By Tony Samson

NOT ALL the food you ordered or got as gifts end up on the holiday table and fully consumed by your guests. Always, there is an embarrassment of calorific riches left untouched. The household is faced with limited refrigerated space and the need to decide what to keep and what to give away — for here or to go?

Holiday leftovers, which by today can more properly be described as “remains of the day,” challenge the homemaker. What does she do with leftovers from guests who did not show up, perishable gifts, and assorted meals from Christmas Past (a culinary version of Scrooge’s ghosts)?

Fortunately, local cuisine is hospitable to leftovers. Is this a function of our culinary culture where the idea of wasted food, including those left on the plate, seems obscene?

Certain dishes, adobo for one, do not seem as tasty when freshly cooked, achieving a kind of parousia, or second coming after being stored for days. The flavor (mostly vinegar) seeps through and marinates the meat to offer a higher level of gustatory delight.

Some dishes specifically require leftovers as main ingredients like the lechon paksiw. For this particular dish, only a leftover version exists as one cannot go straight to the vinegared concoction without getting through the roasted stage. Even the inferior lechon with a tough skin achieves redemption in its resurrected state.

While clothes can be consigned to garage sales or businesses specializing in “previously owned” attire, perishable stuff like food can only be given away prior to their “best before” date.

Aside from the usual second version of a viand, here are some Martha Stewart types of ideas from someone who neither followed her show nor attended her lecture when she dropped by Manila.

Organize a Three Kings party. While this festival, still celebrated in Spain as the occasion for exchanging gifts, has fallen into disuse locally, having been stripped of its status as a Holy Day of Obligation, it still serves as a calendar milestone as the day for taking down Christmas décor, to signal the end of the long holiday. So, why not have a party where only recycled leftover food is served? This post-holiday event can serve as the last day before the New Year’s resolution for losing weight from the party-filled holidays kicks in.

Put leftovers in different containers with expiry dates. This categorizes the leftovers by their shelf life, the last day of which is defined as when the meat starts to host a colony and emit a distinct smell. Clearly, the longer lasting leftovers (like ham and cheese) can be consumed later, maybe Easter.

Give it all away. Forwarding food like messages from a Viber group that one has received is considered recycling. Leftovers do not fall in this category, and the farther away from freshness and the Version 1 state, the more difficult it is to give them away. The key factor in such a donation is edibility and timeliness. The older the food is in terms of carbon dating, the more embarrassing it is for the donor to unload to anyone, even those lower in the food chain.

Leftovers do not only refer to food.

If consumption rises at an unusually high rate in the holiday season, clearly a lot of it goes beyond normal usage. How many of those umbrellas, stationeries, desk diaries (these you now must buy as they are not included in the corporate giveaway list anymore), and candy trays are used by the gift recipient? Cash and gift certificates pose no problem.

The law on Christmas gifts states: “The more powerful a person is, the greater the volume of useless gifts he receives.” There is a larger asymmetry between supply and usefulness the higher the socio-economic level of the gift recipients. The difference can be classified as leftovers.

The problem of leftovers arises only out of abundance. Those in the opposite situation are merely left out. While this simultaneous situation of the have-too-much and the have-too-little seems a perfect match, the desired symmetry seldom takes place.

Still, the best leftovers deal with the immaterial. Warm memories of reunions and friendships are the best leftovers from the holiday season. These have no expiry dates and can be consumed over and over in photos sent to the cloud… of one sort or another.


Tony Samson is Chairman and CEO, TOUCH xda.