What to Do With Those Thanksgiving Leftovers? Look to the French
VeselovaElena / iStock / Getty Images Plus
If you rely on your microwave, you might simply resign yourself to eating the same meal, over and over again, until the leftovers run out.
But you don't have to get stuck in a cycle of nuke and repeat. This Thanksgiving, take inspiration from the French, who saw leftovers as an outlet for creativity.
My research on the history of French home cooking reveals how restyling dinner scraps first became fashionable more than a century ago.
Reheating 'With Art and Discernment'
In 19th-century France, leftovers were a way of life for the lower classes.
In the countryside, the broth from the evening beef stew would become the basis of breakfast the next morning. In cities, street hawkers known as "arlequins" purchased dinner scraps from restaurants and rich households to resell them to the poor. For these Frenchmen and -women, repurposing previous meals wasn't about style but survival. Because of their association with poverty, leftovers were stigmatized up until the late 19th century.
But by the turn of the 20th century, it had become hip to whip something up with the remains from last night's meal.
In 1892, French chef Alfred Suzanne wrote that "there are dishes which, when reheated with art and discernment, transformed with taste and presented in an appetizing manner … can be as good as, if not better than, the first time they are served." In the preface to his encyclopedic cookbook, "150 Ways to Accommodate Leftovers," the former chef to British royalty declared that the "deep-seated prejudice that many people have" against leftovers was "an error."
Suzanne's colleagues and culinary connoisseurs concurred. French food critic Fulbert-Dumonteil praised the chef for explaining "all the ingenious and charming ways to restore mutilated bits and pieces from epic feasts" and turn "cumbersome remains" into something that delights the palate.
Marketing to the Masses
Why did "leftovers" make the leap from insipid plates peddled by "arlequins" to inspired dishes perfected by culinary artists?
In 1882, France's new republican government passed legislation mandating education for all children ages 6 to 13. Many public schoolchildren came from the lower and lower-middle classes, and educators designed home economics lessons with this in mind. Girls learned how to preserve and prepare their leftovers safely, nutritiously and economically. They were also taught that their talent for accommodating leftovers was a reflection of their thrift and resourcefulness – the markers of middle-class French femininity.
As the percentage of literate females spiked in France, the publishing industry pounced on this potential market. The late 19th century saw more and more domestic manuals aimed at "ménagères" – wives and mothers from the working and lower-middle classes. Many guides featured a chapter on fixing leftovers, while some, such as "100 Ways to Accommodate Leftovers" and "The Art of Accommodating Leftovers, Dedicated to Those of Meager Means," made revamping remains their central focus.
France's Top Chefs Join in
In the 1890s top chefs also started to contribute recipes to domestic cooking magazines. This genre of culinary literature proliferated in the late 19th century during a period of rapid growth for the popular press.
Chefs wanted to appeal to a wide audience, and their contributions ranged from columns on economical cooking to instructions for assembling "pièces montées," which are elaborate edifices made of confections. Many of these journals designated a special section for accommodating leftovers, with titles like "Utilizing Leftovers" and "Delicious Ways to Accommodate the Scraps."
The repetitive nomenclature belies the range of the recipes printed under these rubrics. Some were simple and modest and reflected the original rationale for leftovers, which was economical.
For example, a July 1907 recipe for "Lisette's Cake" in the magazine Family Cooking offered a sweet solution for yesterday's bread. The cook needed only to soak the loaf in sweetened milk, strain the mixture through a fine sieve, add two eggs and bake in the oven for 20 minutes.
But some recipes got complicated and costly. Family Cooking also published a leftovers recipe for "Veal à la Russe," which required, in addition to veal chops, a quarter pound of butter, anchovies, tomato coulis, jus and truffles for garnish. The Cordon Bleu Magazine suggested repurposing leftover pheasant in a way that required an hour of boiling in fine demi-glace and two hours of cooling on ice, before being pureed by hand, seasoned, molded and fried.
Such recipes would hardly qualify as time- or cost-saving. But practicality wasn't the only point anymore. Scholars have shown how women at the turn of the century read popular and prescriptive literature as a "form of escapism" that encouraged them to "fantasize" about what modern domestic life could be.
By turning leftovers into an art form, early home cooking magazines inspired a modern generation of home cooks to be creative and think critically about cooking. And they left their legacy to us and our leftovers.
So this year, instead of scraping together another tiresome turkey sandwich, try a turkey recipe adapted from Alfred Suzanne's "150 Ways to Accommodate Leftovers."
Reposted with permission from The Conversation.
- 10 Tips for a Sustainable Friendsgiving - EcoWatch ›
- 10 Tips for Hosting a Wonderful and Waste-Free Holiday - EcoWatch ›
A rare yellow penguin has been photographed for what is believed to be the first time.
