Z’s mind skips back fifty years

And so to leftovers … it’s remarkable that we have so many, as we didn’t even host Christmas this year, but we brought back some ham and cheese and had left behind various things in the fridge, as I’d bought too big a piece of beef and I’d made stock from the partridges, and there were some vegetables left, and so on.

Wink filled her car with petrol ready for her return journey today, and also bought some milk.  Slicing up the beef, we’d offered her some and we hadn’t touched the cheese she’d bought, so she was going to take some of that back, and I’d promised her some eggs too.  Half an hour after she left, we discovered them all in the fridge.  So, though we did go shopping this morning, mainly because we had a money-off voucher from the Co-op, which would more than pay for half a dozen tins of cat food, we didn’t need a great deal of food.

Tim is amused by my pleasure in using every possible scrap of food.  Little is wasted, because the chickens eat the small amounts that are left over and the final remains go on the compost heap.  ‘Another free meal,’ I’ll chuckle gleefully, when a few  vegetables bought or picked for a previous dish, some scraps of meat or a heel of cheese are turned into something palatable.  Last night, it was LT’s turn.  Wink had taken us out for lunch and, though I’d intended to make risotto (using the stock from the partridges), we didn’t think we could manage anything so substantial.  So LT volunteered to make minestrone and use up some of that stock, plus those vegetables that were left over – an onion or two, a carrot, part of a red pepper, a bit of broccoli, a potato and some mushrooms, as well as half a tin of tomatoes from the cottage pie I’d made the night before (using some of the beef).

I’ve been thinking about this frugality and wondering where it came from originally, because I don’t think I was brought up to it.  My mother was, having kept house for her father from the age of fourteen on a careful budget, with restricted supplies during the war years and afterwards, and I suspect she’d had enough of that.  I’m not really sure what happened to all our leftovers when I was growing up but I think that anything she believed was too small to bother with was just fed to the dogs.  I do remember seeing her discard a whole onion because there was a soft spot and thinking, even as a child, that I’d have just cut it out; so I must have always had an unwasteful side.

I do remember the moment when I found out how little food you need to make a meal, though.  Our neighbour came in to spend the evening with me – I was probably in my early teens – when my parents were out and it must have been unexpected, because she was going to eat dinner with me and there wasn’t much in the fridge.  Just a very small amount of leftover pork.  I looked at it, thinking that it wouldn’t even feed one – but ‘Auntie’ Jane took it and cut it up, fried an onion, cut up an apple, added a bit of gravy, cooked a few vegetables and it tasted jolly good.  It was a revelation, in fact – I can still remember how impressed I was.  I’ve been able to make a meal out of almost nothing, ever since.  Thank you, Auntie Jane.  She fed her family on a shoestring from necessity, but she taught me a lasting lesson and I still appreciate it.

Tonight, the risotto, using the rest of the stock, the mushrooms and the scraps of partridge.  Tomorrow, potatoes boulangère, using some of the milk that Wink left, with the beef that she left.  And on Monday, cheese soufflé.

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