Leftovers – when they are not: leftover

The notion of leftover food and what happens to it, is a divisive one.  I remember my ex returning from a conference with a story about a fellow delegate just would not eat leftover food.  If there was any food left over, his wife had to throw it away.

I must digress

That entire exchange was more than twenty five years ago (as is the memory), but still raises qestions for me.  Firstly, throwing away good food.  Just does not make sense.  I’ll come back to this.  It’s not just the food issue that stuck with me, it was how the story was told:  it was clear that that husband concerned had issued a decree.  I remember thinking to myself:  this still happens in the late 1990’s?  Clearly, I was naive and protected.  I learned that not only did it still happen, but it still does.  It’s one of the signs of domestic abuse.  In South Africa, as with the rest of the world, gender-based violence is a crisis with a surge of femicides as South Africa has entered stage three of the covid-19 lockdown.

Food waste

While I’m on a bit of a downer, and staying with the lockdown, one of the very worrying consequences of the lockdown in South Africa, is the number of hungry people.  I grew up with the constant admonishment that I had to eat every single morsel of food on my plate.

There are children who have no food.

Then I would be regaled with stories about hungry children in Vietnam and other parts of Africa.  What most people who know me now, will have difficulty believing, is that I was a picky eater with the appetite of a bird (a small one!).  It was not unusual for me to whine, “I’ve had enough…” or “I’m not hungry…”  No-one, least of all my mother ever knew that I would feed my winter soup to the lavender bush that was up the back steps, round the corner and behind the garage.  That’s another story.  More relevant is that if I didn’t eat each morsel on my plate, said plate and food remains were deposited on top of the fridge.  They were my next meal.

Needless to say, two, no, three things happened.  I grew up and as I did, so did my appetite.  I also developed an appreciation for most food and an ability to eat virtually anything that’s put in front of me – even if it’s something I’d prefer not to eat.  The third thing is that I did develop a loathing for leftovers that are just the same meal.  Rinse Reheat and repeat does not work for me.

Not the vogue

I think I might have mentioned that my Dad grew up with an alotment and went on to train as a horticulturist at Kew.

My father – the one under the keg tap – “busy” in Kew Gardens.

Consequently I grew up with vegetable peelings always saved for the compost heep.  That compost fed the growing vegetables and flowers.  Sustainble living was just how things were done.  It didn’t have a lable. Then.

Back to my mother: I think I’ve mentioned that she was one of four sisters with a single mother, and grew up in the Second World War.

Mum at about 12 – circa 1940

(Well, I had, and it’s one of those posts I shall have to “reconstitute“.)  The point is, that every morsel had to stretch and nothing went to waste.

Both The Husband (whose parents were married during that same war) and I grew up with the concept of nose to tail eating and wasting no part of an animal.  The Husband talks about his mother who, as a young mother newly arrived on a smallholding in the then Rhodesia, making soap with pig fat. And curing ham.  Eating offal (which, by the way, includes oxtail), was just part of life.  As were meals with leftover meals.  Some more successful than others.  Stovies was one we both remember. In our house stovies were always made after roast beef and was one of my Dad’s favourite winter suppers.  And, let me add he, himself, made a mean pot of stovies.

Patterns repeat

As much as one thinks one rebels against one’s childhood, and “things our parents did”, it sometimes comes as a bit of a shock to discover that we are repeating the same patterns.  Or not.  Anymore.

It’s taken a while, and I’ve made peace with embraced some of those patterns.  Like the compost heap.  And leftovers.  However, in my defence, I plan my leftovers.  Like I plan the weekly meals.  The “deliberate” leftovers are essential ingredients in another meal.  As is the case with my roast vegetable “frittata”.

A while ago, I shared this photo on Instagram and a friend asked if I’d shared the recipe here. Well, I hadn’t then, and I am, now.

Roast Vegetable Frittata

Essentially, this is a baked omelette.  Roast vegetables is a favourite meal and I when do them, I make a huge quantity.  There is so much one can do with roast vegetables:  stir into pasta or risotto;  as part of a salad and in a frittata.   As I did for that particular evening’s meal.  It’s simple and it’s versatile.  One can make it North African by adding harissa and garnishing it with fresh coriander or take it to the other side of the Mediterranean with pesto and basil.  Or one can give it a Mexican touch with cumin, chilli and cilantro (or coriander and dhanya by other names).  I will even add a bit of spinach as I did the other evening when I paid proper attention to what I was doing – to be able to write up the recipe.

This particular evening, I also had some left over spinach from another meal, and I had also roasted some cauliflower (which I usually keep separate because the flavour tends to “contaminate” everything else).  I elected omit the cauliflower, but incorporate the spinach into this frittata.

This transformation of leftovers consists of a layer of roast vegetables in a greased baking dish, over which one pours beaten egg which is topped with grated cheese before being baked in the oven.  The detailed recipe is here in a printable format).

The roasted cauliflower didn’t go to waste, either, it went into the side salad that accompanied the meal.

A last word

This is the first of a few recipes-by-request which have taken a back seat to my lockdown related rants.  So, keeping a promise, this one is for Janette who also writes about reinvention and sustainable living:  under the milkwood tree in her garden which is on the beautiful Eastern Cape coast of South Africa.  Go and have a read.

Until next time, be well
The Sandbag House
McGregor, South Africa

Photo: Selma


Post Script

In yet another aspect of my life, I offer

English writing and online tutoring services

every day conversation and formal presentations
writing – emails and reports, academic and white papers
formal grammar, spelling and punctuation
more information here

And then there’s more:

  • If this post might seem familiar, it’s because I’m doing two things:
    • re-vamping old recipes.  As I do this, I plan to add them in a file format that you can download and print.  If you download recipes, buy me a ko-fi?
    • and “re-capturing” nearly two years’ worth of posts because of this.
  • If you’re interested in a soft entry into the world of crypto currency and monetising WordPress blog, use the fantastic Steempress plugin to post directly to the Hive blockchain.  Click on the image below to sign up
  • I also share the occasional post on Medium.