The season of leftovers
“It’s like colcannon,” I tell my husband, as I pile leftover mashed potatoes atop my leftover spinach salad.
He grimaces, but it’s delicious. I’m a food mixer by nature, anyway; the type that lets the elements on my plate not only touch, but mingle. But however tasty a mixed bite of leftover spinach salad and mashed potatoes may be, it is nothing like the traditional Celtic dish of buttered mashed potatoes, kale or cabbage, and a bit of pork.
Nevertheless, it’s what’s for dinner, because this is the season of leftovers. I’ve made enough gorgeous dinners over the last days to provide my refrigerator with a wealth of tasty bits. Do you want a cold, spice-rubbed pork chop on the bone? I made four (warm from the oven) and we ate three. One’s left.
Or how about some fluffy, light falafel, with tzatiki? Yep, it’s available.
Perhaps roasted chicken with gravy?
My son came home for the holidays after being away at his first job since college graduation in May. He has been in Arizona since August, living like a single guy on a limited budget, eating a lot of ramen. Feeding him has been my pleasure.
It also has been my pleasure to feed my husband for the past 33 years, and he has benefited from my increasing ability at the stove. Early dinners, when he was a graduate student and our own budget was slim, involved a lot of boxed mac-and-cheese and canned tuna. Since then, roux-based sauces have replaced the silver pouch of cheese dust from the box, and ahi has replaced tuna from the can. Now nothing is as slim as it was — not our food budget nor our waistlines.
When I turned 40, which is more years ago than I will reveal, I gave myself permission to eat. I was born hungry, and through my teens and twenties, seemed destined to live forever on a diet. I was slim on my wedding day. But then, the cooking started.
They say that men don’t see women the way women see themselves, and I am here to tell you, it’s true. If my rear is a little fleshy, my thighs a bit dimpled, my tummy soft, it is as a result of pleasure shared across a dining table. There is no fun in denial. “Have some dessert,” my dearest tells me.
My joy comes from pulling ingredients together well before the dinner hour, arranging my mis-en-place, conceiving the dishes I want to prepare. Pouring a glass of wine and starting some music. Closing my hand around the grip of my favorite knife. Starting olive oil in a heavy pan. Hearing the sizzle as foods become browned. Watching my ingredients become a meal.
As we enter 2016, I wish everyone the pleasures of love, family and a warm kitchen. May laughter be the soundtrack of our dinner tables. May guests always be welcome. May our eggs always set with perfect yolks. May our sauces never curdle and our roasts always be moist. May our cakes always rise.