Thursday, June 06, 2013

Carol's Lunch Story: a preview of The Hidden Art of Homemaking, Chapter 8

(From Laurel's Kitchen, by Laurel Robertson, Carol Flinders, and Bronwen Godfrey; original edition, 1976)  Along with recipes, this book describes life in Berkeley, California, sometime in the early 1970's. Laurel has become something of a spiritual mentor to Carol, as well as being the resident expert on vegetarian food. It's the end of this story that fits well with what Edith is trying to say in Chapter 8 (including her story about feeding a tramp during the Depression), and that also speaks to some of our hesitancy about "it worked for her, but I'm not her." I'm not endorsing the meditation-and-Zen philosophy of the book (or the somewhat dated recipes--even Laurel and Carol revised the book ten years later); but I think it makes good points about the value of small gestures that show our care for others. Besides, this story about packing lunches always makes me hungry.

"One morning, out for a walk, I stopped at Laurel's house to see if she'd join me. She was packing Ed's lunch--his dinner, rather, because he was working from twelve to nine at the time. Thinking it would take just a few minutes, I sat down and waited. She suggested a little nervously that I might want to go on without her, but I blithely told her to take her time. No lunch box was in sight, just a big wicker basket with a lid--quite a large one, really, for just sandwiches and fruit. Then I saw the sandwiches: thick slices of dark rye around an egg salad sparked with sweet red peppers and parsley, so thick she had to cut the bread in half before assembling the finished product. But the sandwiches were the least of the story. A fragrant barley soup with translucent pieces of zucchini, celery, and mushrooms went into a wide-mouthed thermos carefully preheated with boiling water, and a tiny packet of grated cheese went in alongside to be sprinkled on top of the soup. She rinsed and dried lettuce and cherry tomatoes and put them into a plastic container with a tiny bottle of herb dressing, then got out a cantaloupe and cut it in half in perfect zigzags, scooped out the seeds, and packed one of the halves with cottage cheese and a sprinkling of toasted sunflower seeds....[I'm skipping the part about the peanut butter-protein balls for dessert]....I watched while Laurel fixed two more thermoses (one of decaffeinated coffee, one of hot malted milk spiked with a protein supplement) and put in napkins, a spoon, a fork, and an orange, carefully scored for easy peeling. "He's fighting a cold," she said hurriedly, without looking up. The lid was secured, just barely, and we were on our way.

"That night I told Tim about the huge basket and all the little containers that fit together just so...I knew he would be amused. We tried to envision the reactions of Ed's co-workers as our skinny friend sat soberly bringing out jar after box after bag after bottle of exquisitely catered food. The fantasy became more and more elaborate, and soon we were laughing so hard our sides hurt.

"The next morning, though, as I was whipping lunches together in my usual assembly-line fashion, I felt a distinct drag on the operation. Something in me was balking. For the first time, I wondered whether Tim actually liked the lunches I fixed him. He'd never said he didn't. His lunch was always the same--an apple, an orange, and two sandwiches, one of soy spread with alfalfa sprouts, one with peanut butter and honey. Very tentatively, I put a couple of tomato slices with the soy spread, and I bagged the sprouts separately to keep them from sogging down in the mayonnaise. Banana slices and a sprinkle of leftover toasted sesame seed brightened up the peanut butter. I threw the sandwiches into the bag with the fruit, but this time I took a little more care than usual that the apple shouldn't sit directly athwart the sandwiches. I came within a hair's breadth of pulling the orange out and scoring it, but I wasn't sure he was ready for that...."

Next week's topic in The Hidden Art of Homemaking will be Chapter 8, "Food."  Stay tuned for more posts and maybe some recipes.

Linked from the Chapter 8 Linky at Ordo Amoris.


Cindy Rollins said...

I used to own the Laurel's Kitchen and a few similar cookbooks. This is a great story and convicting because I struggle to make lunch for my husband and it has been a long time since I made it special. In fact, the whole chapter was convicting because I read it so long ago and I still have not arrived. I would have thought I would have by now.

M.K. said...

That was very fun to read - thank you! What a beautiful picture of a loving wife.

hsmominmo said...

What a great illustration! The perfect thing for this chapter. Thanks for sharing it with us.
My husband would probably say "Quit it!" if I packed him such elaborate lunches. But he does appreciate when I have his simple, light lunch and water bottle ready for him before he heads to work in the mornings.

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