We Don’t Throw Food Away In Our House

Sep 23, 2023

Ever wonder where habits come from? For many, it’s early programming that stemmed from learned behavior experienced years ago. One of those habits for me is the reluctance to throw any edible food away.

I can’t even allow a server to take a plate back if there is still something edible on it. I always insist on a container to take it home.

Many people today won’t even eat leftovers. They refuse!

I didn’t give this habit of mine much thought, until one day I did. I thought long and hard about it. And I realized why this habit is still with me today.

It was during a time when we struggled to put food on the table. During the “lean times” around age 15 – 16, we seemingly were always in search of food.

We were living hand to mouth in those days. There was always more “month left at the end of the money” so it meant we’d have to get creative if we wanted to eat. Translation: we begged, borrowed and even stole to put food on the table.

We had a friendly neighbor that had a tree full of Japanese oranges that we’d routinely pick from. You don’t see these oranges at the store. They couldn’t sell them! The fruit is terribly bitter. But when you are hungry, you acquire a taste out of necessity. Sugar was a great neutralizer to the bitterness.

George the neighbor was generous with the oranges because he never ate them. Nobody did…except us.

With my restaurant job I was surrounded by food. That was a blessing that afforded me a chance to eat at work and also take some “spoils” back to the family. I had to be creative sneaking food out. I’m sure I would have been fired if I was caught. Maybe they knew and turned a blind eye to it? I’m not sure. I should have asked if I could take some food home to my family. I was 16 and lacked the maturity to approach them.

When I got home with the restaurant food it felt like Christmas. “What did you get today,” my family would ask. “Fried chicken,” was a common response. Fried chicken was easy to sneak out. Wrap 5 – 6 pieces in some foil and go.

The restaurant wasn’t the only emergency food source. We had an acquaintance at the corner liquor store that let us keep a tab. Fortunately they had a small frozen food section for TV dinners, frozen vegetables and ice cream. It was November of 1973 that liquor store provided our Thanksgiving meal…a scrumptious Banquet Turkey TV Dinner.

Fresh vegetables were across the street at the junior high school garden. The fence was about 8 feet high, but I got pretty good at climbing over it and back. I certainly feel bad as I think about it now. Those kids didn’t deserve that. Desperation robs you of judgement.

Today we take for granted the ready availability of food. Fortunately, there are so many resources to help those facing food insecurity. In fact, some may say we have too much food available.

I’d have to say my attitude about leftovers is a gift borne out of necessity. I don’t see this as a habit I should try to break any time soon.