The operative word this week in the Brown Bag Challenge is the word Challenge. By that I mean it has been a very challenging week for lunches, mostly due to my own absentmindedness.
Monday started out strong: Avocado, tomato & cheese on thick slices of organic whole wheat Italian bread, with a handful of organic grapes and a small bag of Late July peanut butter crackers. My wife prepared this for me, but it required on-site assembly. I sliced the tomato and avocado and started building what turned into what I call a Zoinks! Sandwich. (If you don’t get that reference, you probably didn’t watch enough Scooby-Doo back in the day.) It was very good and wholly fulfilling.
Tuesday, on the other hand, was an utter failure. Not only did I not bring a lunch, but I also forgot to make a lunch. It’s one thing if you make it and leave it on the counter, but it’s something else entirely when you just plain forget about it. I felt like such a failure. How could I possibly live with myself after this? How could I face all of you on this blog, knowing that I let you down?
Hungry, I slinked into the Rodale café with my head hung low and built myself a small salad at the salad bar, avoiding all eye contact with the cafeteria staff and fellow diners. I had fallen so far and wasn’t sure if I could go on.
But as I ate my green leaves, I found hope. I thought back on the past month and began to feel an egg of pride hatching in my soul. And you know what? I had done pretty well up until now. I will go on. I will see this challenge to the end. Every hero must go through bad times, must fall from grace. And everyone loves a story of redemption. I will be that hero. I will redeem myself. I will see this Brown Bag Challenge to the end.
And yet our hero somehow manages to almost forget his lunch again, but at the last moment, he grabs from the fridge what he hopes is the remnants of last night’s chicken cutlets wrapped in foil. It isn’t much, but it will certainly count as a brown bag lunch.
It was a small lunch and I was very hungry and totally grouchy when I got home. Hunger always makes me grouchy. My wife asked why I didn’t supplement this measly meal at the café. But I was so grumpy that I couldn’t answer her—I just furrowed my brow and grunted. To make it worse, the power was out when I got home, so I ended up cooking dinner in a quickly darkening kitchen. Luckily we have a gas stove. I made tortellini with sausages and broccoli. It was good and we ate by an eerie combination of candlelight, flashlight, and iPhonelight.
Of course I was going to have leftover tortellini with sausages and broccoli on Thursday. I set it all out on the counter—the container of leftovers, a glass bowl to heat it up in, a little bag of Locatelli grated Romano cheese, and piece of bread. You can imagine my surprise when I got to work and had no lunch. I had left it on the counter.
This time I didn’t feel so bad. I had, after all, made the effort of preparing my lunch. I ate another salad from the café and I enjoyed it with my head held high.
As I sit and write this final Brown Bag Challenge entry, I have a full belly of leftover butternut squash soup. I made it last night. I skinned and cubed the squash and brought it to a boil in vegetable broth. And then as it simmered, I added some halved Brussels sprouts. I caramelized some onions and threw those in too. I crushed up a few of our remaining Black Icicle tomatoes and chopped up a generous handful of fresh parsley. I thought I was done, but my wife had a good idea: Add the leftover tortellini and sausages that I forgot to bring with me for lunch. So today’s lunch contained yesterday’s lunch, sort of like a play within a play.
As this challenge comes to an end, I can safely say that I am a changed man. I will no longer just assume that I’ll grab lunch from the cafeteria. Instead, I will think about my mid-day meal more deliberately. I will exercise a control over my food intake that I had previously given away. Thank you to Healthy Eats for getting me to change the way I think about my food.
I’m taking part in the Brown-Bag Challenge, a month-long initiative to eat consciously and save money by packing a lunch each weekday instead of eating out. Join us here and share what you’re eating on Facebook and Twitter with the hashtag #brownbag.