In this family, lunch used to be a clearly delineated concept, presenting little in the way of mental or emotional challenges. Pete took his box of sandwiches, crisps and fruit to work; Bernard bought a snack from the kiosk at school; I hoovered up whatever was lying around the fridge, or if I was travelling, grabbed something noodley from somewhere stationy. I sometimes forgot that I had to provide us all with lunch at the weekends, but we coped.
In Lockdown 1.0, in the emotional tizzy of furlough, and with everyone at home all the time, everything changed. Life became a relentless treadmill of producing food and food-based treats to get us through the day. Eggs and pasta, which were my weekend go-to lunches, became tricky to come by. And I just got fed up of the labour of figuring out what we would eat and where we would get it, and then producing it. n.b. Food production falls within my skillset and therefore within my general household role. Not saying Pete puts the bins out or anything, but we all play to our strengths. Also, everyone else works more hours than me. We finally agreed on a system where we took turns to figure out and prepare lunch between the three of us, which meant cup noodles every third day.
Once Bernard was back in school, and I only had me and Pete to cater for, I could relax a bit. He would be as happy with last night’s leftovers as with a quiche from the nice cafe in town. If he came downstairs at lunchtime and I was still on a call, he’d just figure it out. He’s good like that.
But now in Lockdown 3.0, we’re all home again, but this time Bernard has a mere 20 minutes for lunch, which do at least coincide with the start of Pete’s mandatory lunchbreak. Mentally and emotionally, I’m in a much better place than I was the first time around, and currently am perfectly happy to do lunches, and might throw in a bit of baking on Friday when I have my day off, though there has been an endless stream of mince pies and gingerbread over the last few weeks, rendering unnecessary any extra effort on my part. I have, however, started making a proper plan for lunch when I do the week’s menu. What? You all do weekly menus, don’t you? In case you are struggling, I will share a few of the main themes.
Things involving wraps
Things involving wraps are very popular around here. We buy them in frozen bulk from a catering supplier, and use them for enchiladas, burritos etc at dinnertime. Wrapped lunches might be falafel, hummus and green stuff; or sweet chilli chicken and green stuff; or cheese and ham and green stuff; or whatever there is in the fridge. More wrap-content ideas much appreciated. Pete is the best at forming the wrap so that it doesn’t immediately collapse, so he often does the important folding part of this meal. Bernard only ever eats green stuff if it’s hidden in a wrap.
Wraps can also be used for quesadillas, which may be simple cheese and ham, or refried beans and jalapeños on an exciting day. I also did one with black beans, avocado and lime at one point, but it didn’t adhere to itself very well. This filling would work better as a burrito.
The other use for wraps is egg rolls. I think this might be a real thing, that I’ve reinvented badly. What I usually do is saute some mushrooms and ham, pour over a beaten egg, maybe grate in a bit of cheese, then slap the wrap on top of all that before the egg is fully cooked. Invert it onto a plate, roll, and there’s yer egg roll. Is that an egg roll? Who knows. Other egg things you might make are omelettes and scrambled eggs, or poached egg on an english muffin.
Pizza toppings on stuff
So obviously you know what pizza toppings are: usually a tomato sauce (there’s always an open carton of passata in the fridge), grated cheese, and whatever there is in the fridge. Chorizo and goats cheese if you’re lucky. You can apply this topping to an actual pizza base (the cheapo margherita pizza from the supermarket would do); or half a baguette, sliced lengthways; or – get this – a square of rolled out puff pastry. I buy this and cut it into squares, then freeze half of them for another day. You could even apply your toppings to toast, and call it fancy cheese on toast. Or just do cheese on toast, there’s always cheese, right? And if there’s only cheese, then eat it with crackers.
Once you’ve made a quiche yourself, you’ll never go back to over-chilled, under-flavoured shop-bought quiche again (except the ones from that really nice cafe in town). Early in lockdown, Dr Pockless discovered a quiche tin in the cupboard of his rented flat, and started sharing photos of his amazing quiches on the family whatsapp. Not to be outdone, I found a quiche tin of my own, and stole his recipe. We had a quiche-off for a few weeks, then he moved on to sourdough. You should probably eat this with a salad.
Obviously feeding your family is never cheating, and just as obviously, you don’t have to roll up your sleeves and cook from scratch every day. Pasta with jarsauce is perfectly alright, so is toast and pate, shop-bought spanish omelette, hummus and breadsticks, tinned soup or even good old cup noodles. You can make a sandwich. You can toast the bread to make it feel like a fancy sandwich. You could invest in a sandwich toasting machine, if you have space in your kitchen. You’re surviving this weird, weird time in all of our lives, and you know that cheese makes everything better.