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Waste not, want not — and yes, that includes zucchini

I grew up on a farm in the ’50s, where nothing was wasted — because, of course, “money doesn’t grow on trees.” This is a habit I cannot give up, even though today money in our household is a little more plentiful. The “throwaway society” of the 21st century doesn’t exist for me.

I cannot throw away clothing just because I’ve grown tired. If I’m absolutely to the point of hating an item, then I can at least give it to a second-hand store, or — if it’s not good enough for that — it hits the ragbag.

My frugality doesn’t end with clothing but also extends to food. During the summer, this includes garden produce, and in this I am greatly helped by my husband who plants and looks after a good-size garden. We often have an excess of green beans, tomatoes, cucumbers and, of course, zucchinis, and I HATE to throw out food. If I can’t give away any extra vegetables, we have to eat them, or put them away for later use. I try to freeze enough beans and corn, and can enough tomatoes to last the winter. I’ll even make a few pickles or some jars of relish or salsa.

But when it comes to zucchini, I’m sometimes defeated. Before long, we’ve eaten zucchini cake, muffins, cookies, “zucchini cutlets,” mock apple pie, and just ordinary fried or barbecued zucchinis. My freezer is filled with grated zucchini for baking and for soup thickener, and sliced zucchini for casseroles and soups. Fortunately, some of my neighbours welcome zucchini — at least for a while, though eventually they all declare “Enough!” Only then do I occasionally resort to throwing an overgrown zucchini on the compost pile — not a total waste, after all.

It’s not just garden produce that I can’t throw out — when it comes to any kind of food, I absolutely hate the idea of waste. When I lived on the farm, leftover meals were the norm, and if we didn’t eat it, the dog would. Now, living in town, and without a dog, I still keep all the leftovers — and thus I have become a maker of soup. I may serve leftovers (or “planned-overs,” as I prefer to call them) on a second day. But after that they go into the soup pot — or they are frozen in small containers for a “sometime later” soup.

I rarely follow any soup recipe. Of course, I use chicken and turkey carcasses for big soups but I create a lot of smaller ones too, with a day or two’s worth of leftovers. They’re always a mixture and always different. Whatever meat remains is cut into small pieces — even a single sausage will do, or half a pork chop brought back from a restaurant meal — and whatever vegetables, pasta, rice or barley are left over, with a few fresh vegetables, noodles and spices added, if I think they’re needed. Leftover soup goes into the next day’s soup! A hamburger-based soup can easily mix with a chicken- or sausage-based one. It makes for some interesting flavours.

In my early adult years, before I was married, I boarded at a couple of different homes. One of these — I’ll call her “Mrs. Trying-to-be-Thrifty” — was even more frugal than I am today — or at least she intended to be. Her refrigerator was always full of leftover bits of this and that, but it seemed to me that she rarely used them. The leftovers would sit there and sit there, gradually drying up or turning various shades of green. We never got food poisoning, because she never did use them. Sometimes, the second boarder and I actually sorted through the items, when our landlady was out of the house, and threw out some of the older ones.

Fortunately, I don’t have that problem. I make soup frequently, every second day or so, so the tidbits of leftovers seldom accumulate. Though I do admit that on occasion, my husband has been known to comment that there are a lot of small containers in our refrigerator, and it might be starting to get that “Mrs. Thrifty” look.

If you see me coming, some July or August, be prepared for zucchini or other vegetables. And if you come for lunch, even in summer, be prepared for soup!

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