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Leftovers

By A. Carman Clark / November 25, 1987



SOMEDAY I'm going to slip the carcass of the Thanksgiving turkey into a trash bag and haul it off to the dump. Or ask someone else to carry it away so I can't change my mind en route and bring the bones home for turkey soup. I'd like to be able to yell, ``Hey gulls, you pick this one. I've done it for three dozen years. It's your turn.'' But each year I bring out the lobster kettle and face the whole mess again.

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Turkey noodle soup with garlic and hot peppers makes a fine January supper. A quiche with frost-mellowed kale, turkey bits, and Swiss and Cheddar cheeses can be whipped up quickly for lunch. Broccoli or asparagus from the freezer combines with turkey and a bubbly cheese sauce for turkey divan, and I have a recipe for curry with applesauce and tomato paste which needs only one cup of leftover turkey meat.

The carcass of a 22-pound Thanksgiving bird yields enough turkey pieces for many winter meals, from Cornish pasties to Oriental stir-fry dishes. Containers of broth can be snagged out of the freezer for soups and casseroles. Potatoes and onions cooked in turkey broth blend into smooth cream-type soups, while barley, shredded carrots, and diced celery cook up in the broth for a hearty textured soup.

But knowing the many meals that can be prepared from the remains of the holiday bird is only one of the reasons I have not yet indulged my impulse to fling a carcass to the gulls at the town dump.

``Waste not, want not,'' embroidered and framed, hung on the walls of many homes when I was growing up during the depression years. That motto pervaded every meal. We had three meals a day, but sometimes it was mighty difficult to go through the ``We are grateful for the food set before us.''

We ate potatoes. Every fall there was a trip from our mountain community down to the valley where relatives farmed. Burlap sacks of potatoes filled the open Ford on the way home. We sat on the sacks, being cautioned every five miles not to wriggle or kick or bruise those bagged-up tubers. Did you ever try to sit quietly on potatoes?

We ate boiled, baked, and fried potatoes. We ate potatoes with salt-pork cream gravy. In time I repeated to myself at every meal, ``When I grow up, I will never eat another potato.''

WE also ate sandwiches. My father, as church janitor, cleaned up after meetings and brought the leftovers home. To earn additional income, father put on light suppers for the Masons' social hour after their meetings. The remaining sandwiches, slightly dried, came home with him. Food is food - not to be wasted. Toasted sandwiches, fried sandwiches and - when an abundance began to get stale - a pint of milk beaten with two eggs was poured over them and supper was hot baked sandwiches.

Once father thought he would give the Masons a treat, so he made up a caldron of oyster stew. Unfortunately, the top fell off the black pepper box and about a pound of that seasoning fell into the stew. Father made another batch for the Masons, but the oysters, milk, and butter of the peppered batch were food - paid-for food. The pepper settled. We scooped and reheated. Waste not.

Although I face each turkey carcass with some of the same shudders evoked by childhood experiences with potatoes, secondhand sandwiches, and peppered stew, my recipe files abound with new and different ways to use leftover turkey. I'd like to be a wastrel, a wanton, pitch-it-out wastrel, but I haven't tried making hot chili with turkey, and surely turkey pieces will substitute for lamb in that Armenian pot pie with whole wheat dumplings.