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I'd like to believe I have enough personal self-awareness to differentiate between relative degrees of unpleasantness.

Gashing yourself with a chainsaw is bad. A paper cut is bad. The fact that I'd be complaining just as loudly about the latter as the former is an indication that self-awareness isn't the same thing as not being a big ol' whiny-baby. But you'll have to trust me that I do, at least, know the difference.

So when I say I had to do something last weekend that made me feel bad, well, you know it may have been bad only to me. Which, according to the Columnists Code, means it's bad for everyone.

In the course of a wonderful trip out of town and with a heaviness of heart and something close to a tear, I had to throw away some leftovers. Which, to me, is bad.

And bad on a lot of levels. There's a historical aspect to my anguish. There's also a financial aspect, a culinary aspect and a bunch of other aspects because when people start whining, they never stop at just one.

As with most things, I'm going to say this dates back to my childhood. Because, well, it does. And because that's a convenient place for exceptionally whiny people to start placing blame, since most everyone who can counter the narrative either doesn't remember or isn't around to dispute today's version.

As a cook, my mother made up for taste with volume. She grew up on a farm in somewhat precarious financial times, so dinners were big and food did not go to waste. And since she raised two boys who hit puberty and athletics at about the same time, her admonitions that we finish our plates and not throw anything away was probably as necessary as reminding us that water was, in fact, wet.

She also instilled in us a belief that is so subjective as to be unproveable one way or the other, which means I'll be able to preach it as gospel. My mother was convinced leftovers were elevated beyond their status as the food you just hadn't gotten to by the fact that, magically, in a refrigerator, flavors "set."

So often did she repeat this that I believed for years that was the only and true meaning of the word. Which definitely shook my introduction to concrete and plaster. But did enlighten me as to impacts of days-old goulash.

In my mother's world, spaghetti aged like wine. Particularly if there was wine in it. Finding meatloaf from earlier in the week in the fridge was like finding money in your coat pocket. And even that aforementioned goulash merely needed love, care and two minutes in the microwave to spring back to life.

Couple that belief in the culinary qualities of added (refrigerator) shelf life with an almost religious fervor about saving any and everything of value, based on the concept that bad times were just around the corner, and you may understand why it's so hard for me to let go. At least when it comes to week-old lasagna.

So imagine my anguish on Sunday morning last when I had to make that final, difficult call and part with some leftover pizza and carrot cake. OK, two separate things.

They were so young, both of them. Which made it so, so hard to let go. I thought of the time someone had spent making them, and the joy they'd given us. And, yes, I did consider, briefly, that I had paid actual money for them and who knows if I'd ever get to eat carrot cake or pizza again? Yeah, thanks Mom.

But I had to be a clear-eyed realist and acknowledge that the heartburn and other consequences of pizza I'd beaten back the night before might not be so easy to defeat in an automobile for extended periods of time. And carrot cake isn't exactly the finger food of choice for navigating traffic in a larger American city.

So, they had to go. It was fun while it lasted. Or, in the case of the pizza, lingered.

Not sure there is a moral to this story, except apparently it takes a lot longer to outgrow some things from your childhood than others. And there are just some decisions you shouldn't over-think. Like when to throw stuff away.

And I'm OK with that. Or at least I will be when I finish off that cheesecake I know is hiding in the back of the fridge. Because it's really good after a few days.

Commentary on 03/15/2019

Print Headline: Learning to let go

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