I write this at the hectic end of a hectic year, when potluck get-togethers can save your spirit or drive you crazy. Go anyway. If nothing else, you’ll probably be able to make a work lunch, or even a supper, from your friends’ leftovers. Especially if they’re the sort that makes enough to share beyond the party. The kind of friends who bring cellophane bags so people can take home some cookies.

I have learned to give away what I bring to potlucks so I can use my serving dish to carry home some spoils.

Tonight, I am having leftover roasted chicken with other gleanings from an excellent evening among friends. I’ll garnish the meal with some pickled peaches from the same event. Warm memories and a new flavor combination on this quiet evening.

The cold, crisp, star-bright nights are just beginning. Soon we will be ready to cultivate connection and warmth without the demands of big holidays. At some point in the next two months, the stillness of winter will provide incentive to offer my place as the site of the next small gathering.

For tonight, I’ll remember last Saturday with an aromatic meal and a good book, the cat sitting quietly on a chair nearby.

Potluck leftovers for one

Heat on medium in a large skillet (cast iron if you’re into it):

1 tablespoon olive oil

1½ tablespoon of your favorite herbs and spices

1 small shallot or onion, sliced in thin rings

Lower heat and sauté (slightly sizzling) until onion is clear or maybe slightly golden.

Stir in:

1 cup chopped fresh mushrooms

1 cup roasted chicken or other protein, cubed

Stir for about five minutes to let flavors merge, and then push mushroom mixture to one side of the pan.

Put on the other side of the skillet:

2 cup leftover prepared farro or rice

Turn way down low and cover, stirring every few minutes until the farro mixture is warm.

Serve with apple or tomato wedges, pickled peaches, or a lightly dressed slaw.

My friend Dagney, who brought the farro on Saturday night, dressed for the holiday with pomegranate seeds and slivered almonds, tells me that farro is an ancient whole grain wheat. It has a nutty flavor and chewy texture. She says there are several varieties and that the pearled farro she uses cooks as easily as rice and is high in protein.

There’s a meme making its way across the internet, and I think it may have some merit:

“Nobody claim 2023 as your year. We’re all going to walk in real slow. Be good. Be quiet. Be cautious and respectful. Don’t touch anything.” To which I will add: Be kind. Share food.

Home Ecology is a synthesis of two related academic disciplines: human ecology and home economics, both born of the idea that we live in a world of limited resources. When we recognize the limits, our lives can be both comfortable and sustainable. Shlomit Auciello is an award-winning writer, photographer, and human ecologist who has lived in Midcoast Maine since 1988. Home Ecology is published here on a bi-weekly basis.