Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Brown Bagging It Doesn't Mean Lunch Has to Suck

Gas prices are obscenely high, restaurants are charging more than ever for food I could make better myself, and the thought of going near a Subway makes me want to gag. It's not exactly prime time for taking the leisurely lunch out, and faced with bills to pay, a fabulous wardrobe to maintain, and toes that need to be pedicured, I choose to do something rather revolutionary instead. I brown bag it. Or more accurately, adorable-pink-striped-tote it.

When my boss asks me what I'm doing for lunch and I respond that I brought it with me, she looks at me as though I am some kind of green-faced, purple-spotted anomoly. "You're so good," she says with a mix of admiration/slight horror, as though the thought of eating homemade food at lunch is akin to building schoolhouses alongside Oprah in Africa. I shrug and smile sheepishly, not sure how to take her "compliment" and then happily begin constructing my mid-day meal.

My self-made lunch is not the typical brown-bagged fare that accompanies school children across America to their classrooms. I do not bring peanut butter and jelly on white bread, and I do not perform experiments to find out how soggy my sandwich can get before I sit down to eat it. Rather than putting the whole thing together in the morning, I bring the individual parts so I can make my sandwich to order. Armed with Boar's Head turkey, Applegate Farms' provolone cheese, Tribe Sweet Red Pepper hummus, green leaf lettuce, and Orowheat Whole Grain & Oat with Corowise bread, I may look like I'm sporting half the grocery store when I arrive at work on Monday mornings, but it's worth it for the fresh taste that fills my mouth when I take my first bite of my very unsoggy sandwich.

As far as accompaniments, I keep with the whole healthy vibe I've got going on with my fiberlicious bread and nutritionally sound spread, and add some raw sugar snap peas, baby carrots and self-made pomegranite green iced tea to the mix. Approximately an hour before I'm ready to break bread, I put a single bag of tea in a water bottle, shake it like a polaroid picture and the pop it back in the mini-fridge to seep. By the time I'm spreading my hummus over my turkey and provolone, it's ready to go.

While the typical deli counter-assisted sandwich does present the propensity for boredom if consumed on a daily basis, topping options help keep my palate on its toes. A quarter pound of cranberry tuna salad from Whole Foods is one of my favorite ways to get my weekly mercury allotment in, and hummus veggie sandwiches loaded with red pepper and zucchini squash is another way I like to spice up my mouth with some different flavors. I have great intentions to make chicken salad or egg salad sometime, but the thought of buying, cooking and preparing all the ingredients makes me tired when I'm grocery shopping on Sunday. More often than not, I'll head straight to my favorite meat slicer at Gelson's and ask for a half-pound of the maple honey glazed turkey, please. He slices it just how I like it. And if he doesn't I make him re-do it.

I don't want my adorable-pink-striped-tote lunch to suck.

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