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Monday, January 11, 2010

Either That Or We Learn How to Unhinge Our Jaws

We need to do something about lunch, people.

I sat in the Skyroom on the top floor of Macy’s the other day in a rare out-for-lunch moment with friends. We sat kittycorner from a mother and son. The woman appeared to be in her early 30s, the boy maybe 9, 10.

He was eating quite enthusiastically.

“Slow down,” his mother admonished, “no one's going to take it from you.”

He tried to slow down, taking a couple of careful bites, but moments later he was back at his previous pace. Quickly, efficiently, he smiled between bites at his mother as he made short work of his sandwich. She smiled at him, love in her eyes; and he covered his mouth as they laughed good-naturedly.

That kid was what we call “a good little eater”.

Watching the exchange made me smile, too; but it also got me thinking about the casual nature with which we treat our midday meal.

Let me ask you: Where did you go to school? Did they allow you to eat with utensils? If memory serves me correctly – and I think it does – I’m pretty sure we were forced to eat whilst in line, plastic-kerchiefed women plopping ice-cream scoops of mashed-potato-lime-gelatin-surprise into our outstretched hands.

As an aside, my father swore that, when he was young, lime Jello containing free-floating shredded carrot and celery, the whole thing topped with Miracle Whip – yes, Miracle Whip – was considered a dessert.

It changed how I looked at him.


And how was your lunch hour in your 20s? Did they pay you for that time? I continually managed to find jobs where you had to punch out for lunch.

Hmm. Would I like to clock-out to eat or would I like to have another seven dollars a day on my paycheck?

Even now, I have a hard time stepping away from my desk and often eat my lunch while setting up meetings and prank-calling my friends.

I hear, by the way, that lunch in Europe is different, that it is sometimes accompanied with wine and naps. I refuse to believe that, however, as it interferes with my ability to continue to work in the United States.

Anyway, that couldn’t possibly be true – could it?

And if it is, how do we institute that in Minnesota?

Let me know if you know who I should contact. I’m willing to get the ball rolling on this one.

34 comments:

Ms Sparrow said...

Let's do lunch in Europe! Are you up for it?

Pearl said...

Expensive lunch! :-)

suzicate said...

Wine and naps...now, those are the kinda lunches I'd like to be having!

Jess said...

My motto has always been that whatever place you eat at...say, Mexican food, then you should follow their lunch custom. Naturally that would include massive amounts of carbs, including, but not limited to, chips, burritos and tacos, as well as Coronas, followed by a siesta.

sage said...

It's been a long time since I had to punch out for lunch, but it seems that too often lunch is also a meeting or I'm reading something for work--It should be with friends or reading something I want to read... nice post and when you conquerer MN, how about working on MI

the iNDefatigable mjenks said...

I had lunch once at one of those Tapas restaurants.

I can assure you that they certainly embraced the European style of laid-back casualness.

Here's some food. We'll refill your drinks in four hours.

GregoryJ said...

In New York, it is state law that all wage employees take a half hour lunch, unpaid, whether you want to or not.
Salaried can do what they want. When I was on salary, I often missed lunch to get the job done, or rarely took a long lunch.
For most of my 20's I was in the Army...don't ask about lunch.
Thanks,
Greg

De Campo said...

Best part about dining in Europe (or at least Germany)?

Kids aren’t allowed on the premises.

Douglas said...

A fair portion of my twenties I was either the slave of the military establishment or rendered oblivious by some drug or alcohol or fighting with my then wife or being amazed at my son's ability to puke at the most inappropriate times. I had little time for lunch and paid no attention to it or the time it might have taken. In my thirties, it was mostly sub sandwiches about a foot long and gulped down in 10 minutes so I could read for the next 20 before going back to work. In my forties, it varied too much to recall. In my fifties, it mostly consisted of vending machine burgers or giant chocolate muffins. Now, it is whatever I make for myself whenever I want.
Burp.

Berowne said...

When I worked in the corporate world, I devised a system. I had an apartment close by -- none of this lengthy commuting stuff -- so when the lunch hour, three-quarter hour actually, came along, I dashed over to my place, had lunch and made it back in plenty of time. For food, in the morning I fixed baby back ribs with BBQ sauce, as an example, and set the oven timer. A great feeling as I walked in, the savory smell from the oven combined with the right music, which also turned on just as I arrived.

It beat the company cafeteria. :-)

Lana Banana said...

oh, pearl, if you think european lunches are awesome, which, they are . . . (gosh, i don't know if i should even tell you this) . . . their vacations are even better. none of this "2 week" crap. they get MONTHS, pearl, MONTHS! paid, even!

makes you wanna stop being american, huh?

enjoy your pastrami . . .

Linda said...

For the last 16 years, I worked mostly 6 hour shifts, with 2 15 minute (paid) breaks. This meant I had 15 minutes to get to the break room-no eating at our desks allowed- get my food out and eat, and get back to my desk. This, unfortunately, has shaped my eating pace forever, I think.

Charlotte Ann said...

Yes! Lunch in Europe with lots of wine..then everything shuts down..all stores..for about 4 hours whereupon the shopping can continue and just in time for dinner. We are crazy here. Always rushing around. The Europeans know how to do it right. Lots of vacation time, siestas aren't just for Latin countries!

Pat said...

DeCampo: But dogs are allowed.
Most of us math teachers at Poderosa High School would take our 35-minute lunch in the dept. chair's room and try not to talk shop. Almost all of us brought lunch from home because we were frugal teachers. 35 minutes is a horribly short lunch time, especially when you have to go back and try to teach math to hyped-up and/or sleepy highschoolers.

Kurt said...

