Jewish World Review Nov. 27, 2001 / 12 Kislev, 5762

Lori Borgman

Lori Borgman
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Consumer Reports

The Leftover Shuffle begins -- THIS is that marvelous time of year when the subject of food weighs heavy upon us all. Some heavier than others. In my case, about two pounds and still counting.

Mixers are whirring, ovens are bursting with beautiful works of art, and if the latest polls are accurate, the average refrigerator door now requires two heavyweight wrestlers to force it shut. All of which signals the beginning of that long-standing, time-honored tradition - The Leftover Shuffle.

You would think that after the crowd disperses, the leftovers might, too. Wrong. Leftovers don't disappear; they multiply. No one knows why. Not Emeril, not Martha, not NASA, not even Stephen Hawking, who has been so obsessed with the phenomena that he has begun a three-volume work titled A Brief History of Leftovers.

The Leftover Shuffle begins like this: From now until the end of the year, every person who takes a seat at your table will generate approximately five to seven small containers of leftovers per day. These leftovers are usually puny - a full serving, a half serving or a spoonful too small to sustain a chickadee. Nonetheless, they will be covered, wrapped, boxed, burped for freshness and deposited in the 'fridge.

On their first trip to the 'fridge, containers will be lined up neatly on a slab of prime real estate - the top shelf which basks in the flattering glow of the 20-watt spotlight. Before the clock strikes midnight, hands will reach in and the shuffle will commence.

Sweet potatoes and fruit salad will be swept away on a paper plate. Green bean casserole will waltz off with a turkey leg for a trip to the microwave. Leftovers will mix, mingle, socialize, exchange phone numbers and return to the refrigerator looking not a lick worse for the wear.

On Day Two the Leftover Shuffle takes on the appearance of a saucy little two-step. A relish tray glides two steps to the right and two steps back. Sage dressing moves two steps left and two front. Despite a box-step in and out of the 'fridge that would make Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers proud, the leftovers are not a single ounce smaller.

That evening, leftovers are grabbed from their shelves, stuffed into sandwiches, slapped on tortillas, crammed into pita pockets - and returned to the 'fridge looking more plump and robust than ever.

Leftovers: the food that keeps on giving.

Leftovers: the mushrooming party guests that don't know when to leave.

Fearing a hostile takeover of the kitchen by candied yams and soggy spinach phyllo rolls, a divide and conquer strategy is implemented. Half a pie is wedged behind a jar of minced garlic on the cold and frosty bottom shelf, known as Siberia. Remnants of a vegetable medley are shoved into an out-of-the way crisper drawer that hasn't been used since the Mold Invasion of '97.Out of sight, out of mind.

Day Three: The leftovers are standing firm like stubborn squatters on a Nebraska homestead. Not a one of them shows a single sign of yielding.

Exactly when, you ask, will someone muster the courage to end the senseless shuffle and escort these intruders to the disposal? I can tell you when: Right after they compete in a second long-standing, time-honored tradition - known as Casserole Surprise.

JWR contributor Lori Borgman is the author of I Was a Better Mother Before I Had Kids. To comment, please click here.

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© 2001, Lori Borgman