Archives for posts with tag: lunch

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I pack my lunch almost every day, and even if I buy, I usually eat at my desk. This leaves me open to every single person I work with seeing what I have for lunch, and even worse, seeing me eat it.

Ugh.

I have a few co-workers who are fairly obsessed with what anyone and everyone is eating for lunch. Every day, one of them will come up to me with my food spread before me and ask, “What’cha got there?”

It’s an innocent enough question, but it kind of irks me because I’ve always been a private eater. I don’t like eating in front of people at all. The beauty of my last job was that while the room my office was in was home to several agents, they were almost never there, so I could eat in relative privacy every day.

My office now? I’m surrounded by coworkers at all times, and my desk is small. So, my food has to sit to the left of me (because my mousepad is to the right of me) and is in plain view of every person who walks by. I don’t know why I should find this bothersome, but I do…especially if I’m eating soup.

So I’ve toughened up, and become used to people looking at my food, and looking at me eating said food. It’s a fair price to pay to work at one of the best companies I’ve ever had the to honor to call my 9-5 home.

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I owe Panera Bread an apology. My girls like going there for lunch or dinner, but I always hated it. I find their soups too salty, and their sandwiches are, what seems to me, made from too thickly sliced packaged deli meats. I find them to be generally flavorless. Plus it’s a tad pricey for food that really isn’t that great.

But this past weekend, my daughters wanted to “eat light” for dinner and I gave in and took them to Panera again. I figured I’d try something new, fully expecting to hate it and in return, have a really good, rant-worthy blog post.

I got the green goddess cobb salad, pictured above, I have to tell you, it was really good! I thoroughly enjoyed the entire salad, and so did my daughters, who kept sticking their forks in for another bite.

So, sorry Panera…you’re not so bad after all. You just have to know what to order.

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Last week my girls and I went to lunch at this new place in town called Zinburger. It’s a wine & burger joint, and as we were tired of turning to fast food for lunch, we thought we’d give it a try. It was a little pricey—$10 for a burger that comes with nothing more than a few pickle chips. Any sides were extra, so I could see this bill quickly adding up to be a real wallet buster.

And it was. 1 burger, a bowl of chili, an order of fries and a milkshake came to $40.00 after the tip. I am not accustomed to paying $40.00 for lunch when all I got was a bowl of chili – but, it was good. The food was all super good. My daughter’s burger was one of the best I’ve tasted in recent years, and my chili, although initially rather cold (and had to be sent back), was also very good. The milkshake? Little tiny sips of sin.

So while I worried over why I paid $40 for lunch for the rest of the afternoon, the soothing balm was that at least the food was really good, and somewhat worth the expense.

But I’m finding this to be the exception and not the rule.

Saturday while out shopping hubby decided he wanted to lunch at a local deli called Little John’s. While you can order a turkey on rye they are better known for their sandwich collaborations, my husband’s favorite being the Five Easy Pieces sandwich (ham & turkey breast with 1000 island, herb mayo, home made cole slaw, bacon and melted Muenster cheese on grilled pumpernickel).

I wasn’t too jazzed to go there. The last time I’d been they had really messed up my sandwich, and it literally left me with a bad taste in my mouth. Not only was the bread badly burned, but the sandwich, in a to-go container, became very soggy. A sandwich that is simultaneously wet and burned is disgusting. After one bite I made my husband drive me back so I could return it. But I figured anyone could have one bad day, and they deserved a second chance.

We ordered….2 sandwiches and two soup & half sandwich combos, along with 2 drinks. I got a Reuben thinking that would be pretty hard to mess up. The gal rang us up and the total? $36.78…really? For sandwiches? 

As I glanced at the menu board I realized that each sandwich cost between $7 & $8. For close to the same price Little John’s charges for their very average sized sandwich, we could have gotten giant subs at Jersey Mike’s and had leftovers. When I realize stuff like that I go crazy. But, the money was spent, so we sat down to eat.

