Throwing Out The Turkey Leftovers And Other Unpardonable Sins

I grew up in a household where nothing was ever thrown away. Furniture, clothing, mattresses, pots and pans, dishes – were all recycled to other members of the family. When my mother was getting rid of something she would ask everyone in the family if they wanted her “perfectly good” whatever.

The truth is, whatever my mother was giving away, even after twenty years of use, was always in better shape than whatever cheap stuff I had in my house. There was a time when I had taken her perfectly good dining room set, her perfectly good couch, perfectly good recliner and my father’s piano.

My son, who was eight years old at the time, said, “I know why grandma is giving us all her furniture. So when she moves in with us, she’ll have all her stuff here already.”

This frugality is part of my mother’s character, and where it was most evident was in the kitchen where nothing was wasted. Dinner leftovers were reheated, plain and simple, or they were incorporated with other ingredients to create something unrecognizable from its original form and flavor. Leftovers were never thrown away. That would be a sin.

When my mother was told not to eat egg yolks because her cholesterol was too high she separated the eggs and made a fertilizer for her arborvitaes from the discarded yolks. If my mother ever saw me dump a yolk down the drain, as I have often done when making my egg white scrambles, she would shame me with words like “sin” and “waste” and her personal tales of childhood hunger during the Great Depression.

Despite the wasted egg yolks, I like to think that I’ve learned well from my mother’s lessons of frugality in the kitchen. I am very creative with leftovers, though I often toss them after the second reheat when most of the nutritional value is gone.

That brings me to my Thanksgiving confession.

We were invited out this year for Thanksgiving. My generous sister-in-law said, “Bring some Tupperware for leftovers!” I brought a shopping bag full of plastic containers, but none of them were large enough to hold the two turkey carcasses.

“Stop!” I said, as my brother was aiming the first carcass toward the garbage pail. “I’ll take that! I can make a great turkey soup with that.”

“Take both of them,” he said, after carving up the second turkey.

I felt like I had hit the jackpot as I left with a shopping bag full of leftovers and two turkey carcasses. Driving home in the car, I said to my mother, “Can you believe they were going to throw the carcasses in the garbage?”

“I know,” she said. “They do that.”

I came home to the apartment that night, opened my tiny refrigerator and stood there for several minutes looking back and forth between the shopping bag full of leftovers and the packed refrigerator shelves. After moving things around, I was able to pile the containers on top of each other, but there was no way to fit two turkey carcasses in there too.

Rather than give up my plans for a turkey soup, I started carving the meat off the bones and thought I might smash the carcasses flat to better fit them in the refrigerator. As I carved, I picked on some tender pieces close to the bone and, in the process, I probably ate the equivalent of a light lunch.

By the time I was done, I was sickeningly full. Between the big Thanksgiving meal and my carcass picking, I couldn’t stand the smell of turkey on my hands. The thought of cracking up the bones with a hammer seemed repulsively barbaric, so I threw the carcasses in the garbage and was glad to be rid of them.

What a sin! I heard my mother’s voice in my head.

But I could still make a nice turkey soup or a big potpie with the six or seven cups of meat chips I had scraped off the carcasses. (The thought had briefly crossed my mind to hang the carcasses by a rope out the apartment window overnight, but I was sure the squirrels or raccoons would get them before I could haul them back in in the morning.)

Within the hour, I felt the beginnings of indigestion. I took papaya pills before I went to bed. Later that night I got out of bed and mixed my agita cocktail: ½ teaspoon of baking soda in ½ cup of water. Nothing worked. Every time I burped, I tasted turkey and stuffing.

The next night we ate the leftovers for dinner and, again, I developed nasty indigestion. There is no exhaust fan over my stove, so the apartment smelled of turkey all night. Even my hair smelled of turkey when my head hit the pillow.

I got up again to relieve my heartburn with another agita cocktail and spent most of the night reading Room, a novel by Emma Donoghue. When I got to the chapter where the mother makes curry for lunch and the curry stink lingers in Room all through the night, I got nauseous. Curry and turkey. Just mixing the two together in my mind almost made me lose the undigested contents in my stomach.

Bless me, Father, for I have sinned…First thing the next morning I turned the Tupperware full of turkey bits upside down, opened the lid and dumped all the meat into the garbage can. My husband sat, silently sipping his coffee, and lifted his eyebrows in surprise. In forty years, I don’t think he’s ever seen me throw food away unless it had mold growing on it.

What a sin! I heard my mother say. What a waste! All that good meat in the garbage.

“I can’t help it; I can’t stand the smell of turkey anymore!” I argued outloud with the voice in my head.

“That’s fine with me,” my husband said.

“What? Really?”

“Sure; I don’t care if I ever eat turkey again.”

