Sunday, May 23, 2010

'you won't accept a guy's tongue in your mouth and you're gonna eat that?': the brown bag lunch

I'm in love with the idea of bringing lunch from home to work or school or whatever; this is because I hardly ever do it. I think about it lots - I fantasise about what would be wonderful to eat outside under old trees shedding orange/red/golden leaves in the warm Autumn afternoon sun on my lunch break. But I'm hardly ever organised enough to make this dream come true and am invariably left complaining about the fact that there is nothing you can buy worth eating. Every. Day.

This has to stop. So I got to think more seriously about bringing lunch from home, or brown bagging-it, as it's also known. Remember that great scene in John Hughes 1985 film The Breakfast Club where it's lunch time and everyone takes out a lunch that totally cements their character stereotypes? I love that scene. Claire, the princess, pulls out a proper sushi lunch set-up which she proceeds to eat with chopsticks (remember, this was the 1980s). The jock whips out giant bags of sandwiches, coke, chips, milk, fruit and chocolate chip cookies. Bad boy John has no lunch, and 'neo maxi zoom dweebie' Brian's 'standard, regular lunch' consists of soup, apple juice and PB&J with the crusts cut off. And Allison, the basket-case pictured above, in a lunch performance, slurps coke and concocts a sandwich to end all sandwiches. To the horror of her Saturday detention buddies, it begins with (literally) throwing away the baloney that sat between two slices of white bread and replacing this with carefully distributed sherbet from straws and a huge handful of what I guess (as an unenlightened Australian) is Cap'n Crunch cereal.

There is no quiz below to help you work out your neatly-defined lunch personality. Just as the characters in The Breakfast Club come to see their stereotypes as permeable, constructed things that they can all claim membership to, I can see bits of myself in all of these lunches. Sometimes I bring no lunch to work and this leaves me feeling really ace and tough - but unsatisfied. For a princessey treat sometimes I actually do pick up sushi on the way in. Once, in pre-coffee morning haste I packed cool ranch doritos and olives. But maybe nothing is quite as good as a properly packed, yummy but healthy lunch like Brian's. It's a shame he gets teased for it, but we'll let Bender off, because he has problems at home and he's a spunk.

The only thing with brown bag lunches, is that I seem to run out of ideas in double-quick time. So I've decided to start a mini-series of brown bag lunch posts here called 'you won't accept a guy's tongue in your mouth and you're gonna eat that?'. And I've John Hughes to thank for such eternally useful one-liners. I kicked off my new resolution to brown bag it more often the other day with this salad. It's healthy, pretty filling, it travels well and you can make it the night before - and with fruit and PB & choc chip cookie treats, it made a super lunch. I've included the recipe below.

But, do you take your lunch to work? What are your favorites? And, what do you pack it in? I'd really like to know. I need ideas, desperately. Even more than that, I'd like to stereotype you (endearingly) by what you pack. Indulge me?

Potato, tuna and egg salad
Adapted from Woman's Weekly wonder diet book (yes, really. Good lunch recipes to be found here.) The photograph shows the salad before I mixed the dressing through - much prettier, but salad is tastier once this has happened
Serves 1

3 smallish new potatoes
50g green beans, topped and halved crossways
95g tinned tuna, drained (one mini-can)
1 spring/green onion, finely sliced
a spring or two of flat-leaf parsley, chopped
1 heaped tbls Greek yogurt
a little finely grated lemon rind
1 tsp lemon juice
pinch of salt
1 hard-boiled egg, quartered

1. Boil or steam potatoes and beans separately, until potatoes are tender and beans are cooked but still a little crunchy. Drain and cool.

2. While cooling, make dressing. Combine yogurt, lemon juice, rind and salt and mix well.

3. Quarter potatoes, add beans, onion, tuna and parsley. Add dressing and stir to combine, or drizzle atop. Serve topped with egg.


  1. yes the breakfast club takes me back to when I didn't even think about what I ate for lunch - just accepted what I was given (though my mum probably disagrees with that)

    I went through a stage when I was more organised than now when I made good hearty soups about every fortnight, froze them in ready to take tubs and took them to work to heat in the microwave and eat with a piece of toast every day. It was great - but now I am touch and go as to whether there are leftovers or otherwise to inspire me or if I go out foraging for lunch, like a did today

    So I am not sure where you can slot me with stereotypes but I can assure you that mine will often be changing

  2. This is a great idea! I need to join your club because I'm often too lazy to take lunch to work but like you I'm trying to change my ways. When I can be bothered I make myself a poached chicken, french bean & toasted almond salad with mustard vinaigrette or hot sopressa and smoked mozzarella on ciabatta.

  3. Already some excellent ideas to keep me going with my mid-year (?) resolution! Soups in single-serve freezable tubs is genius, Johanna. That will definitely be my project after market shopping this week.

    And Melissa - that chicken salad sounds so, so good. The ciabatta is killer, too. Though I find myself lately eating WAY too much bread, so am trying not to always take sandwiches etc for lunch. It's tough though, because I love bread so, so much! Especially a good Italian ciabatta or a dense and slightly tangy sourdough...


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