I picked up my Reuben and tried to take a bite. The sandwich was soggy. Again. After one bite it began to fall apart. The corned beef was covered in now melted 1000 island dressing, making the sandwich slimy and extremely unappetizing. At this point I would need to eat it with a knife and fork – there was no way to handle this mess of a sandwich.

SammichI glared at hubby, sheepishly enjoying his sandwich, and said, “strike two!” He asked if I wanted them to make me a new one, and I told him to just return it – I’d rather have my $7.95 back. I was mad. I hadn’t wanted to come here, and my sandwich…my expensive sandwich…was disgusting. I went to the ladies room while hubby dealt with the manager.

I heard him talking to the guy. He told him about my previous visit and how this was strike two, but also told the guy how much he loved their food. A little good cop/bad cop. I went back to my seat and stared at the empty table in front of me. At least the iced tea was good.

But that was about it. The girls’ chicken noodle soup was horrible. It had very little broth, which we consider to be the heart of any good soup, and the noodles were thick and mushy. Nobody finished their lunch except hubby.

SoupBut I will say one good thing about Little John’s. The manager cared. Right as we were clearing up and getting ready to leave, he handed me a freshly and very carefully made Reuben. On the house.

And it was good. $7.95 good? No, but I appreciated the effort.

Will I go back? No way. Little John’s has proven to me that they don’t take the time to make a quality sandwich. They throw it together and hope you won’t notice. I expect crap like that from McDonalds…when you get a 79¢ lop-sided burger with mustard oozing out the side you think…well, it’s only a 79¢ burger. But to pay close to $8 for a sandwich that can’t withstand the first bite?

Eff that shit.

 

 

table n onion

I realized this past weekend that certain folks out there don’t understand how things work in this world.

For instance, if you are looking for a parking spot at the grocery store, and you see someone backing out of their space, you stop your car and put on your blinker. This signifies to the entire world that you have claimed that spot once it has opened up. Anyone who takes that spot from you is a d-bag.

Plain and simple.

Something of a similar nature happened to us at King’s Dominion on Saturday. I almost always pack a lunch when we go there – a burger with fries is over $15 in the park, and it’s not even very good. I also park right next to the small pavilion where they have 6 picnic tables, so it’s easy for us to get the stuff from the car to the table.

Yeah, I got this lunch thing down.

So, after a morning of coasters and carousels, we were all ready to head to the car and chow down on our sandwiches. The last time we were there we could not get a table, and we had to eat out of the back of our car – but it was only three of us then. This time we had friends along, and we really needed a table.

I walked around the pavilion and surveyed what stages of luncheon-ness the groups occupying the tables were at. Having spotted folks who had eaten their sandwiches and were now just picking at chips, I asked if they were going to be leaving soon. They said yes, that they were just about to clean up their stuff. I said great, and put my water and my bag down on the table. I told the kids to stand by and stand watch.

I walked to the car to get our cooler and noticed a teenage girl looking daggers at me. Oh well, teens are known for being bitchy. When I turned to head back to the table, there was a man sitting there.

Hmmm.

He was cutting an onion on a paper plate using a Johnny-on-the-go pocket knife. I approached him and said, “excuse me, but I had my stuff here.”

He glanced at me and said, “Yes, well we’ve been waiting over there a long time for a table to open up, and this one is ours. But thank you!”

Seriously? What is this, a line at the bank where you wait for the next available cashier? That’s not how it works, bub – not in the world of parking spots and picnic tables.

See, I had secured that table – secured it by engaging in coversation with the previous occupants – sealing the deal if you will. All this dork did was sit and wait. That doesn’t cut it in my book.

And I didn’t like the way he had spoken to me. He had told me his side and dismissed me – like, nothing further needs to be said, so piss off. The only thing that kept me from sitting down and refusing to move was the fact that the table right next to us opened up. Otherwise, I would have dug my heels in.

But I was still pissed and so were my kids. I mean, who muscles in and steals a table from two 12-year old girls? I mumbled “douchebag” and walked away to set up our lunch.

He sat there cutting his onion, and taking out bags of cold cuts from his cooler. His dumpy wife and snarky kids came over and sat down. Oh, and the bitchy teen? One of his. No wonder she gave me the cold stare – I’d “stolen” their table.

