Peter Miller’s Lunch at the Shop: The Art and Practice of the Midday Meal (Abrams 2014) comes at an opportune time. After all, the Indian film, The Lunchbox is making everyone consider that lunchtime has been reduced in both time and importance.
And lunchis important. It is, in a way, the good part. It is the expansion between the front of the day and the back, a narrow strip between stretches of work. Talking and sitting with others allow us to leave the pencil, or the laptop, or the phone and enjoy the break. We can get back to the work in a few minutes, revived. (p. 10)
This slim book considers lunch in a workplace – in this case, Peter owns a design bookshop in Seattle. Everyone has to get back to work afterwards, so the tone of lunch is light, uncomplicated, fresh, and seasonal. Peter is, not only a bookstore owner, but also a trained chef. Sounds good enough to stop working!…
Done well, it has very little cost. Done well, it is fresh and honest and personal. Done well, it will always be a pleasure to eat at the shop. (p. 16)
The rest of the book walks you through recipes with much explanation – and ways of approaching creating a whole lunch. For instance, the visit of architectural students and professors who taught the shop how to use cilantro in quantity. Then there are the sauces: Red (Salsa Roja) and Green (Salsa Verde) (p. 35) to be used with everything. Peter explains layering of flavors and colors – looking at a plate and adding color if the ingredients are too pale. The second chapter is on sandwiches – from Tartines to composed sandwiches like A Sandwich with Fresh Apple, Fromager d’Affinois, Arugula, and Almond Butter (p. 44) with a pretty photograph opposite of the two slices of bread piled with the ingredients in amazing geometric order. There are numerous recipes for beans and pasta with instructions for the home and the shop, since there is no actual cooking beyond reheating and microwave at the shop. Beans make it into various soups, but lentils end up piled on sandwiches as well: Lentils Folded into Yogurt, Spinach, and Basil (p. 68), or in several risotto-like dishes, or finally as a soup, Lentil Soup Straight Up (p. 74). The idea is to use the same lentils cooked at home in various ways in the shop, where you finish them off with whatever is at hand – avocado, parsley, feta, or Parmesan.
Lunch at the Shop is full of good advice, fond memories, and plenty of encouragement to try different ways of doing things- different ways to enjoy lunch together.
Maybe a siesta following that good meal?