Before Christmas, I met with two of my oldest friends for lunch in Winchester. Louise, Ruth and I have known one another since our school days. When you consider that one of us is a London-based architect and has had four babies, one of us is a teaching member of senior leadership in Oxford, and I’m in Portsmouth juggling a demanding teaching post, leading a subject, with two kids and a column, we don’t do badly on the contact front.
Inevitably, given the lunching nature of the catch-up, we began discussing festive food and, in particular, leftovers. Part of the Christmas tradition is leftovers but, please ask yourself, would you want to eat somebody else’s??
As Louise wryly observed, above the rim of a glass of vino, leftovers are a private pleasure. Such wise words. The concept of munching somebody else’s bubble and squeak is simply unappealing. The idea of somebody’s leftover roasties being mushed up with their leftover veg and reheated? No!
I’m unsure as to why this is, but leftovers are definitely best enjoyed by one’s self and one’s family. I remember one year visiting a relative on Boxing Day, and being confronted with a plate of soggy bubble and squeak with baked beans next to it. Firstly, this is not my choice of side dish – even the words ‘bean juice’ (shudder), let alone the sensory experience of it tainting other foods on my plate and getting steadily colder, makes my gag reflex tingle. Secondly, the idea of eating bits of food that have previously been cooked, not stored by myself, and being, essentially, the unwanted parts of someone’s previous meal, sets my teeth on edge.
Obviously this is crackers, akin to when you accidentally touch a leftover bit of soggy, spongy food in the sink when washing up (CRINGE). You know there’s nothing wrong with the food leftover from someone else’s meal, and if it were in your own house you’d be happy to eat it (for the avoidance of doubt, I do not mean the stuff in the sink), but when it’s somebody else’s, it loses appeal. Perhaps it’s the connotation that it’s been scraped off plates, as opposed to carefully set aside during serving?
On Boxing Day, my husband and I set the table in the evening for what my youngest daughter refers to as ‘pick n’ mix’. She was in her element (so much so, that she spilt said husband’s glass of Chateauneuf right across the table… the tablecloth… the blinis). But, prior to the wine disaster, I had popped some cheeses on a plate. By the end of the wine soaked meal, there were leftovers aplenty; pate, ham, the aforementioned cheeses and so on. Would I have rolled these back out for other people when they visited? No – I couldn’t bring myself to munch some stinky Brie that has a smear of pate on it, and a couple of crackers crumbs, in someone else’s house, and subsequently I don’t think I could bring it out in mine. Obviously my husband and I stuffed out faces with the leftovers the following night… because your own, personal leftovers, are what Chrimbo is all about.
I also make various meals with leftovers. Whatever meat is left from the Sunday roast goes in the slow cooker, for either a curry or a stew, in order to be economical with both money and time. But could I serve that to friends when they come for dinner? No. Yet I am happy, in fact I positively relish, spending the evenings between 24th and 30th December eating little besides leftovers.
They are indeed, for me at least, a private pleasure. Good call, Ms Etherington.
First published in The Portsmouth News, Tuesday 12th January 2016
Image courtesy of tender stem.co.uk
Before the Wine Went Over… 🙂 x