So while we ate, we picked them apart. We laughed at how idiotic it was to sit and cut an onion at a picnic table – why not cut it at home and put it in a ziploc or some tupperware? Or better yet, skip the onion. Who wants volcano breath while you’re waiting in line to ride the volcano?

My youngest daughter was really mad. I told her it really didn’t matter because we’d gotten a table anyway with no further waiting, but she was still sore that she’d been bullied out of her spot by a middle aged man in too-high shorts and knee socks. She’s just like her dad…

Had hubby been there, there would have been no turning the other cheek. No all’s well that ends well. There would have been shouting and name calling, and stares, and shaking of heads.

So during lunch I schooled the kids on the proper etiquette for commandeering a table, whether at the mall or in the King’s Dominion parking lot lunch pavilion – and I told them loud enough for him to hear.  I also told them not to let grown men push you around when you are in the right.

Oh, and the most important advice? Cut your freakin’ onions at home.

9 inch Pizza_BoxLast week my daughter attended an after school function where you could buy pizza for $1 a slice. It wound up being overcooked Papa John’s pizza that was cut into 12 slices rather than 8. (In other words, a rip off.) I’ve blogged about my kid’s crappy palette before. They actually prefer Domino’s or Papa John’s to good, New York style pizza. But the doughy disappointment offered to my child at school is a far cry from the pizza parties I experienced as a child.

Our town had 3 pizza parlors, and all of them were good. Benny’s pizza was right across the street from the elementary school, and you could get 2 slices and a coke for $1.50. Leonia Pizza was by far the best in town, and you could choose between regular or Sicilian style pizza. Then there was Sergio’s, which catered more to the middle and high school crowd because it was on that side of town. Their pizza was good too, but the dude that ran the place was kind of creepy in a perverted way.

Yes, it was great to go out at lunch and grab a couple of slices, but the best was when you had a classroom pizza party. This usually came as a reward for being well-behaved, doing well on tests, or maybe just because the teacher was craving something more than tuna on rye encased in Saran Wrap. Regardless of the reason, this special lunch-time treat was worth all the work you had put in to earn it.

You did a lot of clock watching on pizza party days…the morning dragged as anticipation built. But before long, there would be a noon-time knock at the door, and the delivery man would bring in a stack of white boxes, and the smell of cheese, oregano and oven-baked crust would permeate the room.

Grabbing a slice was an art form in itself. Unlike the prefab, decidedly stiff stuff my kids call pizza, the slices I was accustomed to required two hands to pick up. In order to successfully transfer the pizza from the box to your plate, you needed to grab the crust’s edge and then slide your other hand under, cradling the crust down by the point in your palm (or fingertips, depending on how hot the pizza was).

If you carelessly snatched a piece, the slice would more than likely flop down, which resulted in the cheese sliding off your crust and into the box, and which, if you weren’t quick, would be confiscated by the person standing next to you – mmmm extra cheese!

I was never one to fold my pizza. I thought by folding it, you ate it twice as fast, and I wanted to make my pizza last. Then there were the girls who blotted the pizza with napkins to get off the excess oil. Why bother eating it at all if you’re going to do that? Besides, I knew that I’d drained a lot of the oil by the translucent circle left on my paper plate. Sometimes you got a slice with a giant bubble on it, which never bothered me. Then you had kids who didn’t like eating the crust – I was one of the ones who did.

Which ever way you wound up eating it, pizza parties were a blast. You got a break from the lunch room, and the monotony of the usual brown bag midday fare. And after you cleaned up your plates and resumed the school day, your belly full and slowly digesting, you could still smell the evidence of your noon-time feast.

The rest of the day would sail happily by. And there was usually at least one oil stain on my pant leg.

Hot dog

Nothing irks me more than when I think I have wasted money. I believe it occurs most while dining out – paying for food that wasn’t all that great is the ultimate waste of one’s hard-earned dollar.

