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Inverting the Buffalo

“Using the Whole Buffalo” is a pretty common catch phrase, as is the old saying “Waste not, Want not.”

They definitely passed through my mind as I watch my cousin trim a pepper a few years ago. But it was her house and she had been kind enough to invite over my brother and I (with our families) to visit and have dinner. So as she deftly sliced off a huge chunk and tossed it in the garbage, I held my tongue.

My brother on the other hand… “Hey. There was a lot of good pepper on there.”

“If you want to rescue it, go right ahead.” She promptly repeated the gesture with the next pepper and proceeded with dinner.

I couldn’t help but think of my mother-in-law. She would be horrified. There are not words to describe the particular care with which she epitomizes the “waste not” – at least among people I have personally observed.

Once, as a teenager, my Husband steamed broccoli, but used more water than his mother thought ideal. She stated that too many nutrients had been leached out of the vegetable so the water must be saved and used in another dish. My Husband saw it as a punishment for not doing it to her precise specifications. Seriously, saving broccoli juice? However, it was indeed saved and curiously enough, they found it did wonders in baked salmon with veggies.

She will cut open plastic bottles to get at the last little bits and eats the crumbs that miss the plate. Honestly the woman amazes me – in a good way. I admire the careful frugality.

On the other hand, it’s not without cost. The time spent preparing meals and managing the re-used containers adds up significantly.

Meanwhile, my cousin with the pepper – amazes me, too, but in a different way. You see, her professional training is in catering. She was drilled to be efficient and fast. She is good at what she does. It reminds me of the line in Ratatouille where the mentoring chef adamantly declares, “You cannot be mommy!”

Although some may deem the pepper such a small thing, I confess I’ve reflected back on that, considering the balance between her compared to my mother-in-law. There are methods and rational in both madnesses, so to say.

They both have a pool of resources to use. They are simply bartering one commodity to preserve a different one. Either of them could look at the other and deem them “wasteful” but only in terms of their points of view and value system.

Just as Jeff expressed in his post yesterday, it’s easy to question whether my time might be better spent in chores and house management. I certainly have well-meaning friends and family that have wondered – including my mother-in-law.

She literally is one of those who gave up the dream of her youth, of being an actress, to be a wonderful mother and homemaker.  For her I don’t think she regrets it one bit. She took those dreams of singing and performing and inspired her family to be performers with a love of music and dance. Her dream was not wasted. It was transformed.

Granted, there are people who waste out of carelessness, ignorance or a million other reasons, including pride. Some times we waste out of plain fear.

Another memorable story from my Husband’s childhood is the garbage can of pecans. His mother had bought the nuts in bulk and hidden them from little hands snitching them (which did happen in their home of 9 kids, most of them boys).

She wanted to save them for a special time or at least to use them effectively. Unfortunately, they were forgotten and by the time they were rediscovered they had gone rancid.

Sometimes the choice is taken from us.

Yesterday I heard the unmistakable thud/smash and the skittering of glass across the kitchen floor. My four year old had dropped a two pound jar of strawberry jam on the floor. The lid was still sealed, fresh from the store.

My eldest daughter was horrified and moved to tears at the loss watching the jam ooze from the thoroughly busted remains. The heavy impact had sprayed glass shards across the entire floor and even into two other rooms. Her tears upset my two year old who’s been sick on and off, so he ended up wailing, too.

I won’t say I wasn’t highly frustrated, but I resisted the urge to lecture my daughter about playing with glass jars (which she had indeed been doing, spinning and sliding it across the table). While I cleaned the sticky mess and scoured the floor for glittering shards, a million threads of thought paraded and battled in my head.

I mourned the loss of the food, the time lost, the potential injuries, that I hadn’t been more alert to the situation in time to prevent it and so many more.

My Husband though, sighed when I told him over the phone what had happened. “Charge it off to homeschooling – learning life. We’ve all broken things. Do you need me to pick up another jar from the store on my way home?”

As a learning experience, for more than one child, it’s actually quite cheap. He’s right, I’ve broken things, including things more expensive than a bottle of jam. I have the scar to show for one of them. No one was hurt.

Even though the food couldn’t be salvaged, there is other things of value that can be.

If perhaps next time she pauses and thinks twice about playing with a glass object, then it was money well spent. Or perhaps I can get a two for one and I can learn from it too.

So… what have you been “wasting” and what have you salvaged from it?

About Ren Black

Part-time novelist. Weekend artist. Full-time Mother. Ex-poet. Perfectionist by training. Compulsive researcher sporadically. Prone to fits of linguistic commentary Unorthodox Renegade occasionally. Sarcastic by habit... Dreamer Always... Consider Yourself Warned

One comment on “Inverting the Buffalo

  1. Hey! I recently came to a similar conclusion :). I used to get so mad at my boys when they would break, spill, rip up, or otherwise destroy something. I eventually decided that I would have a better influence on them if I focused more on people and not things. I’m learning to recognize that things are just things, and the more important aspect of a situation is the lesson learned, levels of kindness displayed, learning responsibility, honesty about what happened, etc. I’m just so elated when the kids make it through their learning experiences in one piece! I’m also learning to listen, and enjoy their “littleness” while I can. They are growing up so fast, and I’m learning to treasure how small they are, and how innocent, without guile, and loving they are. While i may be upset that Olie drew on an important paper- I did leave it in such a reachable spot for little hands after all, and he drew such a beautiful picture on it for me, with such sweet intentions, just hoping to see me smile when he handed me this masterpiece he spent so much time on just to show me he loves me. I’m trying to savor it all while they still want to sit on my lap to read stories and beg me to play Candyland with them. So I guess you could say that I’m learning not to waste opportunity. Far too often, we are too busy to play and to learn from the ones we are supposed to become more like.

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