The Dignity of Left Overs

This is the second article in January of the School for Housewives 1910 series published on January 9, 1910, and touches on leftovers.

Transcribed from the Sunday edition of the The Buffalo Sunday Morning News.

The Dignity of Left Overs

IN imagination I see the lifted eyebrows and dainty tilt of the nose with which the young housemother reads the title.

Left-overs are, to her apprehension, but makeshifts, even when cleverly disguised and at their best. The fine disdain of our little matron is an inheritance.

When I was but 12 years old I pricked up my ears to catch the lowered voices in which a coterie of village gossips were discussing the parsimonious ways of the richest woman in the country. They were not ill-natured, but it was a rural neighborhood, and in such, then as now, the domestic doings of acquaintances supplied food for thought and speech.

“Do you know,” murmured the gossip-in-chief, glancing from her seat on the porch to my demure self bent over my atlas and geography just beyond the circle, “that when she has Brunswick stew for dinner what is left over is put upon the ice and warmed up next day?”

The chorus of amazed disapprobation fixed the comment in my mind.

I took an early opportunity of asking my mother is Brunswick stew were fit to eat the second day.

“Like other stews and like soups, it is better,” was the unhesitating rejoinder.

And when I told her what I had overheard she laughed.

“What is left over is usually sent into the kitchen or given to some poor family. Warmed-over dinners are not considered ‘nice’ by well-bred people.”

Mixtures Resented.

This is the tenant that has trickled down through countless generations to our young housewife. She is rather proud of telling how John detests “made dishes.”

“He will have none but plain, old-fashioned roast, boiled, broiled and fried. Of course, I have to calculate carefully with regard to quantities and I often tell him that enough hood food goes into the kitchen—and, I strongly suspect, into the swill pail—to keep a family of the size of ours. But no mixed foods for him, if you please! He says he wants to know what he is eating.”

May I digress to relate a personal grievance? She brought her John to my house last year for an unpremeditated week-end visit. I was so glad to see the charming young pair that I did not bethink me until the sermon was half over the next day that I had prepared a round of a la mode beef for luncheon. I trusted no cook to put up my a la modes. Besides the lardoons of fat pork that were white as snow by contrast with the rich hue of the beef when the carving knife did its fine work, there was spicy forcemeat filling for other incisions that went all the way through the noble “baron” of beef. It had not struck me that it could come under the condemnation of “made dishes” and “unholy mixtures” until, as I said, an evil spirit injected the idea between the fourthly and fifthly of an excellent discourse. Tumbling upon the heels of the suggestion hurried the recollection that the summer salad awaiting the mayonnaise in my refrigerator was a veritable “left-over.” It figured upon my mental menu as “Macedoine.” In fact, it was composed of the remnants of vegetables that had been cooked for two successive days, beans, corn, young beets and green peas. A tablespoonful of one and three tablespoonful of one and three tablespoonfuls of this, that and the other, deftly mingled and seasoned, then bedded upon crisp hearts of lettuce and mantled by mayonnaise, would be hailed joyfully by my household. How would visiting John take it?

To cut the story short, to the catastrophe. He didn’t take it at all! Nor more than a teaspoonful of the cup of tomato soup, the one hot dish in the midsummer Sunday luncheon. He seemed to divine that it was founded upon stewed tomato left from last night’s dinner. Yet it was strained, seasoned to a charm and made attractive to the eye by a tablespoonful of whipped cream on top of each cup. As for the beef, mottled beautifully as the thin slices were spread to view by the skillful carver, I had known that he would have none of it, before we left the church. At a whispered order from my anguished self, the waitress ferreted out a knobby bit of cold lamb from the icechest, and my guest made a meal upon this and a slice of cold bread. The dessert was homemade tutti-frutti ice cream and cake. The ice he evidently considered a mongrel and the cake was Neapolitan—variegated with brown, yellow and pink. Another “mix!”

This may be an extreme case of the hereditary distrust of “made dishes.” For the sake of the peace of mind of other housemothers and hostesses, I hope it is. There is no denying the truth that similar prejudices lurk in the minds of hundreds who should, by now, have learned that there are meaning and reason in the words that stand as our title.

