Monday, May 14, 2007

break for lunch

Reading Terminal Market
Originally uploaded by canine devotion.
As you know, sometimes I set down my magazine and wander into the kitchen. Thus, Lindy's invitation, that we share our favorite portable snack, really got me thinking.

Ever since my parents decided that the school lunch* was a basically non-toxic time-saver for busy families, I've been happy to eat out a midday meal. Benj has all kinds of persuasive arguments about not reinventing the wheel, and divisions of labor and I tend to buy them. Lunches, I mean. In some times and places, street food or eating out or not cooking everything from scratch are less fraught than in others. And Philadelphia c. 2000, where and when I once held a 9-5 library job, was one of these less-fraught settings.

But even then, one summer when I was really trying to save money, and house-sitting in the 'burbs and commuting through Reading Terminal to my 9-5 job I came up with this little number:

The Very Resourceful Tomato Sandwich

- 1 absolutely fresh New Jersey tomato from Reading Terminal. Keep a knife handy. Transport the tomato in a plastic tub that will keep it from turning to mush in your bag.

- 1 packet of mayo begged, borrowed, bought or stolen from the Convenient Food Store.

- 2 slices of wheat bread toasted in the library's break room toaster.

- salt from the library's break room salt shaker.

The library also had an amazing roof deck attached to its perfectly standard break room, where I ate this sandwich. Sometimes I added cucumber.

*One of the school lunches was chicken noodle soup, half a PBJ and half a banana. My mother - who, as a treat, let me open the alfalfa sprouts when I wanted a snack while she was shopping - wasn't big on the dishes that people call comfort food so this is odd little combo, served institution style, was and is my comfort food. I used to make variations on it when I came home late at night in my teenage years, which leads me to one of my favorite things about the word "lunch," that it once meant a small meal at any time of day.

Other lunches I like to take include green beans and chick peas marinated in vinaigrette and tomato bread salads.

And the lunch I most frequently bought was from the aforementioned Convenient Food Store in the bottom of the big apartment building on the corner of Broad and Spruce. It's a veggie hoagie - hold the mayo, with oil and vinegar and that bizarre mushy white american cheese. It's divine and a fair bargain. [It's now my profile pic lots of foodie places.]

Also note: Mrs. Delicious on the delights of sandwiches you "eat over the sink."

I first learned about the existence of tomato sandwiches from Harriet the Spy. A book in which the household had both a (famous) live-in nanny and a (less famous) cook who made lunches and provided cake and milk.

Reading Terminal photo comes from canine_devotion at flickr. Veggie Hoagie is all mine.

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Anonymous Julie said...

Harriet the Spy? I loved that book! And since it's been mega years since I read it I'd forgotten all about the tomato sandwiches.

The Reading Terminal market is one of my favorite places and one I don't get to visit nearly often enough. I think it would be a swell place to buy lunch on a regular basis.

2:37 PM  
Blogger the chocolate lady מרת שאקאלאד said...

Harriet the Spy is one of a very few books I enjoyed but never reread (so far). I nevertheless remember all the tomato sandwich-related passages almost verbatim, and I think first of Harriet whenever someone says "tomato," or "sandwich," or "tomato sandwich."
At the time I had very mixed feelings about these sandwiches. I loved and deeply identified with our gal's precise specifications on proper sandwich construction, but I had in those years such a paralyzing phobia for raw tomatoes, because, you know, oh, I just can't even type it, that I was not entirely out of sympathy with the wretched little girl who passes that horrible note at Harriet's darkest hour.
Another great vegetable moment: being an onion.

4:40 PM  
Blogger Mrs. Delicious said...

Oh, sigh, for memories of Reading Terminal! How wonderful it must be to live in a REAL city with a REAL downtown market.... hope to visit again soon.

10:43 PM  
Blogger zp said...

Regarding Harriet: There's also a cake that Harriet intentionally causes to fall, I think. Can you imagine being so bad as that as a child? I couldn't and still can't. I admired Harriet but in that moment she crossed a line I just couldn't.

Regarding Cities: Oh, Mrs. Delicious, please do not disparage New Haven! We're moving there in June and are trying to become excited about it!! We were even succeeding!

Regarding Reading Terminal: It is funny - some outstanding stuff, some disappointing things. I didn't really shop much there when I lived IN Philadelphia. I shopped at the Italian market for cheaper produce, ripe to the verge of spoiling, I remember plums in particular. I think that summer I left and commuted (bike to the train, train to the city, walk to the library, it was fun. the train also stopped near a pool I could use, which made it this insane suburban commuters tri-athalon) was the first time I became a regular Reading Terminal shopper.

I like the spice place a lot.

11:39 AM  
Blogger the chocolate lady מרת שאקאלאד said...

I had forgotten the cake, but yes, I had the same reaction.

4:20 PM  

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