Sometimes it’s unavoidable – like when you’re at an amusement park. You pay $5 for a slice of pizza that tastes like cheese and sauce on Wonder Bread, and another $4 for a soda that is 85% ice cubes. But unless you are willing to get hand-stamped, exit the park and picnic out of your car, you have little choice. (By the way, we did that all the time as teens going to Great Adventure in New Jersey)

However, when I am free to chose amongst the hundreds of eating establishments in town, and I chose a clunker, I get mad. That happened to me yesterday. Our family decided to have lunch together before hubby headed to work and my girls and I finished our prom shopping.

See, it was senior cut day, so my oldest was “off” from school. As luck would  have it, it was also the day that my youngest daughter’s school was having a BMX bike show for kids who sold enough items in their fundraiser. I blogged about my issues with this fundraiser a few months back (read it here), and vowed to boycott the school that day. So, the four of us were looking for a place to eat lunch.

There’s a restaurant called The Riverside that makes really good burgers. However, they are always crowded, and the parking lot is a hassle to maneuver around, especially when they are crowded, which they always are. There is another joint across the street called Jak n’ Jil. They’ve been in business since 1954, and are supposed to be known for their foot-long hot dogs, so we decided to give them a try.

The prices for your average burger or dog seemed reasonable enough. Some of the other sandwiches and platters seemed a bit pricey for me; a Gyro was almost $8 and I was fairly certain there was no little Greek man in the back shaving lamb off a spit. Eight bucks wasn’t worth spending if all you got was pre-packaged gyro meat.

We all got burgers or dogs, an order of fries, an order of onion rings, one milkshake, and one soda. I had water.

My dog was just ok. It tasted like a very low quality dog…you know, the kind that tastes like baloney? My bun was dry and too big for the dog – with each bite I felt like all I was eating was white bread, and then my mouth would find some of the hot dog, and my brain would say “oh, there’s some baloney.”

The onion rings, priced at $3.75 were also a disappointment. They only gave us 7 onion rings. That’s over fifty cents per ring.

When it came time to pay the bill, I was astounded when the gal behind the counter said “That will be $32.60.”

How’s that?

Within seconds my brain counted through all the things I could have bought for $32. Things that I have avoided buying because I am trying to watch every dime. Things like:

  • A haircut
  • Plants for my garden
  • Grass seed for my lawn
  • A new pot to replace the one with the bowed bottom that wobbles on my stove when I’m trying to boil water

Instead, I had spent it on HOT DOGS.

I was furious. I turned to my husband and said “Thirty-two dollars for that…can you believe it?” I didn’t care who heard. I was in no mood to be polite. I went back to check the menu and did a little quick mental math. Although all the prices seemed reasonable, once you added it all up it equaled out to a pretty pricey repast.

I usually try to keep our lunches under $20, sometimes even less if I have a coupon. Hell, I was pissed a few weeks ago when I paid over $18 for a three slices of pizza and a salad at Sabarro. And here I spent twice that amount on a lunch that was nothing more than baloney sticks.

Ugh. Thirty-two dollars on hot dogs and fries. Had they been good dogs? You wouldn’t be reading this. There’s a place where I grew up called Hiram’s that makes the best hot dogs I’ve ever had. Anthony Bourdain featured them on an episode of “No Reservations.”  Those dogs are worth paying $32 for.

So what’s a gal to do? Nothing. All I can do is put Jak n’ Jil’s on my permanent “no way, José” list. They will never, ever see another thin dime of my money.

And to add insult to injury, every time I burped I was given a gentle reminder of the money I had wasted.

 

Lunch

School lunches have gone to hell in a hand basket.

Each and every day, I make my oldest daughter’s lunch. It doesn’t matter what it is – anything to fill her stomach. Her lunch bag usually contains one of two staples; a ham sandwich on a roll or good old PB&J. If for some reason – flood, earthquake or nuclear attack – I don’t have either of these items on hand, she’ll settle for a bag of cereal or some saltine crackers with butter.

Anything to avoid the lunch line.

