The most remarkable thing about my mother is that for thirty years she served the family nothing but leftovers. The original meal has never been found.             ~ Calvin Trillin

I constantly find myself eating srevotfel. It’s a cultural dish, one most people are familiar with but rarely know where it originates. Some think the Middle East. Others think Russia. I myself think it was more of a socio-economic development rather than a regional one. Have you ever had it? Srevoltfel? If not, I recommend it. In fact, I’ll probably be having it for dinner tonight.

It’s leftovers spelled backwards. I know. So clever.

My great uncle actually introduced me to the term, and I’ve been cooking (er, reheating) it ever since. But the cool thing about leftovers is that there’s a lot of economical creativity (i.e. cheapness) in it. In my apartment, with two other male, college students, we have leftovers all the time. Money’s not always the easiest to come by, but going to restaurants and seeing the extra food on the nearby tables is. Busboys once offered us some of their tips for “helping” them out.

But some days around the house, when my stomach starts to wake and batter its grouchy fist against my bellybutton, I’ll search through the fridge and be unable to find any decent leftovers from the previous night. I have to make do with what we have. And this is where the culinary creativity comes in.

So I’ll find some meat scraps from a roasted chicken from Safeway. No mold. Looks good. Some tortillas that don’t fracture when I try to bend them. Fresh as new. Some barbeque sauce that has to be squeezed out like the last bit of toothpaste. Perfect. And some cheese. Or rather some cheese crumbs. Or rather the yellow stuff left at the bottom of the Ziploc bag that once contained the original bag of cheese. A luxury.

And volià, chicken, bbq burrito. See? Creativity.

However, a lot of people (cough, cough, Americans) don’t see leftovers as a renewable resource. A lot of people (cough, cough—I actually just had to cough there) are exceptionally wasteful. And that just blows my mind.

There are so many people who struggle to put any food on the table, let alone have enough left over to make, well, leftovers. And in a world with drinking water depletion, a diminishing stock of energy sources, and food inadequacies, it would seem that we should be raising people to love leftovers. Because in a few years, that will probably be all we have left to consume.

I know it might not be the most glorious thing to eat, but think how much better a freshly cooked meal will taste next time. Think how much money and resources you could be saving. Think of how much good you could be doing. If you recycle but don’t eat leftovers, you’re a hypocrite. And no one likes a hypocrite.

However, if you are one of these wasteful people, please leave a comment and I will send you my address. I’ll even pay for shipping. Just send me your unwanted food and I’ll make a masterpiece out of it, even take a picture to show you what you’re missing. Just don’t expect to get it back; expect to regret your decision.



Author: jdt

Jake writes weekly posts every Wednesday on the intersection of psychology and philosophy. To learn more about him, or to propose a topic you'd like him to cover, go to

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