Jan 30 2007

What I had for lunch

Tuna on wheat: a fixed and unalterable point in the space-time continuum

What other people are saying about their lunch:

“At Bob’s urging, I just made my lunch for tomorrow.”

“I had a Pizza McPuff at MCdonald’s but did not have any fun as I has to study after that!!! :((”
— Prateek Saxena at Lunch is Fun (TM)

“The tally as of tonight is carrot cake and mashed potatoes for the annual Christmas potluck, panzanella and mac & chee […] and four loads of laundry, all folded and put away.”
Head Nurse

Someone — someone, I should say, with piercing acumen, who evidently has seen through my intricate deceptions and perceived that as a blogger I am a but a faux poseur feigning a false front of spurious pretense — has hipped me to a how-to manual containing 100 tips for improving one’s blog. The how-to manual is called Nobody Cares What You Had For Lunch. I have not read this book, but presumably, somewhere within, its author makes the outrageous claim that nobody cares what I had for lunch.

Which would be quite the little sliver of enlightenment if it were true. But surely no such attitude is possible.

Unless — all right, I’m willing to concede the remote possibility that lunch, of all the eighteen daily meals, is perhaps of an inherently less riveting nature than, possibly, the midnight snack (with its dramatic refrigerator-lit chiaroscuro), or Happy Hour (deep-fried denouement-on-a-stick with rejuvenating tinctures at half price), or the midmorning puff-pastry break (which needs no explanation). Compared to these brilliant jewels in the crown of the epicure’s daily scavenges, what is lunch but a cramped mid-day hour whose shining monument is a tuna-on-wheat at your desk? Or worse, a dreary interim of jousting with a “chicken caesar” in a noisy joint crowded with melancholy worker drones whose futile dreams of quitting the rat race to train in the Swiss Alps for the World Stone-Skipping Championships are written in furrows upon their sallow, defeated brows?

Yes, maybe lunch, with its preternaturally deterministic overtones, is too existential crisis-y a subject for lite blogular contemplation. Nobody cares about lunch because, see, they care about it too much, and ultimately an hour just isn’t long enough to come to grips with dreary suicide-inducing conclusions about free will and how the fixed nature of tuna-on-wheat cannot change simply as a result of whether one considers a given sandwich to be past or future.

I can dig it.

So it’s dinner people care about, undoubtedly.


If no one cares what I had for dinner, is it really probable that, as the author of Nobody Cares What You Had For Lunch suggests, the reader will “gasp with delight” upon exposure to, god forbid, my “childhood memories”? And what about her call to pad blog content by conducting “unnecessary experiments”? Surely if a reasonably peckish reader cannot work up an interest in a spinster aunt’s plate of crispy Patagonian toothfish with spicy citrus compote, couscous, and roasted Brussel’s sprouts, the fault lies not with me, but with our oppressive system of how-to manuals, and the absence of rational understanding they promote.

Crispy Patagonian toothfish with spicy citrus compote

For fish:
Determine that your monger has acquired the specimen from a fishery practicing sustainable harvesting. Rub fillet with olive oil, salt, pepper. Coat lightly with panko. Roast for 10 minutes in a convection oven at 400 degrees F.

For compote:
Combine in a saucepan and simmer until fruit is mushy and liquid is syrupy:
• several glugs of white wine
• an assortment of chopped tangerine, grapefruit, mango, pineapple and yellow raisins
• a dried Thai chile pod
• a clove of garlic, smashed
• a few slices of ginger or galangal
• a couple smidges of brown sugar


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  1. FemiMom

    I love you, Twisty. That love cannot sway me toward your beloved Brussel Sprouts.
    I had hot-n-sour soup for lunch. Got the recipe from the new, supercharged Joy of Cooking. Yum!

  2. whyme63

    Does anyone care that I didn’t have lunch?

    The “you” in Nobody’s Cares What You Had For Lunch” most emphatically does not apply to Ms. Faster.

  3. Michael Faris

    Thanks for this! I love that certain blog experts tell us what to write about and what not to write about, not realizing that there are certain cultural baggages that go along with that prescription (why is it that we “don’t care what people had for lunch”?). I thoroughly enjoyed your post, and your recipe looks delicious!!!

