I began work at this wonderful charity recently and have spent an interesting one month there. Work’s been good, thanks for asking. Met interesting people, wrote interesting stuff and also took time out to enjoy a few good lunches.
Sometimes I sneak an hour out with a friend who works close by but mostly it has been a solitary meal on a busy desk. Very cumbersome I tell you, what with my indulgent streak which doesn’t let me settle for a mundane sandwich and juice routine. However, crumbly baguettes and messy spinach fillings and pungent flavours (raw onion in a grilled vegetable and cous cous salad, very very tasty, I tell you!) may not exactly be office-conducive fare, but I manage to sneak them in anyway.
The other day as I sat savouring my French baguette with chorizo, cheese and salad leaves, I began thinking of a behavioural anomaly which I hadn’t noticed before. Now, most folks who know me, would concur that I am an easy going person (husband obviously doesn’t fall in the category. I wish you could see him shaking his newly shorn head emphatically) but when it comes to meal times, I am a foodzilla. A lunch or dinner not enjoyed is precious time and resources wasted; for me this includes lunchtime in office. Even there it has to be a pleasurable activity.
People have suggested I get other things like bank work or job applications done in that hour. “And miss my lunch! You got to be kidding me,” I exclaim in my head, while trying to keep a straight face.
I have met many, husband included, for whom lunch at work has just been about sustenance. Try as I might in the 6 years of working, I have not been able to reduce the act of lunching, even at office to a necessary chore. No tight deadlines or pressing appointments have been able to keep me from enjoying my afternoon meal. But growing up in a family whose motto is “We live to eat”, you can hardly blame me for loving my food the way I do. Of course, I take it to a whole new level. I have sooner forgone lunch hour than see myself grabbing a bite without paying proper obeisance (figuratively) to the chosen food.
For me every meal is a celebration of food. It starts with taking in the presentation of the fare, the wholesome fragrance of the dish, followed by the first bite and the subsequent explosion of flavours in my mouth that elicit (mostly) appreciative (and potentially embarrassing) whimpers of joy (of course at home it starts with cooking), the last of which has embarrassed and amused many a friend.
As I sat eating by myself, conscious of stray flakes from the aforementioned baguette, I felt naked, enjoying a private pleasure in an open plan office. Not that anyone minded. I suddenly yearned for the good old days of elaborate office lunches of yore. Back at the last job, I had a bunch of food enthusiasts to share the passion and lunch sessions, people guilty of enjoying the pleasure as I did. Weekends, the Saturdays we pretended to work on, were especially cherished for the long lunch breaks we took. It was not just about taking time off but the brilliant foodie flavours we explored during the time.
Back in the present time; you have no idea how, as the lunch hour approaches, I obsess on what I could eat. With choices ranging from Ghanian peanut chicken to steak burritos to lamb tagine with cous cous to salmon with new potato salad, to hot falafel rolls and hot lentil soup, to grilled haloumi sandwiches…. What was I saying again…
Sorry yeah, so I was saying that with all this variety at my doorstep, I can’t help being distracted and eager to treat my palate. As soon as the hour strikes one, or the stomach rumbles, I head out the office doors, straight to the cobbled stone lane lined by shops offering gastronomical delights. Even if I have to pack it up and have it at my desk all by myself. Once or twice, out of a feeling of self-consciousness, I have tried to gobble a hasty lunch but blessedly have been pulled out of that mire by a more powerful desire: to eat as food is to be eaten: peacefully, respectfully and unashamedly.
To sum it up in G B Shaw’s words, "There is no love sincerer than the love of food.”