Monday, December 6, 2010

old school lunches

Don't Call Me Chef, a column I co-write with Marty and The Hungry Caterpilar in The Star once a month, turns two today. We wanted to do something special to mark the anniversary of our column.Whether by chance, coincidence or design we found a partner in Tupperware this month. They were launching a new product: a tiffin carrier which they call BYO Tapau, and we decided to run a contest to coincide. We'd invite readers and bloggers to send us their favourite tiffin meal (packed lunch), with photos, for a chance to win RM1,000 worth of Tupperware products, including the brand new tiffin set.

The response was overwhelming, you can read the three winning submissions in Don't Call Me Chef. (will post the link tomorrow!).

In school, my packed-snacks (to be eaten during mid-morning recess) were quite dismal, or so I thought. Yeah, yeah -- I was quite the brat. My standard packed meal was sandwiches: sardine, egg or cheese were the choices I had. Sometimes, I just got bread and butter.

I wasn't pleased nor proud to take out my packed meal in front of my friends as they almost always had more interesting food from home:fried rice, fried noodles, pastries or cake. Quite often, I wouldn't unpack my lunch at all, prefering to go hungry during recess instead. Are you frowning with disgust? Me too!

I didn't tell my mum, of course, but she always found out. Looking for the tupperwares she'd find the uneaten sandwiches in my bag, sometimes festering in there for days. Yuck.

Anyways, that was then.

I always imagined that when I started packing my own meals, I'd have some really creative and exotic dishes to go.

Guess what? 30 years on and I pack sandwiches for lunch! Truth be told, I don't often pack my lunch. I usually skip lunch as I find heavy mid-day meals make me unproductive. Ok, even more unproductive than I usually am. All I want to do after a heavy lunch is sleep. On the odd occassion that I do, I opt for sandwiches. Why? They're tasty, healthy and not too heavy.

Plus, I love making sandwiches: I get excited thinking of new fillings that go in between my bread.

If I don't have time, I make a fancy egg sandwich. Well, not that fancy. Basically I cook a frittata loaded with mushrooms, leeks, tomatos and whatever else I may fancy and dress it with cheese (feta works surprisingly well) and ifyou like, some lettuce.

When I'm feeling a little more ambitious, I make all kinds of vegetarian burgers. The most recent one I made was with tofu, mushrooms, cashshew nuts, pine nuts and sunflower seeds and seasoned heavily with cumin, chilli pepper, mustard and soy.

And then I served the patty with some apple sauce. Oh My!

So, my sandwiches fill the top tier of my tiffin. What goes in the bottom? Soup, of course! What else goes better with sandwiches, right? Most soups I like are eaten hot but since I don't have access to  a stove or microwave at my office, I opt for cold soups: corn, garlic and potato +leek soups are good cold. The best cold soup? Gazpacho, a Spanish tomato-based soup.  (Will post about this separately soon!)

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