Love is in the Leftovers

A good gauge in which to measure the strength of a relationship is not only one’s tolerance for their spouse’s cooking but (far more importantly!) their ability to withstand the leftovers. Please don’t misinterpret what I’m saying. In no way am I referring to the importance of having similar tastes. Far from it. I know as well as anyone that some of the most passionate, loving and true connections can occur between individuals of incredibly different styles and food preferences. It’s no joke when they say “opposites attract”. Whether or not you have mutual taste in regards to the zest and flavor of the food is a separate subject altogether, and one I could probably write a book on. No, what I am referring to is your flexibility when it comes to dealing with dinner’s remnants: The often feared “leftovers”! ***insert spooky ominous music here***

Now keep in mind that there are exceptions to every rule. Some couples legitimately don’t have leftovers to deal with. There can be several reasons for this. Although I have yet to meet them, a rumor does exist of a pair of human beings who are actually capable of only cooking enough food in one meal to perfectly accommodate only their immediate sustenance requirements and no more. Again, I cannot vouch for their physical existence because I haven’t personally shaken hands with them or had the pleasure of dining at their table (where I’m sure there would be absolutely perfectly sized portions and no need …or ability… for second servings), but I HAVE seen articles online about them. I’ve also seen products in the frozen food isle that are labeled “Dinner for Two”. I have even dragged my husband to a bridal show (when we were planning our wedding. Although it would make one very cruel form of punishment now!) where we actually won a bottle of wine and a cookbook of romantic recipes to cook for two. I remember opening it to a soup recipe with only one potato in the ingredient list and laughing. One potato for two people? Seriously?!  I grew up cooking for a family of six PLUS an in-home daycare licensed to care for fourteen kids. I’m not capable of making a meal for two, let alone only using one potato. Needless to say, that book was quickly re-gifted. We did keep the wine though.

Another common explanation for empty after-meal refrigerators: NO cooking. Some couples use their kitchens for storage purposes, or simply to improve their property value, without ever actually preheating an oven or boiling a kettle of water. This is a very common condition but not one that I am capable of. When push comes to shove, eating out is expensive. We don’t do it very often. Granted, we do go all-out on the rare special occasion and try exciting new places in far-off cities, but for that very reason we rarely have leftovers afterward!

I’ve also met some very interesting people who just don’t “do” leftovers. Ever! My husband is actually related to them (but for his protection, I’ll avoid using names!). Their entire household refuses to eat anything that’s been cooked and refrigerated or frozen. They actually take the time and effort to properly store the food, but only to dispose of it the next day. I’m not going to speak negatively of this practice though. How can I?! They’ve provided us with some pretty tasty lunches over the years, guilt-free (it’ll be tossed anyway, right?).

For those of us who actually have (and intend to use) their leftovers, there are really only two options. These two options can really stir up some conflicts on the marital battlefield though. Sometimes negotiations are needed. My husband and I are the perfect example. Ryan love Love LOVES his leftovers! He loves them so much that he is perfectly content eating the same reheated meal for lunch and dinner (sometimes breakfast too!) for as long as the leftovers last. Big meals last him for well over a week if I utilize the right freezer bags. He is a “food purist”. His belief is that if it was really good the first time, then it’ll be even better the fifth time.

I, on the other hand, am not as easy to satisfy. I need to change things up. I can’t simply look at what’s left in the roasting pan and be satisfied with the thought of “Damn that was good! I can’t wait to reheat it tomorrow!” Instead I tear it apart in my brain and try to think of ways to miraculously transform it into a completely different dish for tomorrow’s dinner. Roast chicken? I can boil the carcass down, make chicken stock, throw in the leftover meat with some veggies and we’ll have soup! Leftover stew? Thicken it with cornstarch, drop some biscuit batter on top, bake it and we’ll have beef pot pie! Few dishes can escape my over-active imagination, and those that do usually fall victim to a quick Internet recipe search. If I can’t figure a way to change it, someone else will tell me how to.

This is where the conflict arises. My husband, the food purist, doesn’t like my meddling with the divine. This is especially aggravating when you consider that 90% of the time, he is the one who roasted the chicken or cooked the stew. There are a few exceptions (most of which Ryan isn’t usually thrilled to consume) but I don’t generally take a lot of satisfaction in making the initial dish, but rather in concocting the plan to twist what’s left afterward. I’m evil that way. Ryan knows it. He has learned a little trick to work around it though. He thinks I haven’t noticed.

I’m no stranger to his need for second or third servings. He eats his fill, THEN refills his plate. His little trick is to only take one or two bites of the new serving, say something along the lines of “Geez, my eyes are bigger than my stomach!” slap on some Saran Wrap and look forward to his lunch of choice the next day.

I’m sure he thinks he’s being sly but I’m not blind to this tactic. I don’t complain because it makes him happy. It’s also an invitation for me to have my way with anything left in the pot, without the guilt I once felt from robbing him of the enjoyment he gets from his unaltered leftovers the next day.

Sure, there’s some negotiating involved. Gone are the days of Ryan enjoying his meal for weeks on end, but he obviously recognizes my misery participating in that practice. He loves me, I love him and it shows in the silent but mutual agreement we’ve reached with handling our leftovers.

Like my husband’s tactics? Got your own trick up your sleeve (I’m sure Ryan would love to hear it!)? Have your own recipe for re-inventing dinner leftovers (I’d love to hear it!)? Feel free to share! In the mean time, impress your wife by making ham for dinner (most come pre-cut and pre-cooked with heating instructions on the package!) then impress her even more by making the leftovers into this EASY delicious, hearty soup the next day!

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Filed Under: Cooking 101featured

About the Author: Ann Milligan started dating her husband when they were only fourteen years old. After spending a full decade effectively preventing him from escaping, he eventually surrendered, proposed, and they tied the knot in 2007. Ann now spends her free time caring for their two-year-old son and anticipating the arrival of their second child any day now. She believes the key to a successful relationship is communication, negotiation, humor ...and allowing her husband to proof-read and approve her writing before airing her family's dirty laundry online for the world to read.

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