- World-Renowned Photographer Documents Most Remote ... ›
- This Penguin Colony Has Fallen by 77% on Antarctic Islands ... ›
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Stuart Braun
- Could IKEA's New Tiny House Help Fight the Climate Crisis ... ›
- Los Angeles City-Owned Buildings to Go 100% Carbon Free ... ›
- New Jersey Will Be First State to Require Building Permits to ... ›
By Eric Tate and Christopher Emrich
Mapping Social Vulnerability<p>Figure 1a is a typical map of social vulnerability across the United States at the census tract level based on the Social Vulnerability Index (SoVI) algorithm of <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/1540-6237.8402002" target="_blank"><em>Cutter et al.</em></a> . Spatial representation of the index depicts high social vulnerability regionally in the Southwest, upper Great Plains, eastern Oklahoma, southern Texas, and southern Appalachia, among other places. With such a map, users can focus attention on select places and identify population characteristics associated with elevated vulnerabilities.</p>
Social Vulnerability as a Measure of Equity<p>Given their focus on social marginalization and economic barriers, social vulnerability indicators are attracting growing scientific interest as measures of inequity resulting from disasters. Indeed, social vulnerability and inequity are related concepts. Social vulnerability research explores the differential susceptibilities and capacities of disaster-affected populations, whereas social equity analyses tend to focus on population disparities in the allocation of resources for hazard mitigation and disaster recovery. Interventions with an equity focus emphasize full and equal resource access for all people with unmet disaster needs.</p><p>Yet newer studies of inequity in disaster programs have documented troubling disparities in income, race, and home ownership among those who <a href="https://eos.org/articles/equity-concerns-raised-in-federal-flood-property-buyouts" target="_blank">participate in flood buyout programs</a>, are <a href="https://www.eenews.net/stories/1063477407" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">eligible for postdisaster loans</a>, receive short-term recovery assistance [<a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijdrr.2020.102010" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><em>Drakes et al.</em></a>, 2021], and have <a href="https://www.texastribune.org/2020/08/25/texas-natural-disasters--mental-health/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">access to mental health services</a>. For example, a recent analysis of federal flood buyouts found racial privilege to be infused at multiple program stages and geographic scales, resulting in resources that disproportionately benefit whiter and more urban counties and neighborhoods [<a href="https://doi.org/10.1177/2378023120905439" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><em>Elliott et al.</em></a>, 2020].</p><p>Investments in disaster risk reduction are largely prioritized on the basis of hazard modeling, historical impacts, and economic risk. Social equity, meanwhile, has been far less integrated into the considerations of public agencies for hazard and disaster management. But this situation may be beginning to shift. Following the adage of "what gets measured gets managed," social equity metrics are increasingly being inserted into disaster management.</p><p>At the national level, FEMA has <a href="https://www.fema.gov/news-release/20200220/fema-releases-affordability-framework-national-flood-insurance-program" target="_blank">developed options</a> to increase the affordability of flood insurance [Federal Emergency Management Agency, 2018]. At the subnational scale, Puerto Rico has integrated social vulnerability into its CDBG Mitigation Action Plan, expanding its considerations of risk beyond only economic factors. At the local level, Harris County, Texas, has begun using social vulnerability indicators alongside traditional measures of flood risk to introduce equity into the prioritization of flood mitigation projects [<a href="https://www.hcfcd.org/Portals/62/Resilience/Bond-Program/Prioritization-Framework/final_prioritization-framework-report_20190827.pdf?ver=2019-09-19-092535-743" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><em>Harris County Flood Control District</em></a>, 2019].</p><p>Unfortunately, many existing measures of disaster equity fall short. They may be unidimensional, using single indicators such as income in places where underlying vulnerability processes suggest that a multidimensional measure like racialized poverty (Figure 2) would be more valid. And criteria presumed to be objective and neutral for determining resource allocation, such as economic loss and cost-benefit ratios, prioritize asset value over social equity. For example, following the <a href="http://www.cedar-rapids.org/discover_cedar_rapids/flood_of_2008/2008_flood_facts.php" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">2008 flooding</a> in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, cost-benefit criteria supported new flood protections for the city's central business district on the east side of the Cedar River but not for vulnerable populations and workforce housing on the west side.</p><p>Furthermore, many equity measures are aspatial or ahistorical, even though the roots of marginalization may lie in systemic and spatially explicit processes that originated long ago like redlining and urban renewal. More research is thus needed to understand which measures are most suitable for which social equity analyses.</p>
Challenges for Disaster Equity Analysis<p>Across studies that quantify, map, and analyze social vulnerability to natural hazards, modelers have faced recurrent measurement challenges, many of which also apply in measuring disaster equity (Table 1). The first is clearly establishing the purpose of an equity analysis by defining characteristics such as the end user and intended use, the type of hazard, and the disaster stage (i.e., mitigation, response, or recovery). Analyses using generalized indicators like the CDC Social Vulnerability Index may be appropriate for identifying broad areas of concern, whereas more detailed analyses are ideal for high-stakes decisions about budget allocations and project prioritization.</p>
By Jessica Corbett