As I cook, I find this lesson comes up often. I watch it rise as I turn my nose up at the dumpster food, as I struggle with the poor selection of ingredients on hand, as I put unreasonable demands on the Kitchen crew, or as I leave food behind in the mixing bowls. Some days, looking out at the customers eating in the dining room, I watch as I marginalize them in the same manner.
For today's meal we decide to grind up the Italian sausages and saute them with garlic and onions for a lasagna. We'll substitute cottage cheese for ricotta-reducing the curds in a blender-and jack cheese for mozzarella, with a tasty sauce made from canned plum tomatoes. As a side dish we'll saute the mushrooms and add them to the steamed green beans, rounding things out with a fruit ambrosia salad.
Four hours later the meal is ready. We take our places on the serving line in the old fire station that functions as a dining hall. As head cook I have the privilege of placing the final entree on the plate as it goes down the line, and then offering the plate over the counter to each customer. As I prepare the first plate, I pause to welcome the coming 150 opportunities to celebrate the lesson of leftovers.
John Sheehy is a writer, publisher, and community organizer.