Thanksgiving Day has come and gone, leaving lots of leftovers – both actual and metaphorical. Above the din of football game crowds emanating from the nonstop television in the next room, there were conversations. Conversations about family chisme (gossip), politics and the very issue of what Thanksgiving is really all about.
Leftover conversations continue days after Thanksgiving Day about how the holiday began and what its meaning was and is today. There’s lots of talk about how Native people in this country are seemingly erased from our history. There are ongoing talks about articles in newspapers (those that still survive) and social media platforms about the myths associated with the original Thanksgiving observance. Leftover conversations.
And, of course, there are actual leftovers. The chunks of turkey or slabs of Tofurky. The mashed potatoes. The pumpkin pie. The tamales (in my family). The collard greens, the tandoori chicken, the kimchi, the yakitori or the lahmacun in other Southern California homes. There are recipes on social media and on TV cooking shows about how to cook and serve leftovers.
When I was a kid growing up on L.A.’s eastside I had never even heard the word “leftovers”. It was an unknown word to me and – it named what was to me an alien concept. I remember the exact moment when I encountered the word leftovers. I can’t remember the exact date, but I remember the circumstances clearly. It was two days before Thanksgiving Day in 1959. I was nine years old and I was a “paper boy”. I sold the Los Angeles Mirror. It was an afternoon paper, something that’s gone the way of rotary phones and buggy whips.
During the time I sold newspapers I actually took time to read them. A couple of days before Thanksgiving there was a long article about how to cook and serve the anticipated leftovers. Seriously, that word was never uttered in my house, where nine of us kids lived with my perennially on-the-move mother. As I read the article in what was probably “the Woman’s Section” or something like that, I was startled. I wasn’t exactly shocked but I sure was amused. What a concept! People ate dinner and had food left over. In my family we never had food left over. Instead of “leftovers” there should have been a word that suggested “not enoughs”.
Now, we weren’t the poorest of the poor on our block. Most people in my neighborhood were in the same boat. We got by, but extravagance meant having two of my mother’s handmade tortillas, rather than one. But the discovery of the notion of leftovers made an impression on me as I read that newspaper article. And it has stuck with me ever sense.
The hoary notions of “waste not, want not” and “a stitch in time saves nine” actually have stuck with me all my life. It has led to a lifelong consciousness about the limited resources of his planet and our responsibility to be conscientious stewards. Today, as an ageing boomer, every time Thanksgiving Day comes around I’m reminded of that afternoon reading about leftovers. What a concept.
Copyright by Luis Torres. Luis Torres is a veteran journalist and author and regular contributor to Latinopia. He can be reached at: