|When life gives you lemons (and orange cordial), make (orangey) G&Ts.|
Then re-use the lemons.
I’ve always been a bit competitive about food and drink. The number of times a waiter has looked at me in a restaurant and said, ‘Are you sure you want to order all that? It’s a lot for one person to eat.’ And I’ve puffed up my chest in response and said, ‘Just watch me.’
When I was in my twenties, I got into a Guinness drinking competition with a Geordie man twice my size and I won. True, I was so ill later that night I gave up drinking alcohol for five months. But I won! And that’s all that matters. What I’m saying is, had I been born American, there’s no doubt in my mind I’d be a champion pie eater. I’d probably have to get around on one of those mobility scooter things. But I’d definitely be state champion.
As it happens, I’m not an American. I’m a middle-aged English woman who lives in rural Bulgaria, where there isn’t a lot of scope for competitive eating. Which is perhaps why I’m so competitive about leftovers.
Yes, leftovers. It’s a source of personal pride that I can make something tasty out of pretty much any leftovers, and we almost never throw things away. A bit of unused ketchup in a bowl becomes the basis of a chilli sauce for falafel. A couple of handfuls of leftover cooked lentils gets turned into a mustardy lentil salad. Chickpea cooking water goes in a jar in the fridge to make future mayonnaise-like sauces. The dill vinegar from an empty jar of cornichons gets saved for dressings. We laugh in the face of expiry dates.
You get the idea. In our house, throwing away edible items is a sign of weakness. But lockdown life has taken this competitive thriftiness to a whole new level. Even though we have a decent supermarket within 10 miles of our house, and we’re generally shopping for food every two or three weeks, I’m acting like we may never see another food shop again. In my head, every wasteful scrap put in the bin or on the compost heap will surely lead to future starvation. I am, in short, a bit more mental than usual.
For example, I mentioned before how we’ve been freezing sliced lemons, thus ensuring a constant supply for G&Ts. That’s a good thrifty tip, you may say. No, it’s not thrifty enough, the new, improved, slightly-more-mental me would reply. So I’ve taken to fishing the used lemons out of our empty G&T glasses and keeping them in the fridge to be used again. Turns out the finely chopped, G&T-soaked rind is lovely in everything from pasta sauces to risottos to houmous.
Then we made a dozen fruit buns for Easter weekend. What we should have done was halve the recipe, because 12 buns is obviously too many for two people, even two gluttons like us. Pretty soon they were turning stale, and we still had six buns left. I was livid at our feckless wastefulness. And so we spent our Easter Sunday morning picking out the sultanas and cranberries and whizzing up the stale buns to make sweet, spicy breadcrumbs – that were used later in the day, with walnuts from the garden, to make a festive nut roast.
|First they were buns. Then they went stale. Then they were|
resurrected into a nut roast. #EasterFoodParables
But I think I hit a new high (or low, depending on your viewpoint) yesterday. I’d chopped some onions and carrots for a lentil thing I was making, and I had the peelings and dirty dog-end bits in a bowl ready for the compost heap. That bowl did not look appetising. But every time I looked at it, my brain would scream, ‘DON’T YOU FUCKING DARE THROW THOSE BITS AWAY.’ You can guess what happened next, can’t you? I spent the rest of the morning making vegetable stock from the peelings, which then became veg and lentil soup, using some of the lentils I’d cooked for lunch.
This is all very admirable, but my God it’s a drain on my time. I reckon I’m spending 90% of my waking life finding new and inventive ways to use lemon rind and onion peelings. When my freelance work returns to normal levels, I genuinely don’t know how I’ll find the time to fit it in. The work, that is.