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Monday, January 23, 2012

I'll Bet I Can Eat My Lunch Faster Than You Can

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.

35 comments:

Shelly said...

Not just in Minnesota, but Texas, too! I eat an entire salad a day, chewing each bite 20 times, in 22 minutes, tops. When I finally retire, I don't think my digestive system will know how to react.

Bossy Betty said...

I am all for a longer lunchtime and a nap too! I bolt something down between classes and then have a giant "snack" at 3:00. Love you, Pearl!

The Angry Lurker said...

The bloody French or the bosses only, I eat at my desk....

mybabyjohn/Delores said...

I guess I've been fortunate. Lunch in a one room school is everyone at their desk with their tin lunch pail and thermos open eating quietly, no talking allowed, then get the heck outside to play.
Jobs I had always gave you a paid lunch hour. (or half hour). In the summer I would go outside and eat by the fountain or go for a walk, in the winter I stayed at my desk and played on line games. Oh wait, no, that was what I did during working hours... lunch, ummmm...

esbboston said...

I have recently gone into a phase of eating a lot of V-8 juice, cauliflower (cold & raw with Ranch Dressing), cheddar cheese, Garden Valley Veggie, raw purple onion, and turkey or chicken deli meat. Mmmm.... w cherry cheesecake!

esbboston said...

Oh, sorry, those were Garden Valley Veggie Wheat Thin crackers.

CarrieBoo said...

As a yute back in Bradford England, we often went to the pub at lunchtime. But corporate companies in Canada prefer you chained to your desk while you eat.

I always used to eat like it was going out of style, just like that kid. Funny.

Andrea said...

Yes, in Europe, especially in France wine is often part of the lunch meal. When I lived in Italy people would go home for lunch and a two hour nap before heading back to work. In Germany the lunch meal is considered the main meal of the day, so it's usually big, heavy, wiener schnitzel anyone, with fried potatoes? Bread, sandwiches and fruit is often the evening meal about 7.

Those Europeans are weird, ya know?

Brighton Pensioner said...

Lunch is the main meal in France, too, and people expect to go home for it, which is why everything shuts down between 12 and 2.

Eva Gallant said...

I doubt I'd ever have made it back to my desk after wine and a nap!

Leauxra said...

I am required (REQUIRED!) to take a 1 hour unpaid lunch every day. I use to hate it.

Now I take an exercise class at the gym at work, and bolt down my food at my desk afterwards.

Fast lunch eaters will find a way, even after retirement to keep scarfing our food.

Susan in the Boonies said...

You said kittycorner.
And whilst.

I remember the lime jello/shredded carrot/blop-o'-mayonnaise horror pictures in my mother's cookbooks, and thinking, "What the...???"

Austan said...

Until HS I was in public schools, where you ate as fast as possible before someone took parts. In HS we ate in more civilized ways. I rarely had lunch breaks throughout my working years. In restaurants you're lucky to leave the line to go to the restroom. I always thought the "required by law" breaks were fiction, because where I worked there were no such things.

jenny_o said...

You would win that bet. I was a slow eater as a child and still am, no matter how rushed I am. My husband could give you a run for your money though :)

I'm starting to think fast/slow eating is in our genes, not our circumstances.

Tom G. said...

Reading this post as I shovel Greek yogurt into my gaping maw. I may be at my desk, but they CAN"T MAKE ME WORK.

Sadly, I've traveled to Europe for work over 20 times, but have yet to get one of those fabled afternoon naps. I must be doing it wrong.

SparkleFarkle said...

During my still-able-to-work daze, I managed to secure only the jobs that required lunchroomers to poke fun at just about everything I had in my bucket. Yep, elementry school never ended for me, while I was part of the so-called "work place." But as rough as it got, I never purposely caved. Nope-->. No intentionally-looking-at-an-annoying-someone-so-that-I-could-chew-with-my-mouth-open stunts for me! And, ya, most of them got paid for it.

Kara said...

Sorry to say, but it's true about Europe. While on vacation in Italy, I expected to be stuffing myself on pasta, but found myself staving instead as every single place shut down from noon until 8pm! We quickly learn to purchase food (and wine)to keep at our apartment to sustain us through their long lunch breaks because the old saying is true..."When in Rome..."

Laoch of Chicago said...

One is enthusiastic about European lunch folkways.

Friko said...

No, not many countries have long lunches anymore, perhaps Spain, or possibly Greece, where they don't reckon much to work anyway.

