I think everyone must know someone who can eat anything. They wear it as self-righteous armour and enjoy a not-too-subtle roll of the eyes when you say you don’t like something. I’m afraid to say, I am that person. That is, until the tuna pasta incident.
Work lunches, or food on the go, has been an issue of mine for years, and I’m sure for most other people too.
When you’re working for little pay (or, worse, in an unpaid internship) money is so tight you have to make do with a soggy homemade sandwich, on bread which might have previously been frozen if you’re anything like me.
For this one tragic lunch I bought the cheapest tin of tuna I could find in a supermarket. Once the tin was opened I should have been put off by the appearance alone. It was deep brown, fluffy and mashed together, looking more like dirty carpet than flaked fish. Not wanting to waste the 60p I thought, ‘It’ll probably taste fine with pasta and mayonnaise.’ How wrong I was. The pasta was congealed, the brown tuna stringy and dry, and the taste was pungent and identical to cat food. Many people will say tuna already tastes like cat-food – no, my friends, normal tuna is edible. This definitely wasn’t.
Packed lunches will never get the respect they need. (It is the second most important meal of the day after all). Who really wants to get up half an hour early to cook pasta, chop sweet potato, prepare quinoa? My university lunches were attempts at gourmet – pasta with green beans (one of my more desperate endeavours towards my 5-a-day), strips of courgette with pesto (before spiralising was a thing), and limp sandwiches with cheese and stale tomato. Just recalling these meals is reminding me of the unpleasant taste and smell of clingfilm. No one should be bored, let alone repulsed, when they eat.
There are so many recipes online for delicious and nutritious meals on the go but do many people actually use them? Buzzfeed’s 27 Awesome Easy Lunches epitomises the issue. Each meal looks scrumptious – my mouth is genuinely watering at the thought of wheat berry salad with blood oranges and feta, although I did have to look up what a wheat berry is – but at 7am are you about to spend 30 minutes cooking high maintenance grains? Also, most people who take lunches to work are trying to save money, therefore a long list of specialist ingredients for merely a dressing is never going to encourage enthusiasm.
In order to have a tasty lunch do we have to cook something the night before when all we really want to do is relax? I suppose the best solution is to cook an extra portion of dinner the night before and take it for lunch the next day. Mornings are early enough as they are without constructing an elaborate sandwich. Instead just take the plastic tub of curry or chilli from the fridge and out you skip. The other option is cook up a batch of goodies, maybe some wheat berry, every Sunday, freeze it in portions and then you have a selection for the whole week, like a free pick ‘n’ mix stall.
However, if on Sunday night the idea of cooking five lunches has no appeal, for which no one would blame you, make something effortless the next morning. My lunch today was noodles, cooked in 3 minutes. I served these with pak choi stir fried in garlic, ginger, chilli and spring onion, before adding soy sauce with a little sugar which bubbled away rather seductively before dolloping into a plastic tub. Store cupboard essentials!
Lunches need work but in the meantime put away that boring ham sandwich and don’t buy that 60p tin of tuna! If you like food you deserve better.