The Truth About Leftovers

Leftovers can be a little sad (let’s face reality here). It was a fact I soon discovered over the month of January when I vowed that I’d be a more responsible human being and have leftovers as my bread and butter (pun intended) Monday through Friday. I, Laura Kosann, would be practicing both monetary control and portion control simultaneously, as a meal intended for one night would become a meal intended for two every frigging night of the week.

It was one of my new year’s resolutions that came about after two occurrences: My jeans felt tight and my Dad told me I sometimes spend frivolously. Now, my Dad telling me I spend frivolously was a little like that part in Casablanca when the police official says “I’m shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!” before proceeding to collect his winnings (I mean come on Dad, you’ve known me twenty-six years). But still, after seeing my post-holiday bank statement and noticing jagged scars from my pants on my hips (no, pants aren’t supposed to do that) I decided to consume a little more like Gandhi and a little less like Jabba across all verticals.

I bought a book by Alice Waters called My Pantry, which teaches you to make your own kitchen essentials, like homemade almond milk, bone broth and red wine vinegar. My kitchen became a kind of war zone with things stewing, blending and simmering at every turn until even my food-obsessed dog Scout chose to hide under the couch rather than sit in the kitchen with me. It seemed the bizarre assortment of scents and sounds – excuse my French –  scared the living shit out of him.

I was channeling Julia Child and Little House on The Prairie all at once. I’d make homemade almond milk, and then make even more with the remaining pulp from the first batch. I’d soak oats overnight, eat half of those oats in the morning, then save the other half of those oats for a snack later in the day. When I made short ribs during the storm, I preserved the bones from the ribs and made bone broth. I even tried to learn how to make my own yogurt – a venture I gave up on when arriving at the fermentation portion, as I was concerned I’d accidentally make myself ill.

In my quest to cook more at home I found there was one common trend happening over and over…there were a lot of quarter portions lingering in my refrigerator, and there was nary a creature in sight that wanted them. My single serving of whole wheat pasta cooked in homemade beef broth – which was triumphantly reminiscent of Rocky-Era Sylvester Stallone the first night – suddenly resembled present-day Sylvester Stallone the second. Even Scout, who’d inched his way out from under the couch just long enough to take a sip of water, waved his nose in its direction, then – disinterested – retreated back to his plastic bone (and may I say he does not exactly have the most discerning of palettes).

I grew to dislike my leftovers, and in return, my leftovers grew to dislike me. With every spoiled bite that seemed to arise out of Saran wrap mishaps, not enough refrigerator real estate, or just the fact that deep down I longed for delivery, we began to resent each other.

Soon my scraps felt less like leftovers and more like the toys in Toy Story. I imagined them coming to life behind my back during the workday and for some reason curdling on their own accord. I mean who did they think they were? I had created them. Where would they be without me?

Going into February, while I’m still trying to cook more at home, I made the decision to cook smaller portions and not have so much left over. And now, when I do still have that half portion left, I take the time to store it the right way, rather than badly and in a rush. Because if I learned nothing else from this experience I at least learned this: Treat your leftovers the way you’d want to be treated…or else they’ll really fuck up your weeknights.

– Laura Kosann