Just enough left

 

Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s need, but not every man’s greed. 

Mahatma Gandhi (1869 – 1948)

 

Boxing Day, December 26. 2009 was the Non-Profit organisation, Do Something’s inaugural National Leftovers Day.  Their goal is to reduce food waste and its environmental and financial costs, and they believe that Christmas time was the ideal time to launch their campaign.  Their research shows that Australians waste over $5 billion worth of food per year, thats over 3 million tonnes, and that food waste peaks in the festive season when, according to 2008 figures, Australians spend $7.6 billion on food in December alone. Their FOODWISE website http://tinyurl.com/y9429hw includes information about cutting down on food waste with a good selection of recipes for using leftover food. 

When I first saw the website I couldn’t believe that people needed to learn how to use leftovers! But then food has always been like a chain story for me, for example roasted meat leftovers become cold meat sandwiches or topping for pizza and the carcass is boiled up to make stock for soup.  Fritatas are filled with leftover vegetables and curries and noodle dishes are the repository of many a leftover pulse, vegetable or meat. The process of food metamorphosis continues, until leftovers of the leftovers of the leftovers find themselves in the compost, feeding the worms. 
But then I’m someone who buys and wears second hand clothes… and I mend them, I reuse containers and get my books from the library. Cooking leftovers is endemic to my lifestyIe. I have my parents to thank for this. Growing up on a farm in the 1960’s meant knowing where what you ate came from, and where everything ended up. There were no garbage or recycling trucks. What couldn’t be used was burnt or buried. As most of the food production was on the farm, there was little packaging and what tins we had became pot plant holders or containers, glass jars were used for housing homemade jams and pickles, and as for plastic? What plastic? Our clothes were passed down from one kid to the next, and when finally worn out they went into the rag bag. Underpants were my mother’s favourite dusters. So as a beginner storyteller, when I heard the following story, I was enraptured. Not only did it tickle my sense of humour, it was a story that spoke of my life. Thank you to American storyteller, Colleen Sutherland, for telling this story. Since I first heard it I have told it to many groups of older women who have loved it, because it is the story of their lives too. There are versions of this tale in many traditions and cultures. It is one of the stories that can help guide us in our choices to help save our planet.

Just enough left

 

There was once a young woman who worked from sunrise till candle stump sewing clothes. She darned socks and patched shirts, she mended trousers and hemmed skirts. Day in, day out, plied her needle, all the while hoping that one day a customer would bring her material so she could create something beautiful.
One morning just before dawn, she wakened to the sound of knocking, She left her bed and climbed down the stairs from the attic and opened the door. The street was deserted and yet at her feet lay a bolt of material. Who could have left it? The girl lifted it up lugged it up the stairs to her room.  She opened her curtain to let in the first rays of sunlight, then laid out the cloth on the floor.  She sat on her bed and looked at the shimmering white silk in wonder. Before her eyes she saw a vision of what it could become. The tailor went to her sewing box and took out her scissors and immediately set about cutting the cloth. 
Snip, snip snip. There was just enough material left to make a wedding dress.
And as fate would have it, it was the tailor herself who wore the dress the following Spring. One of her customers, a gentleman, very impressed with her invisible mending had come courting the young woman and fallen head over heels in love with her. And when she appeared in her wedding dress, everyone gathered to celebrate the union gasped in amazement at its beauty. None more so than the groom himself.
With goblets brimming with sweet red wine, they drank to the health of the bride and groom, but when the bride, in her nervousness, took her own cup, it slipped and spilt down the front of her wedding gown.
That evening she soaked it but knew that no amount of salt would be able to removed the stain. Sadly she dried it and bundled it away in her trunk, determined to do something with it after her honeymoon.
Upon her return from travel, the tailor moved into the house of her husband and took with her, the scant belongings. She set up her sewing room and opened the trunk. There was the stained wedding dress, which she laid out on the table. It was such a shame to not use it, but as she stared at it she had an idea. She took out her scissors and immediately set about cutting the cloth. 
Snip, snip snip. There was just enough material left to make a cape.
Now that she was married to a gentleman, she was invited to many balls. She and her husband would dance the night away and arrive home in the early hours of the morning. All the ball goers remarked on the shimmering  twirl of her cape. It was one morning in late autumn when she sat in the warmth of her kitchen with her feet up on a stool, that she chanced to look down at the hem of her cape. It was  mud stained and tattered. She removed it and lay it over a chair.
‘Such a shame,’ she thought, knowing she could no longer wear the cape, ‘if only there was another use for it.’ But as she examined it, another idea popped into her head.  She took out her scissors and immediately set about cutting the cloth. 
Snip, snip snip. There was just enough material left to make a baby’s gown.
As Fate would have it, the following summer a bonny baby boy was born to the young wife, and to celebrate his birth, she dressed him in the beautiful silk baby’s gown. Over the next eight years, three more babies were born and each of them wore the silk gown. The last child was a little sickly, nestled in his mother’s arms in the midst of all the family and friends gathered together to celebrate his birth. Without warning he possetted over the gown. That evening she soaked the gown and dried  and then she looked at the stains on the front and as she carefully folded it up to put away she thought, ‘what a shame to put it away. There must be some use for it.’ 
But as she examined it she had an idea. She took out her scissors and immediately set about cutting the cloth. 
Snip, snip snip. There was just enough material left to make a hat.
Over the next twenty years the mother was very busy raising her children and her attendance of balls was curtailed and replaced with activities more in keeping with that of a bustling wife and mother. She went to  fetes and garden parties and always wore her white silk hat. One evening after a hectic afternoon helping out at a charity party she returned to her kitchen and sat down on her favourite chair and took off her hat. She was just about to place it on the table when she spied the perspiration marks around it’s band.
‘How unseemly,’ she thought ‘for a lady to wear a sweat stained hat. I must get rid of it. But what a shame when it has served me so well.’ It was then she had an idea.
She went to her sewing room, fetched her scissors and returned and  immediately set about cutting the cloth. 
Snip, snip snip. There was just enough material left to make a pocket for her apron.
The birth of her first grandchild was an occasion for celebration, and soon it was followed by another and another. It seemed the grandmother was working harder than ever and was never seen without an apron on and a duster or tea towel in her hand. But she always found time for the grand children clustered around her ankles. She would reach into her apron pocket and retrieve a sweet or a toy, a magic string or a finger puppet to amuse or console the little ones. One day she reached in and found her fingers had slipped straight through what had now become a frayed patch.
With great sadness she took off the apron and stared at the pocket.
‘Such a shame,’ she thought, knowing the pocket was no longer useful, ‘if only there was another use for it.’ But as she examined it, she had a thought.  She took out her scissors and immediately set about cutting the cloth. 
Snip, snip snip. There was just enough material left to make a covering for a button.
When she had made the white silk button cover she attached it to the waistcoat of her youngest grandchild’s vest. The little boy looked very proud in his brand new outfit sewn by his grandma. He jumped around the house, ran outside and wrestled with his older sister on the grass and then it happened.
Pop!
The button flew off the vest and rolled down the path until it fell with a splash into a mud puddle. The grandmother arrived just in time to see its demise. She walked down the path and fished it out of the water. She held it in her hands and remembered what it had been. 
‘Such a shame,’ she thought, knowing the button was no longer useful, ‘if only there was another use for it.’ But as she examined the mudstained, soggy scrap, she had a thought. 
‘There is just enough material left to finish the story.’

 

Artwork Inconstans by Roman W. Schatz

 

Incostans-sml
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