Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Moving, Day 2: Obliterating Leftovers

This past year, unrestricted by homework or tuition payments, Do and I have luxuriated in disposable time and income. It shows in our cooking forays. We've dabbled in homemade bread, Indian food from scratch, Food & Wine and Silver Palate recipes, etc. Admittedly, we've also learned a lot about less glamorous/pretentious kitchen activities. We can both hammer out a healthy, interesting weeknight meal without blinking (or whining). We've got our clean-up routine down pat (she washes dishes, he clears the table, puts leftovers into lunch containers, and sharpens knives). All in all, pretty predictable for a childless, two-salary, 9-5 jobs (more like 8-6, but same idea), foodie household. I suspect that none of these skills will be useful in grad school.

We know nothing about leftovers.

One of my very first blog posts was about emptying the fridge of leftovers. "It was not quite so much a Herculean event as an exercise in guilt -- all these great (expensive) ingredients, all that time and loving effort, and here we were, months later, admitting defeat." We've gotten a little bit better, better at automatically dividing "Serves 4" recipes and at re-assessing the contents of the fridge every garbage day. But still. We suck. Incorporating old ingredients into new dishes? Figuring out a use for an opened cream carton or fresh herbs before they go bad (20 seconds)? Not so much.

Enter SuperMom.

SuperMom looks at an empty fridge and sees a week's worth of dinners. So imagine what she sees when she looks in my fridge/freezer, which has to be empty by tomorrow. Unlike me, SuperMom needs no recipes. She knows exactly which substitutes will work, which ingredients we can do without, and how many dying vegetables you can add to a dish without killing it. If you compliment this amazingly useful skill, SuperMom will brush it aside with, "oh, it's no big deal -- I'm just cheap, that's all." The rest of us know the truth: dealing with leftovers is a SuperPower, and we just marvel, laud, and learn.

Don't believe me?

Exhibit A) Lunch for Moving Day 2: Pumpkin soup.

While the rest of your family is scampering around disassembling wine racks and folding dress shirts, you disappear momentarily into the kitchen. Take a giant Tupperware of Puréed Pumpkin (frozen last October), remove the purée by running the whole damn thing under hot water, and throw the purée into a pot. Add a chopped onion, and turn the heat to medium. Guesstimate the volume of liquid and add bouillon cubes for flavor (since there are no vegetables in the fridge). Once the soup is entirely liquid, let it cool. Throwing in three trays-worth of ice cubes will help. Purée using an immersion blender. Add leftover cream (1/3 cup-ish). Serve to your exceedingly grateful and exhausted family.

Exhibit B) Snack for Moving Day 2: Strawberry Shortcake.

You decide that your family will need a Pick-Me-Up snack in the mid-afternoon. Because you're SuperMom, you decide to make Strawberry Shortcake. Your mother (Neen's grandmother) makes a great version that calls for hot milk, so you google "Hot Milk Cake" and end up using Wikipedia's recipe (Neen's insertion: !!!!!!!!, my Mom cooks off Wikipedia!), which you divide by two in order to bake a one-layer cake. While the cake bakes, you whip leftover heavy cream, adding a couple teaspoons of confectioner's sugar just before the peaks become stiff. You then use the same beaters (why clean them?) and beat the handful of leftover, almost-dead strawberries that you found in the back of the fridge. When the cake is done and cooled, you cut it in half horizontally and spread leftover blueberry jam between the layers. You top cake slices with the strawberries and whipped cream, and serve it to your exhausted, adoring family.

Oh, and while her family eats, SuperMom packs up fragile artwork.

Does one simply become more competent after giving birth? If not, I'm afraid there's no hope for me. SuperMom has set the bar pretty damn high.


Lamar said...

As a follow-up to this story, SuperMom is walking around the apartment repeating "I'm *so* embarrassed," as if it were her new mantra. Note that this does not stop her from packing all the fragiles in the kitchen.

noble pig said...

Seriously this does not look like moving food at all! Where are the canned beans and corn.

That Girl said...

Supermom is awesome!

Krysta said...

oh no! supermoms never start out that good unless they are super human... it takes practice and lots of hard work. and i agree with n.p. that is not moving food!

Psychgrad said...

I really could use a supermom to come empty out my fridge right now. I think for dinner tonight I'll need to eat cheese, green and red pepper and old strawberries. Bleh.

I think those skills (from your first paragraph) WILL be useful in graduate school. You still have to live, eat, enjoy life, etc. I've been finishing my Ph.D. while making all of the recipes I post. Granted, they may not be top of the line gourmet. But, you can't stop living just because your supervisor or course requirements seem to demand it.

I decided to remove my personal blog from my profile. It seemed odd to comment on food blogs and then have them come to read about being a graduate student. Plus, with the TTT-2 event, we're a bit less anonymous. But, definitely come a visit here. Maybe add it to your reader -- I don't plan to add it back into my profile.

Good luck with the drive/road trip!

kat said...

wow, your Mom IS Supermom!

Kevin said...

That food looks pretty good for moving food! I can't believe that I have not mad Strawberry Shortcake yet. I will have to get on that immediately.

Vicarious Foodie said...

I need to get myself a SuperMom! I too know the struggles of cooking for only two when most recipes are meant to feed a family. I'm getting better, but it can still be difficult. Adam usually takes the leftovers for lunch, but he's incredibly spoiled and complains about eating the same thing two days in a row.

Johanna said...

Your mum sounds like she is made of fine stuff! I find that blogs help a lot with leftovers because seeing how people cook shows how many of us are just substituting whatever is on hand! and I am sure this is one of the ways that recipes evolve! Good luck with your move

kittie said...

Wow - SuperMom indeed!!

Moving time food for me is usually prepared by picking up the phone... and eaten out of a cardboard box ;)

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