  4. kcb

    Ordinarily even I don’t care what I have for lunch (one of the downsides of hanging with small children), but today I had a spinach-mushroom-ricotta kolache, two sugar-tongue pastries and half a gumball. The Iranian-French bakery in my ‘hood makes the best kolaches I’ve ever had. They make a decadent Bob the Builder birthday cake, too.

  5. Hawise

    I find that most of my favorite blogs include discussion of lunch. I will admit to being a foodie and enjoying that others enjoy food. I had BBQ Pork buns.

  6. Sylvanite

    Your lunches are always vastly superior to mine. I lunch vicariously through you!

    No one, however, would be interested in what I had for lunch. Ever.

  7. mrskennedy

    I believe the book clearly states that lunch-blogging should be attempted by experts only. (And those with fancy camera lenses.) Breakfast, however, is open to novices.

  8. Victoria Marinelli

    No, I don’t specifically care what you had for lunch.

    I, do, however, care that you use such delectable words as acumen, poseur, chiaroscuro, denouement, melancholy, and peckish. Those words, taken together, comprise meals unto themselves. From this blog alone, I’m getting the majority of the words I am adding to my favorites at my new Wordie account.

    About melancholy:

    As a kid, I was insanely well-read compared to my peers, with a pretty healthy vocabulary. (Not, I suspect, nearly as healthy as yours must have been – never mind how expansive it is now.) I did not, however, use words in actual conversations with real, breathing people as often as I read books.

    So, when I had an English assignment to memorize and recite a favorite short story, I was thrilled. I picked something by Mark Twain – the one about frogs. I no longer have the title, much less the story, committed to memory, needless to say. I do, at least, remember that it had the word “melancholy” somewhere in the text, because, when I pronounced that word (with pained seriousness, and what I could remember of a Southern accent from earlier in my childhood), it came out as Mill – Ankle – EEEEE. The teacher lost it and I turned bright red.

    Okay, embarassing childhood anecdote du jour over. Happy digestion.

  9. Jo

    My most popular posts on HN are the ones where I talk about food. And I get more emails asking for, say, the macaroni and cheese recipe than I do with questions about nursing school.

    How does one roast Brussels sprouts without having ’em go all ganky?

  10. Spinning Liz

    Oops, I almost titled my blog What I Threw Up For Lunch. Whew, close call.

  11. skyscraper

    I love the pure joy you express when discussing food. Maybe I am just jealous – I tend to eat things from the vending machine.

  12. Pinko Punko

    Curses! Math is hard-

    Some stuff about brussels sprouts being a dialectic of delicious and disgusting, and some other stuff.

    Also, TF- I think we measure the same way, using the (jaundiced) eyeball!

  13. jezebella

    Me, I don’t trust anyone who ISN’T interested in lunch.

  14. Scratchy888

    Re: embarrassing childhood anecdote:

    This reminds me of the pronunciation test I had in primary school. Our teacher was determined to give us all a lot of opportunities to get the words right. Then there was this word: PICTURESQUE.

    “How do you pronounce this one?” she asked.

    “Picture skew.”

    “Say it again!”

    “Picture skew.”

    “Try again.”

    “Picture skew.”

  15. cycles




  16. Tracy

    Anybody who doesn’t care what we had for lunch can go read something that isn’t full of joy and deliciousness. There’s no shortage.

  17. Twisty

    I’m telling you anti-sproutites: blanch those sprouts for 3-4 minutes. Dry’em off. Slice’em in half. Toss with olive oil, salt, pepper, lemon zest. Throw in pan, cut side down, with fish. Done at same time.

    They caramelize. They’re nutty. They have nuance. There is no finer veg.

  18. Emma Goldman

    First off, tuna fish is vile.

