WHAT did we do with leftovers before they invented plastic?
If you weren’t around in the pre-plastics age let me tell you – there weren’t any leftovers.
I used to think this was because we couldn’t afford much food, but it was obviously because we didn’t have any little plastic containers.
Or a fridge.
No-one realises the profound effect fridges and little plastic containers have had on the world. Cases of dysentery, for instance, must have skyrocketed.
Did you think the proliferation of Asian food was something to do with a coordinated epicurean campaign by the world’s Chinese, Thai, Malaysian, and Indian chefs?
Wrong. It’s because there’s nothing much else you can make with the contents of all those little plastic pots in the fridge — 12 kernels of sweet corn, the wilted remnants of a bag of beansprouts, one finger of yoghurt, two olives, something that was once cheese but is now a laboratory specimen, and half a tomato — but a stir-fry.
And there’s no sell-by date on leftovers. You have to use your imagination. Even half a tomato can be rendered toxic by an extended period in the fridge in a little plastic pot.
In our house we save our plastic tubs for the specific purpose of poisoning ourselves.
There was a time when we fed leftovers to the dog. It never seemed to do him any harm but that was probably because we did it the same day they were cooked.
Now we save them for a month and eat them ourselves. My wife tells me we’re saving the planet by recycling our little plastic tubs and using up our leftovers.
We’re saving the world by killing ourselves?
You couldn’t do it in the days of glass and china. No one had enough to waste back then storing effete quantities of baked beans you could count on one hand.
If we had glass and china containers in the same numbers we have plastic ones today we’d be living in the shed.
The plastic ones stack, you see. You can fit them one inside the other, like those little Russian dolls, and store them by the warehouse-load on shelves and in cupboards and on the draining board.
I only mention the draining board because it is one of the natural laws of washing up that little plastic containers are invisible.
Not before you wash them. Everyone can see them when they’re dirty. But once they’ve been washed up they sit there until they fossilise. No-one ever removes them. Not, at least, until they have been thoroughly contaminated by the world’s air-borne bacteria.
Then we place a nub-end of soft cucumber in it, drag it out a month later for the salad – and wonder where the dysentery came from.
And what are we doing with 12 kernels of sweet corn anyway? Why didn’t we eat the bloody things with the rest of them, for heaven’s sake! What kind of a family leaves behind half a tomato and spoonful of gravy stock from the chicken?
And then bungs them in little plastic pots to incubate in the fridge!
I mean, these things could kill you. Or me…