A couple of days after Thanksgiving, besides the inevitable Black Friday frenzy, people talk about leftovers and how to deal with them. I hate to waste anything, and I feel that every last ounce of turkey should be used. My sister says it’s something I learned from my dad. That’s quite a complement. I wonder why we as Americans feel the need to cook so much food for one holiday. It’s just one more reason for the world, especially skinny Asians and “healthy” Europeans to make fun of us. As if they really need more ammunition!
I thought about the term “leftover” yesterday (no, I hadn’t been drinking the leftover white zinfandel). The word itself is rather undesirable and sounds like an unwanted guest that must be reckoned with. You know, the guest who was never really invited and, after drinking one too many Budweisers, proceeds to bring up story after embarrassing story about some highly exaggerated event from the past? Or, it sounds like a sore on your back that you can’t quite reach, and refuses to heal. Don’t we all carry around some portion of leftovers? Leftover resentments from being treated badly or left out of the fun, leftover jealousies from childhood (Mom always loved you best), or leftover grudges (I never did forgive her for that one time she kissed my boyfriend. Never mind that the boyfriend turned into the biggest loser whose one talent is how to keep collecting unemployment for five years).
The problem with (personal) leftovers is you really need to use them (to better yourself or your life) or toss them. You must be in charge of your leftovers. Don’t let them stay in the refrigerator of your mind until they change into some moldy piece of filth, so unrecognizable from its original form that you are afraid to touch it. I prefer to use them, whether it’s to better my dinner table or to better myself. For example, if I know there is a certain hang-up that bothers me, I try to embrace it with the intention to make myself better. I always felt stupid in school; I never felt smart at all. Now I’m a graduate student who is an academia addict.
But back to excess turkey. It’s weird how crazy I can get about this. My sister is right about my resemblance to Dad here. Dad grew up in inner city Tulsa so poor he didn’t have indoor plumbing until he was an adult, so he never threw anything away. I remember my father looking for uses for that dried out turkey jerky until we were all so nauseated by the thought of Thanksgiving we threatened to revolt. He made turkey soup, turkey sandwiches, and turkey stir-fry. I also remember a slightly more disturbing use of the turkey carcass as Dad tossed it outside on the ground to feed the “wildlife.” I know that Springdale, Arkansas is not as country as people think, but it’s hardly a scene from “Old Yeller.” My friend Karen would tell me I could give her my carcass and she would make soup from it. I was always happy to oblige her…honestly the carcass kind of freaks me out and reminds me of my vegetarian tendencies. As you know, vegetarians (like IRS agents) are not trusted in the South. I try to find ways to use the turkey in non-offensive ways, like turkey chili with navy beans or turkey enchiladas. Here is a recipe I created for leftover turkey. Just remember: you are the boss, not your leftovers.
Turkey Bacon Carbonara
1 pound turkey, cooked and chopped
6 slices thick cut bacon
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 container Philadelphia cooking cream (garlic or parmesan works best)
1 cup chicken broth
salt and pepper to taste
1 package spaghetti, cooked
Cook the onion, garlic, and bacon together until the bacon is almost done, then add the turkey. Brown everything together. In a small bowl, whisk the cooking cream with the chicken broth, then add to the pan. Pour over hot spaghetti.