I’ve asked her in the past if she would mind buying lunch that day. Perhaps I had cramps or felt under the weather and was therefore unwilling to slap together some form of consumable for her noon meal. And her answer is always “no, I’ll make something.”

When I ask her if the food at school is that bad, she says that has nothing to do with it. There just isn’t enough time to wait in the line and eat your lunch. By the time you get your food you only have about 4 minutes to sit down and eat it. She’d rather have the time to eat a crappy lunch and BS with friends than bother with the lines.

You see, lunch has changed since I was in school. When I was a wee lass in grammar school we had a whole hour for lunch. The entire school broke for that hour and once you ate your lunch you had the rest of the hour to play, socialize or poke around town. We had no school cafeteria – that was only available in the high school – so you either ate what mom packed in a brown paper bag (no cartoon character lunch boxes for us) or grabbed something to eat in town.

That’s right. You could leave the school grounds and eat at a restaurant. Our grammar school was in the center of town, and there were a variety of places you could grab lunch if you were lucky enough to have the funds to do so. Lunch out was a rare treat for me, and on the odd occasion where mommy crossed my palm with the requisite $1.50, I was in heaven.

Should I get pizza at Benny’s? 2 slices and a soda for $1.25 or so. That left you change to go to the Variety Store for candy afterward. Or you could head down to Joe’s Subs for a half of a #1 – Ham, cheese, and cappicola loaded with shredded lettuce, tomato, onion and oil & vinegar. There were also 2 options for burgers; Hilgens’ where you could get the student special for your buck fifty (burger, fries and a small soda) or Lange’s, whose fries were of the krinkle cut variety – which I preferred.

And let’s not forget the most coveted option – going home for lunch. Oh, I was so envious of the kids who lived close enough to the school to walk home for lunch. What a total break from the rigors of the school day that must have been – to sit in your own home eating a sandwich and watching a cartoon or two before you had to head back for round two of learning those three R’s.

I only did home lunches in the most dire of cases…like my lunch fell in a puddle. That was when I would run the 9 blocks home, shovel anything edible in my mouth and run right back to school. It was more fun to brown bag it and have time to play.

In middle school your options were somewhat limited because the school was further away from town than the elementary school, and in high school you were too far away unless you had a car. But the point is you had time. Time to take a real break from learning – then you went back to class somewhat refreshed.

My kids don’t have that. They only get around 20 minutes for lunch. That is barely enough time to eat if you pack a lunch that does not require re-heating. My youngest has access to a microwave this year, but she says on days the line is so long that you barely have time to eat once it’s hot. She will buy lunch occasionally, but the lines at her school aren’t as long or move faster. My oldest? She flat out refuses to stand in the line.

It’s one of the things that sucks about their generation. Yes, they have the internet and iPods and TV on demand. But for some reason their school day is like a boot camp – learn! learn! learn! There are few breaks where they can recharge, especially once they get older and their course load is more taxing on the brain.

Lunch time was golden when I went to school…a time to kick back and relax; catch up with friends and maybe step outside for some fresh air. Now it’s an episode of Beat the Clock – cram in your food and get the hell back to class.

the lunchbox has landed - sans one turkey sandwich

Yesterday was my kids’ first day of school. I know it’s early…I have blogged/whined about this fact in the past. All in all, their day went well.

Enter the morning of day two. I had to make both the girls lunch – corn dog nuggets and baked beans were on the cafeteria menu. Wouldn’t you pack a lunch, too? My girls like a good sandwich for lunch; ham for daughter #1 and turkey for daughter #2. I had two rolls left and I had just bought a pound of ham yesterday afternoon. I didn’t bother to buy turkey because I knew I still had some in the fridge.

As I dug through the meat & cheese drawer gathering all I needed to build these sandwiches, I couldn’t seem to find the turkey. Hmmm. No, that’s bacon. No, that’s Muenster cheese. I pop my head up and ask hubby, who is notorious for moving things around in the fridge, “Where did the turkey go?”

He looked at me with surprised horror and stated, “I ate it for lunch yesterday.”

