What’s in your lunch box?

For many of my years’ working as a training consultant lunches were the Achilles Heel in my otherwise carefully planned eating.  We were expected to eat with the participants and a buffet lunch was provided.  You know the sort of thing: some very unexciting sandwiches on pre-sliced bread, sausage rolls and other pastries, followed by a dessert of Pavlova or something similar.  If we were very lucky there might be some fresh fruit as an alternative dessert option.

My pleas for healthier lunches, fell on deaf ears – they tended to cost more and these were generally popular with participants, who didn’t have to face them every day.  Eventually, battling an ever expanding waistline, I rebelled and insisted that I be able to take my lunch apart from the group so that I could eat something I had brought from home.  I fully appreciate the pressures that workers are under, especially with jobs in short supply, to work through their lunch break.  Hopefully few people will be up against the expectation that they regularly eat the food provided for them.  You will see from my article Is eating meat only once a week really the answer? that I envisage lunch normally being a meat free meal and whilst this option is available even if you are buying ready made sandwiches, making your own lunch opens far more possibilities.

Taking a lunch to work at first seems like a lot of hassle, but on the basis that we all have three opportunities every day to take pleasure in eating, it is well worth the effort.  If you do have some discretion over how you use your lunch hour, I would also strongly recommend that you spend part of it taking a walk in the open air.  You will feel so much better for it.  The ideal lunch would also be very portable so that you need not stay indoors to eat it.  A flask of soup very often fits the bill and is as welcome to someone whose day is mainly spent travelling as to one trapped in an office.  From a practical standpoint, it soup can be made in a larger batch and frozen in daily portions.  Sometimes I make just the soup base, so that it takes up less space in the freezer, and then stock or other liquid is added to make up the soup when required.

The very mention of stock is enough to put many people off making their own soup, although it should become an automatic habit whenever you are left with meat bones.  For me, a good meat stock does enhance the flavour of soup, even those that are otherwise vegetable, but for strict vegetarians, or whenever you find yourself without a meat stock, you can use water or a vegetable stock which is faster to make.  What I would not recommend is using a stock cube – better to have an under flavoured soup that ruin it with artificial ingredients that seem to dominate everything they come into contact with.   For more notes of stock making, and why meat bones create the most complex flavour see here.

There are only really a few variations on soup making method and once you have learnt these you can adapt them to other flavours.  My Soup of the Month for January is Curried Parsnip, which will provide you with the basis for making soups with almost any root vegetable.  Because the parsnips themselves contain plenty of body it is not actually necessary to thicken the soup with anything else although a little flour does will enable you to add more stock without compromising the flavour.  More seasonal soup recipes will be found each month.

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