Saturday, July 14, 2012

A Paean In Praise of Leftovers.

Even   though I am constantly protesting that I don't know nuthin',. I am frequently coming to conclusions which could be filed under "Things I Think Could Be True........For the Time Being Anyway."  And one of the things I have concluded to be undeniably true is that there are two kinds of people in this world..........those that love leftovers and  them that hates 'em. 

Oddly enough, I have come to believe that what motivates both types is good, old fashioned fear.  (actually, I think that motivates almost everything we do, one way or another....but that is for another blog).

There are people like me who are so afraid (yea, terrified and paralyzed with fear) of not cooking "enough" for the particular occasion that they prepare vittles sufficient to feed an army.  Consequently, after those who came to the table to be fed have  staggered off, stuffed with second and third helpings, we are left to view the scene, and mutter shamefacedly (while eying the mountains of food left on the table), "I guess I made too much".   The shame quickly fades and is followed immediately by raucous cackling and gleeful rubbing of hands at the prospect of LEFTOVERS.  Lunches for days, dinners and midnight snacks for nights into the coming week without the need to stir a pot or lift a spoon (except as a tool with which to nibble the delicacies that your overstuffed guests have left behind.   Oh joy!  Oh rapture!  And so many things taste even better the 2nd and 3rd day anyway.....Glorious leftovers....... a gift from heaven.

And then there are those others.  I cannot promise to properly explain the thinking of those people, but I will give it a try.   I firmly believe this it is also fear....... a fear of waste or an  inexplicable fear and dread of LEFTOVERS.  That is the only acceptable excuse I can come up with for stingy portions.......unless it is just plain  stinginess.  (that could be it, couldn't it?).  After all,  it is no more trouble to cook 8 chicken breasts than it is to make 4.   (a bigger pan helps)And the very idea of someone leaving your table hungry is such a fearsome thought that it cannot be tolerated for a moment by type #1 folk and generates a panic that says, "Better have another appetizer and two more side dishes, maybe".  (Hmmmm I do wonder if this could be a Jewish thing?????) (back to that later )

If you are poor and cannot afford chicken breasts, folks of my ilk will be undaunted and will serve up huge portions of Chili and Beans sparked with tons of chopped raw, sweet red onion, bowls of Tabouli (bulgar wheat, tomatoes, onions, mint, olive oil and lemon juice) and hummus with lots of fresh pita bread for dipping.  Wealth does not make a feast........cooks with love in their hearts for food and for people make feasts.

Talking about all of this reminds me of my beloved friend, Dorothy..........the one who taught me to curse properly by adding  "shitpissfuck" to my vocabulary.  And thinking about Dorothy brings me back to my whimsical query about whether bountiful, groaning  tables might be a Jewish thing.  You see, the fact is that Dorothy, a paragon of virtue and  possessor of  numerous talents was one of the worst sinnners in category # 2 described above and   it always baffled me because Dorothy was a superb cook and great hostess, but Dorothy was only HALF Jewish.  An invitation to Dorothy's for dinner was a highly prized thing and we all knew that we would be fed in high gourmet style, on lovely china and with candlelight, shining flatware, goblets and fine wine.  The conversation would be bright, intelligent and funny  and you would leave delightfully entertained but dreadfully hungry.  If  Dorothy had 6 people to dinner she would present a platter with 7 chicken breasts, one helping of veggies for each guest and 6 wonderful dinner rolls.  Maybe even a potato for each.....whatever there was for dinner, there would be one serving for each person and perhaps a teensie smidge the 7th chicken breast.  Everybody desperately wanted the last breast but none of us had the guts to take it and we all knew that it would not look civilized (which we all felt we were)  if we divided it up into 6 pieces and scraped the smidgeons remaining in each bowl plus spinning a bottle  to see who got to lick the spoon.  So, the 7th breast always remained forlornly on the plate, hugely coveted but unclaimed.  

When everyone left and I was helping Dorothy clean up I once asked her why she didn't make more  food in case someone wanted seconds.    She looked at me like I was crazy and said in the most scathing and condescending tone of voice..........., "For heaven's sake, what for......Haven't you noticed there is always one piece leftover?