The only thing not improved by naps is driving. And then it's like 60/40.

The mad woman behind the blog said...

Having always taken lunch "out" since I started full time employment, I was quite taken aback when I started my current job where we don't leave the office FOR ANYTHING, unless w/ our boss. I'm the only full time employee so I'm tied to the phones.
It's miserable.

Why did our forefathers leave Europe again? What were they thinking?

mapstew said...

When I worked as a courier there was never any time for lunch, always trying to beat traffic or get to the next drop on time. Lunch was whatever you could eat from your lap whilst driving down the motorway! Quite dangerous at times and also very illegal!

Also made me a bit chubby!

Lunch in Paris would be rather nice right now.
I shall keep a seat for you.
Wine? :¬)

xxx

Rebecca said...

I've always said naptime is wasted on kids who don't appreciate it. I want to head over to the on-the-lot daycare, unroll a little mat, and take a power nap too. I won't even talk, I promise.

I, too, have been cursed with jobs requiring me to clock out for lunch. And California's even worse about it... you HAVE to take a lunch. So when I pack my lunch and eat it at my desk, I'm still technically "working" though I'm not being paid. Suuucks.

PurestGreen said...

Your dad's dessert description makes me think of the book Bill Bryson wrote about his childhood. Thunderbolt Kid. I think your father would understand.

I read recently that the government was considering taking away the 2-hour lunches in Italy. Revolt began immediately and the suits gave up. Excellent.

Eric said...

Yep, wine with lunch in Italy. Awe. Some.

mrwriteon said...

I love the European attitude to lunch, though it leaves your afternoon shot to shit. Otherwise, I have almost always brown-bagged it midday and often ate at my computer. What a crappy attitude I had.

The Good Cook said...

When I was a slave in the corporate world I usually ate lunch at my desk; working or on a conference call with people in a different time zone than I. Blah. 25+ years of that and fast forward....

Now, I set the table, prepare a lovely, healthy repast, eat, read, alas, no wine.. then take a walk, then a light nap.

THEN - I go back to the work at hand. And I don't even live in Europe.

If you wait long enough, life gets better

ellen abbott said...

Given that Mexico is my closest non-American neighbor I am more familiar with their lunch habits. the whole country shuts down for two hours for lunch and siesta. Did I mention I love Mexico? I hear that the practice is waning though, makes it too difficult to do 'business' with America.

The Retired One said...

And in Spain? They close everything and take a siesta break and then reopen around 4 to around 7pm and then call it quits for the day.
We could all learn from our European friends! Plus they have WINE with their meals, people! WINE!!!!

Fragrant Liar said...

Lunch? Europe? Wine? Naps? Wow, my new favorite things, all in one conversation. I'll have one of each, thank you.

Ugich Konitari said...

We have this wonderful Vada Pao stuff, our vegetarian, and supremely spicy answer to McD, and the very hot cayenne pepper and garlic chutney ensures we stay wide awake in the afternoons.

You know, we multitask. (Ask Bill gates where his systems learnt things). We do window and actual shopping while having Vada pao, then we gossip while we work , and take a nap, in a standing position while travelling, in the chock a bloc full commuter trains in the evenings, simultaneously buying fruit from a fruit vendor who regularly visits the compartment.

Europe ? Nah....

Something Happened Somewhere Turning said...

I always eat on the run because I am generally too busy to stop for breaks or lunch during my 12 hour shifts. I log out on lunch only when I leave the premises and that doesn't happen very often.

Daphne said...

It IS true. The bastards in Italy just shut down the whole business world from 1 to 3(ish). Nowhere for a pitiful American who cannot fathom taking a NAP in the middle of the WORKDAY to get a bite to eat. Not that I'm bitter.

I always eat at my desk. Always. Mostly because I don't like my worktime lunchroom nor do I like chitchat. I don't have to punch a clock for anything, thank god.

Hogday said...

Pearl, (Hi, by the way) its the French that have 2 hour lunch breaks - well its their CULTURE we're we're told, which these days makes it a sacred cow. But don't let it fool you into thinking its sophisticated, cos after a 2 hr lunch avec vin rouge, one would be unable to spel sosisphacated. PS> Since the UN left Kosovo to the Eu. its all going pear-shaped , but at least with the French as the lead nation, they now have 2 hr lunch breaks and finish work at midday on Fridays - QED?

BLOGitse said...

In Finland bigger companies have their own restaurants where people go to have a good, healthy lunch salad included!
Very rarely people drink alcohol with lunch and never at a restaurant at work, no alcohol served.

An average lunch costs about 10e = 14$
BUT your employer pays about 8e from that and you have to pay taxes from 2e. On yearly bases that's not too bad.
An example: we have coupons valid for 10e. You can use them almost anywhere.
If I want to have a great dinner one evening I can pay with 5 coupons + alcohol and taxes with my own money.
Or I can use all the coupons for a lunch at the restaurant at work. You get them once a month as many as there is working days.

If you want to know more or you have questions email me toblogitse at gmail.com

At the moment I live in Cairo, Egypt but I have lots of friends who have a good knowledge how the system works today! :)

http://BLOGitse.blogspot.com

sunnydon228 said...

nice one..!

Sunny
http://heartbeatsinwords.blogspot.com/

Pearl said...

So it's all agreed, then. We'll meet in Europe for lunch?!

India sounds exhilirating, a multi-tasker's dream.

I think the U.S. has a lot to learn...

Laoch of Chicago said...

Lunchtime is a sacred time which should be filled with fatty food and cocktails!

My name is PJ. said...

I can't get beyond that lime jello with floaters and miracle whip! It's changed the way I look at your father too!