preamble to leftovers

it’s time. We have to talk about food, specifically, about leftover, tired food, food that must be used and not thrown away, especially these days as food prices are rising. Global warming is being blamed for the high cost of food but we should also question whether it’s the high cost of living or the cost of high living. There’s a minimalist fad going on by which the in-thing is to simplify your life in terms of your possessions and lifestyle but it sort of skips what’s going on in the kitchen. Obesity is recognised as a disease but Extreme Eating is very popular. On the other hand, you are encouraged not to clean your plate. Stop when you’ve had enough. Restaurants encourage Doggie Bags, in fact, I just read of an upscale restaurant that includes recipes in its bags instructing people how to use (enhance) the leftovers.

Different points of view, often opposing or contradictory, leave the average consumer confused, to say the least. Let’s get back to basics, we are told. Well. before we discuss food, and I could go on and on, and probably will, I want to tell you about Laurie Colwin (1944-1992 - heart attack at age 48). I am fortunate enough to own both of her cookbooks: Home Cooking (1988) and More Home Cooking (posthumously published 1993). She was a novelist (5 novels, 3 collections of short stories) but she became a local (New York) cult figure with her charming and practical approach to cooking that probably influenced my own approach to cookbook writing. (Except I wrote my first one before she wrote hers.) She writes partly cooking and partly memoir, comfortably surrounding herself with what she calls “the wisdom of cookbook writers”. She was billed as “a writer in the kitchen”. I always called myself a writer who cooks as opposed to a cook who writes.

I checked back with Colwin when I was writing my third cookbook, for singles, as requested by my publisher. Solo Chef was published in 1997 and I dealt with leftovers in it, too, because solo cooks often have leftovers to deal with after they’ve had the children or grandchildren for a meal. I remembered that Colwin analysed exactly how little you need in the way of equipment, an attitude for a minimalist to consider. After all, she said, “most of the world cooks over fire without any gadgets at all.” So she listed what she considered essentials: 2 knives, one small, one large; 2 wooden spoons, one long-handled and one short-handled; 2 rubber spatulas, one wide, one narrow; kitchen shears; 2 frying pans, one small, one large (mine are cast-iron, but I also have a Jamie Oliver omelet pan which I love); 2 cutting boards, one large and one small; 2 roasting pans, one big and one medium--sized; 2 soup kettles, one four-quart and one ten; a heavv-lidded casserole; tongs; one grater (I like my Lee Valley grater, initially intended for the workshop); one teeny grater (I inherited my grandmother’s and use it to grate nutmeg); mixing bowls, lots, but three in a nest will do; a sharp-pronged fork....

And then, of course, she acknowledges special interests and gives thanks for garage sales. (We have a Basement Boutique in the underground garage that serves the same purpose.)

Having dealt with the preliminaries, I will return tomorrow to discuss leftovers as such.

Anon, anon.