Feeling the absence in the leftovers

 leftover spaghetti tortilla

When I was growing up, Sunday supper at my grandparents' farm was all but mandatory. Portions were substantial, dessert always provided, and leftovers packaged and sent home to various households. The act of cooking for others - whether it be your own family, for friends, or even for strangers - is entrenched in cultures worldwide. 

Food writer Jay Rayner embraces this outlook, but recently, his family has undergone a change. One of his children has left home, and the absence is felt in many ways. One of these is that there are more leftovers than before. In a column in The Guardian, Rayner addresses the transformation this will bring, while also nodding toward the cultural influences that have led him to make "too much" food for nearly every meal. 

Rayner recounts a tale to which many of us can relate. A lot of us have a mother or grandmother who grew up through extremely lean times, when a full belly at the end of the day wasn't a guaranteed outcome. When these women had families of their own in richer, more stable times, their tables often overflowed with food - a reflection of "victory over the odds that had been stacked against her" according to Rayner. 

Even though he realizes that someday he will adjust the quantity of his food output, Rayner doesn't think it will lead to a radical change in his cooking. He says, "in time, I'll learn to cook for three, not four. But I can't pretend. Restraint just isn't a skill I ever really wanted to acquire. I don't ever want to be the person who cooks only enough." 

Photo of  Claire Thomson's leftover spaghetti tortilla from The Guardian Cook supplement

1 Comment

  • hillsboroks  on  10/20/2017 at 6:37 PM

    Since our youngest left home I have become quite adept at dividing recipes in half to serve 2. My biggest discovery has been that recipes that claim to serve 4 usually have such big portions that we end up with leftovers even when I've only made half a batch. This is not all bad. I have finally convinced my husband that leftovers are a good thing so that we can have quick, easy meals a couple times a week.

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