Saturday, 17 March 2007

The Culinary Use of Left-Overs and e.e.Cummings

I went to the supermarket yesterday, I stocked up on various dry goods, as they used to say in ship cargo manifests. I had reined myself in on the food purchasing front as I had been driving there listening to a debate on the car radio about food waste and a report that had revealed the huge amount of food that was thrown away uneaten in British households every week. Many contributors who phoned in sited the Home Front during the Second World War as the template for frugality and the creative use of left-overs. My mother was always heavily committed to left-over cuisine; I recall as a child that the Sunday roast appeared in various guises until Wednesday, sometimes Thursday if she was on a roll. She also believed in the power of grated cheese as an additive to any dish to lift it into the realms of a protein enhanced meal rather than mush. She once nearly killed our nice but dim Boxer dog by feeding it leftover Cheese and Potato pie. Recycling to the family pets was deemed to be a good frugal use of left-overs. Of course the dog, being a Boxer, a breed not renowned for sensible food habits (a friend once had a Boxer that had to have a half digested rubber glove pulled out of its arse) ate the rather generous portion that was served up with great relish. It must have set like reinforced concrete in her gut and she lay down for a full twenty–four hours, unable to stand. My mother merely commented that digesting a good meal could be tiring. The cat once threw up pink bullet-like fur balls after my mother used tinned tomatoes and left over cod to create a ‘light supper dish’ on toast.

We tended to feed the pets under the table a lot, they were our ‘private tasters’ or perhaps our canaries down the mine that we studied for the effects of gas, especially in the cabbage based left-overs. We never had a budgie though, so the effects of left-over concoctions on bird life were never fully trialled. In later life my mother did feed anything uneaten to the birds, and I mean anything. I would have to creep out under cover of darkness into her garden and remove chicken carcasses, Jammie Dodgers, curry and Brussel sprouts from the groaning bird table. My mother would have approved of those on the phone-in yesterday who talked of the good old days when not a crust was wasted and parsnips were hand carved to look like quail eggs and served up to eager and grateful family members.

Having talked about the recycling centre yesterday I feel that this wander into food recycling is a fitting follow-up. There is a lovely droll poem

‘Nobody Loses All the Time’ by e.e.Cummings that was probably written long before the concept of recycling was fully grasped and global warming was only a twinkle in a factory chimney’s eye. Uncle Sol always seems to me, to be the ultimate green and frugal person, and he did have a scrumptious funeral which sounds a tasty way to describe someones left-overs.

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