In Praise of Leftovers

I’m a big fan of restaurants. The ambiance, the delectable fare, snagging a cozy booth for two, where my husband and I can engage in an actual face-to-face conversation—one almost entirely devoid of cell phones. And children. It’s all good. But mostly I like patronizing restaurants because it means I won’t have to cook, nor will I have to clean my kitchen afterward. A win-win scenario for me.

Better still, I often leave the establishment with enough food for six people. I don’t know what’s up with the portion sizes that typify American cuisine these days, but it seems as if someone thinks we’re all starving to death. At any rate, when a tower of boxes, each brimming with the appetizers, entrees or desserts we couldn’t possibly consume, arrives at our table I can’t help but fantasize about devouring said goodness tomorrow.

If I’m hungry tomorrow, that is.

Gone are the days of being handed a doggie bag with a cute image of a pooch—one depicted with a big smile on its face. What dog wouldn’t smile at the prospect of being fed something other than the standard fare? That said, I’m careful to place the food on a counter or inside the fridge, far from the furry beasts in question.

The only downside to dealing with leftovers is that I agonize over which end of the Styrofoam box is up. It seems that I’m inclined to place my food in the top as opposed to the bottom. Worse yet, I spend an embarrassment of time wrestling with the latch/tab gizmo, which doesn’t work especially well—and because the universe hates me, I often snap the stupid thing off entirely. In any event, I look like a fool when my food flips onto the table or floor. Needless to say, I prefer it when the waiter or waitress offers to transfer my leftovers into the designated container, recognizing that for me, the struggle is real. He or she disappears into the kitchen and in no time arrives back at my table with a big, plastic bag—the aforementioned boxes stacked neatly inside. Tabs intact.

It doesn’t matter if it’s eggplant Parmesan, chicken wings or a few slices of Mediterranean pizza, I look forward to enjoying my meals again, and I’m nearly always amazed by the fact that they taste even better a day or two later. Except for French fries. French fries are a horrible, droopy mess the next day and a pathetic representation of food matter by all accounts. Most of the time, I don’t even bother bringing them home. If I had half a brain, I wouldn’t order them in the first place.

Crazy as it sounds, I’ve even been known to order something from the menu for the express purpose of taking it home in its entirety, never once touching it at the restaurant. I usually get a look from the waiter that whispers “that’s really strange, ma’am,” but in my mind, it’s pure genius. It’s rumored I keep a cooler in the car for just such an occasion. It might be true.

The sad news on this topic is that in actuality, I rarely get to enjoy my leftovers because my kids get to them first. It’s not that they don’t ask before diving in (they usually do), but I feel inordinately guilty when I don’t willingly share.

In fact, one of my progenies has a habit of texting or Snapping me a picture of the leftovers in the refrigerator while I’m out, inquiring as to whether I’m particularly fond of the food in question. She, too, appreciates how completely wonderful leftovers are. How can I not oblige? So, naturally I tell her it’s fair game, and a little part of me dies inside, knowing that, yet again, I won’t get to eat the rest of my tuna wrap—or whatever it was that I failed to hide well enough in the fridge.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live, probably eating leftovers. Visit me there at www.facebook.com/NotesfromPlanetMom. Caricature by Simon Ellinas.

Copyright 2017 Melinda L. Wentzel

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