As I mentioned before, my mother was the Brinks truck of second-hand food. Not only did she carry baggies in her purse to restaurants, she could have taught a master class in Leftover Transport or started a government program called No Bite Left Behind.
At buffets—her favorite—she was like a pro baseball catcher behind the plate. Ready to take a leftover out, she would coyly slide it into her baggie, strategically poised over the giant purse on her lap, out of eyeshot from the crowd. She was an agile, efficient athlete with practiced moves designed to deflect attention from her game. Any family member or friend who went out to eat with us was on to her, but out of embarrassment, we all just played along as outfielders, looking into the stands, oblivious to what was happening at the plate.
One time, my parents took my brother and I to visit our older sister at college in Austin. The five of us were sitting at one of those long, family-style tables having an all-you-can-eat lunch at her dorm cafeteria. As mom was blissfully imbibing in her prefab, prix fixe dorm meal, all of a sudden, dad turned to her and asked if she needed a baggie. Then he whipped out a brown Hefty garbage bag from his pants—a humongous receptacle designed to hold a month's worth of leaves or a week's worth of refuse. I’ll never forget the look on his face as he proudly held it in the air. Nostrils flared, lips apart in laughter, he could hardly contain himself. You could tell he had been planning this little prank for some time, and he was clearly pleased with himself. Yep, we all busted a gut over that one.
Somewhere along the way, mom had upped her game by carrying one of those Little Oscar coolers in the car so we could stop at the mall after going out to eat without having to worry about the leftovers. She eventually got a second cooler that she wryly called Little Felix, and on certain occasions, she’d bring both Oscar and Felix along. Neil Simon might've even busted a gut over that one.