This is the leftover time of year. The season of thinning calendars and plumping people. As we waddle our way home from yet another calorie-packed holiday gathering – our svelte summertime selves rapidly becoming another fading memory – many of us are carting containers of leftovers.     
     Our hosts had insisted upon it. “Here, take this cheese dip with you, we’ll never be able to eat it all,” they had urged. “And, why don’t you take that bag of chips, too. You’ll need them to go with the dip. Honestly, I don’t know what motivated Ed to buy such a huge bag of chips. It’s the size of a mattress. And while you’re at it, why don’t you take this moose haunch with you. It’s just been taking up space in the freezer.”     
     Being the polite folk that we are and not wanting to appear ungrateful or wasteful, we accept these gifts. We will never see the high fives our host and hostess will give each other, nor will we hear them exclaim as we stagger toward our car under the weight of our bounty, “Woohoo. We finally got rid of the last of that moose carcass.”
     We return to our abodes with full bellies and arms laden with leftover victuals. Food which will probably never again see the light of day until many years later, when it’s finally tossed out. At least that’s how it works at our house.     
     For instance, I might go rummaging around in our fridge, looking for a little something to enhance the performance of my homemade taco.
    “How old is this guacamole?” I’ll ask my wife.     
     “What guacamole?” she’ll reply. “We don’t have any guacamole. We’ve never had any guacamole.”     
     “So, what’s this green, slimy stuff?” I’ll ask as I take a deep whiff of the substance in question. “Never mind,” I’ll continue. “What’s the phone number of the nearest hazardous waste dump?”     
     And so, we’ll toss the gunk out. My wife will feel badly about discarding vittles that were perfectly good food, albeit sometime in the last century. I, on the other hand, worry we may have snuffed out a burgeoning new life form. Perhaps it would have one day climbed out of that primordial ooze and emerged as a used car salesman or maybe even something more primitive such as a Kardashian.     
     This leads us to one of the main reasons why we Americans are so fond of eating in restaurants: Because the problem of what to do with leftovers can be left to others. All of the stuff we couldn’t stuff down our gullets is quickly and efficiently whisked away. We can assuage our pangs of guilt over not opting for a doggie bag by telling ourselves doggie bags are hideously unstylish. And besides, you own a cat.     
     But as I discovered recently, restaurants can have their own set of hazards.
     Even though she had sworn off of them many years ago, my wife had a birthday. We decided to mark this event by dining at a snooty, haute cuisine restaurant.     
     My wife, sensibly, ordered the prime rib while I went for the quail. I really should have known better. Whenever you read a menu and can’t understand the description of your chosen entree, you’re asking for trouble.     
     The menu’s description of the quail went something like: Our virginal quail are hand-raised in an elegant quail coop. Our chef begins the preparation by conducting a ceremony that celebrates the birds’ lives and their impending contribution to our patrons’ gustatory gratification. The chef then lovingly and humanely guillotines the birds, making sure they remain unaware of the falling blade. The quail’s feathers are gently removed and donated to a non-profit organization that constructs mattresses for homeless hamsters. The chef tenderly lays each bird in an unctuous marinade that contains echoes of musk thistle and hints of birch bark. The quail is stuffed with a Tasmanian fruit compote, lightly grilled and served with a sprinkle of aromatic bovine compost reduction.     
     It sounded so delicious. But when the serving plate – which was the size of a hubcap – was placed before me, I took one look and couldn’t help but think: sparrows. I’m paying beaucoup bucks to be served a couple of fancily grilled sparrows. I couldn’t stop my mind’s eye from locking onto images of the dingy little brown birds that are forever bombing my windshield.     
     I swiftly lost my appetite. I called our server over and said, “Um, ma’am? I’m not nearly as hungry as I thought. You wouldn’t have a kitty-cat bag, would you?”
    Jerry is a recovering dairy farmer from Volga, S.D. He and his wife, Julie, have two grown sons and live on the farm where Jerry’s great-grandfather homesteaded over 110 years ago. Jerry currently works full time for the Dairy Star as a staff writer/ad salesman. Feel free to E-mail him at: jerry.n@dairystar.com.