Thursday, February 10, 2011

Don't even think about Lunchables
by guest blogger Emily Threlkeld

Guest blogger Emily Threlkeld continues telling us about the challenge she has given herself: cooking every single thing she eats for the entire month of February. This week she explains how she handles homemade lunches at work. (Also included are photos of Emily's actual lunches for a week!)

So before we get to the hardest part about this month—dinner, in case you were wondering, although breakfast comes in at a close second—let's do the fun part: lunch.

There is no place more depressing to have lunch than in the employee break room of a retail store. You're surrounded by lockers, cleaning supplies, vending machines, and, in the middle of winter, other people's coats hung over all the chairs. It's not pretty, and yet lunch is my favorite part of the day. Not just because it's half an hour of quiet away from the needs of all the couples I try to pick out housewares with, but because I have become an expert lunch packer. So much so that my co-workers, who usually bring a Lean Cuisine or the remains of last night's pizza, always want to know what I'm having.

When I first started working, I invested $25 in a lunchbox. It felt like an unreasonable sum to me at the time, but it was really just the equivalent of two or three lunches out. I wanted to pack my lunch mostly to save money. Also, because we have such a short lunch break, I didn't want to spend my lunch break running out to my car, ordering something, shoving it in my face, and rushing back to work.

The problem is that I work in a shopping center. In less than one mile there is a great crepes place, a Chick-fil-a, Jason's Deli, a noodle place, and a fantastic Greek restaurant. There are probably even more awesome eateries that I don't know about. So if I was going to pack myself a lunch, it had to be good enough for me to resist temptation that surrounded me.

Here's the good news about making a lunch for yourself: No matter what memories you have of brown bagging it as a kid, you're a grown-up now. You know what you like.

I usually try to think of my main dish first. Some recent favorites include egg fried rice, curry chicken salad, stir fry, half a baked potato covered in cheese and bacon, and, because sometimes I'm in a hurry and don't feel like reinventing the wheel, a turkey sandwich.

Then I try to fill my lunchbox with fruits and vegetables, preferably fresh ones. Not only is this healthy, but it makes your lunch pretty to look at. Sometimes I even make myself a side salad.

Finally, make it nice. Pack a napkin, real cutlery. I usually throw in a piece of candy as a small treat. When I can, I throw something in the tiniest container in my lunch box. Sour cream, fruit dip. Partially because it's fun to interact with my food and partly because I love hearing, "Oh my God, she brought parmesan cheese to sprinkle on her pasta."

Emily Threlkeld

EMILY THRELKELD is a newlywed living in Raleigh, North Carolina. She's also a writer and a photographer who supports herself being a bridal consultant at Bed, Bath, & Beyond.

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