'Matter of Laugh or Death,' the award-winning humor column
By Bill Dunn
Interesting observations on this thing we call life
(appearing each week in the Republican-American newspaper, Waterbury, CT)
THE JOY OF LEFTOVERS
Don’t you just love leftovers? Leftovers are the greatest invention since sliced bread. (Just make sure the leftovers don’t actually include sliced bread, which tends to get very soggy when wrapped in aluminum foil in the fridge for a few weeks.)
Opening the door of the refrigerator and gazing at all the wondrous possibilities makes you feel like Imelda Marcos standing inside a shoe store. The excitement is palpable. (OK, I’m sorry. I never use the word palpable in real life. I’m not really sure what it means. I found it in my computer thesaurus and it sounded kind of cool. OK, I’m sorry again. I never use the word thesaurus in real life…)
The best part about leftovers is the mystery. There are many different Tupperware containers in various sizes, plus many foil-wrapped items in various shapes. It’s like Christmas morning just before opening your presents. The imagination runs wild. Ooh, ooh, what could it be?! Is it chicken? Is it cake? Is it macaroni salad? Is it a bowl of polliwogs the kids found in a pond out back? (Tastes like chicken. Not bad with a little mayo.) Is it meatloaf with green fur on it? (Which means it’s been in the fridge a little too long and requires extra ketchup to make it palatable—not to be confused with palpable.)
Before opening or unwrapping a leftover, you should try to guess what it is. The size and shape of the container rarely offers a clue since any food, even a T-bone steak, can be squished into a Tupperware bowl. But the weight and viscosity of the item is helpful. (OK, I’m sorry. I never use the word viscosity in real life.) If you pick up a bowl and it is light with no sloshing sensation, it is either cake or salad. When your taste buds start thinking, “Cake! Cake!” and removing the lid reveals a pile of lettuce and sliced cucumbers staring back at you, it is quite a letdown.
If there is a sloshing sensation, it depends on what kind of sloshing you feel. Fast sloshing usually means soup (or that bowl of polliwogs). Medium sloshing usually means stew. Slow sloshing is either pudding or baked beans. (And when your taste buds start thinking, “Pudding! Pudding!” well, you know the rest.) Finally, if you feel a sloshing sensation which can only be described as “weird,” it must be Jell-O.
The challenge of identifying a leftover is almost as much fun as guzzling it down while the refrigerator door is still open. There is, however, a downside to the wonderful world of leftovers. Every once in a while—I reel at the mere thought of this—there are no leftovers at all in the fridge. Opening the door and seeing not a single piece of Tupperware or foil—just milk, juice, fruit, and vegetables sitting there—is like waking up on Christmas morning, rushing into the living room to open your presents, and then remembering that it’s really April 9th.
Another problem is the aforementioned green fur. (OK, I’m sorry. I never use the word aforementioned in real life.) Sometimes there is a leftover item so moldy not even industrial strength ketchup can save it. It is quite a test of will to walk across the kitchen and throw the leftover into the garbage without taking at least a little nibble.
The worst situation is discovering what seems to be the Holy Grail of leftovers: a huge Tupperware dish filled with something delicious. As you pop the lid, grab a spoon, and start shoveling it in—while the refrigerator door is still open, of course—your joy is shattered by a frantic female voice: “What are you DOING?! I made that this morning for the church picnic! PUT YOUR HANDS IN THE AIR AND STEP AWAY FROM THE FRIDGE!!”
“Oh, hi dear,” you reply sheepishly as she snatches the dish from your hands. “It…it was in Tupperware. I thought it was a leftover.”
“I can’t believe you,” she says, completely ignoring your logical explanation. “Don’t you have any restraint at all?”
Slinking away in shame, you try to salvage a bit of dignity by saying, “As you know, restraint is my middle name.” (OK, I’m sorry. I never use—or do—the word restraint in real life.)
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