Many consider Thanksgiving the start of the holiday season, a time to be thankful and count our blessings. As a young working professional left to my own devices most of the year in regards to cooking, this Thanksgiving I will be most thankful for the AMAZING food my family makes. Between the main event (the turkey), the glorious sides that some argue are better than the main event, and ample amounts of dessert, there is never enough room in my stomach for all the food I want to consume. But fear not—my family is very, very generous—they let me take home LEFTOVERS! If any of you have had the pleasure of packaging up leftovers, you know how much time and effort it takes to package them correctly. A lot of variables are at play here, so you have to answer a few questions. How will the food be stored (cabinet or refrigerated device)? Does the food have to travel? Are liquids involved? How long are you waiting to relive your Thanksgiving feast? In order to correctly preserve your precious leftovers, you must package them correctly.
Throughout history people have been using packaging to preserve their food. Clarence Birdseye, “The Father of Frozen Food,” invented a method for flash freezing food and the process safely preserved the taste of the food with wax carton packaging. In 1927, cellophane became the new thing in packaging, even though plastic was first used for packaging back in 1856. (Fun fact: every decade since has introduced a new innovation in packaging materials).
Not only do I love leftovers for the experience of tasting those flavors once (or twice) more, but also for their convenience. I can just pop them into the microwave and BAM! The whole feast is presented before my eyes in a fraction of the time. Relating this back to the packaging world, the 1950s were a great time for convenience and packaging. The fast food industry was booming, creating a need for new, convenient, single-serve, disposable packaging. This trend was also responsible for the rise of TV-dinners, boil-in-bag foods, and cake mixes.
Leftovers weren’t always held in the high regard I give them (clearly, I’m a fan). They weren’t even thought of until the ol’ icebox came around. With its invention, modern day leftovers were born. But somewhere along the line, the idea of leftovers became less desirable to some.
“By the 1960s, when the majority of American homes had electricity and refrigeration technology improved, leftovers potentially had a much longer life. Yet as food prices fell, leftovers lost status; throwing them away became a mark of middle-class status. Fast food restaurants and frozen meals were newly affordable, and often more convenient than cooking at home. Consuming these innovations conveyed a modern, casual affluence in a way that packing up last night’s painstakingly prepared pot roast most definitely did not.”
Maybe leftovers will become vogue again. With portion sizes becoming bigger and bigger, hopefully, people are boxing things up and taking some of that food home for another meal. Just google food portions in the past decade and most likely you’ll find more than one article about their growing size (along with our growing waistlines).
Whatever the reason for leftovers, I am thankful for them this season. And I will take great care to package them for optimal enjoyment at a future date.