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I read in an advice column recently a letter from a woman who had hosted Thanksgiving last year and the next morning, one of the guests called her and berated her for not giving out the leftovers. The writer couldn’t fathom why she was supposed to give away her leftovers, while the guest couldn’t fathom how anyone wouldn’t share. When you get right down to it, I suspect leftovers are often the most battled over serving of the entire dinner, with the possible exception of my mom’s holiday rolls. There are never any leftover.

Yet this is all about blending family traditions. This is the fodder we writers live for. Plates of turkey going home, or not?!

I always hated going to my grandmother’s for Thanksgiving because she didn’t share. She would even scrape the bowl from whatever you brought into her own bowl and hand you back your empty bowl–albeit washed, which I suppose is better than dirty, but still emptied into her coffers. There was another family member who assigned everything out that was needed for the meal–including the salt and pepper (I kid you not)–and then sent you home with nothing but fond memories of eating a meal you cooked. The advice giver took the side of the hostess and said she had every right to her leftovers, which tells us exactly which camp she grew up in as well. And yes, you do have the right to your leftovers, for having celebrated the holiday in both camps I can see the reasoning of both sides.

I grew up in a household where leftovers went out of the door. Even if you didn’t want any. My mom had a way of wrapping it up in foil and tucking it in your coat pocket when you weren’t looking. And later that night or the next day, that leftover turkey went into the finest of Thanksgiving traditions: the day after Turkey Sandwich with cranberry sauce. Extra mayo, if you please. I can remember as a kid, we’d have 40 or so people over and then about 10 at night when everyone was gone, the four of us would sit down and eat sandwiches. I love the meal, but I love the sandwiches more. My husband grew up in the “my leftovers” camp and he just stands at our door and nearly weeps as he watches plate after plate of his stuffing, turkey, potatoes and gravy going out the door. As a concession to him, I don’t give out the pumpkin pie. That would be just too much for him to bear.

But as for the rest of it, better eaten up than languishing in our fridge. Because my mom taught me the other secret of Thanksgiving: that by Sunday, that bird wasn’t going to be worth the effort. She’s right. I pulled the last of ours out yesterday to make one last sandwich, and quite frankly, it just wasn’t that tasty. I should have tucked one more packet of turkey into an unsuspecting pocket.

What are your leftover traditions?

5 comments to “Leftovers”

  1. LynneW
    November 30th, 2009 at 11:39 am · Link

    I have a foot solidly planted in both camps. ::winks:: The three sisters-in-law (my mother and aunts) shared holiday duties, and everyone went out the door with plates of goodies, after eating the big meal at one and ‘picking’ again at around 5 or 6 for supper. But there was also more than enough for leftovers through the weekend, since everybody brought piles of food with them!

    Now, we go visiting for major holidays (always bringing goodies to share) and hope to be blessed with leftovers to take home as well.

  2. Diane O.
    November 30th, 2009 at 3:40 pm · Link

    My Gran (little old Italian lady) used to give us loads of leftovers, it was just her and Grandpa and she they didn’t eat THAT much. It was awesome for us! Loved the leftover pasta, because a holiday meal in her house wasn’t complete without a dish of gnocchi and ravioli. We were a small group anyway, my Dad being an only child.

    The other side were much the same, you always took a bit of turkey and ham, along with my Grandma and Aunt Di’s rolls. Man, a turkey sandwich with extra mayo, salt and pepper on one of those rolls is amazingly wonderful. There were a lot more people in that family as Mom has five brothers and sisters, so not as many leftovers to take.

    So I totally fall into the send out the leftovers and let everyone have a day off from cooking!

  3. Barb
    December 1st, 2009 at 5:46 pm · Link

    I’m a little of both. I host the meal, and give away whatever leftovers people ask for, but I don’t push it on them. My mother in law loves stuffing, (and so do I! I’ve learned to make lots so I can hide some!), so always takes that. My daughter’s boyfriend asked for turkey, since he lives with bunches of roommates. So they got the leftover turkey, leaving us with enough for a couple of sandwiches. We still had plenty of side dishes left, and are still munching…

  4. karenne
    December 6th, 2009 at 4:00 pm · Link

    I loved This Rake of Mine.

  5. Cathy
    December 9th, 2009 at 5:58 am · Link

    I just had to laugh at this because my sister left her bag of turkey in my fridge and drove 30 miles home – we happily ate hers. We were all laughing as my siblings divied up the leftover turkey dinner to take home. You can always cook another turkey the next day, but you can’t replace the smiles as people you love leave your house with there baggies of turkey!

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