A few years ago, when The Hub’s office moved to a spot about 10 minutes from the house, he began coming home for lunch. It’s usually three days out of the week, since I have standing plans around midday for the other two. Besides, it wouldn’t do to spoil him.
If I have writerly duties that take me out at noontime or if I’m trashing the kitchen testing recipes (“Stay away! Everything’s covered in potato salad!”), he’s left to forage in the wilds of fast food offerings.
We figure lunching en casa can save a little money and, of course, Hub has a chance to bask in my presence – or fix the printer if it stopped working during the morning. Sometimes lunch is cloaked in ulterior motives.
My father came home for lunch every day until he retired, after which he still was home for lunch every day, but since he hadn’t gone anywhere, it was less of an event.
He worked exactly 15 minutes from home and there were no places to eat en route except for a barbecue joint. Even a born-and-bred North Carolinian can’t eat barbecue every single day, especially since there was always the threat that my mother would state “I Have Had Enough For One Day” around 5 p.m., then call him to pick up some for dinner.
I can’t plop a mystery meat sandwich on a plate and yell ‘bon appetit.’ I have a reputation to uphold, after all.
Daddy would roll in for lunch at exactly 12:15 p.m., pick up the sandwich mama left on the counter (usually bologna or the frighteningly vague “luncheon loaf”) and sit down to finish reading the morning paper while he ate. The soaps had started up for the day by then, so Mama was otherwise occupied. By 12:45 p.m., he had worked his way through the sandwich and back to the classified ads and was on his way to work.
For me, the challenge is finding lunches that are quick – shockingly, I’m not going to make Hub a five-course meal – but that live up to certain standards. I can’t plop a mystery meat sandwich on a plate and yell “bon appetit.” I have a reputation to uphold, after all.
Usually I make salads. Green leafiness gives us the illusion of healthy eating as we follow them up with Girl Scout cookies. Doesn’t everyone tout balanced diets?
Salad also bestows the absolution of healthfulness to whatever comes near it. Just about anything can stroll into a salad and receive its blessing, like a prostitute going to confession.
As a college student, I frequented the late lamented Porthole restaurant in Chapel Hill, where a long list of optional salad toppings included cooked ground beef and bacon (a hefty scoop, not some nervous little sprinkle). When I took my parents there, my salad arrived with the lettuce obscured by beef and cheese. It would be called a low-carb taco today, I suppose.
Daddy took a look and said, “That’s a salad?”
I replied, “Why, yes, and it’s so healthy!”
One thing I am particular about today is salad dressing. Dressing is where good salads go bad.
I bought bottles of salad dressing for the first few weeks of Hub-at-home lunches but found I was getting tired of them. Then repelled by them. Eating them several days a week, they began to taste like nothing but salt and oil. I have nothing against salt and oil, certainly, but I’d like their consumption to be worth it.
When fresh vinaigrette is so easy to make, why use that stuff? Vinaigrette is just 3 parts oil, 1 part acid; salt, pepper; shake. Use olive oil, grapeseed oil, avocado oil, any oil. For the acid, use wine vinegar, lemon juice, apple cider vinegar, balsamic or a combination. Add some mustard, garlic, herbs or whatever you want. Two minutes of shaking in an empty bottle or whisking in a bowl, and you’re done.
Mama used to make Thousand Island dressing by mixing mayonnaise, lemon juice, ketchup and pickle relish. That combination seems kind of yeesh to me today, but it’s still a sight better than the bottled kind.
It’s always possible that Hub’s office might move again sometime, to a spot that’s too far away for lunch at home, which would consign him to daily foraging. He hates to eat at his desk; so did my father. Wise men both.
However, evidence is beginning to pile up that retirement, rather than being an interesting theory for us, may become reality someday. Like black holes. We’ll have to see if we’re ready for better or worse, and lunch, too.