meals & the modern office

My birthday happened recently, and the ever-cool Cheshin mailed me a box of prezzie stuff. I could do a whole blog series on all the things that were wrapped up inside — Cheshin is ever-cool in gift selection as well as a whole host of other things. But that would be too much like those people who show off their shopping sprees on YouTube, so I'm going to focus on the lunch bag she got me.

I had an Elle lunch bag a while ago, and while I loved the idea of schlepping my food to work in something that wasn't a leftover plastic bag, I had a hard time fitting everything in that I wanted to bring. The thing is, calling these things "lunch bags" is a little like calling the laptop I'm typing on now a "word processor" — sure, it can do that, and its ancestors did that too (some of them), but it does a whole lot of other things besides. It's just not a good description anymore.

Here's all the things I fit into my new cool lunch bag this morning:
back row: bowl for breakfast, bowl for lunch entree, salad dressing cup, tea cup
front row: apple, hunk of extra-old cheddar, utensils, two slices of malt loaf

I'm not just toting lunch. I'm toting breakfast (mostly yogourt parfaits this week), lunch (risotto with fiddleheads and grilled chicken), dessert (malt loaf), and a late afternoon snack (the apple and cheese). Usually the apple and cheese winds up being the last thing I eat for the day, in case that sounds like a lot of food to you.

So basically I'm fitting three meals into one "lunch" bag. Breakfast is eaten at work because I hate eating in transit, and it's not nice for whoever winds up sitting beside you on the subway. Lunch is the one meal everyone who works days expects to eat at work, so hopefully it's self-explanatory. I'm one of those people who gets suddenly and extremely hungry around 3-4pm, hence the apple and cheese.

Those little lunch bags that are meant to hold a tiny salad, half a sandwich, and a small cup of no-added-sugar fruit cocktail aren't going to cut it, though. Besides, I don't know anyone who can live off that for a 8-10 hour workday who doesn't have, ah, "food issues." That might be all they bring with them, but you can bet they're making at least one trip to Starbucks during the day.

At last lunch bag manufacturers are catching on:

All the food, the containers, the utensils, and the cup packs into this bag (I even stuck them in there for the photo for truth in blogging). I have room for more if I needed it. Yesterday I brought soba noodles with shrimp in peanut sauce, and had a container of peanuts packed as an extra. I still had room for more stuff.

The bag fits regular-size chopsticks easily, which is also a nice plus.

Cooking for yourself and toting the results instead of running out for food makes sense on a lot of different levels. I've been pretty strict about bringing lunch in five days a week for a few months now, and already I'm noticing my tastes starting to change. Not that the doughnut shop across the road doesn't make nice sandwiches, but home-made is better, and probably healthier.

Office workers tend to eat two if not three meals during today's working hours. Much has been made of how unhealthy "deskfest" can be, but lots of people only have time to eat at their desks or not at all. It's probably better on all counts if fewer of these are take-aways.