Growing up, my family never had any qualms or inhibitions about leftovers. In fact, more often than not my folks would whip up big batches of brisket or stew or stuffed cabbage at a single time, which we’d make a minor dent in at dinnertime and then stash away for later.
I always thought that was just the way you did things. But as I ventured out into the world, I came to learn that, much like sauerkraut and smoked mussels, leftovers were perplexingly undesirable for a lot of people.
I never quite understood what exactly it is about saving perfectly good, uneaten food to enjoy later that they had a problem with. I remember going on a date with a Korean fellow once at this great joint called Korea House. We’d just polished off an order of beef bulgogi, a dragon roll, and an assortment of little banchan dishes. I was already eyeing the chicken and kim chi veggies we hadn’t had room for, plotting the next day’s lunch.
He was almost insulted that I suggested packing a couple of to-go boxes. He was genuinely, vehemently anti-leftover. “I don’t eat food twice,” was his stance on the matter. “Say what?!” was my response. That don’t even make sense, homie.
Maybe it’s a matter of social status or pride (“I can just buy new food.”); maybe it’s a matter of variety (“But I just ate that!”). Whatever it is, I just can’t seem to grasp. Not only am I fan of leftovers, I’m a straight-up advocate.
Plain and simple, some things just taste better the next day. Gumbo, for example. Or any type of soup or stew. Curry, jambalaya, spaghetti—any dish that depends on several ingredients and flavors mingling and mixing to come into its own, all benefit from a little extra time to steep.
Aside from that, leftovers can make great bases and inspiration for new concoctions. This is one of the pillars of efficient refrigerator management. If you’re tired of something you’ve cracked back open a few times, ponder on something new you might be able to make out of it. A lot of folks use leftover odds and ends to make fried rice, omelets, scrambled eggs, and stir-fries.
And when you don’t have a lot of free time to cook, cooking large batches and packing up individual servings to refrigerate or freeze is a great way to stretch out your effort and stock your stores with ready-to-go, homemade meals for later.
With all those perks, why turn away the Tupperware?