deboned the meat and returned it to the pot. Then she poured a heap of flour on the counter, made a well in the middle and added about a cup of broth from the pot to make dough, which she rolled out thin and sliced into rectangles with a sharp knife. Those were plopped into the pot with the meat and simmered until the pastry was done. It was a meal to melt in your mouth. Again, never any leftovers.
The rest of her cooking ranged from uninspired to inedible, but nobody’s perfect.
I eat leftovers like it’s a job. Even if I didn’t like the food the first time, the next day I hold my nose and gulp down whatever remains.
Case in point: I bought a box of frozen turkey-mushroom burgers, figuring that since I love both mushrooms and ground turkey, what could go wrong? Everything, actually.
Baked per instructions, in a 375-degree oven, the burgers emerged looking like hockey pucks and tasting like burned rubber.
After the first bite, I slathered them with every condiment in the fridge. Then they tasted like burned rubber with a hint of horseradish.
A couple days later, I grimly doubled down on the last two burgers; I threw them in the microwave, figuring they couldn’t be any worse. They could. They were.
Picture two misshapen, puffy brown lumps the consistency of paste and, bizarrely, oozing water. I choked them down with a white wine chaser, which at least took away the aftertaste.
I eat leftovers because I was raised to believe that throwing away food is like setting dollar bills on fire. My husband, Widdle Baby, burns those dollars.
Oh, he might gnaw a pork chop on Friday that was cooked on Wednesday, but 95 percent of the time, he eats something once and he’s done. He puts the leftovers in the fridge, but we both know he’s faking. And every time I unearth containers filled with UFOs (unidentifiable fuzzy objects), I become unhinged.
“YOU’RE WASTING MONEY,” I yell, which has absolutely no effect.
We talk every night on Widdle’s drive home, and every night he says, “I wonder what I’ll have for dinner.” (Since I stopped cooking years ago—right after throwing out most of a perfectly-cooked pot roast—that’s a valid question.)
Every night I reply, “Well, you have sliced turkey… and some barbecue… and all that cheese.”
He says something like, “mmm-hmmmm,” and 30 minutes later he walks in carrying burgers or fried seafood or a sub sandwich. And I breathe deeply, because soon I’ll be throwing away more food.
Maybe it’s time to make some chickenandpastry.
P.S. Does anyone want to start a leftover swap?