(If you listen closely, you can hear me sobbing in between munching my Romaine.)
It’s a funny quote, but it’s absolutely true. Diets make you sad. Diets are restricting. No one likes being restricted, especially when leaving behind habits of drinking the whole 20 oz. of soda (servings per container 2.5? I DON’T THINK SO), the joy of a morning pastry, and i’ll-just-have-another-slice-ism. And I hear metabolically, the body’s not a fan of restriction either.
And I happened upon this enlightening gem of a blog yesterday: Sad Desk Lunches. http://saddesklunch.com/
Click. Peruse. Weep. These are the everyday lunches of people in real-life jobs. This is what your culinary future looks like, if it’s not already the present. The title nails it: these lunches are just sad. Messy leftover food served in nasty looking tupperware on a backdrop of that sterile laboratory/office white. The tupperware alone makes my stomach turn as it reminds me of all those damn sandwiches with white bread and room-temp lunch meat I had to eat in grade school in a cafeteria that inexplicably retained the smells of seventy years’ worth of room-temperature lunch ham.
But notice that I didn’t describe the actual food in these pictures: just its presentation. That could be gourmet food in that container, or under that saran wrap that looks reused, but just the sight of it is enough to make me stomp outside to practice my right to fast food and soda. Even knowing how horrible fast food is, even knowing I’ve got close to no money to spend on unnecessary food, I’ve got enough for that meal. Why? Because I paid my dues in grade school and high school. I brown bagged it for years. But now that I’m an adult I want to have grown-up-style lunches and have my drink come in a disposable cup, dammit!
Why, you might ask? Who cares about the aesthetics of what you eat? Well, let me explain, in between wondering whether you’re a contentious Puritan, extremely disciplined, or a robot. I, and I’m pretty sure a lot of other people, like treats. And as far as I’m concerned, in my childhood, going out to get food, or food on the road, was a treat. Brown bagging it had no enjoyment to it; it was duty, it was business as usual, and unlike the tasty fast food, it tasted pretty bad. Now that I’m a big girl, it’s pretty inevitable that those same opportunities for a treat will be a very short distance away at lunchtime o’clock. There’s plenty of other excuses: don’t have time to make your own lunch/dinner, don’t have space to bring it with you, etc. But for me, at least, it really just boils down to perpetually giving in to the little treat that, eventually, you look forward to to get you through the day. Like some other people with their daily lattes, just zoomed out to a full meal. But my problem with trying to be better nutritionally and financially is that it just looks so…well, sad that it only further pushes me towards the nearest burger place.
Not to mention homemade, brown bagged lunches often face such prohibitive restrictions for preparing them that they’re rendered categorically awful. A separated smoothie made at 7 am, soggy vegetables, peanut butter where the color’s changed due to air exposure, white bread that tastes like plastic after it’s been in its ziplock or saran wrap envelope for a few hours. And all of it room temperature or kinda cold if you have a fridge around. What I feel is needed is a distinct category of recipes that thrive in those limited workroom, brown-bagged conditions. That are in fact best enjoyed in those conditions. Like a houseplant that thrives with only a little light, whereas other plants might make it but are better suited to full sun: why would we put the plant in weak, restricted light if it’s better in full sun? We’d move the plant to where it gets more sun because it’s better that way. Likewise if the recipe is better cold, or just made, it’ll just be sad as a brown bag item, and boom: we’re back where we started.
Let the quest begin.