A genetic memory for starvation

The all-American mega bird. Eighteen pounds of cloying, tooth sticking, blinding whiteness. I cook a Thanksgiving turkey once a year— because once a year I like to think we’re a Norman Rockwell family. Two years ago, I broke with tradition, the American tradition that is, and baked a bird of a different feather. I went with a Peking duck. This year with just the three of us, I opted for a small ham.

I’ve been regretting not having cooked a turkey. I don’t make it to eat just on Thanksgiving. I make it for leftovers.

I love leftovers. Show me some leftover yams and I’ll show you a bowl of curried yam and tart apple soup sprinkled with chopped pistachio nuts, a chartreuse constellation on a cream-colored sky.

There is no art or challenge in shopping for every ingredient in a dish, then following somebody else’s exact recipe. The culinary high comes from putting together what’s at hand, using what’s available in an inventive way — from making what you already have even better. I love opening my fridge, staring into the cold mist, and wondering, what can I create?

I’m the child of children who grew up with starvation. My parents, even after they became financially comfortable, never threw food away. My mother cooked copious amounts of food to feed her brood of ten and all the beggars in our little village. Twice a day, the line formed outside the kitchen door.

Turkeys are designed for leftovers. The next day, you get turkey and tomato sandwiches. On day three, cube the white meat for turkey salad with diced mango, black beans and red onion.

Whatever meat is still left on day four, shred for Asian turkey salad with pickled ginger, snow peas, sesame oil, water chestnuts and rice vinegar. While the flavors conspire, plunk the lovely, meaty carcass into a big pot and start soup. The vegetables used to flavor it will be rich and soft and make a meal with good sourdough bread and grilled sausages. Sausages left over? No worries. Crumble leftover sausage into scrambled eggs, stir into a tomato sauce, or, fold into biscuit dough. You would never make those wonderful sausage biscuits if you didn’t have leftover sausage in the first place, would you?

Sometimes I wonder whether my passion for leftovers is tied to fear. My husband says it is tied to a genetic memory for starvation. I always think of my grandfather Ng not having enough to eat years ago in China. I think of my mother’s mother boiling bark in water to pacify her hungry daughter.

Leftovers are personal. What you do with them in the privacy of your own home is your business. So remember, it’s not what you do with the turkey on Thanksgiving, it’s what you do with it the day after.

Public meeting

A public meeting, hosted jointly by PLPOA and Archuleta County, will be held Tuesday, Dec. 9 at 6 p.m. in the Vista Clubhouse. The meeting is to discuss the new nuisance ordinance and property maintenance code.

Do you know when you need a permit from the county? When do you need a permit form the PLPOA? Come find out what the new Archuleta County nuisance ordinance will mean to you. Archuleta County and PLPOA representatives will be present for questions.

Refreshments will be served at the meeting. See you there.

Photo courtesy NASA
This visible-light image from the Hubble Space Telescope shows the newly discovered planet, Fomalhaut b, orbiting its parent star. Estimated at no more than three times Jupiter’s mass, the planet, called Fomalhaut b, orbits the bright southern star Fomalhaut, located 25 light-years away in the constellation Piscis Australis (the Southern Fish). The discovery of Fomalhaut b marks another entry on the growing list of planets found far beyond the reaches of our own solar system.