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Anne Palumbo: Can this family be saved?

Anne Palumbo

Something is wrong with my family. At least once a week, without fail, someone will get all hot and bothered because someone else will have dipped into his leftovers without asking. Like clockwork, heated words will be exchanged, and our thermostat will need to be turned down.

I will not say who these hotheads are, because I am not a finger-pointer, but I will say that neither my daughter nor I are involved in any way, shape or form.

Seriously, our family needs a Leftover Intervention before it’s too late. The battles over leftovers – namely, who is entitled to what – have moved into scary Dr. Phil territory.

Our biggest brouhahas center on “takeout” leftovers, which are in league by themselves. Takeout leftovers, you see, hold much more value than “homemade” leftovers, because the food is (1) selected, and (2) paid for with hard-earned cash.

Does it make any difference who earned the cash to begin with, as in perhaps, a dog-tired parent who routinely cries, “Money doesn’t grow on trees, you know!”? Of course not. It’s simply that cash was exchanged, an act that forges an unusually strong bond with the alleged food.

My teenage son, the King of Late-Night Noshing and the Prince of Never, Never Finishing Anything, is forever stocking our fridge with takeout leftovers.

When I see the assorted white boxes – filled with limp pizza, matted sesame chicken, soggy subs and half-eaten chicken wings – I, for one, am not inclined to eat any of it, ever.

Fact is, I find the smells somewhat repulsive and do not appreciate seeing the oily boxes cohabitating with our healthy food – our whole-grain breads, reduced-fat cheeses, and organic fruits and vegetables. So my conscious is clear when it comes to takeout leftovers.

I cannot say that for, ahem, another family member. When he spies the boxes in the morning, I do believe a bell goes off and he begins to salivate. Does it matter that the food is stone-cold and has teeth marks in it? No. Does it occur to him that he would never buy this food for himself? No. Does it mean anything that someone has scribbled “Do! Not! Eat!” in angry letters across the top of the box? No.

As far as he’s concerned, it’s in the public domain of the fridge and up for grabs.

I don’t agree, and tell him so.

Me: “I wouldn’t eat that if I were you.”

Him: “Why not? He’ll never eat it – it will just go bad.”

Me: “But it says, ‘Do not eat.’ He’s looking forward to eating it later. Show some respect.”

Him: “Respect? We’re talking about leftovers here!”

Me: “But aren’t you trying to eat healthier? The sheen on the food suggests grease – think of the calories.”

Him: “I just want a taste.”

Me: “I think you just ate part of the box with your ‘so-called’ taste. Serves you right.”

And so it goes. Of course, as soon as my son sees that Papa Bear has dipped into his leftover honey, a battle erupts and angry words fly. It’s hopeless!

If you have any suggestions, I’m all ears. In the meantime, don’t think less of our little family because we suffer from Leftover Dysfunction. At least we’re still eating together…in a manner of speaking.

Anne Palumbo writes this weekly column for Messenger Post Newspapers. E-mail: avpalumbo@aol.com.