Wednesday, July 8, 2009

NY Times: What to do about leftovers?

We think of leftovers with special frequency during a recession because they represent our efforts to be economical. Frugality may be a virtue, but there is no denying that when it comes to leftovers, people get a little nutty.

Just ask Diana Abu-Jaber, a novelist who once wrote a memoir told through food, “The Language of Baklava.”

At a party she held at her house in Portland, Ore., in 2001 to celebrate her marriage, two of her neighbors brought her a gift: a Mason jar with a jaunty red bow on it.

“It seemed to contain chunks of some sort of appalling turgid brownish oozing cake,” Ms. Abu-Jaber said. It came with a note of explanation that read: “This half loaf of zucchini chocolate bread was a (failed) experiment. But maybe you will like it. Happy marriage!”

“To this day, we marvel at whatever might have possessed them to pass that on to us,” Ms. Abu-Jaber said.

Annabelle Gurwitch, a host of the eco-living show “Wa$ted” on the cable network Planet Green, got a call from a neighbor in early May asking for the rest of the Irish cheese from Costco that the neighbor had left at the Gurwitches’ house in Los Angeles four nights earlier. So the next morning Ms. Gurwitch’s husband drove to the neighbor’s house, dutifully returning custody of the eight ounces of cheese.

“I did feel odd giving it back,” Ms. Gurwitch said. “I felt like it was ours now.” But revenge was soon hers: a week later, dining at the cheese-revoking neighbor’s house, Ms. Gurwitch absconded with a loaf of bread that she hadn’t even brought.

In some instances, the inherent virtuousness of dispensing the world’s uneaten foods seems to fuel, if not provide rationalization for, some odd behavior.