    Second, what is this “hour for lunch” concept? I get 20 minutes (for which I must punch out), and I’m usually sitting on a bucket, with my book and lunch on another bucket, over there behind the sheeter. (I was lunching in the basement, but that was reducing even further the amount of light to which I was exposed, which, at this time of year, isn’t a Good Thing.) And I bring my lunch, which, lately, has been this wheatberry brown rice pilaf thing, to which recipe I added black beans, black-eyed peas, and carrots, plus a little cheese when I heat it. And a hunk of whatever bread is sitting around (multi-grain today; quite tasty).

    Damn; now I have no blog post for today.

  19. josie my source of most frustration

    Twisty, that brussel sprout recipe sounds fabulous. Steamed brussel sprouts with a dash of red wine vinegar are pretty darn good too. Though, I would never suggest that dish to anti-sproutites. One must already be enamored of the sprout, before giving that a try.

  20. femhist

    One of my many childhood mispronunciations that arose from reading words far more often than speaking (or hearing) them:
    Decisive: pronounced by my 8 year old self: deceesive. Or, as I like to spell it, DECEASive.

    And I love reading about/feasting my eyes upon your lunch (and dinner, and breakfast…)

  21. Jezebella

    ah, the young reader’s bane: pronouncing words you’ve only read. Mine was


    which I pronounced (in my head)


    I have no idea why I complicated it so much. Even still, every so often as I am reading along, I hear it that way in my head, which is oddly mortifying.

  22. lectric lady

    more food porn!
    More food porn!
    More Food porn!
    More Food Porn!

  23. Mandos

    Funny, I used to do the same thing as Jezebella with “hereto” when I was much younger.


    By the way, I did pass math: 6 8 – 14.

  24. Mandos

    That’s interesting. 6 8 = 14 comes out funny.

  25. Mandos

    At minimum, this thing can’t do a sign. 1 2, 1 2.

  26. Sara

    I don’t care about what you had for lunch, but I do enjoy reading about it and looking at the pictures. I also find the lunch (and dinner, and snack) photos, etc., very soothing in light of the often painful nature of your other subject matter. It’s like balancing savory with sweet, or nauseating with Dramamine.

  27. Shannon

    I am pretty sure that there is no such thing as sustainable harvesting of Patagonian Toothfish aka “Sea Bass.”

    My dad read some book about it and he will go on and on about how the poachers make it SEEM like they are doing it legally or something.
    Anyway, the species is not long for this world and I wouldn’t eat it at all if I were you. I don’t. I switched to boring old Tilapia.

    See? It’s true. I care much more about what you had for dinner than lunch. You are right.

  28. Christopher

    “Unless — all right, I’m willing to concede the remote possibility that lunch, of all the eighteen daily meals, is perhaps of an inherently less riveting nature than, possibly, the midnight snack (with its dramatic refrigerator-lit chiaroscuro)”

    I’m going to have to go with the midnight snack here.

    A few months ago, I was up late watching TV, and I decided to fix myself a midnight snack. Having prepared a microwave sandwich (Yeah, I know, I know), I went back into the living room to watch Pee Wee’s Playhouse, wherupon I discovered I had forgotten to procure a beverage for myself.

    So, easily rectified, right? Well, I got up to sashay into the kitchen (Yes, I do often sashay my way around the house) and my leg basically… well, my lower leg made a break for it.

    It shot out of its socket, sending my head plummeting right into the corner of the entertainment center. Anyway, I lay there on the floor, bleading from the head wound and screaming my lungs out.

    Fortunately, all the noise awoke my cat, who, in a lassie-like feat of pet based heroism, rushed to my side and proceeded to.. utterly ignore me and eat my sandwich.

    It was perhaps the most exicting meal of my entire life.

  29. Emma Goldman

    Wow–Christopher, the Don’t! Microwave! Bread! gods usually aren’t quite so vindictive. For your own safety, however, I would suggest that you not even contemplate microwaving something like a lovely, flaky, croissant; the gods may well throw you out the window.

  30. justtesting

    Mmmm sprouts – I eat ’em raw.

  31. Antoinette Niebieszczanski

    I’m with Jezebella in distrusting anyone who *isn’t* interested in lunch.

