Survivor, Thanksgiving leftover edition


I’m sure we’ve all heard some variation of this from our parents: “Don’t waste food, there are people starving in (insert random remote country).” I also had that lesson reinforced in the restaurant business. One chef told me he thought it was a sin to waste food. We busboys took that to heart by eating people’s leftovers in the bus station. (Never off plates, but there were plenty of opportunities off serving platters.)

Today, I’m “that guy”: the one in the family who won’t throw anything away; who ignores “sell by” and “eat by” dates; and eats food based on sniff tests that others would have thrown away days ago.

It seemed tailor-made for me to step up and finish the Thanksgiving leftovers. We had our oldest two daughters and their families in, and the leaving was just chaotic enough that I was unable to foist off any food on our guests.

I seized the opportunity and started by inventorying the leftovers on Sunday after everyone had left. The depth and breadth of this list is truly astonishing.

We start with leftover turkey. I had a drumstick, leg, thigh, and about 5 cups diced meat off the bone, plus the innards. Here’s the rest:

2 cups rice stuffing

2 cups cooked rice

2 cups vegetarian chili

1 quart lentil soup

2 cups Beirut hummus

1/2 cup regular hummus

3 falafel

1 pint tabbouleh

1 pint fattoush

1 serving dinner salad

2 cups cranberry relish

1 cup sweet potato hash

2 cups olive cream cheese spread

1 1/2 quarts of plain yogurt

1 serving salmon

1/2 lb bacon

1 lb smoked fish

1 lb breakfast sausage

One and a half dozen eggs

Equivalent of several pounds of bread: white, wheat, rolls, pita, baguette, bagels

3 boxes of crackers

1/2 lb pecans

1/2 lb almonds

1 lb container bar cheese

1 lb cream cheese

1 wedge Brie

1 piece pizza

10 lbs potatoes

4 sweet potatoes

1/2 butternut squash

1 parsnip

2 carrots

1 red pepper

1 tomato

3 1/2 limes

1 lemon

9 apples

10 clementines

1/2 box cereal

1/2 bag lettuce

1/2 cucumber

1 pint cherry tomatoes

1 and 1/2 bunch cilantro

1 bunch broccoli

1 onion

1/4 lb green beans

2 packages blueberries

1 package raspberries

1 lb green grapes

1 lb red grapes

1 case beer

Several bottles of wine

1 gallon apple cider

A little milk and half and half

1/2 container whipped cream

3/4 pie (pumpkin and pecan)

1 jar cherry peppers

Complicating this project was that for the most part, I would be the only one eating these leftovers. I went to work.

Warning: what follows is decidedly Rain-man-esque!

Saturday night (day 2): I went to work on the turkey. I froze the innards, leg, thigh, and wing. Gave a little meat to the cat, and the rest I baked into two 9” pie tins for turkey pot pies with potatoes, sweet potatoes,
butternut squash, carrots, peas, and gravy, rolling out some homemade pie dough to top it. I froze one and baked the other and had some for dinner.

Froze most of the bread and pie, along with the bacon, sausage, and smoked fish.

I petulantly ate frozen “fun sized” Snickers bars for dessert and watched a movie, pouting over a certain football game that had taken place earlier that day.

Day 3: Finished the roasted root vegetables and chili.

Day 4: Took care of the salmon, on the outer limits of edibility.

Day 5: Made much headway on the Middle Eastern food, salad, pot pie, stuffing and cranberry relish.

Day 6: Had the last of one quart of yogurt for breakfast, with the last banana. Finished the middle eastern food. Gave the half and half to my middle daughter (the only one in the family who doesn’t drink black coffee) and the cereal for her kids.

Day 7: Baked the lone remaining piece of pizza, from Thanksgiving eve’s dinner, eating it for breakfast, topped with a fried egg. A large salad for lunch took care of most of the veggies. Finished the green grapes. Reluctantly threw away the milk after my granddaughter said it smelled like pee.

Day 8: After getting through half the apple cider at work, it was starting to go hard. Well, it was Friday; but I poured the rest down the sink and opted for wine later on.

For lunch, mercifully, had an actual restaurant meal. Which simply delayed the inevitable.

Day 9: Used the cooked rice and last of the veggies to make Bi Bim Bap with roasted butternut squash on the side.

Day 10: Starting in on the potatoes; had one for breakfast with an egg. Finished the Bi Bim Bap for lunch. Wavered for dinner and almost went out, but found the remaining portobello mushrooms and stuffed them with pecans, bread crumbs, herbs, and cheese for dinner with a Guinness. It was actually quite good.

Tomorrow is Monday. For the most part, I’ve got the leftovers down to a manageable stockpile: eggs, cheese and crackers, nuts, sweet potatoes and russets, and some fruit. However, that Beirut hummus and guacamole is dying in the fridge, and I just stare at it, turning pale.

Maybe it’s a sin to waste it; but at this point, I may chance eternal damnation for a good hamburger.


Nick Roumel is a principal with Nacht & Roumel, PC, a firm in Ann Arbor specializing in employment and civil right litigation. He also has many years of varied restaurant and catering experience, has taught Greek cooking classes, and writes a food/restaurant column for “Current” magazine in Ann Arbor. Follow him at @nickroumel.