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Archive for January 3rd, 2012

Lunch

I have a relatively minor but important indulgence:  I eat lunch out almost every day.  It’s ironic that the importance of Lunch Out escalates during Orthodox fasting periods, when we’re supposed to be saving money for almsgiving, but there it is:  I find other places to cut back so I can give alms, but Lunch Out is critically important at such times, since my favorite cafe is the only place I can get a veggie burger on a bun.  I could cook a veggie burger at home, true.  But in this household of two, plain bread gets moldy in no time flat; I hate to think what would happen with burger buns, being consumed at the rate of one per day.

There is the added attraction of my “branch office.”  When I tell my husband I’m going to my “branch office,” he knows where to find me if he feels like joining me:  At Cafe on the Corner.  Before he retired, I used to be able to sit at the desk in the office in peace, paying my bills, writing in my journal, keeping my life on track.  Now that Himself is home all day, he spends a good chunk of it on line, doing heaven alone knows what, and I am desk-less.  At Cafe on the Corner, I can snag a large-ish table and spread out, day planner in one corner (I am one of those Paper dinosaurs), stacks of bills-to-be-paid and bills-to-be-mailed in another corner, and lunch in front of me; eventually, the empty dishes and the pile of bills will swap places.  I keep stamps and address labels in my planner, and my tote is large enough (and with pockets enough) that I can carry around a Paid stamp with me.  Being organized with “Office Tchotchkes” makes me feel Productive.  Once a secretary, always a secretary, I guess.

Recently my husband and I were discussing my odd little habit of Lunch Out, and I mentioned that when I was young and single, I had always eaten lunch out.  “Didn’t you ever pack a lunch?” he asked, surprised, and I had to think about it for a minute.  I knew that I had never packed a lunch; now, why?  Then it dawned on me.  “Sweetheart, anything I had brought into that house for lunch the next day would have disappeared overnight.  There were three hungry teenaged boys in that house, and they’d eat anything not nailed down.”

This is the difference between Only Children and Children with Four or More Siblings.  Only Children are accustomed to being able to put things in one place and being able to find them again several hours later.  Children with Four or More Siblings know that there is no such thing as A Safe Place.  The thought of leaving a cookie unattended “until we get back from a walk,” as my husband once did when we were visiting his parents, is enough to send someone like me into paroxysms of laughter.  So is the concept of Packing Lunch.

So, all these decades later, I find that I draw a blank when it comes to Making Lunch.  Sandwich meat between two slices of bread, OK.  Tuna mixed with mayo between two slices of bread, OK.  The ubiquitous peanut butter and jelly sandwich, OK (somewhat — I’m allergic to peanut butter, but I get the concept of it).  A can of soup, OK.  Every day for six weeks, not OK.  Throw in a fasting period, and I panic.  No meat, no dairy?!  WHAT?!?!  What do I do with this?!

Lunch Out as a mental-health concept, that’s what.  Me and my paperwork.  Me and a book.  Being Among other people without having to be With them.  And the possibility of a chance encounter, on a cold and dispiriting rainy afternoon, with the distinguished-looking retired federal agent who has shared my home for over forty years — Yes!  Geezer Trysts!  It’s all good.

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