Last night I went to dinner with some people a friend wanted me to meet. I ordered lamb which was amazingly delicious. It came with green beans and au gratin spuds. I ate half of it and asked to take the rest of it home. I put it in the refrigerator when I got home and had this amazing feeling of virtuousness that I thought was strange. I woke up this morning thinking about it and said, “Get a grip, you are losing it.” But alas, my mind kept going. I took the cost of the dinner last night (interesting that I would do that when I didn’t even pay for it, but whatever), divided it by two like I was a fiscally responsible person.
What is going on? Usually I either tell the waiter not to wrap it, or I take it and leave it in the car, or I leave it on the counter, or I leave it in the refrigerator long past the time when the food ceases to be food and becomes some living something or other no longer resembling what it was originally. Trust me I never think about the food gone uneaten on my plate, and I certainly have never written about the take home food from a great dinner in my diary. But I feel so virtuous. I really did put it in the refrigerator with pride and a sense of responsibility.
It’s not the money. It was something else. It was a sense of noticing what was around me. It was a sense of finishing the meal. It was a feeling of control. Now, I’m not suggesting that the one fry left over from a MacDonald’s run (I swear I don’t go to MacDonalds) is going in the freezer for later, but I am suggesting that leaving a path of left overs – food or otherwise – behind us as if they didn’t matter and didn’t come from hard earned money and effort is over.
My people come from New England stock that wastes nothing. My cousin (Pam, forgive me) is a bit younger than me and used to visit me when I was pretending to be a grown up in my first marriage and she actually was a grown up in college. Once she was heading back to school and asked me if I could cash a check for her. She handed me the check made out for $1. I looked at her said, “Who are you?” She got defensive, and I shook my head in incredulous sympathy, gave her the dollar and threw away the check. But I think of her this morning and realize that she has been doing with her leftovers what I did last night for years, and she is a happy person.
Peter Matthieson starts his book Men’s Lives with a quote I understood later was taken from someone else (bummer, I was wowed by him when I thought he wrote it). The quote reads “And, it’s men’s lives we eat for breakfast.” I get that quote big time. That left over lamb included a bleeping sheep, a farmer raising the green beans and potato, the chef in the kitchen who cooked it, the truck (or three) that delivered it, the waiter that served it (ok, I’m done, please tell me you get the point even if I can’t quite put my finger on it?).
The bottom line is that this new world that emerges from the ashes of our financial collapse offers something that is really quite nice. My finances are in better shape then they have ever been, but I notice them more. I feel more connected to them and to the lamb in my refrigerator.