The magic of cleaning up leftovers
“I’ve got a butter dish for that!” your auntie exclaims as you assemble in the kitchen with the rest of the family who are courageous enough to help clean up this year’s colossal holiday family feast.
At this point in my life, there’s still an older grown-up at a family gathering, thankfully! If you are lucky enough to also have older grown-ups in your life, especially ones who lived through the 40’s and 50’s, you may be well aware of this gift most grandma types possess: the magic ability to eye the remnants of a meal and match them with a random, recycled container.
The grandmas I know all have that mystery cabinet in the kitchen, usually in the darkest corner, that contains old Country Crock bins, potato salad containers, pickle jars, and the like. No plastic or glass container once holding a random condiment or salad is unimportant enough to end up in the trash. They are carefully washed and join an expansive family, all living in that mystery corner cabinet.
You know this cabinet, right? The one where you take your life into your own hands by opening that door, lest you unleash an avalanche of plastic, echoing as the containers bounce off the floors. Yes, that’s the one. And then you must select the appropriate size for the several bites of mashed potatoes left. Choose wisely.
Apparently, this gift of spacial relations, pairing leftovers to those repurposed vessels, is something to be admired.
I clearly remember as a child observing a big meal cleanup at my Aunt Octavia’s house. They had a sort of Golden Girls arrangement, where 4 sisters/cousins and their spouses shared a house after they retired. My dad commented on Aunt Louise’s amazing sense of finding the perfect container to hold the leftovers. Somehow, that stayed with me.
I was not blessed with this gift. Some days, I can barely figure out how to put a pair of shoes in a shoe box correctly. That’s how awesome my spacial relation skills are.
So this year, after our Thanksgiving meal, I wondered how well I’d developed this skill, if at all. We aren’t staying in our house, but on vacation, complicating the cleanup. We did seem to find some random containers to hold our leftovers. I surprised myself by estimating fairly well. I’m not sure if I’m up to Aunt Louise’s standards, but not bad.
You may also be familiar with the next game, the one that comes after herding all of those leftovers into bins: Refrigerator Tetris. You know, rearranging the contents of the fridge to accommodate all those random containers. I’m much better at this process.
This usually begins with me sitting in front of the open icebox, placing whatever can be moved into drawers, and clearing up precious shelf space. Then there’s arranging beverages into rows and matching containers to empty spaces. Sometimes there’s stacking, too.
Finally, though, the job is done. You look at your organizational skills, slightly satisfied with achieving something so trivial. Maybe I made my Aunt Louise proud.
Perhaps I’m evolving into one of those Grandma types after all. Except my plastic goes into the recycle bin. (Excluding Thai food takeout containers. Those are as precious as fine china!)
We’ll see how well I’ve mastered these games at the next holiday meal.
I hope you are enjoying a pleasant holiday season with your friends and family. This year, I’m trying to focus on spending time with others, not on gifts or fanfare.
As always, I hope you all are safe and healthy.