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In their zeal to send whatever food they could to war-torn Europe, a lot of individuals went further still.
Some said restaurants should resell the uneaten food scraped from dirty plates.
As abundance democratized leftovers, wealthy people increasingly went out of their way to emphasize that they rarely ate them.
For instance, some white southerners publicized the fact that they sent their domestic servants home with the leftovers from their own dinners.
It was no accident that the term “left-overs” was coined in this era, or that one of the first cookbooks devoted to them, the 1910 But even as refrigeration turned leftovers into a distinct culinary category, they still weren’t anything to laugh about.
Americans in the early 20th century spent about 40 percent of their incomes on food, on average, and poor people spent even more.
Leftovers’ patriotic glamour dimmed in peacetime, however, and by the mid-1920s Americans were openly discussing the “problem of leftovers,” a new source of annoyance as food prices fell and home refrigeration became almost ubiquitous.
For everybody else, making the most of leftovers was both important and potentially pleasurable. In fact, the economic imperatives of the Great Depression helped to usher in a golden age of leftovers, a three-decades-long stretch that was inspired by the family budget but sustained by aesthetics.
Then, if it was a good thing to reheat leftovers, it was even better to mix them with sauce and sculpt rice rings around them. Leftovers of all kinds could be hidden in a potpie, blanketed in crepes, chopped up and molded into meat loaf.
Iceboxes were becoming standard features in middle-class homes, and early electric refrigerators soon followed.
Refrigeration made it possible to keep highly perishable foods edible for days simply by keeping them cool, and that prompted an enormous shift in American cuisine.