What a relief. For now. But I know it’s not over. Any day now, I’m afraid my mother will ask me, “How did the turkey soup come out?” and then I’ll have to confess and face the consequences.

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When Does A Dental Appointment Become A Reservation?

A young woman called our house last week to confirm my dental appointment for Friday, November 20. She spoke so fast; I couldn’t decipher all the words.

“Could you repeat that?” I asked.

Instead of slowing down, she spoke louder, but at least I could pick out the key words, “reservation…dentist… Friday…11:00…”

“I know; I have a dental appointment at 11:40 on Friday,” I said. “Is that what you’re calling about?”

“Yes,” she said. “I’m calling to confirm your reservation at 11:00.”

“Well,” I said, “I don’t know about a reservation with the dentist. After all, it’s not as if we’re going out to dinner together,” I chuckled. “But I will confirm my appointment for a cleaning at 11:40.”

I continued laughing to myself as she firmly stated, “We have your reservation for 11:00.”

I could see my little joke didn’t go over so well, so I answered back in the same serious tone, “I called last week to change the appointment time because my mother needed to see the dentist too, and they could only fit us both in together at 11:40. So the appointment was changed from 11:00 to 11:40.”

After putting me on hold for a few minutes, she confirmed my reservation for 11:40 and I confirmed that I would be there for the appointment.

On Monday, I received a text message requesting that I confirm my appointment at 11:00 by replying YES to their text. I did not confirm because the time was wrong. Instead, I called them  and left this message on their answering machine: “My appointment was for 11:40, not 11:00.”

Later that day, a young woman called me back “I’m sorry about the misunderstanding,” she said. “We now have your reservation for 11:40.”

“Great; and you also have an appointment there for my mother at the same time?”

“Yes; your mother will see Dr. R., while you are having your cleaning.”

I got an e-mail from them on Wednesday reminding me that I had an appointment on Friday at 11:40. I clicked the button to confirm.

A second text message came through on my phone on Thursday afternoon. Your appointment is at 11:40 on 11/20/15 (Fri). See you then!

Well, I thought, this is getting rather annoying, but at least they finally got the time right and they are calling it an appointment now. No more trying to fancy it up by calling it a reservation.

Since when is a dental appointment a reservation? I reserve a table for dinner. I reserve airline tickets and hotel rooms. I don’t reserve the dentist’s chair. For some reason, this was annoying me more than I realize it should have.

And it wasn’t over yet. Thursday evening, someone called me at home to confirm my reservation the next day, Friday, at 11:40.

“This is the third phone call I’m getting to confirm this appointment!” I said. “I also got two text messages and an e-mail. I promise I will arrive tomorrow at 11:40, on the dot, for my dental…(I choked)…my dental…(I stammered)…my dental… (Oh, what the hell!)… reservation!”

“I’m sorry, Mrs. Vanderberg. I’ll make a note here that you’ve confirmed your reservation.”

“So no one else will be calling me? Or e-mailing or texting?”

“No one else will be calling you. You’re all set! We’ll see you tomorrow at 11:40.”

The next day, just for spite, I arrived at 11:45.


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Why I Hate Road Trips

We took a two-hour road trip to Connecticut this past weekend. Some of you may think two hours in the car is not a road trip. It’s merely a ride. But that depends on a lot of factors.

First, and foremost, it depends on who your passengers are. I remember, many years ago, when there were three young boys crammed into the back seat, each staking a claim on their space – sometimes with an elbow jab or a shin kick – that would blow up into a minor skirmish. And, although I urged everyone to go to the toilet before setting out, there were times when our hearts would stop at the quiet whimpering that exploded into those dreaded words: “I have to poop NOW!”

Oh, how I longed for the day when my husband and I could take a quiet road trip by ourselves.

Now that day is finally here, and I’m still not having any fun on those road trips. It seems the older I get, the more I need my simple comforts – my comfortable chair with plenty of space around me, my own bathroom, my coffee with coconut cream and cinnamon on top – which means I should probably just stay home and watch a travel video.

Sitting in the car any longer than forty minutes at a time makes me fidgety. I check my phone for messages every few minutes. I text family members inane messages like: Stuck in traffic on the Merritt Pkwy. Where are you? When no one answers, I check Facebook hoping I’ll read about someone doing something more interesting than I am.

I can’t read books in the car because I get carsick. Turning on the radio is no consolation because my husband and I have different taste in music. Since he’s usually the driver, he gets to pick the music.

“What do you want to hear?” I’ll ask him.

“Something soothing,” he says. He always says something soothing, and, for him, that means either classical or jazz. I can’t listen to classical music for too long in the car. I need something with a little more zip. And listening to lengthy jazz improvisations makes me so downright crazy that I envision myself opening the car door and rolling out onto the parkway just to get away from the repetitive riffs or licks or whatever they call those musical tangents they go on during jazz solos.

