Gazing into the refrigerator, my eyes slowly scanned its entire contents. Just about every shelf held some sort of container filled with various leftovers from previous meals.
Small, large, self-closing or covered with a matching top, they begged in unison to be opened and rewarmed. I began to take them out one at a time. They left the cold, dark confines of the refrigerator beginning their first leg of the leftover journey in hopes of being eaten. Side by side, they sat on the kitchen counter.
I couldn't remember exactly what was in them. I felt like I was on a game show trying to guess what prize was behind each door. I began to open them one by one.
Leftovers never appear as appealing as when they were first served. I'm always a little apprehensive as I judge their fate, because I have to decide if they are still fresh enough to move on to the warming stage or, if they are unlucky, be tossed into the trash.
"Leftover" has never been one of my favorite words. To me, it represents what's left after the best parts are chiseled away. I prefer the word "repurposed" because it has a more positive sound. It indicates that whatever is left still has a purpose and, therefore, is needed.
Because of my grandmother, who lived through the Great Depression, I always think twice before tossing something away. I can almost feel Granny leaning over my shoulder and saying, "Mark, there's nothing wrong with that! Don't throw it away!" as I stand in front of a trash can. There is no doubt Granny was ahead of her time when it came to repurposing. She practiced it long before it was cool.
A good portion of my grandparents' garage was filled to capacity with things Granny opted to save. Reflecting the light high atop a long shelf sat hundreds of empty tin pie pans. They seemed out of place to me -- especially in a garage.
For convenience, Granny kept a small amount of these pans conveniently accessible in her kitchen to re-use for a variety of things including toasting bread or as a substitute for Tupperware. "Waste not, want not!" was Granny's mantra.
In Granny's kitchen, absolutely nothing was wasted. With the help of a wooden spoon, uneaten biscuits were crumbled and mixed with eggs, sugar, butter and milk to be cleverly revamped into a tasty biscuit pudding. Should you want to take some home to enjoy later, Granny cut a slice of the sticky pudding and slid it into a "saved from the trash" plastic bread wrapper.
Carefully holding the plastic-encased slice of biscuit pudding in one hand, Granny used her other hand to pursue a fight with a small metal drawer in her kitchen that was jammed shut most of the time. That small drawer was part of her repurposing campaign, housing hundreds of plastic twist ties.
After all the commotion, the slice of biscuit pudding never came out of the bag in one piece but was still enjoyed later with a cold glass of milk.
As I looked inside the take-home containers in front of me, I reminded myself of how blessed we are to even have the chance to decide what to keep and what to throw away. As Granny knew so well, everyone doesn't have this option. I have to remind myself of this daily.
We all have an extremely important job to do when it comes down to the decisions we make. The ones we make today affect not only our future, but the future of generations to come. We must be less wasteful and recycle more.
Granny's repurposed containers never held just one thing. Before they were tossed, they performed many jobs. I can hear Granny's voice so clearly sharing the wisdom she learned firsthand. Maybe if we practice what Granny preached our world would be a better place.
Granny, if you can hear me, I'm trying!
MORE WITH MARK
Join Mark at the fourth annual Peach Road Race and Health Fair sponsored by Navicent Health's Medical Center of Peach County at 8 a.m. Saturday. Get more details by calling 478-654-2002 or visiting www.racerpal.com/races/peachroadrace.html.
Mark Ballard's column runs each week in The Telegraph. Send your questions or comments to P.O. Box 4232, Macon, GA 31208; call 478-757-6877; email firstname.lastname@example.org; follow him at instagram.com/markcreates; or become a subscriber to Mark's Facebook page.