France used to be leisurely, but isn't now and the German speaking countries and Scandinavians have always had no more than 3- to 60 minutes for lunch.

In the UK too, I always sat at my desk with a sandwich and rarely went out to eat.

Linda O'Connell said...

I'm all for the madatory nap thing, because after I eat lunch I am ready for a nap.

IndigoWrath said...

Hey Pearl! I can confirm that we do indeed have a more casual approach to meals in Europe: gourmet food, wine, coffee, cigars, chocolate, followed by a nice nap under our desks. To be honest, after a breakfast like that, I'm amazed we get anything done before lunch. You should come visit; I have some sway with the Slacker Exchange Program. Be one of us! Indigo x

Ach du lieber said...

I read a story just last week about stockbrokers in Hong Kong protesting because the 'man' is reducing their lunch hours from 90 min to just an hour.

Poor babies....

http://www.businessweek.com/news/2012-01-18/hong-kong-securities-brokers-plan-lunch-break-protest-today.html

The Elephant's Child said...

Lunch at school taught me that you cannot swap a liverwurst sandwich for anything. Lunch at work at my desk. Lunch now can be anything and anytime. Naps are good though.

NYEMT said...

I ostensibly have a twenty-minute paid lunch break...but I eat at my desk, and almost never get through it without being interrupted by the phone.

I had to learn to eat quickly when I was a kid. I dawdled over my food to the point of being the only kid still sitting in the cafeteria at St Thomas the Apostle in Minneapolis, whilst everyone else had gone off to play before class resumed. My parents despaired over me still sitting at the table poking listlessly at my food an hour after dinner was over, and no sage words about starving Third-World children would induce me to eat. It took them years to break me of this. I still eat my food quickly, and am usually the first one away from the table, still expecting to get scolded for taking too long to eat. :)

Leenie said...

NO!! Not the lime Jello-shredded carrot and celery with Miracle Whip! I'll talk, I'll tell you everything!

Jayne Martin said...

For as long as I can remember (and the older I get, the shorter than time period is) I've worked at home eating what I want when I want, according to my finances at the time. As a freelance writer for most of my life (aka unemployed person), peanut butter sandwiches and scrambled eggs, not necessarily together, have been the staples of my lunches. Nobody ever paid me for the time it took to eat them, but that would have been nice.

Gigi said...

Lunch - talk about drama. Somehow the workplace + lunch always equals drama (same goes for school now that I think about it) which is why I now take myself to a local park and eat my lunch, alone, in the car. It's actually quite peaceful.

Belle said...

When I worked at A&W in my twenties you took your lunch in the office. If it got busy you worked and then went back to finish lunch. I actually liked working there because management was so nice and they gave regular raises.

That Janie Girl said...

I want to nap through lunch. And then eat.

Will that work?

aamedor said...

Love the play on words A Lert, hilarious.

Symdaddy said...

Here I am Pearl!

Comment No. 31 (I think).

Can you see me down here?

I have lunch every day at 12.30pm (give or take) and have a nap afterwards until 3pm (I'm in Europe, obviously). I don't mind having a nap, but those communal sleeping areas at the back of the restaurants are pretty dirty and squalid.

River said...

Schools down here in Aus don't have cafeterias with provided lunches. Kids take lunch to school in a lunchbox which sits in their bag until lunchtime, then they all go outside to eat and play until the bell goes to call everyone back to lessons.
At work, lunch hours are never paid time, but we rarely have to clock out. In factories there's a siren or bell that rings to signal start and end of lunchtimes, shorter teabreaks are paid time however.
I like the idea of going home for lunch and a nap, but it would take me the whole two hours just to get home and back again on the buses, so it would mean eating lunch on the way home, then napping on the bus on the way back. So that wouldn't work.

Pat said...

I think France is where lunch is taken most seriously and it used to be that they would go home to the suburbs for it mid day.

Jo said...

That jello thing with the Miracle Whip? I think you may have just cured my unfortunate food addiction.....

Thanks?

Dr. Kathy McCoy said...

I once worked in a place where the schedule of patients was so heavy that lunch was out of the question and bathroom breaks were only possible if a long-time patient showed up who didn't mind losing a few minutes out of a session so the therapist could run to the bathroom. We weren't paid a salary but $20 per patient who showed up. We used to carry Go-Gurt tubes and ingest the yogurt in 15 seconds between patients. Such memories make retirement feel very sweet, indeed!