This is another thing hubby is notorious for. He will use the last of something, be it turkey, mustard, cream cheese, zip lock bags, and not tell me. I, therefore, keep this food/pantry item in my mental store room and only find it’s missing when I need it the most. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve prepared a hot dog only to find there is no mustard – to me, that’s like eating cereal with no milk.

So I balled him out. A little. I didn’t have time for anything more elaborate because it was 6:30 a.m. and I had to scramble to invent a lunch. Daughter #2 tends to be a bit picky, so we went over all the choices and settled on a smorgasbord lunch comprised of this & that from the cabinets and fridge.

And today when I go to the store? I am loading up on things that can easily be made into a last-minute lunch. I just hope hubby doesn’t eat them all.

Slip Sliding Away

Yesterday we checked two “must do” things off our vacation list; a trip to the water park, and lunch at Harry’s Seafood Bar & Grille in St. Augustine.

A few months back while watching a program on the Travel Channel, I think, we saw a show about haunted restaurants. One of them was in St. Augustine, Florida. Knowing we were going to vacation in the Sunshine State over the summer, I looked at the girls and said “We are there.”

The legend is that when you go into the upstairs ladies room you may see a woman in the mirror, or hear a woman crying. This is supposed be Catalina, the one time owner of the residence. Another ghost that makes an appearance from time to time is a man in a top hat who hangs out in the hallway on the way to the bathrooms.

We were seated at a table in the upstairs dining room, which was great because it put us that much closer to ghost central. We waited perhaps 6.2 minutes and my youngest daughter and I made our way down the creepy, twisty-turny hallway that leads to the bathroom.

No man in a top hat. Rats.

We entered the bathroom, and I immediately was struck by how large it was. Two sinks with mirrors hung above them, windows that looked out onto downtown St. Augustine, and two stalls. My daughter and I called out to Catalina, looked in the mirrors, and tried hard to hear any crying. That was a rather difficult task because they had Zyteco music playing rather loudly in there, which made me want to cry.

We made several more trips to the bathroom, in addition to nosing around in other dining rooms, hallways and stairwells, but we were not destined to have a paranormal experience. But the food was really good, so we made a pact to lunch there during each vacation to Florida – maybe one day we will be treated to a visit from the other side.

After lunch we made our way up to Jacksonville to go to a water park called Adventure Landing. It was a small park, but they had a good late afternoon admission price, and we had a “been there done that” attitude towards the water park in Daytona Beach.

Let me state right here an now that I do NOT like water parks. To begin with, I don’t like being wet all day. I also do not like parading around for hours on end in nothing more than a bathing suit and bad hair. Add to this little equation the fact that it is very hard for me to A) get into, and more importantly, B) get out of an inner tube. Half the rides in the park require the use of an inner tube.

It goes something like this:

  1. Climb 8000 steps to the top of a tower where I am not only shaking from my fear of heights, but also from the realization that I have to lower my rather chubby carcass into an inner tube that rests roughly 4 inches off the ground. This requires me to use thigh muscles that forgot they existed – gravity usually takes over at some point and I only hope the tube can survive the force of impact.
  2. When it is our turn, ride attendant must use every muscle in her 114 pound, 18 year old body to put our tube into motion down the water slide. I give her an apologetic look as I plummet into the darkened, watery tube.
  3. Once at the bottom, I am faced with the dilemma of how to get out of the tube. There is no way, I repeat, NO WAY I can simply straddle the inner tube and stand up. Having to act quickly, I must do the stop, drop and roll exit. This requires me to steady the tube, lift myself up a bit and roll over the side, leaving me face down and ass up in the watery pool at the bottom of the slide. Thank goodness my face is already sunburned to mask my total humiliation.
  4. Tell my kids “that was awesome!” and vow to make my husband go the next time.

All joking aside, it really was a fun day. My kids had a blast trying some of the more death defying water rides that you couldn’t pay me to get on. But they also had fun just cruising down the lazy river with mom and dad. That’s one of the things that makes my kids great.

They know I hate water parks, and they know I took one for the team yesterday with a smile on my face. And I know they appreciated it. I guess that’s what families are all about.