Food date: 2016.332

Most Americans love the day after Thanksgiving for the leftovers (and the Black Friday sales). How leftovers are consumed varies as much as what people serve with their turkey or tofurkey. Many cooks purposely make more food to ensure there are leftovers for their guests and their exhausted selves. So I wondered, are leftovers an old or new phenomenon? Check out this blog’s FFF’s for a little leftover history.

My leftovers with holiday plate–one of my Thanksgiving weekend traditions.


FFF’s—Fun Food Facts:

The use of ice, or simply keeping food cool, has occurred since ancient times. Until the early 20th century, keeping food involved hauling ice from mountains and rivers or keeping food in cool caves and basements. This process was more about preventing food spoilage and less about what we now consider leftovers.

For decades, leftovers were/are an necessity for those who do not could or would not waste food. The Joy of Cooking by Irma Rombauer reportedly helped further the concept of leftovers along by including a large section in the original 1931 edition.

How we store food changed with iceboxes and refrigerators.  Storing leftovers was easier with the introduction of Tupperware in the 1940s followed by disposable plastic products like Ziploc storage bags in the 1950s and Saran Wrap in the 1960s. Microwave ovens added to the renewed interest in leftovers as now people could reheat food faster.


Doggie bags started in the 1940s during World War II, when there was a food shortage. The extra food scraps and bones were sent home for the pets. At one point, the humans started to catch on that they could bring home food for themselves, hopefully though after the food shortage was over.

One comment

  1. There are so many foods that taste so much better as leftovers the 2nd or 3rd day than they do the first day, as some of the water evaporates and flavors become more concentrated? To me, anything with tomato sauce, like pizza, tastes better the 2nd day as the sauce becomes sweeter. I think letting food sit for a few days also gives more time to the enzymes to break down the food, creating more complex tastes. Sometimes I will cook food just for the purpose of making “leftovers” that taste better than it would fresh.

    Are there any foods that you like more as leftovers?

    P.S. If you haven’t yet checked out the new show “Food Fact or Fiction” on the Food Channel, it is pretty good.


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