“It’s a leftover. What a sad word that is. Leftover. How would you like to be… a leftover? Well, it wouldn’t be bad if they were taking people out to be shot. I might even volunteer.” – George Carlin
Right about now, each of us is on roughly our third idea for how to do something different with all of the leftovers from Thanksgiving. We’ve eaten our fourth turkey sandwich, maybe tried to make turkey salad out of it, and the green bean casserole sits virtually untouched from Thursday.
We are facing the inevitability of the leftover leftovers. You know what I mean. The stuff people make every year, but only, it seems, at Thanksgiving or Christmas. The stuff that no one really wants, but they’re just afraid to tell Aunt Nelda that her foamy Jell-O with the carrots, pineapple, and some other unidentifiable food group that should never be put in Jell-O, isn’t palatable.
The only use I’ve found for Jell-O is to let it ripen for six months and make replacement gaskets for my tractor.
Some of the other food items that people make at Thanksgiving and Christmas can be made into gaskets even sooner. Experiment at your own risk.
The following tips won’t help you now, since Thanksgiving is over, but print this out or file it, because Christmas dinner with the family is just a few weeks away.
As a kid, you don’t get to make your own plate. So, in deference to Aunt Nelda, your mom fills your Corelle Dinnerware with plenty of her Jell-O dish and Grandma’s green bean casserole. Your cool uncle also hates Jell-O and green bean casserole, so he shows you the tricks for getting out of eating both.
He shows you that if you shove the green beans under your dressing and eat just enough of your dressing that the beans don’t show through, you can get out of eating most of the casserole.
As an adult, you do make your own plate. But, in deference to Aunt Nelda and grandma, you also put said Jell-O and green beans on your plate, but you are now the cool uncle, and so you show the nieces and nephews the same hide-it-under-the-dressing trick.
Other options that have tried and failed are to slide the green beans under the table to the family dog. However, most mutts we’ve had also won’t eat it.
Jell-O isn’t as easy to dispose of, but one option is to put it in your napkin when you fake a cough. Excuse yourself, and dispose of the napkin and return to the table.
There’s a dishonesty that comes with these holiday meals. Why can’t someone just shoot straight with Aunt Nelda and grandma?
“Aunt Nelda, I know that you like making the Jell-O dish every year, but the truth is, we’d rather be taken out and shot than eat it.”
“Grandma, you know those starving kids you always mention in other countries? Could you please send this green bean casserole to them? All of it?”
Of course, none of us have that much courage, which is why we wind up with leftover leftovers.
You’ll notice that people quickly volunteer to take home the smoked ham and turkey, or the pecan and chocolate pie, but there’s never a wrestling match over the Jell-O and green beans. People skulk out the door, pretending not to hear Aunt Nelda or grandma say, “Don’t you want to take some of the Jell-O and casserole with you?”
“Yes, we love you too! See you in a few weeks!”
And then, there’s fruitcake. Now, before you email me and tell me that your fruitcake is an exception – just no. Please don’t. There is no exceptional fruitcake.
Fruitcake is something I send to people I don’t like. It’s a tacit message from me of what I think of them, but it’s certainly not something I send because I like them.
Fruitcake never goes bad. That should be a sign right there. I’ve yet to find a way to make a gasket for my tractor out of fruitcake, but I have discovered that they make great doorstops and are good for holding down tarps I throw over the tractor during the rainy season.
And the finger foods. The ones that appear on that fake crystal plate that has the partitions? Little olives that are stuffed with something are in one section, celery with pimento and cheese are in another, and then those dwarf pickles that only seem to appear during the holidays, are all there. Why? Just why?
That seems like a lot of work, and they’re always leftover. That same platter could be used for large piles of fudge or some KFC. Just pile up some Colonel Sanders and leave the dwarf pickles in their jar on the floor in the pantry near the fruitcake that’s being used as a doorstop.
Who even thought up green bean casserole? Turns out, a woman named Dorcas Reilly of Camden, New Jersey, did in 1955 when she worked in the home economics division of the Campbell Soup Company. She said the idea came to her because green beans and cream of mushroom soup were two items most people had on hand and it was easy to combine them.
Well, I wanted to point out to Ms. Reilly that beer and pretzels are often found on hand and are even easier to combine during the holidays. However, Ms. Reilly has passed away, so I couldn’t tell her. This is one case where I am truly sad that the phrase, “You can’t take it with you,” is true.
If we all unite and take a stand, we can effect change at holiday meals. We just have to have the guts to say out loud, “For the love of all that’s holy, please, no more Jell-O, green bean casserole, or fruitcake! Bring us fudge or KFC and we will like it and eat it, and you won’t have to deal with leftover leftovers. We promise!”
Of course, I’m not going to lead this insurrection, but I’ll certainly follow your lead. Go head, I’ve got your back.
If the insurrection doesn’t happen, call me in May and I’ll make you a gasket for your tractor.
©2018 John Moore
John’s book, Write of Passage: A Southerner’s View of Then and Now, is available on Amazon.
Email John at John@TheCountryWriter.com.