Family matters: feeling the angst about leftovers
With Christmas leftovers ageing in the fridge, Pat McDermott is back at the supermarket for yet more food. How did it come to this?
Didn’t you and I agree on Christmas night that we wouldn’t eat another thing until July 1, 2017? I’m sure I said something like that! It was right after I polished off the chocolate-coated cherries and the last of that amazing cheese. Was I drinking Champagne? Yes, I was.
Anyway, here I am in the supermarket and it’s not yet January. It’s not that I’ve run out of food. The refrigerator is bulging with leftovers. There’s a ham the size of a small child on the bottom shelf. There are jars of designer honey and boxes of expensive teabags stacked three deep in the pantry. But this stuff has been “re-gifted” so many times perhaps they’re just back where they started. On a low note, the brandy butter is disappearing fast.
I’m here because the children made me come. They don’t like the look of the leftovers. The ham is curling around the edges. They’re having second thoughts about the potato bake. Anything limp, watery or hard to identify is on their hit list.
“What is this stuff?” they growl at me, poking and sniffing just like they did 20 years ago when they came face to face with my homemade soup for the first time.
I don’t mind them cleaning out the fridge, but I don’t think you should wave a droopy asparagus spear in your mother’s face before she’s had her first cup of tea. And I don’t understand why I can’t reheat the party pies one more time.
“You’ve reheated them three times already!” they shout at me. “It destroys their nutritional value!”
“You’d have to ask yourself what’s the nutritional value of a frozen party pie in the first place?” mused the MOTH (Man Of The House), chewing on a leftover prawn.
The MOTH, bless him, has never met a piece of food he didn’t like. He became semi-famous for snacking thoughtfully, if mistakenly, from a bag of cat treats while enjoying a beer one New Year’s Eve. “It tasted fine to me. Like tiny nuts,” he observed calmly, while all around him were gagging.
As the party pie debate raged on, the
MOTH declared himself officially “too old” to worry about food and went off to find another prawn. He once told a friend he was too old to “embrace” gluten-free food. In fact, he didn’t even want to shake hands with it.
There are irritating, time-consuming and humbling things about growing older. Knees and hips require a ridiculous amount of attention. Teeth can be unpredictable. The chemist is your new best friend. Yet there are rewards, too.
Just as the MOTH is too old to worry about food, I’m too old to mince about in stilettos or skintight jeans. We’re both too old for holidays involving ropes, parachutes or first aid kits. Jungles, volcanoes and snowbound peaks look perfectly nice from business class seats (I wish) on the way to Paris.
I’m done with sitting cross-legged in an ashram releasing my inner angst. I like my angst. It’s been around so long I’d miss it if it were gone. I won’t sleep in outdoor tents (stiff back, mossies, snakes, nosy sheep), but the indoor tent where my granddaughters play is almost okay. “Come inside, Nanny, come inside. Crouch down and crawl in!” Getting in takes me a while. Getting out takes me longer, as it involves standing up again.
When Ruff Red was small, he and his sister Courtenay visited our neighbour almost every day. Her biscuits were legendary and she was a sympathetic port in any family storm. One day, he told Mrs Geddes solemnly that she had “tripes” on her face.
“Tripes?” I asked later.
“He means stripes,” she explained. “Wrinkles.”
“I’m so sorry,” I said. (I apologised a lot back then.)
“There’s no need,” she replied. “I’m proud of my ‘tripes’. I think I’ve earnt them!” Haven’t we all. Happy New Year!
PS: I don’t suppose anyone knows which aisle has the party pies?
I won’t sleep in outdoor tents (stiff back, mossies, snakes)…