Though I practice frugality on an intermittent basis (“is it at Target? Then it must be affordable!” she says as she drops $100 on a shopping cart of “necessities”), I still hold onto a few tricks from my student budgeting days. When eating out, for example, my brain has a tendency to calculate the cost of an entree based on how many meals I’ll get out of it. That $20 plate of fried chicken from Blue Smoke? There’s no way I’m eating that in one sitting (unless I’m really going all out), so it can be rationalized as two $10 plates of chicken.
In theory. In truth, when you see me taking a doggy bag home from a restaurant, the food inside likely won’t make it to lunch the next day. Really, what I’ve done with that expensive restaurant dish is give myself a luxurious morning treat, because I’ll be eating those leftovers for breakfast.
Unlike brinner (that’s breakfast for dinner, for those of you not schooled in abbreviations and portmanteaus), cold leftover breakfast isn’t something prepared for the occasion. As fans of the practice know, cold leftover breakfast is not fancy. It is not something to be shared. Most of the time, it doesn’t even need a plate—just a fork or fingers to eat it straight from the container. And, crucially, it is not heated.
Like a long-simmered stew that takes a night in the fridge to fully meld and deepen its flavors, something about a cool overnight spell in the refrigerator makes whatever you ate for dinner the evening before taste that much better. Can food scientists quantify why? Is it alchemy? Is it magic? Is it all in my head?
Nah, I know I’m not the only one who’s into this particular delicacy, though my husband thinks it’s one of the most repulsive eating habits in my repertoire. Cold pizza is far and away the gold standard for most cold leftover breakfast aficionados, though everyone has their favorite weakness, and there’s not much that’s off-limits. Refried beans and rice from the Mexican restaurant are mas delicioso the next morning; Thai noodles and curries are just as zippy; and mashed potatoes and stuffing are even more satisfying than the traditional post-Thanksgiving turkey sandwich. Sandwiches even make the cut: I have two friends who have separately introduced me to the wonder of Cold Burger.
Saucy pastas are my personal preference when it comes to cold leftover breakfast: spaghetti carbonara, linguini with clam sauce (with Bar Harbor canned clams for the best texture), rigatoni marinara that’s been dusted with a little extra grated Pecorino before it’s sealed into the fridge for the night, penne vodka—I love you all. And oh, the sensation of sinking your teeth into a cold meatball is an unparalleled joy.
I rationalize my love for cold leftover breakfast by telling myself that it’s far more of a complete, filling meal than a piece of toast or apple with peanut butter, or one of my pathetic, I-don’t-really-have-enough-fruit-and-veg-here smoothies would be. As a bonus, on some busy and distracting days, cold leftover breakfast doubles as lunch when I look up from my work and realize it’s already 2:00 pm. So I order twice as much Thai food as I know I can finish while watching Parenthood, I cook a little extra spaghetti for myself and immediately divide it up into two containers, and I certainly have no qualms about getting a large pizza.
Don’t worry, if you’re ever invited over for brunch, I’ll have a freshly prepared spread of eggs, French toast, and lots of bacon waiting for you. But if I ever have you over for dinner, don’t be so sure that I won’t be feasting on the remnants of our meal the next morning. Cold creamed spinach, anyone?