A Sandwich to Soothe the Savage Lunch
For at least a year now, I have received regular e-mail updates from Canal House Cooks Lunch. They are equal parts inspiring and exasperating.
WORKPLACE THAT SHALL NOT BE NAMED, TUESDAY, 11:47 AM — I have spent the morning sitting in a video training session that looks like it was produced in 1987. Lunch is approaching. I am considering running down to Starbucks to get a cheese-stuffed pretzel and my second refreshing, neon-orange drink of the day. However, I fear that consuming multiple refreshing, neon-orange drinks in a day will turn me into House Speaker John Boehner.
Thoughts flit between:
1) You know, I bet Starbucks would sell way more of the aforementioned refreshing orange beverage if they just called it what I call it: FancyTang;
2) Mental picture: House Speaker John Boehner as barista in limited-edition orange apron, selling FancyTang, weeping;
3) General hungry grumpitude; and
4) A headline I skimmed earlier about The Tree of 40 Fruits–a single fruit tree that grows more than 40 kinds of stone fruits, including peaches, plums, cherries, apricots, and nectarines. How can anyone work without first finding out how this is possible?
As soon as the training breaks, I turn to my phone to investigate the tree. I have a new e-mail. The creators of Canal House have cooked lunch, and they have informed me that they are eating a simple stew by the fire with their feet at the hearth. Or they are picnicking. They are filling their lungs with crisp, early-spring air and filling their bellies with spaghetti bolognese. They are living a little and making something delicious midday because, well, because what else are you living for? And the components of this Something Delicious are strewn about just so and bathed in natural light and photographed from above.
I ask myself: Perhaps, with just a little bit of forethought, could I also be so calm and joyful and mindful and tastefully arranged? Perhaps if I changed my lunch, I could change my life? And instead of turning my skin the shade of FancyTang, I would turn into a BEAUTIFUL BUTTERFLY? WHO WILL ASSIST ME IN THIS QUEST?
Would you believe that there is someone local? Peter Miller owns an architecture and design book shop near Pike Place Market. Every day, he heads down to the market to find ingredients that the bookstore staff improvises into lunch. In Lunch at the Shop: The Art and Practice of the Middday Meal, he details his process for making lunch personal and a pleasure. “It can save a workday all on its own,” Miller writes, “this moment of a little care and community.”
Lunch at the Shop is a gorgeous book, complete with photos that instantly soothe the anxious, FancyTang-addled mind. The photos are courtesy of—you guessed it—the creators of Canal House. My favorite recipe so far is the one for this deceptively simple sandwich:
- good crusty bread or a split roll
- a slathering of almond butter
- a small handful of arugula
- a few slices of pear or apple
- a squeeze of fresh lemon juice (toss with the arugula and fruit so it doesn’t brown)
- a few slices of Fromager D’Affinois
Say it with me now: Fromager D’Affinois. Fromager D’Affinois. It’s kind of like Brie, but silkier. It’s the first cheese I have ever tried that I could actually feel clinging to my esophagus as I swallowed it. This is not a complaint.
I wouldn’t have thought to pair soft cheese with almond butter, but trust me, it is a genius combination, especially when you add in the peppery arugula and sweet, crisp fruit. I found that toasting the bread slightly makes the whole operation even lovelier, but toasty bread is certainly not vital a Calming Lunch Experience.
I do recommend using an almond butter that is not too salty. I used a few packets of Justin’s classic almond butter with great results. When I ran out, I tried substituting peanut butter. It wasn’t terrible, but the peanut flavor kind of hijacked the whole sandwich. It reminded me too much of Ye Olde PB&J–a Sad Desk Lunch that I am longer eating because I am turning into a BEAUTIFUL BUTTERFLY, remember?
The only catch is that I ate this sandwich for three lunches in a row while attending to my extremely sedentary job. This risks that I will not sprout delicate, colorful wings, but rather lower extremities and belly that bear a striking resemblance to Fromager D’Affinois as it oozes—nay cascades—out of its plastic packaging.
1) Yes, my lower extremities and belly are already that color.
2) What? Is this not a calming photo? But I took it from above and in natural light!