I've been eating turkey and mashed potatoes everyday for lunch since Thanksgiving.
I live for leftovers. That is the main reason why I wanted my family to come to our house this year--so that we would we have the pleasure of leftovers.
I need this. There is something deep within me that feels any meal I've cooked is a kind of failure if everything is not consumed.
Even before we had cleared the plates I was stripping the turkey carcass, leaving the choicest chunks of skin and meat on for soup. By the time we served tea, I had put the leftovers in the freezer. The crock pot was on the kitchen counter and filled with water, salt, a bay leaf, some carrots, a few onions. Desert was not even over before I had placed the carcass into the crock pot. The slow-cook process would transform it all into a steaming cauldron of soup overnight.
There is nothing quite like waking to the smell of home cooked soup in morning.
This is Thanksliving.
I bring the soup to work for lunch. I tell my workmates how I made the soup. Many of them are bewildered by the idea of making soup from a turkey carcass. I stand even more bewildered. I think to myself: How can you throw out a turkey carcass without using it?
And then I get angry.
I feel a sense of pride knowing that every single ounce of food from my thanksgiving meal was eaten, albeit slowly, over a period of weeks. I carry with me a sense of social responsibly knowing that even the bones were used for the preparation of another meal. No waste. Never.
Maybe this is part of my Native American heritage manifesting itself (my great grandmother was Cherokee), as they were known for using every part of the animals they hunted. Although I think it has more to do with the way I was raised.
During my childhood in the late 1970's and early 80's my father was in cancer remission. When he was originally diagnosed in 1976 at the age of 29, his doctors gave him a ten percent chance to live beyond one year. Feeling desperate, he agreed to take part in a study to test the effects of a new type of chemotherapy on terminal patients. During his sessions he received experimental, often massive doses of platinum-based drugs, which are now among the most widely used. While the drugs obliterated the cancer, they also obliterated his body, leaving him in a weakened state for the rest of his life.
In the early days of his remission my parents made sure that our house was a citadel of healthy, organic, and contaminate-free food as possible. I remember going to the food co-op with my mother, and the mornings when my father would dare me to join him in shot of bitter aloe-vera juice, his morning elixir. There were thousands of vitamin pills. All candy was made from carob, never chocolate. Sugar free peanut butter? Sugar free everything. Soy burgers instead of beef. Fruit leather. Organic toothpaste. Not any white bread to be seen. Anywhere. Never.
My parents' food attitude was very simple: everything was vital. Food was sacred. Nothing was ever wasted. Our fridge was often bare and lean, stocked with only the essentials. Inside were stacked weeks worth of leftovers in bags and bowls, on dishes and plates. We were always expected to eat all of our food. If I dallied too long at my bowl of soup, my mother would place an egg timer on the table, accompanied by the threat of an early bedtime.
They would take this ethic to the nth degree with other things as well, transforming it into an all consuming lifestyle of thrift. After lunch in school, I was expected to bring home the tin foil that my sandwich was wrapped in. My brown paper lunch bags were also expected to come home. If milk prices were high, we drank powdered milk.
In a way, this is the epitome of what is called the neurotic. Yet in a way, this is also Thanksliving. Everything is sacred. No waste. Never. Be thankful.
I hate wasting food. It runs against something so basic and primal within me. When I look into some people's refrigerator and see it stocked to the top with all sorts of food, I get offended knowing that most of it will spoil and be thrown out before it gets eaten.
When people come to eat at my house, I stack food on their plate and tell them to eat it or else they're never allowed to come over again.
If I haven't drunk all of the wine, I'll pour it into your glass. Or perhaps I'll just put the whole bottle on your plate instead.
Either way, there won't be anything wasted or leftover.
If there is, I'll know what I'm having for lunch tomorrow.