Wednesday, November 08, 2006

The Life of Leftovers

The only welcome leftover in my mind is pizza. Pizza is the perfect leftover because it’s never around long enough to raise any questions of its shelf life. I love leftover pizza. I could eat pizza for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and on some occasions I have. Microwaved pizza is okay, but anyone who is blessed to own a toaster oven knows that a slice of skillfully reheated leftover pizza can be even better than it was in its original form. I actually just finished having one for lunch. Thirty seconds in the microwave to take the chill out of it, then into the toaster oven to await the crucial window between when the cheese starts bubbling and when toppings start sliding off onto the heating elements. With just the right timing you end up with a slice of hot, crispy goodness. Leftovers just don’t get any better than that.

Why is it that a fridge full of non-pizza leftovers is so depressing? It’s probably because leftovers serve as a barrier to the food you really want to eat. You can’t justify ordering Chinese or grilling up that fresh package of chicken when every time you open up the fridge there are six Tupperware containers staring you in the face. I think Tupperware itself is one of the major reasons that leftovers are so undesirable to begin with. It’s simply not an appetizing method of packaging food. Everything is all mixed together in there, squished up against the sides like a kid doing a blowfish on the school bus window. Then, dare you open it, you discover a virtual terrarium has formed inside as a shower of condensation falls from the underside of the lid, soggifying the inhabitants below. I usually try to get my leftovers from the fridge to the microwave with as little eye contact as possible. If I’m reheating them for Matthew and the substance is particularly unrecognizable, I’ll ask him to stay out of the kitchen so that he never sees the food in such a dismal state lest he lose his appetite and the burden to eat it is cast on me.

Matthew is actually pretty good about eating leftovers, provided that he enjoyed the meal the first time around and that I do the reheating. If he has no choice but to prepare leftovers himself, our overachieving microwave actually comes equipped with a “senso-reheat” button, most likely designed specifically for men. Put the plate in there, push the button, and the microwave decides when your food is ready. I can just feel myself becoming obsolete with every evenly-heated entree. Matthew is also a friend to the leftovers in that he is willing to give them a longer window of opportunity. Personally, I give them three of four days max, depending on the contents. He’ll pretty much eat anything that’s in there without raising question of how long it’s been around. This propensity of his makes it necessary for me to be diligent about cleaning out the fridge. I used to leave stuff in there for a while, mentally marking it as inedible after several days had passed, knowing I would throw it away when I got around to it. But if he’s desperate enough, Matthew will dig around in there and come up with stuff I forgot I ever made. The typical shelf life of garbage-destined leftovers in our house goes something like this:

Day One: I make a pot of Tortilla Soup, store remainder in fridge
Day Two: Have a bowl for lunch
Day Three: Feeling a little tired of tortilla soup, go with another option
Day Four: Soup is now listed as questionable, though still a possibility if necessary
Day Five: I officially write soup off the menu
Day Six: Soup remains in fridge in case the more courageous Matthew decides to partake
Day Seven: I dump the gelatinous mass into the trash can
Day Eight: “Babe, what happened to all that soup that was in here?!?”