Look, I don’t know who invented the 30-minute lunch break, but I would be willing to bet they were not foodies.
Seriously, by the time I clock out, grab my purse, and rush out the door, three precious minutes have elapsed. A 30-minute lunch means fast food.
But I don’t mean sitting in the drive-through at the ubiquitous chain restaurant, or grabbing yet another bagel and schmear. I mean making lunch. In the heat of the summer, I’ll retreat to the cool break room, which has a fridge and microwave. But this fall and winter, I would rather see blue or grey skies and people-watch while I dine.
My friend Tammy recently asked if she was the only person who loved slipping into a toasty warm, sun-bathed car on a frigid day. Nope. I love to retreat to my car, push the seat all the way back on its tracks and nosh while watching shoppers scurry along on their errands. I can make calls or listen to tunes and sing along (something discouraged in the break room). Even on the coldest days, I can crack the windows and get some fresh air.
So I’ve become addicted to eating lunch in the car. You’ve got to be creative with this. Nothing too messy or complicated will do. Think about it. You don’t have a table to catch crumbs, and you’re working in a tight space with few flat surfaces. It’s hard to spread cheese on crackers. I tried and ended up with crumbs everywhere and unfortunate leftovers on the steering wheel. I know that sandwiches seem like the perfect solution, but unlike many, much more evolved people, I can’t eat the same thing every day. Two days – tops. Then I have to move on.
Salads also seem problematic to me. The other day at the car wash vacuum station, I sucked up several shriveled olives and some unidentified object that apparently had jumped out of my container. Ewww. Now I put my salads in a wrap and that seems to work pretty well.
I’m thinking about getting one of those squat thermoses and bringing homemade soup a couple of times a week. It will stay hot in the car and I can just open up the thermos, grab a roll that I’ve warmed in tin foil on the dashboard and get down to the important business of laughing at drivers’ bad parking skills and apparent disregard for pedestrian safety.
Here’s the first soup I’m going to try:
Potato Stew with Olives
1/4 pound cracked green olives (the firm, meaty kind, not the flimsy pimento-stuffed ones)
juice of one lemon
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 cup thinly sliced onion
2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
1 1/2 pounds red-skin, new potatoes, chopped into bite-size pieces
1 tsp. sweet paprika
1/2 tsp. cracked black pepper
1/4 tsp. of cayenne pepper
1 cup water
1 14.5 -oz. can of diced tomatoes
At least three hours before making the soup, combine half of the lemon juice and olives and let sit at room temperature, stirring occasionally. Or you can make them a day ahead and after three hours, refrigerate them, covered.
Heat the oil in a large saucepot over medium-low heat. Add the onions and sauté for three minutes, then add the garlic and sauté for two more minutes. Add the potatoes, paprika, pepper, cayenne and olives with their lemon juice. Stir to combine, then add the water, turn the heat up and bring to a boil. Cover the pot, lower the heat to simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes are tender, 15-20 minutes. Add the tomatoes and their juices and continue simmering, uncovered another 10 minutes. Add the remaining lemon juice and salt to taste.