The master of second helpings was waiting for me in the kitchen. He is always there. The meal has been cooked, served, apportioned, eaten, and finally removed from the table.
The plates of now cold asparagus, barely warm mashed potatoes, homemade cranberry sauce, bowls of salads, and of course the turkey, are in the kitchen waiting to be lifted from their seasonal decorative crockery, packed into containers, and stacked in the refrigerator.
Dishes and cutlery get scraped, sorted, and placed in the dishwasher. The desserts are on the table and I am rounding the corner between dining room and kitchen with requests for tea and coffee and maybe another bottle of wine.
The conversations flow nicely.
Everyone seems to be having a good time. There is just me, at this moment, and the master of second helpings. I have been good so far, watching myself through the meal. Taking an initial portion that appeared appropriate to my plate, maybe adding a bit more stuffing or gravy, as seemed judicious, halfway through the meal.
I am not a heavy guy but neither am I thin. I have always looked enviously at the imaginary figure of myself 10 pounds lighter.
As waist lines go, this isn’t bad. However, I am constantly on the verge of losing a pound or two and then imagining maybe losing another. What has stopped me all these years? It can only be the master of second helpings.
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Why does food seem to taste better when it is taken by stealth? Why are second or third helpings so tasty when there is the fear of someone coming into the kitchen and saying “What are you doing?” Does adrenalin make food taste better? There is the skin — still crunchy with a bit of seasoned fat clinging to it, the meat — tender and moist under bones where it was hidden from the carving knife. Maybe another pickle.
Later, there will be that bit of whipped cream or chocolate cake or best of all — pie, desperately needing to be shaped so that it fits squarely into its container.
The master of second helpings is there to guide me through this. Pick, pick, pick. Yum, yum, yum.
There was a joke in our family, purportedly about the one person whose family did not come from Poland or Hungary or Russia. Uncle Max was from XXX (in the interests of editorial expediency you can fill in your own ethnic group.) The joke was How does an XXX make a chicken? First steal a chicken. I used to think that Uncle Max was actually stealing a live chicken. But now I think it was about what remained after the meal. Max was a big guy. Maybe he was like me and sneaking a little bit more when nobody was looking. If I ever find that recipe, I bet it tastes great as leftovers.
Leftover stir fry
The easiest leftover recipe I know is to take the carbs and fry them with the protein. Leftover potatoes, rice, and stuffing cooked together in a large frying pan or wok. Maybe sauté some chopped onions, celery, green or red peppers, and garlic before. Then cut up the meat into small pieces and add them to the pan. If there are congealed roasted meat juices at the bottom of the Tupperware, spoon these in too. Stir well until the dish is hot. Serve with warmed up gravy and left over condiments on the side.