Leftovers Are a Pandemic Habit Worth Reheating

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As recovery from the coronavirus pandemic continues, Bloomberg Opinion is running a series of columns looking at crisis-inspired innovations that promise better living over the long run — from more resilient economies, cleaner cities and healthier offices to five-star meal kits, better telemedicine and no more airline change fees.

Dinner the night before had been boneless chicken thighs chopped into pieces and cooked in a skillet with Swiss chard, onion, garlic, poblano pepper and some fish sauce. It would have been pretty good just warmed up by itself in the microwave, but because I was in my own kitchen (and yeah, partly because I knew I was going to write this column) I grated some Gruyere cheese on top before microwaving, then added pea shoots, avocado and tomato with a drizzle of olive oil and a squirt of lemon after. It was a solid, satisfying meal, totally worth the modest extra effort.

Eating leftovers for lunch is not entirely new for me. Making them into respectable meals is something that started with the pandemic, and I’ve been thinking lately about how to continue doing it once I’m in the office more frequently. I get the feeling a lot of other people have been having similar thoughts.

Now, I’m not saying we should only eat leftovers at work. Restaurant lunches with friends, colleagues and business contacts can be great, and thanks to the December Covid-19 relief bill some of them (it doesn’t seem to be entirely clear yet which ones) will be fully tax-deductible this year and next. But lunchtime takeout is often sad and expensive and not particularly good for you.

Leftovers can mean eating healthier, saving money and wasting less food, and while they, too, can be sad, they don’t have to be! I say we take what we’ve learned over the past year, and keep giving our food second chances.

One key for me is probably going to be replacing the old takeout containers I’ve used in the past to bring leftovers to work with something more durable and esthetically pleasing. Another will be taking the time to think ahead about combining what’s in the fridge and pantry into something new.

The most satisfying such reinvention in recent weeks has probably been the chickpea pancakes with melted cheese and leftover greens featured in this month’s Bon Appetit, which were great but really aren’t going to be practical at the office. There are lots of less-ambitious tweaks, though, that just require a bit of advance planning: preparing a blend of spices and chopped nuts for sprinkling, adding some fresh greens and grated cheese to the leftovers in the morning, keeping a bottle of olive oil in my office drawer.

Food is a glorious thing, even reheated food. It deserves to be treated with more respect than I had been treating it.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.

Justin Fox is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering business. He was the editorial director of Harvard Business Review and wrote for Time, Fortune and American Banker. He is the author of “The Myth of the Rational Market.”

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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