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Jan 9, 2007 11:54 PM

What's the rule in your house regarding restaurant leftovers?

I have a fifteen year old son, who left to his own devices, will consume everything in our refrigerator. He's 5-7, 135 but has the metabolism of a hummingbird.

And he likes leftovers.

My wife and my younger son like to bring leftovers home from a restaurant. And they don't like it when "their" leftovers are eaten before they wake up in the morning or before they've come home from school or work.

Personally, I always seem to order just the right amount, because I never or rarely seem to have any leftovers.

But, whose leftovers are they really?

In my childhood home, leftovers were fair game. I think they were anyway.

The theory (I think) was this:

Anyone could order more than they could eat just so they could have something they want to eat the next day. I distinctly remember ordering two quarter pounders when I was like 10, saving one for the next day, then having my mom tell me I had to share it with my brother. She felt that he could just have easily ordered a sandwich he wasn't going to eat to save for the next day. That he ordered the right amount for his dinner, didn't mean he shouldn't have half a quarter pounder the next day (I guess that would ba an eighth pounder.)

My wife thinks that leftovers belong to the leaver. At least for a day. In other words, you bring home leftovers, you get 24 hours to eat them. After that, they are community leftovers.

That's the way we do things in theory, she is the boss after all, but hungry 15 year old son has the impulse control of a tiger shark and often violates the unwritten rules. This leads to conversations that begin with "Who ate my lasagna? and and with someone's bleeding and me having to take away someone's guitar for a couple of days. Or with something broken.

How do you handle the leftover question? When to "my leftovers" become "anyone's leftovers?"

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  1. I agree with your wife. If it was on your plate, and you bring it home, they are your leftovers. :)

    1. My girlfriend's leftovers are hers. My leftovers are hers too.

      1 Reply
      1. re: ESNY

        My kind of man! :-) That's pretty much the general rule in our household and I'm sure my husband would tell you the same!

        He's still pissed at his mom for eating a piece of peanut butter cheesecake that I left him in the fridge while he was napping, oh, about three years ago! It was clearly not meant for her- piece of cheesecake in a styrofoam container with napkin and fork neatly placed on top.

      2. leftovers are for the original "owner" unless specified. I look forward to my second acts and would be very disappointed if they had disappeared during the night.

        That was the general rule growing up too - I just, after 20 years (over drinks :-)), "admitted" to a family member being the one to sneak her hallowed leftover gingerbread cookie (and she immediately remembered the incident!)- we all got a good laugh!

        1. You make me happy to be alive! You've succinctly posed a seemingly simple question that reflects the existential queries of our times.

          Why didn't your brother order an extra quarter pounder (or two) when you were ten? Was it lack of information, perhaps information that you withheld from him? Was it his altruism? Belief that you would share the next day?

          Same with your younger son. Is he trying to be like you? Doesn't he know that his brother (your older son) operates on a zero-sum game?

          Are you unwittingly or wittingly re-creating between your sons what happened between you and your brother?

          HAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!! Sorry!

          1. Leftovers belong to the person who ordered them! In my family your little brother would have been punished for not planning out his own future meal. Okay, probably not. Mom was all about sharing, but she would have chastised us to order more next time if we were all going to fight over the burger the next day.

            Then again, we're Chinese, so food is usually family style and leftovers belonged to whoever got to them first. Food that one person brings home from a restaurant is definitely off limits, though.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Pei

              "Then again, we're Chinese, so food is usually family style and leftovers belonged to whoever got to them first." We're not Chinese, but our leftovers usually are, and they're usually brought home from a meal with the extended family or friends, which muddies the issue. Mrs. O is most often the one who paid our part of the tab, but I'm the one who eats lunch at home during the week. If I have alternatives and/or if she has requested that I save something for her, I'll let the stuff sit for a day or two. Otherwise, and especially if it's two spoons of this and a dab of that (since unlike her I'll quite happily throw everything in one bowl and nuke it), I have no compunctions about taking it.