Aged Food aka Leftovers

Aged Food

Aged wine, aged cheeses,

are revered for being old.

Why fear leftovers?

I just enjoyed a most delicious dinner of baked pasta from yesterday. To me it tasted better today than when it was freshly cooked. Maybe the flavors had time to meld together and bring out the best in each other. A few decades ago, my attitude towards leftovers was quite different.

I had always heard of the joys of having Thanksgiving leftovers, cold pizza the next morning, and yesterday’s meatloaf, so that is why I was surprised when some friends, retirees like me, recently mentioned that their husbands were loath to eat leftovers. As I recall, one even termed it “used food.” And this is in America!

Growing up in Guyana, leftovers were practically unheard of. Families cooked just enough for that day and if any was left it went to the family dog or cat. This was partly because of limited resources for some, but the primary reason was that there was no place to store leftovers since the majority of families did not have refrigerators. Even those that had them mainly used the refrigerators for cooling drinks or making ice and continued to cook just enough fresh food each day.

The tradition of not eating leftovers or stale food, dates back to the ancient practice of Ayurvedic medicine which termed such foods tamasic, meaning that they were less than ideal. Being unaccustomed to having leftovers proved to be a problem for schoolgirls in a home economics class when the teacher asked their thoughts on how to use leftover food to help stretch a budget. She was met with dead silence, and no surprise. The textbook she was using was the assigned one from England, where I believe having leftovers was a more familiar concept.

There were ways that families were able to keep food unspoiled in the tropical heat. The food that was packed for the workers in the sugar cane fields and for children who attended school far from home, was placed in tin saucepans with tight-fitting lids immediately after cooking. These were not opened until the food was ready to be eaten. I have not known of a single case where the food spoiled before lunchtime.

Each generation who has come to America, or other first world countries, from rural Guyana has had initial doubts about having the same food the next day but soon acclimatized and accepted that it was good, and often more delicious after a day. This hesitancy and suspicion of leftovers I can understand, but not from those who were born and raised with refrigeration and who had undoubtedly enjoyed leftovers before. Could there be another reason for this attitude towards leftovers?