Monday, January 10, 2011

What are you doing for lunch?

I enjoy discussing subjects which benefit from "under-the-radar" status; stories whose content isn't overblogged—things like men who enjoy fabric stores, or how to make amazing meatloaf with bacon, cilantro and just a tiny bit of cat food.

Another such topic, which really isn't so obscure, is nonetheless the runt in a set of robust triplets, that guy who thinks he's helping to move the couch by carrying the middle part, but he's really just pissing off the guys on the ends, and whom eventually gives up and goes back for some lamps.

Of our three daily meals, breakfast holds the distinction as "the most important meal of the day"...which it definitely is. Breakfast arrives after we've spent several hours deficient of caloric intake, and I often awaken felling like my body has begun consuming itself. I could probably stand a little more self-consumption, yet nothing hits the spot like opening up the fridge around 9:30 on a Saturday morning, to be greeted by a triangular, foil-wrapped shape: Two-and-a-half slices of pizza from last night. Mmm...boy.

Dinner, of course is the heavyweight, the meal which often features more than one food item. It's also an opportunity to catch up with the family about each person's day, her triumphs, injustices she may have endured, who is the latest slutty member of her class...but enough about my fifth grader.

I'm sure most of us would agree that, of the three daily meals, dinner gets the lion's share of planning, execution and enjoyment.

So let's talk about lunch. I submit that lunch, though not acknowledged as such, is the meal we think about the most. As little kids, lunch doesn't play a huge role, since our moms had to yank us out of whatever we were doing to sit down for a PB and J and some Campbell's Bean with Bacon. To most preschoolers, the midday meal is a speed bump along an otherwise smooth day.

Not until we spend a full day at school, do we fully appreciate the charms lunch has to offer. I can remember in first grade, around ten o'clock each morning, thinking, "Okay, enough already. We've made paper chains, learned about baby salmon and I saw a kid smash his forehead trying to walk up the slide. It's time for some freaking food."

An hour-and-a-half later, we finally walked through that magical bucket brigade, where ladies in hair nets ladled hamburger gravy over perfect potato bud domes. A dollop of Waldorf salad and a scoop of cubed fruit later, and I was inhaling that stuff faster than you can say Miley Cyrus Michael Phelps.

Not long after those honeymoon days of a hot lunch served on a yellow, plastic tray, the luster wore off for nearly two decades. A renaissance occurred with the advent of the business lunch—a more beverage-centric paradigm shift.

No Friday noontime soiree with work mates was complete without ordering and consuming at least one Electric Ice Tea. And nothing screams professionalism quite like a large pack of twenty-something, Smirnoff-breathed accountants, boisterously returning to the office. Our mullets bounced through the lobby, our obnoxious guffaws leaving a noxious, ice tea cloud to be sampled by the elderly woman waiting to speak with someone about estate planning.

At this juncture of life, lunch has settled into the role of comfortable, unassuming friend. Alcohol no longer fits into the equation, since most schools frown upon parents picking up children smelling of India Pale Ale. Lunch and I are like a seasoned married couple who don't need to speak to communicate. We merely acknowledge those familiar signals—the growling stomach, the fantasy about bathing in chowder—both mean lunch isn't far off.

Turkey sandwich? Sushi, Hom bow? Thai curry? Cheese and crackers? Yes, yes, yes, yes and yes.

Salad or fries? I'll take the fries...because it's lunch time.

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