I was packing an extra cheese sandwich because I was going to be working late. This sandwich consisted of two slices of bread with two slices of American cheese. I started thinking to myself that this packaged American cheese probably wasn’t very healthy. Then, as I started peeling off the plastic that individually wrapped each piece of cheese, throwing each piece of plastic into the trash, I thought to myself: what a waste of plastic.
Then I started thinking about other things we waste and how the decision of what we keep and what we throw away varies with each person.
There was an older woman, a friend, who used to keep everything. When she went with me and my small children for lunch once at a local fast-food restaurant, she did not want to throw away the containers that the food came in. She felt that was wasteful.
Do you keep the little paper-covered wire ties that are used to close packages of bread? How about the plastic tabs that twist the bag closed? My older friend kept the ties; I don’t.
I do keep rubber bands; you will find them on the door knobs in my house, just like my mother kept them.
How about those plastic circles that are left behind on some gallon milk containers after you twist the top off? And the gallon containers themselves?
I recycle the gallon containers. I recycle as much as possible, and it is wonderful that our city of Norwalk picks up recycling. All I have to do is tag the bag of recyclables with the yellow tag.
But sometimes I wonder — is the amount of water needed to clean out a plastic jar of peanut butter so that the plastic can be recycled worth the amount of hot water needed to clean it?
We have so many paper goods that are disposable. Do you use a paper towel or a cloth to wipe up a spill? Paper towel is wasteful. Our country seems to have plenty of paper, but when I once traveled to another country, I noticed that their napkins were much smaller and thinner — and then ours seemed wasteful to me.
Then there is the food itself. My parents experienced starvation and nothing in our house was ever thrown out if it was edible. We had three refrigerators — one in the kitchen, one in the garage and one in the basement. I thought of this recently when I was faced with an 8-ounce container of sour cream with about 2 ounces left in it. I had purchased the sour cream for a recipe, but I didn’t use all of it. I did not foresee using the rest of that sour cream anytime soon, but I couldn’t bring myself to throw it out, either.
Leftovers? They made plenty of good meals when I was growing up. My mother had divided casserole containers and she would often combine the leftovers of several meals into one of those divided containers, heat it in the oven and it made an extra dinner for our family. After I married, my husband thought having leftovers was odd; something his grandmother did but not his mother. I always save leftover rice to make delicious fried rice. And with only two of us to cook for now, we eat the same meal over and over, saving me time that used to be spent cooking.
This Thanksgiving, no part of the turkey will go to waste. Of course, the leftover sliced meat will make for extra dinners. Some of it will be cut up and used to make turkey pot pie. And the carcass? The bones of the turkey with little bits of meat clinging to them? The day after Thanksgiving, that will go into a pot of water with onion, carrots and celery. It will simmer on my kitchen stove, smelling wonderful, until it turns into a delicious broth. Then I will add mushrooms and barley and cook it for a while longer. We will have a meal of turkey soup and I will remember my mother and how she always made this. I will wish I could give her some. I will wish I could thank her.
I hope someday my daughters will make this soup, too. They sometimes ask me for my recipes. But they will make their own decisions about what to keep and what to throw away.
Debbie Leffler is a free-lance writer who lives in Norwalk. She can be reached at [email protected]