Opinion: Leftovers? Or forgotten 8th grade science project?


I wasn’t sure what it was I was looking at. I knew it came out of the refrigerator and was a leftover from something.

My plan was to peruse the assortment of plastic boxes in the fridge until I found something I could identify, warm it up and avoid having to fix something fresh. It wasn’t working. Everything I opened looked more like a forgotten eighth grade science project than anything that had ever been edible.

Worse, I had no clue as to the ancestry of anything. The only thing I could say for certain was that none of it was in the fridge when we bought it 10 years ago. Thus defeated, I pulled out a couple pots and pans and started supper from scratch. I also promised myself I would clean out the fridge before the next full moon.

This happens all the time, and I know why. I save leftovers because that’s what my mother did. After all, we were in the middle of the Great Depression and she had convinced us that anything left on our plate would amply feed a family of starving Armenians.

So, whatever we didn’t eat got scraped into a dish, covered and put in the fridge. The next day it came out again as something new, blended together with soup, sauce or vegetable.

Leftover roast got chopped up and joined forces with leftover potatoes to become hash. Mac and cheese got a dash of tomato soup and hamburger to become something my mother called slumgolian. She said it was an old family recipe, although my grandmother raised a doubtful eyebrow whenever she mentioned it. Leftover rice got the same treatment to grace the table as Spanish rice.

Most of these dishes were edible. Some, like the slumgolian and the Spanish rice, were actually tasty. Others, like creamed parsnips and fried turnips sat woefully untouched. Even Dad asserted – as kindly as possible so as not to hurt Mom’s feelings – that no Armenian on the planet, starving or not, would touch them.

Even in later years when TV dinners made cooking all but a forgotten art, Mom still saved the leftovers. That half slice of turkey and those two baked apple slices were just too good to throw away.

I inherited this compulsion, of course. The difference is, Mom always used what she saved, edible or not. I intend to but usually don’t, waiting instead until I hear noises from the fridge that signal a new stage of evolution has emerged among the covered dishes.

A full moon is only a few days away, and it’s time to clean out the fridge.


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