Leftover leftovers

On this lovely, sunny Saturday afternoon, I am eating the final serving of Thursday’s dinner for lunch… so I’m having leftovers. The thing is, though, that on Thursday we had spaghetti with a very special sauce. It included everything left of Sunday’s pork chops, Monday’s meatloaf, Tuesday’s Swedish meatballs, and Wednesday’s sweet Italian sausages.
In effect, I’m having leftover leftovers… and damn, they taste delicious.
It’s amazing how wonderfully all the flavors blend… especially when you consider all the incongruous ingredients that made up the individual meals. This damn spaghetti sauce includes ketchup, tomato paste, crushed tomatoes, mustard, olive oil, butter, pepper, peppers (really, couldn’t anyone have renamed these babies?), onions, red wine, vegetable bouillon, salt, maple syrup, garlic, oregano, basil, bay leaves, and God knows what else, in proportions one can only guess at.
I’ll never be able to replicate the taste… but that’s okay. The ephemeral nature of the thing is part of its charm. Eating this meal is like watching an exceptional live performance… you’ll never be able to see the exact same thing again, but you’ll see other great performances, and enjoy them just as much.
I’ll have leftover leftovers again, and they will be fantastic.
The whole experience of having leftovers is something very new in our lives. When Jeff and I first got married, I cooked like a chemist, following recipes to the T, and making just enough servings for two. This was never enough. At the time, Jeff was a brawny young man who worked with his hands, and he ate enough for two or three people. I was (and am) a very healthy eater myself; my Mom used to call me “The Department of Public Works,” because I would happily dispose of any garbage lying around the kitchen.
I learned to double recipes… then triple them.
In time we had children, and neither one was a picky eater. They ate what was put in front of them, what was left on the stove, and whatever could be scraped out of the pot.
But now, they’re out there on their own. Jeff’s appetite has subsided significantly, and I’m trying not to outgrow the largest size in the plus size store, so I’m no longer eating to the point of satiation.
Suddenly, we’re experiencing a new phenomenon… we still have food at the end of a meal.
And now, the challenge is this… how many ways can I reconstitute the remnants of our meals into new and delicious offerings?
I particularly enjoy working with leftover chicken. This has a family precedent, actually. My grandfather, who was a fabulous cook, was determined to eat well even when trapped in Havana during the worst years of the Castro era. He established a rule for himself: get three meals out of every chicken.
I’m doing everything in my power to meet and exceed his goal.
Last week’s chicken performed like a champion. On Monday, I gave it subcutaneous shots of mojo (a magical concoction made of sour orange juice, cumin, garlic, pepper, salt and fairy dust), buttered it under the skin, and baked it to perfection. Jeff had the legs, I had half a breast. We had a delicious meal, and the refrigerator got the greater part of a chicken. On Tuesday, I took the remaining half a breast, and managed to prepare enough chicken salad to make sandwiches for both of us. On Wednesday, I made soup, which we had for dinner together, and I had for lunch on Thursday and Friday. On Saturday, I took everything that was left and fed it to the cats, who haven’t been happy with their dry food ever since.
But now, here I am. I’ve finished my spaghetti, and have absolutely no leftovers whatsoever sitting in the fridge. Tonight, we’ll have to have something fresh… seasoned for the first time…experiencing a virginal moment on the fire.
It’s almost a disappointment.

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