Archive | May 20th, 2010

Griffin to Go: Lunch on a Budget

Griffin to Go: Lunch on a Budget

I recently started working for the census bureau. Don’t look for me on your doorstep, though. I’m in the office, not pounding the streets with questionnaires in my hand.

Going back to an office setting has meant a few changes, one of which is having to prepare a meal every day for work. I don’t do this the night before, like some mothers I know do for their kids. I don’t plan my meals out in advance, so I buy different treats to make the meals diverse and light.

I wait to the last minute, when it seems I’ll be late for work. “Oh, no!” I say. (Well, I don’t use the word “no,” but I think you get the idea.) “What am I going to eat today?”

So I grab a handful of zip-top bags and head for the fridge. I haven’t had a lot of leftovers lately to heat up, but there’s some salami. That’s a good meat choice, I say. And there’s a block of Jarlsburg cheese, from which I cut a hefty chunk. I reach for the mini-pickles at the back of the fridge or some leftover olives and dump them into another. I rinse off a pint of blackberries and stuff it in the same bag I used the day before. Why the same? Because there’s a bag of raw almonds inside as well as some leftover cookies in case I get the munchies or want a dessert (or both).

Lunch is ready in a matter of two minutes. And I’m out the door quicker than I ever thought imaginable.

Eating lunch with others, especially people you only know slightly, can be an interesting way of getting to know them better. Remember that scene in “The Breakfast Club” when Molly Ringwald pulled out her bento box with sushi for her detention lunch? When I saw it for the first time, some in the audience were making gagging noises, because sushi wasn’t as popular as it is today. Me, I wanted to reach a pair of chopsticks over and help myself to a taste.

Something similar happened my first few days at work. The first day, a co-worker announced that he had never seen anyone eat an avocado cut in half and topped with salt. “We’re getting all primeval,” he said.

My thought was that it was easy and required no cleaning time on my part. And it was so good I repeated it the following day. Different people, similar lunch, vastly different response: The two people in the break room that day were envious. The creamy green meat of the perfectly ripe avocado made them question their own choices.

I was glad to see someone else bring in an avocado a few days later.

I treat lunch the way I treat dinner: I like lots of small tastes of different things, sometimes piled on each other. It could be apple and celery side by side with a piece of cheddar cheese. Or peppery arugula with salami and a handful of nuts. Those blackberries, which have been so affordable lately, work well with both savory and sweet items. In the end, I have a kind of makeshift cheese plate with plenty of complementary tastes.

But I want to know what other ideas I can use in a last-minute lunch. What do you pack when you’re brown bagging it? Post some ideas below.

I haven’t grabbed a tin of anchovies yet. Ths salty fishes are just perfect for olives and a hard-cooked egg or two. I wonder what my co-workers would think of that.

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