I’ve always had trouble with lunches at the office. No matter what I took from home, it was almost always not that good. Reheated leftovers? I wanted more. Peanut butter and jelly? Just sad. At my current job, if left to my own devices, I would go to the pizza place across the street every day. Which would be delicious.
But a few years ago, Bethany, a woman at my office, convinced me to start eating the salad she brought every day, and now I am super healthy and will live forever.
Salad?!? I know! And sometimes it even keeps me full until dinnertime!
When I figure out a system for something, I get excited and tell people about it, like I did when I figured out how to eat vegetables a few years ago. So here you go: How to Eat Salad at work, if you happen to have the kind of office job I have, which provides a fridge and plates and forks.
The main problem with salad is the greens. They’re boring and they go bad fast.
The key to my genius system: To build and maintain a stash of salad additions at work so wonderful and so nonperishable that, on any random week when you happen to have greens, you can take the greens to work, pile them on a plate, decorate them with your stash of deliciousness, and ta-da! salad that your coworkers will envy. No really, they’ll envy your salad. At least, I envied Bethany’s salad, because it looked so much fresher and tastier than the lunches I brought, and it did not require crossing the street to the pizza place, and also she kept insisting that I should eat some. (Bethany is a generous soul.)
I suppose a person might also maintain this stash at home, but then there’s a risk that you’d forget you were saving the deliciousness for salad and use it in something else, and then you’d get greens and have nothing to put on them and you’d be sad. So sad.
What belongs in the not-very-perishable stash of deliciousness: slivered almonds, candied walnuts, dried blueberries, croutons, wasabi peas, bacon bits, fake bacon bits, olives—anything that you see at on the shelf at the grocery store and think, “I could put that on some lettuce.” Also, grocery stores sell various bags of things that are meant as salad toppings, with clumps of nuts and dried berries and whatnot, and they are often quite tasty.
Storage of this stash is your next issue. The mice don’t make it very high up in the building where I work, so I probably could keep these things in my desk, but I’ve taken over the least convenient fridge drawer in an unpopular kitchen, and I have an understanding with the guy who does the quarterly fridge purges that I will not let anything rot in there. (Thanks, Marcus!)
Now, about dressing. A lot of store-bought salad dressing is good in the fridge for a long time. OR…you can make your own. It probably goes bad faster but it’s so much better. Stick it in a jar or something. Half olive oil, half vinegar (whatever tasty vinegar you have – red wine, sherry, balsamic, I don’t care), a little salt, a little pepper, maybe some mustard or a peeled clove of garlic or whatever herbs happen to have wandered into your kitchen. Keep it in the fridge at work, shake it up and pour it on your salad. The olive oil will probably solidify in the fridge, so stick it in the microwave for five seconds.
For greens, you may find that lettuce is fine. I like a mix of baby spinach and arugula. When they don’t wander across my path in other ways, I get them prewashed from the grocery store. Pre-washed grocery store greens have been the source of a number of disease outbreaks. I’ve decided that the benefit of increasing vegetables in my diet outweighs the risk of these outbreaks; your decision may vary, and if you are the kind of a person who would be willing to wash the dirt off of greens every morning, that is awesome and you should be proud.
The high-level skill is to bring other random perishables at the same time you have greens. Turkey? Hard-boiled eggs? (Please, do not eat hard-boiled eggs at your desk.) Weird cheeses? (Also, do not eat smelly cheeses at your desk.)
Cherry tomatoes? Chopped-up bell peppers?
Other random vegetables? I don’t know. Go crazy. And let me know if your coworkers are jealous.
Photo: Actual photo of a work salad. Also, there were donuts that day.