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Friday, November 27, 2015

Being a Good Steward Begins in the Kitchen

Stop! Don't throw away that bird!
When I was a little girl, my mother always encouraged us to clean our plates. Throwing out food was verboten. Considering there were twelve mouths to feed (my parents, myself, and my nine siblings), I'm sure our astronomical food bill was part of her motivation. But she also thought of those less fortunate. Wasting food was throwing away money that could be given to feed the poor.

We, as children of course, didn't have a clue about the "starving Armenians" and would gladly have sent our unwanted lima beans and black-eyed peas to fill up their plates, but as an adult I know exactly what my mom meant.
My mantra is a little different from hers: "Take what you want, but eat what you take." But I still get the eye rolling and on big holidays it's hard to identify the guilty one whose plate was only half eaten. As my mom also told us, "You're eyes are bigger than your stomach."

Well, this day after Thanksgiving is a good time to get on my soapbox and encourage good stewardship in the kitchen. Maybe at your house all the turkey, stuffing, potatoes, etc. get eaten up and there are no "leftovers" except a bare turkey carcass. But even that stripped bird can go into the crockpot with carrots, onions, and celery to make a great basic stock for soup and it freezes well. If your idea of soup is a can of Campbells, make it a gourmet treat by adding a can of your stock instead of water. Yum! Soup is my favorite lunch either homemade or a dressed up can.

My kids call me the queen of leftovers. In fact, a sweet daughter-in-law jokes that I should have a cooking show called What's for Dinner? where I open the fridge and pull together a meal from whatever is inside in half an hour. I did that last night as a matter of fact. Starting with a can of Progresso clam chowder, I skinned and cut up a leftover baked potato, cooked a few carrots in the microwave, opened a can of clams and semi-drained it leaving a little clam juice for flavor and added all to the canned soup. It was a little thick so I poured in some half and half and then salt and pepper to tast. We also had a few leftover homemade chicken fingers from the night before so I heated those and we had them for appetizers with a few sauce packs leftover from a meal at Chik-Fil-A. "Waste not, want not," as the saying goes.

When you come down to it, I must be part Scotch because I have a thrifty soul. I hate our throw-away culture and before I throw or give anything away, I think of how I might use it in a way different from its intended use. (No, I don't have a bathtub in my yard filled with flowers.) I do, however, have a cracked and chipped ceramic pot in the garden lying on its side and arranged to look like the flowers are growing out of it. My son tells me that's not how to "grow pot."

All of us should be good stewards of the earth and it begins at home. For me that means the kitchen. Come on over for dinner. I'm sure I can pull something together for company. I have bread ends in the breadbox, eggs and cheese in the fridge and some leftover chili -- Mexican pie, anyone?


  1. My dad always says, "Don't let your alligator eyes overload your jaybird stomach."

  2. From California,

    I love Avila's dad's folk wisdom.

    I always fill the plates of children with small portions because it will not get thrown away, and they can always get more if they eat all of the first helping.