Our bodies aren’t what they used to be either. Usually after only an hour on the road, one of us has to go. But we have different ideas on the meaning of a rest stop. My husband wants to do his business and get right back on the road. I think of the rest stop as a mini shopping tour. I like to get a cup of coffee, walk through the gift shop, pick up the mugs, open up the sweatshirts, buy a candy bar or a donut, peruse the magazine rack, weigh myself on the weight machine and stroll around outside the building between those stalls that sell leather goods and sunglasses. Why else would they have all that stuff at the rest stop? They know people need a break from the tedium of long drives.

As far as stimulating conversations go, I’ll let you be the judge of how interesting our road trip conversations can be….

On our way out this Saturday, we spotted a discarded table on the curb in our neighborhood and pulled over to have a look. The owner came out and talked with my husband for about five minutes and then the two of them moved the table to the man’s backyard.

“What’s going on? Aren’t we taking the table?” I asked, as we pulled away.


“Well? Why did he put it back?”

“He’s saving it for me.”

“When are you going to get it?”


“Is it under a protective awning in case it rains tonight?”

“It’s not going to rain tonight.”

“It looked pretty heavy. Looked like you both had trouble moving it. Was it heavy?”


“It’s a great table! I know exactly where I’m going to put it.”


“Why was he getting rid of it?” I asked.

“He doesn’t want it anymore.”


“They’re moving,” he said.

“Where? Florida?”

“No. They’re moving into a ranch.”


“In the neighborhood.”


“Too many steps.”

“Too many steps?”

“Yeah, he says there are five floors in the house.”

“Five floors? Wow! Must be a high ranch setup.”


“Does he have any other stuff he’s getting rid of?

“Yeah, he says he has a dining room set and he can’t find anyone to give it away to.”

“You’re kidding! Anything else?”

“Yeah; lots of stuff.”

“Why don’t you just tell me what I want to know? Why do you make me ask you questions like an interrogating lawyer?!”

“What do you mean?” he says. “I already told you everything.”


Stimulating enough for you? We hadn’t even rolled out of the neighborhood and I was already longing for the trip home that would deliver me back to the novel I left behind on my favorite chair.

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Apartment Living And Clutter Control

We’ve had to make some behavioral changes since we moved into this small apartment. For one thing, there is no room for clutter here. There is no dishwasher, either, so I set the rule down before we even moved in: If you use it, you wash it.

So far, so good – with the dishwashing rule. We’re still working on clutter control. I walk around holding things up asking: Whose shirt is this? Who left this fork on the counter? What is this glass doing here? Is this towel clean or dirty? Who left their shoes in the way where someone can trip over them?

The other afternoon, I removed my husband’s glass from the table, washed it, dried it and placed it back in the cabinet. When he came out of the bathroom asking me where his drink was, I told him he had finished it already.

“There was a little bit left,” he said. “I was coming back to finish it.”

“I thought you were done,” I told him. “Besides, there was only a swallow left, and it was annoying me having that little bit sitting there on the table.”

I read that living in small spaces can give rise to increased claustrophobia and aggressive behavior. I can personally attest to that from my newly developed neurotic obsession with tidiness – which is coming close to bordering on aggressive behavior.

I flipped out the other day when my husband opened a new jar of jelly because he didn’t see that we already had one opened in the refrigerator. The way I carried on, you would think that he had committed a mortal sin.

“There’s no room in this tiny refrigerator for two jars of jelly!” I shouted. “Now what are we going to do with two opened jars of jelly?” When I saw that there was room to stack one jar on top of the other, I calmed down – slightly.

My son imitated me the other day when he picked up the pen and my unfinished crossword puzzle off the kitchen table and shouted in a high-pitched falsetto, “What’s this?! Who left this pen here? Whose paper is this on the table?”

“Do I really sound that bad?” I asked him.

“Worse,” he said.

I don’t know what’s come over me. The other night, after dinner, I pulled out the vacuum cleaner and started vacuuming the apartment. Then I opened the door and continued vacuuming into the hallway – all the way up to my neighbor’s door – and as far down the stairway as the cord would reach.

I’m sure there’s some psychological explanation for my unusual behavior. I, who normally hate any kind of cleaning, found myself looking at the kitchen cabinets this morning, gleefully musing: The first chance I get, I’m going to give those cabinets a real good cleaning!

Maybe, by keeping the apartment free of dirt and clutter, I’m fooling myself into thinking I have control over the chaos in other areas of my life now. Who knows? If I get tense enough dealing with contractors, house lifters, and New York Rising case managers, I might walk across the hall one day and start cleaning my neighbor’s apartment.

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