This evening my bff and I were having quite a time lamenting/marveling/pondering our lack of drive and motivation during these sub-zero temperatures. Not only am I guilty of non-motivation, non-creativity, and non-energy, but I alternate between sweating and freezing, all within minutes of each other. Eventually our lamenting/marveling/pondering conversation meandered towards cooking, scattered schedules, and trying to scale down from cooking for 20 (so to speak) to cooking for two. Or one. Or 2-1/2, depending on who visits. And we decided what we needed was to go to cooking school. Not to Le Cordon Bleu or the Culinary Institute of America – what we needed was something a little down-homey. A little more working-woman-centric.
What we need is a Culinary School of Leftovers.
We both agreed it would be great to take a course or two on what to do with those wilty veggies that somehow get pushed to the side of the veggie drawer. Or the leftover meatballs that have already seen Swedish and Italian and aren’t in the mood for sub sandwiches. With the right training, I’m sure we could find uses for overripe tomatoes, brown avocados, and cold fried chicken.
I come from a family of cooking big. Although there were only four of us, I often pictured my boys as underfed. What I lacked in culinary expertise I made up for in quantity. Pots of stew and spaghetti sauce filled the stove, table, and freezer. I didn’t have the where-for-all to use saffron or arugula, but carrots and potatoes and pork chops – oh my!
Now that my kids have moved out, it’s only hubby and me. He works the night shift, I slave away during the day. So without teenagers to wolf down meatloaf and steak and stir fry, I find my meals lack any real creativity. Never mind the fact that hubby and I only have about a half hour to share gourmet delights between shifts; never mind that between domestic chores and full-time jobs there is little or no time to whip up soufflés and pot-de-feus.
I own plenty of cookbooks – any food dilemma you can think of, I’m prepared for. Crockpot cooking. Meals-on-a-budget. Italian cooking. Chinese cooking. What the cookbooks lack, though, is the human element. The voice that needles you and makes you feel bad every time you leave leftovers in the frig for over a week. Just because you made Chinese for 10 and 9 people didn’t show up doesn’t mean you should push the container back behind the juice and forget about it for a few weeks.
What my friend and I need is a cooking school that will fit into our budget, time frame, and leftover habits. Wilted celery? No problem! Cheese with blue spots on the edge? Don’t worry about it! The right Leftover Cooking School would not only teach us to cook for two (again), but would specialize in the following subjects:
- Impulse buying. Why I don’t need to buy baby corns and an eggplant and a head of lettuce and six ears of corn and a head of cabbage and portabella mushrooms and leeks all in one week.
- Portion control. A plateful of spaghetti and Italian Sausage doesn’t mean a platter-sized plate.
- Freezing leftovers. How making a stockpot of soup can be turned into six different meals instead of one meal and five science experiments.
- That there is life for ground chuck beyond meatballs and sloppy joes.
Just think! I could take courses in “10 Uses for Leftover Tuna Casserole,” “Jelly’s Not Just for Peanut Butter Anymore,” or “Spices Beyond Garlic Powder.” I could find new uses for the half-bottles of ranch dressing, capers, and horseradish that hang out in my refrigerator door. I could learn how to throw leftover parties, combining the delights of fried rice, polish sausage and sauerkraut, and expired refrigerator biscuits into something revolutionary and nourishing!
I must admit, the thought of a Culinary School of Leftovers is something worth pondering. With the number of Tupperware containers taking up space in my refrigerator, there would be endless possibilities for lectures and discussions.
And not all in the realm of edible.