On a typical weeknight Chris and I like to watch Jeopardy and then, once I’ve finished kicking Chris’s ass, Alton Brown’s Good Eats. Such is the exciting life of nerds. Truth be told, I only beat him at Jeopardy about half the time and Chris only tolerates Good Eats because AB occasionally talks about bacon. We mostly watch because I kind of have a thing for Alton Brown, what with his geeky culinary evangelism and his cheesy impersonations of historical figures. But the other night instead of Good Eats we caught a very old rerun of the first ever episode of Feasting on Asphalt, in which AB meanders through Georgia and the Carolinas sampling collards and pinto beans, fried chicken and pickled pigs’ feet, and cornbread and biscuits.
It was the biscuits that got me.
There’s absolutely nothing local about grapefruit, but you know what’s available locally right now? Turnips. There might still be a couple winter squash in my basement, but mostly it’s turnips. I’m not even sure I like turnips, so when a coworker mentioned that her daughter’s school was having a fruit fundraiser I succumbed to the siren song of citrus and ordered twelve pounds of grapefruit. Twelve pounds sounds like a lot of grapefruit, but it’s really not. The fruit was delivered last Friday and when I arrived at work the following Monday eager to chat with my friend and fellow grapefruit enthusiast Katie, she’d nearly run out. “What did you do with them?” I asked, hoping for a brilliant recipe I’d not yet discovered. “I just ate them,” she answered.
Oh. That honestly hadn’t occurred to me.
I’ve always had a rocky relationship with leftovers. I grew up in a fairly obsessive family for whom garbage night was a major production that naturally involved cleaning out the fridge. My father was particularly fond of this weekly ritual; he’d bustle from refrigerator to microwave to table, peering into smelly tupperware containers, shaking nearly empty bottles and saying things like, “It’s garbage night. Who wants to finish this ketchup?”
Needless to say, nobody really wanted to finish that ketchup. Nor could any of us be convinced that three spears of mushy canned asparagus, a crusty corner of rubbery lasagna, and half a pork chop of questionable age constituted a decent meal. Yet such were the offerings on a typical leftover night; we ate what there was to eat and then admired the clear, white space we’d created inside our refrigerator.
But despite the satisfaction a newly-organized refrigerator brings, it’s taken many years and several revelations for me to warm up to the idea of eating leftovers on purpose. Revelation number one: the microwave is capable of ruining just about anything, so it’s much better to repurpose leftovers than to reheat them. Once I’d embraced that concept I made all sorts of wonderful discoveries, not the least of which was suppli di riso, which is really just a fancy Italian way to say, “rice balls.”