Remember when a lunchbox tended to contain little more than a sandwich (rendered soggy and squished by lunchtime, its filling seeping through pappy bread), an apple or banana, bag of crisps (Cheesy Wotsits, if you were lucky) and can of pop?
Such retro repasts have long since been sent packing. These days, you are more likely to win lunch cred in the office (and suffer fewer hunger pangs later in the day) if you’re sporting a ratty, compartmentalised box crammed with a salad of organic quinoa, pomegranate seeds and grilled halloumi, boasting a side snack of edamame beans and a carton of coconut water.
While that’s all well and good, the downside is that some people may become competitive over their portable feast. As if the workplace wasn’t already rife with hierarchy, it can be rather galling to peer over the shoulder of your keen-cook colleague and see them tucking into an appetising portion of noodles with prawns or chicken, accompanied by a little pot of Thai-inspired dressing. After all, there’s nothing worse than a side order of food envy to go with your unimaginative cheese (no tomato) roll.
To be crowned the office lunchbox king or queen, you’ll need to think outside the (lunch) box. While sandwiches of the non-soggy variety are always a good choice for lunch on the go, the key is to get imaginative, as the recipes in this month’s magazine show. This means making use of the lovely artisan breads in store (such as sourdough, spelt, buckwheat or rye) and filling them with delicious things – Vietnamese-style chicken, crisp and crunchy falafel, smoked mackerel with harissa mayonnaise, or chicken, pesto, mozzarella
and avocado layered between slices of fresh homemade focaccia.
Many people are too busy for a lunch break these days, so the al desko lunch is standard practice. Be aware, though, that food etiquette rules still apply: no-one wants to sit next to the person eating a lunch of tuna and sulphurous eggs – even if they are the quail variety – or the leftovers from last night’s curry that leaves its lingering calling card in the workspace for hours. It could be time to play safe with odourless edamame.