It’s back to school or back to work for may of you. For me it’s nearly the end of the blitz of work I’ve been doing, and September 7th brings the beginning of a new semester; the fourth of five without a break, and six new distance education courses. Here we go!
Work or school, I am, and always have been, a lunch packer. I’ve listened over the years to a lot of whining from people who tell me that they just don’t have the time or the money to eat healthy. The money thing I’ll address another time, but the time thing I’ll address right now. Hooey, I say. Hooey. You heard me.
This is the start of my seventh year back at school, and for five of those years I held a full time job. A full time job that started at 5:15am, no less, so there wasn’t exactly time to get up in the morning and make a lunch to take to work, nor was there really time to make or grab anything between work and school. For three years I worked at the campus of a local university, but attended classes at a community college across town. I would finish work at 1pm and start class at 1:30. To say it was a mad dash was a bit of an understatement. Things were marginally more relaxed when I started attending classes at the same campus I worked on, however, on top of my full time job and school I also taught first aid, CPR, and advanced aquatic leadership courses on the side. At the same time Paul was not only working on his PhD, but was also racing triathlon in the professional / elite category. And we both packed lunches. Every. Single. Day.
I was always a lunch packer, taking little bits of this and that with me to munch on throughout the day. Paul was a lunch packer too, and when I met him in the late days of his undergrad, he had long before perfected the sandwich system. I like to think that I took the sandwich system to a new level by introducing better packing, but the credit for the system goes all to Paul.
I’ve tried pushing the sandwich system to it’s limits in the past, but Paul says it will work the best if you set aside time for sandwich making twice a week – in our house it happened on Sundays and Wednesdays. You make three sandwiches on Sunday, and another two on Wednesday. Yes, they have tomatoes in them, and Paul’s always had at least one kind of sliced meat.
First, you need a decent sturdy bread. The bread I have used here is my favourite sandwich bread; it comes from Wheatberries Bakery on the Sunshine Coast of BC; Georgiana’s Multigrain Bread. Any nice multigrain sandwich bread will do. You have to toast your bread – lightly at the very least. Toasting the bread will help it hold up for a few days in the fridge. The toasted bread should be cooled before sandwich assembly is started.
Prep all of your ingredients at once, and lay them out on a plate. If anything is wet, give it a little pat dry with a paper towel. I like to wash the lettuce and spin it dry, but if you don’t have a salad spinner, a pat with a dish towel will do just fine. You need an effective lettuce barrier. What’s a lettuce barrier? A barrier, made from lettuce, which will protect the bread-y part of your sandwich from the more moist ingredients, like sliced tomatoes. Having an effective lettuce barrier is just as important, if not more important, than toasting the bread. You need full coverage, so don’t shred your lettuce, and opt for a varietal with larger leaves. I’ve used red leaf lettuce here, but we’ve used everything in the past from romaine to iceberg to butter lettuce. You can layer the leaves to make a larger barrier if necessary, but one whole leaf is preferable. The lettuce barrier should be at least as large as, if not ever so slightly larger than, the bread its self.
If you’re using meat, or a meat substitute (like the yummy spicy miso glazed tofu slices I’ve used here), it goes down on the bread directly on top of any sort of smear you’ve opted for; here, mayo on one slice, grainy mustard on the other. Then the lettuce barrier, tomato slices (two), cucumber slices (six), onion slices (whatever floats your boat), and the other lettuce barrier. If you’re using cheese, it goes against the other slice of bread.
Now you’ll need to contain your sandwiches. The best thing, in my opinion (and I think also in Paul’s), is to use these sandwich keepers by Tupperware. And I do mean Tupperware and not any of the cheap knock offs out there. If you don’t have the containers, you could wrap the sandwiches in parchment paper and tie with a ribbon – which makes a super cute back to school present for an awesome teacher friend, just so you know. Alternate sandwich containers would also work fine, I’m sure, the thing is to allow a little air circulation around the sandwiches and avoid them getting mushed in your bag. No one likes a mushy sandwich.
So, to recap; 1. you need to toast your bread. 2. you need an effective lettuce barrier, and 3. you need an appropriate sandwich storage system. You can do it! Bulk lunch prep! In addition to the sandwiches we each pack a muffin which I bake in bulk and keep in the freezer, and a container of fruit and yoghurt. The fruit we also chop up and divide into containers twice a week (usually on the same days as sandwich making takes place), and just add a few scoops of yoghurt to the container the night before.
The sandwiches pictured above feature tasty spicy miso glazed tofu slices, which are a quick, healthy, and tasty alternative to nasty processed sandwich slices. The recipe is below.
All text and photos © The Muffin Myth 2010