Having your cake and eating it: the glory of leftovers | Jack Marshall’s column

They’re responsible for those nuclear-orange and impossible to remove stains on the sides of Tupperware. They clog up freezers flecked with smatterings of frozen condensation before emerging, cold air steaming off them as they’re plonked into the microwave on a midweek evening. They’re sometimes better the second time round, but not always. They’re leftovers.

When it comes to leftovers, there are two types of people in this country, to my mind: the staunchly militaristic meal-planning devotees and the haphazard disciples of the odd bowl of whatever gently nudged to the back of the fridge by an army of condiments and frayed packets of ham. How you treat the leftovers is revealing. Only the insane throw them away.

An admission: I’m a proper meal prep geek. I have a note on my phone which contains not only my shopping list, but an inventory of the meals I have frozen and the meals I have the ingredients to make. There’s profound safety in this list; armchair therapists are diagnosing a pathological need for control as I type.

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At the other end of the spectrum are those who see leftovers as inferior, discarded, unwanted hunks of some long-ago cooked meal. The bits that people didn’t even want when they were actually hungry. But they can’t bring themselves to throw food away, so they decant the flotsam and jetsam into a forlorn bowl and hide it. Out of sight, out of mind.

Some leftovers, in all their glory

And, when left with amounts in that annoying no-man’s land between ‘acceptable adult portion of food’ and ‘plate detritus to be scraped into the bin’, you know what you have to do. Eat it. Cold casserole tinged with congealing at the margins? Eat it. Watery ragu scattered with sticky strands of spaghetti? Eat it. Hardening roasties and ice cold broccoli? Eat it.

Leftovers are great. Granted, some leftovers just don’t work - I’m looking at you, noodles, fries, and pie - but most things do. Some even get better - come on through, pizza, pretty much any stew, and most curries. There’s so much satisfaction in leftovers - they’re the literal definition of having your cake and eating it. And who doesn’t love that?