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Yesterday's food is today's new experience

The coffee is fresh. The toast is hot. The butter spreads across the toast in thin rivulets and puddles. Coarsely textured and creamy richness come together in that first delicious bite.

We fix the coffee to our liking, creating perfection in the first cup – a second cup is never the same – with cream and sugar or strongly flavoured, bitter and black. But what if the coffee is from yesterday’s pot, the toast cold (as they often prefer it in Britain)? Do we throw it out? I once had a wonderful summer dinner at a friend’s that featured lamb chops – far too many – from the grill. When the latter, still filled with food, was hauled back to the kitchen, I asked what he would do with it – thinking of how good a cold chop would taste for lunch the next day, or perhaps cutting the meat from the bones and using it as the base for a stew or curry, or slicing it thin and serving it au jus as the lamb equivalent of a hot beef sandwich, or crisping the slices to rid them of any extra fat and then tossing them with lettuce leaves and an oil and vinegar dressing or… But he said nothing. “Nothing. I’ll throw them out. I don’t eat used food.”

Well, he was doing well for himself and could afford never to eat “used” food. But I knew what he was missing. Flavour changes as food gets “left over” – sugars caramelize further when reheated, textures mutate. Cooking is about making the best with what you have, not making what you have with the best. Think of an apple. The crunch and juiciness and perky sourness of that first Macintosh, or sliced and cooked to golden in a little butter with a sprinkling of sugar and served with pancakes and French toast, or cored and then filled with a mess of raisins, rum, brown sugar, cinnamon, a dab of butter, a pinch of salt, and baked. Yesterday’s apple is not yesterday’s food. It is tomorrow’s compote and the following day’s applesauce.

Even coffee, even toast. Sometimes we need to appreciate how good these are on their own terms. That first cup tastes great but why throw what’s left over down the drain? Just because it’s yesterday’s food?

I put it in the fridge for iced coffee and add whatever’s brewing to the cold pot. Last night’s decaf goes down very well with the day before’s caf. Add ice, a dash of milk and just maybe a spoonful of sugar if aiming for a liquid dessert. Want more? Add a shot from that bottle of hazelnut liquor that was a house-warming gift eons ago and has been sitting on the bottom shelf. Yesterday’s food, indeed! And you’ve saved about $10 off the corner barista.

Yesterday’s toast? Surprise! It tastes good cold. Try it – particularly if it comes from a really good loaf – by itself. Savour the nuttiness and texture. Dry toast, tasted simply and eaten slowly, makes a great snack. Or, cut it into cubes, leaving the crusts on, and fry it in a little oil (or the morning’s bacon drippings) into which you’ve slowly browned a finely chopped clove of garlic. Lightly brown all sides of the cubes, toss them with a little salt and then let them cool on a paper towel. Bag them in the freezer for tomorrow’s salad croutons.

Barry Lazar is the Flavour Guy. You can reach him at



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