Waste not, etc.
A recent report I probably heard on NPR alleged that Americans waste, on average, 40 percent of the food they buy. We set a dreadful example for our children in this gluttonous country,” I thought. “I’m certainly glad we don’t waste food at our house.”
Having congratulated myself for being so thrifty, I put the report aside – until I started fixing dinner. Then I paid a little more attention to this disturbing report.
I reached up to get a banana out of the mesh basket over the counter and found that I had waited too long to use them. Out of a hand of six bananas, only two had been used and four were black and gummy. These wouldn’t even make it to a recycle container. What a waste.
I searched the fridge for a tub of sour cream I knew was in there, and Mary, visiting at Christmas time, snatched it out of my hand. I grabbed it back before it hit the garbage can, and watched her open the 8-ounce container. She had seen a faint skin of white mold lining the one surface of the white dairy product that had undergone excision by spoon.
“Mary, what are you going to do with that sour cream?” I gasped. “Except for that one scooped place that can be scooped out again.”
“Mom, you don’t take chances with dairy products like that. The whole tub may be contaminated.”
(Who made the call that we should swap roles in life, daughter becoming mother to her mother? Nobody asked me to endorse that idea. But I love it.)
“How long have you had this yogurt?” she demands. “Why don’t you use them as soon as you buy them?”
“Mary, dear, if the seal has not been compromised, yogurt lasts for virtually a lifetime. Like eggs.”
Dave tells of eggs he ate in the Air Force that were dated 20 years earlier, and they tasted all right to him. So he says. I thought he was pretty thin when we were going together. He weighed 120 pounds in college; I weighed 130.
I was brought up not to throw away anything if there is any chance it could be resuscitated and used in other dishes. Not to mention starving Chinese babies. I’m not that much of a cook but I do like a challenge. The trick is to make it sound exotic.
When he found out that there were eggplant, zucchini and yellow squash in ratatouille, I temporarily withdrew the dish. By referring to the veggies as “aborigine” and “summer squash,” I got rave reviews.
And he just loves frittata, that peasant fare that makes a sort of omelet out of almost any leftovers – especially summer squash.
I was defeated by my own machination this holiday season. We had a lot of turkey from Thanksgiving dinner through Christmas, but I failed to bring home much of the bird to make open-faced sandwiches, tortellini, and chicken corn soup.
So when Mary and Rainer arrived, we planned just one more turkey dinner, on Christmas Day. There would be a lot of food, but there was also lots of help.
It’s helpful, too, to have a large space where food can be left, well covered with foil and plastic wrap: the big screen porch. You may recall that the temperature just then was comparable to that of the refrigerator.
It was so cold and windy, and I was satisfied that our tummies were all yummy and the kitchen was cleaned up when we went to bed. I slept soundly through the night, except for a loud bump that woke me briefly in the pre-dawn hours.
Just a hungry opossum making the rounds, I thought, rolling over under the comforter, picturing the screen porch with its latched doors and – oh, wait. We propped open one door to allow birds to get into the porch, out of the blustery wind.
Some years ago, we had accidentally left the screen door open, and birds flew in to take refuge from a sideways-blowing ice storm.
My recollection didn’t disturb me on this wily night. Everything is secure, and I smiled before drifting away into slumber again.
Dave was up before I got awake, and discovered the raid of the turkey platter, dressing, and potatoes, as the south end of the black-and-white neighborhood stray disappeared through the same screen door. Now that’s a waste.