Older Than Dirt: Leftovers? Uh, No Thanks

Bon Appétit/Courtesy

Bon Appétit/Courtesy

Who does not like to eat leftovers? Apparently, many people - most of them young people who have never gone hungry. Interesting thing about being hungry, it makes you a lot less picky! Those from the generation I came from were often just glad to have any food! According to my parents, we had it much better than they did. Aside from the classic, "I walked three miles through the snow just to get to school every day. Now you kids complain if you have to walk to the school bus stop." It seems they also shared one chicken between six people. Bet those fights for the drumsticks were something to behold.

Our generation was taught that you were supposed to finish everything on your plate. Somehow your parents knew exactly how much you needed to eat. If you were lucky enough to have a dessert, this was often used as the motivation to finish your meal.

And who can count how many times they heard these words at the dinner table? "You better eat everything if you expect any dessert. There are starving children in the world." I suspect many children would be more than happy to give their broccoli to a starving child, but that didn't seem to be an option. And I always wondered how eating more on my plate would somehow help hungry children.

At any rate, we did not often have leftovers, although, most of the time, we would have been very happy about that.

My own children were raised to appreciate whatever they found in the refrigerator. Like my brother and sister, I remember my children would often take something out, smell it, and give it a try. My brother and sister smelled everything before they ate it. I always thought that was a bit odd. Food usually did not stick around long enough to ever go bad. This strange habit followed them all the way to and through adulthood.

A funny thing happened just today. My sister was checking on some chicken in the refrigerator that she had made a few days ago. It was actually only a few little leftover pieces I had saved to add to the dog's food. Realizing that it was for the dog, she said, " I smelled and tasted the dog food, and you might want to see if it is still good?"

I happened to be on the phone with my niece who heard the conversation.

"Tell me Auntie, did I really just hear my other Auntie say that she was tasting the dog food. Why would she do that?"

I just told her that old people have a thing about pet food.

Nowadays, we have a lot of "picky eaters." This is what they call kids who don't want to eat their veggies, but instead prefer to go directly to dessert! Sometimes these very smart kids will convince their parents that certain foods "make them sick." Pretty soon they convince you that they must be allergic to these distasteful items. These master manipulators learn at a very young age that Mom can sometimes be a pushover for a bellyache.

So, what is it about leftovers that some people just don't like? If I make spaghetti today but no one eats it, is it still leftovers?

I actually remember when the first fast food burger place opened in my neighborhood. We already had A&W Root Beer with car-hops and such, but I am talking McDonald's! How exciting it seemed. We could go inside, order a burger with fries and be out the door. It was like some kind of miracle.

I was already an adult by this time, and kept this little burger joint as quiet as possible. What would happen if everyone found out about this place? They could run out of food and close up! Ray Kroc wasn't exactly a household name at that time.

Future generations would grow up on a lot of fast food and Happy Meals. This made a lot of working/single parents very happy also. Over the years, pizza and fast food became a way of life for many families.

Sister and I often talk about our mother's beans and red rice. Her stuffed peppers, and even the great Banquet pot pies, when they were four for a buck!

There were times that Mama would tell us we were having must-goes for dinner. We knew that meant that what was still left in the refrigerator must go! We never cared WHEN it was originally made, but knew that Mama would somehow make a whole new meal from these must-goes.

My Grandmother had to have come from a family that ate very small meals. Whenever we went to Grandma's for a holiday, we always had to eat again when we got home. Her idea of a feast might consist of a hard-boiled egg, a chicken wing, and a slice of bread for each of us. The only good part was, we all got a very small glass of wine with our meal. This included the kids!

Leftovers are often under-rated. If you make too much food, which we often do and no one is around to eat it, perhaps there is a neighbor, a friend, or even a local senior center that would just love to take it off your hands.