A Divine Precept.

For 40-odd years it has been one of my aims in life to bring to the American housemother’s perceptions a belief in the dignity and the duty of economy. And the left-over is one, and an important, branch of the subject. Have you, sensible reader, ever paused to weigh what our Lord meant to teach when He bade the disciples (who had just witnessed the manifestation of His power to make amplest provision for the needs of the multitude). “Gather up the fragments, that nothing be lost?” That is, wasted. There were 12 baskets of “left-overs” that day. We may not doubt that they, too, went to feed the poor and hungry.

The same divine precept should be the rule of every kitchen. The combination of the fragments—often apparently incongruous-is the rest of culinary talent and skill.

One wish householder declares that his spouse achieves her most notable triumphs in the dishes evolved from “scraps.” He welcomes the appearance of a stuffed breast of veal, because he anticipates the next day’s scallop which is “an inspiration,” especially when the creamy sauce that holds it at the precise degree of soft deliciousness has a faint, exquisite flavor of oysters. If she has not saved the juice from the oysters used for frying a day or two ago, she has added a few cents to the cost of the scallop by buying half a pint from the fish merchant.

Boiled mutton is good at the first appearance when served with caper or egg sauce. The aforesaid canny husband foresees Scotch brother, which his soul loves, when enriched, as it is almost sure to be, by the addition of “peas, beans and barley-O,” odds and ends of celery, onions and minced parsley and, mayhap, a spoonful of oatmeal porridge left from breakfast.

If the mutton be a trifle rare, the left-overs will work up finely into curry. Save a cupful of the broth and put it over the fire. As it heats, stir in a great spoonful of strained apple sauce and a tablespoonful of curry powder. Cook one minute and add the meat, cut into inch cubes. After this goes in do not let the mixture boil. To stew cooked meat is, to make it insipid. Heat to scalding and serve. In another dish have pain rice so boiled that each grain stands by itself. In serving put a portion of rice upon the plate and pour the curry—meat and gravy—upon it. Send around ice-cold bananas with the curry. Each person takes one, strips off the skin and cuts the fruit as he wants it with a silver knife. It is a delicious accompaniment to curry. As East Indian introduced the novelty into my household 20 years ago, since when ice-cold bananas accompany curry as invariably as mint sauce is served with roast lamb.

Save the Bits.

Another way of using up the cold mutton is to cut it into rather thick slices, dip each in a “deviled” mixture of vinegar, French mustard, salt, pepper and a dash of sugar. Turn over the slices in the sauce several times, then in a rather thick batter, and fry as you would fritters. Drain off the fat and serve hit.

Never throw away a bit of fish. The fragments may be transformed into croquettes by the addition of mashed potato. Or, minced fine and blended with fine cracker crumbs, seasoned well and stirred into hot milk, slightly thickened and made savory by a great spoonful of butter, it develops into a toothsome bisque. A little chopped parsley improves it.

The outer and coarser stalks of celery should be scraped clean, cut into inch lengths and stewed in salted water, drained and served with a white sauce.

On parboil them: let them get very cold, dip into raw eggs, then into fine crumbs and fry quickly. They are a really elegant vegetable thus prepared.

Served on Lettuce.

Mixed salads are the best of their tribe to the educated palate. Cold potatoes, cut into neat bits of uniform size and seasoned with a good French dressing, should be put into a glass dish lined with lettuce leaves. Cover the surface deep with cold boiled beets, minced very fine, and you have a pretty as well as a palatable salad.

I could writer, as a prolific English novelist is reported to have said of herself, “h’on, and h’on, and h’on” indefinitely, without exhausting the capabilities of left-overs.

As “entrees” they take a distinguished place in menus for daily and company meals. It behooves our young housewife to experiment with them at will, if she would introduce variety into her bills of fare. She will find the pursuit fascinating if she has a real taste for fine cookery.

Marion Harland

Family Meals for a Week
The Housemothers’ Exchange

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