Packed lunch: geek or chic?

Lettice Franklin 29 January 2010

Lettice Franklin considers…

My best friend, on seeing my defence of breakfast, complete with token quoting from challenging literary texts, after mocking me ruthlessly for an hour or so, suggested some themes for this week’s issue: ‘best food to snack on when reading something pretentious’ or ‘yummiest snacks when you are too busy having an existential crisis to cook’.

As a result, I am going to try to finish this article without sharing my very favourite Sophocles passage with you (fairly easy as I’m really not at all sure who Sophocles is), and I am also going to follow her advice and recommend the perfect post-lecture, pre-library lunch.

I, along with the other lucky arts students, spend many of my days on the Sidgewick site which despite an unpromising appearance is really a culinary treasure hunt.

I have a real weak spot for the History Faculty toasties, very cheap, very cheesy, the cheddar overflowing to form crunchy shards around the edge. Nadia’s cafe in the Law Faculty is more glamorous, tatty notice boards are replaced by the shining glass panes of our own mini-Stansted, cheddar by mozzarella, PG tips by peppermint. The Buttery serves appropriately buttery pastries and jacket potatoes.

The petrol-station decors and intellectual banter of these places are really irresistible to me so I don’t take packed lunches. I do nonetheless on a weekly basis decide that I would be richer, happier and healthier if I did. One of my very favourite episodes of Sex and the City (lets be honest a MUCH more important cultural source than Sophocles) explores the magic Mary-Poppins quality of what can be included within a humble lunch box. Carrie Bradshaw would surely appreciate the exoticism of butternut squash.

So, if I ever do pack a lunch, it is this butternut squash, feta and Parma ham salad I would put in my ever-waiting Tupperware box. It also makes a delicious dinner.

1. Peel and cut a butternut squash (you might as well cook it all and save the rest for many more nutritious lunches)

2. Put the chunks into a microwave-safe covered bowl with 4 tablespoons of water

3. Microwave on high for 2.5 minutes then let it stand, still covered, for another minute

4. Drain in a colander and leave until cool

5. Put the squash in a Tupperware box

6. Add Parma ham for a protein kick

7. Crumble feta on top, the sharp saltiness of the cheese contrasts nicely with the sweetness of the squash.

8. Add some rocket

9. Drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar

10. Add sunflower seeds for a pleasing crunch and to make a simple salad seem deeply classy

Lettice Franklin