At this point in lunchbox season, even when I am not coughing like a consumptive poet and consequently enjoying the sleep cycle of a mosquito, my inspired passion for the lunchbox has generally cooled somewhat from its September simmer. Sometimes I think I will be carted off to the nut farm, nattering about sandwiches and rocking back and forth with a thermos. It’s been a long week, and it's possible that I am still a little delirious. But even before I took a forced week off from lunch preparation, I knew it was time for a little date-night with the concept.
What started me off on the rekindled romance path was these:
Stink Bug Eggs. I used to make them all the time, and then I stopped for no apparent reason, and when I made them before the Great Tumble Into Feeling Unwell, they were greeted with whoops of happiness.
If there is a lover of hard-boiled eggs in your life, and if this person either has an eye for beauty or is a 7-year-old boy, or both, this is a lunchbox trump card.
The recipe comes from one of my favorite cookbooks: Roald Dahl’s Revolting Recipes, a posthumously-assembled collection of recipes for the foods that appear in his books for children. The book relies heavily on the principle that makes a person of a certain age more likely to eat a Stink Bug Egg than a hard-boiled egg, even though they are the same thing. Consequently it includes some pretty sophisticated seasonings and ingredients for a children’s cookbook. “Here, darling, is a disk of cinnamon-toasted brioche with caramelized coconut and lemon zest!” vs. “Anybody want a Crispy Wasp Sting?” Ditto for the Snozzcumbers, and the Mosquitoes’ Toes and Wampfish Roes Most Delicately Fried.
I know we are not supposed to trick little eaters and play games with food. I also know how a grumpy person perks up when you make letters in the pancakes or put ears on their sandwich. Eating is supposed to be a happy thing, after all.
Maybe some of you are saying, but lunch is a sandwich, a drink and a piece of fruit (or whatever the default setting is on your lunch plan). Let dinner be happy, and let lunch just be lunch. I need lunch to be fast. There's merit to this line of reasoning, and rest assured I am not advocating we all join the ranks of the crazed Bento moms who have aspic cutters and the blogs to prove it. But whether you are packing lunch, or making it at home for someone's plate, or even just dishing some up for yourself (it's OK to make yourself happy, too, I've been told), sometimes make it nice. Other than the stinkbug eggs, which do take longer than a hard-boiled egg (though none of that is active time), these ideas add no more than three minutes to the total preparation time. None of them. I made sure. And most of them owe their magic to infrequency; daily appearances would wear out their welcome.
Why bother? I was hoping you would ask that. Here's what I think. When food, and our experience of eating it, is nice, when it makes us think for a minute about being loved, or about what person and what soil grew this nourishing item, or about how fine it is to taste something that makes us pause to appreciate it in our mouths, then we are not just re-fueling. We are connecting. We are knitting back up the raveled sleeve of what has happened to our food. That's MULTI-TASKING! Fueling and thinking at the same time!
Stink bug eggs follow below; here are a few of those very fast, take no time, done in a wink ideas before we move on:
1. break out the cookie cutters, which perhaps have not seen the light of day in some time, and make them earn their keep:
2. have a channel knife? it's one of those gadgets that removes a strip of orange or lemon zest for all those cocktails you are mixing (maybe it is in with the cookie cutters, in the assisted-living drawer):
3. Refuse to get involve with any tool other than the knife you are already using? Get a little jiggy with the open face sandwich:
or make your regular sandwich, but cut it tiny:
4. Steal inspiration from those who impale their lunch on a stick, because everything tastes better on a stick, even fruit salad.
5. Leave the culinary hijinks to the whackjobs, and remember that the pen is mightier (and faster) than the spatula:
stink bug eggs adapted from Roald Dahl's Revolting Recipes
Eggs (as many as you'd like) Large handful of onion skins
Hard-boil your desired number of eggs. I was told once that the best method is to put the eggs in cold water, bring the water to a boil and maintain a simmer for 7 minutes, and let them sit in the hot water, heat off, for another 7. I was also told that the best method is to boil the water, turn off the heat, put the eggs in, and let them stay there for 12 minutes. Maybe you were told something else. Do that, but follow this one essential, hard & fast rule: use eggs that are at least a week old, or the peeling will make you weep.
Pull the eggs out of the hot water, reserving it, and plunge the hot eggs into a bowl of ice water. Toss the onion skins into the hot water, and bring that back to a simmer.
When the eggs have cooled, whap them all over lightly against the counter, or with a spoon. You want the shell cracked but still intact. Return them to the pot with the onion skins, and turn off the heat. Let the eggs sit n the onion bath at least a couple hours, or overnight in the fridge, and then peel them. Admire the shells:
The eggs pictured above only took a short soak; photos do not do them much justice, but they are pretty awesome looking. You can use food coloring instead of onion skins, but then you would be using food coloring. Beets, maybe? Could be good. Let me know if you try it. I am going back to bed.