Breaking up is hard to do (with food)

Well, the big day of giving thanks is over, my friends. The turkey carcass is picked clean, the ham bone is all that’s left of that glorious mound of glistening pork, and the casseroles look ravaged and depleted. The food that remains, if any, should probably be thrown out sometime in the next day or two, according to the Surgeon General and the CDC. But what do they know?

For whatever reason, I have a very hard time throwing food in the trash. It just feels wrong to me. Maybe it’s because both of my parents grew up during the Great Depression. My mom stockpiled food as though she were preparing for Y2K – back in the 1970s. When I was a kid, our basement shelves were stocked three-deep with jars of homemade jellies, pickles, home-canned tomatoes and green beans. We had not one but two chest freezers packed to the hilt with everything from breads to meats. In other words, both of my parents had known true hunger early on in their lives, and they never forgot what it felt like.

I, on the other hand, do not have that excuse for having this weird problem with throwing food away. I have never known hunger, thank the Good Lord. Still, when I get back home today, it will be my job to clean out all the refrigerated leftovers in preparation for this week’s trash day. I’m getting knots in my stomach just writing about it. Even though I know it’s time, even though I know that there are likely wicked little bacteria taking hold and growing in what’s left of the pan of cornbread dressing, I’ll still feel a pang of guilt when I pitch the dressing and all its cousins in the trash.

Since I’m on a roll (so to speak), I’ll share an embarrassing little tidbit with you: my food hang ups run so deep that I used to feed as much of the holiday leftovers as possible to our dogs, just to know that someone or something ate it. How sick is that? One of our dogs, already a member of the Big and Chunky Club without my help, was put on a strict fitness and nutrition regimen as a direct result of my difficulty.

Oh well, I’m past all that. Mostly. The dogs are now in pretty good shape, and our family is, for the most part, fitness-conscious, so there’s no one else on whom to foist the leftovers and ease my conscience. It’s time to bury the remains of the feast.

Unless…does microwaving food kill bacteria?


Carole Townsend is an author, journalist, and columnist living in metropolitan Atlanta. She and her husband have been married for nearly 20 years, and during that time, they have raised their children and now delight in doting on their granddaughter. Through those 20 years, they have brought 6 dogs into their home and family, and they have loved every one of them well and thoroughly. When she’s not writing, gardening, cooking, or training Theo, Carole travels throughout the southeastern United States, talking to women’s and civic groups about being a woman, loving a family, and writing. Visit her at, Carole Townsend – Author (Facebook), @caroletownsend (Twitter), and @carole.w.riter (Instagram).


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