    At work, everyone is currently On the Wagon (clinging desperately to resolutions to Get Healthy) so prowling the halls frequently yields tasty treats in the form of baked goods, chocolate, and other enticing (if unhealthy) comestibles. If we were snowed in here, I figure we could survive nicely without resorting to cannibalism.

    I usually have leftovers from the previous day’s dinner for lunch. Today it’s stewed chicken with lots of carrots and mushrooms.

  32. Hawise

    Anti-sproutites have it wrong. I agree with Apicius that any cabbage plant or leafy green vegetable goes best with an acid- red wine vinegar, lemon juice, wine, verjus and all. Blanch it, drain and toss with a favorite vinagrette. He was also right about cumin and coriander with beans. For a man near 2000 years dead, he knew his food.
    As for tilapia, our only hope for survival is the eat them. They will take over the world.

  33. That Girl

    Read but not heard mispronunciations: Dez mo nez (des Moines), gawj (gauge). I was the delight of my family with my unintended humor.

    For lunch – pears, peanuts and stove top. It’s not half as good as it sounds.

  34. the baboon

    Fully agreed regarding the glory and wonder of the properly cooked b’sprout. The favorite recipe around my house is steamed plus butter, salt, and a pinch of sugar. However, for those about to attempt any of the tasty sounding recipes above, let me offer a strong warning against using frozen brussels sprouts: having just moved from the bay area to the sadly brussels-sprout-free northeast, I tried to recapture the love using the frozen-bagged rather than fresh sprout, and boy was that NASTY.

    It took me a long time to get rid of my two most annoying childhood reading-based pronunciations – pint (short i, like pinto pony) and pier, which I pronounced pyre, frequently incorporated into the popular family saying, “take a long walk off a short pyre.”

  35. hedonistic

    Twisty, you could write about toe jam and it would sound interesting.

    It’s not the subject; it’s the writing. For instance, nobody necessarily CARES about my PMDD or my pathetic love life or my existential crises (they don’t know me, after all), but they like reading about them anyway (and looking at the funny pitures) because it’s fun to do. I suppose it’s a little bit like watching a train wreck: Totally cringeworthy, but they just can’t look away (?).

    That said, my “HPS test kitchen” posts are very popular. Food blogs in general do very well on the internet. So yes, people do care about food.

  36. nina

    Brussels sprouts are also good sliced rather thinly and sauteed with olive oil, garlic, and some prosciutto (which I have heard pronounced pro-skweetie on more than one occasion).

  37. Buffalo Gal

    If you google “audubon seafood” you will find the Audubon Society’s listing of what seafood is currently sustainable and what is not. Alas, toothfish is on the definitely not list.

    Brussels sprouts are still OK, as long as they’re line-caught and not trawled.

  38. Joanna

    My entire family loves brussel sprouts so much that we must have them at Thanksgiving. Have you ever seen them still on the plant? They are clustered along the stalk in a most charming way.

    Mischievous, mispronounced miss-CHEE-VEE-us in Jr. High, to teacher’s scorn.
    My daughter still likes to call it YO-se-mite Valley.

    I read the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy thinking it was pronounced GandLAFF, not Gandalf.

  39. Twisty

    “If you google “audubon seafood” you will find the Audubon Society’s listing of what seafood is currently sustainable and what is not. Alas, toothfish is on the definitely not list.”

    Until consuming the fillet pictured above, I had not, despite a deep depression that set in when I gave it up, eaten a morsel of Patty-toothfish (“Chilean sea bass”) since the 90’s. I am now reasonably convinced that Whole Foods is in earnest with this Marine Stewardship Council dealio. If I’m wrong and go to hell, well, there it is.

  40. Jess2

    The key to good brussel sprouts, especially if you’re serving them to avowed sprout haters, is to buy little bitty ones– the larger the sprout, the more bitter. The smaller ones have more of the delightfully nutty flavor sprout afficianados enjoy. The other night, I served small “baby” brussel sprouts (just steamed w/ a little butter) to a person who usually has no time for bitter greens and he ate ’em all up and asked for seconds.

  41. Buffalo Gal

    Twisty, thanks for that link; I hope MSC is successful. I will check out Whole Foods when my craving for seafood wins out over my environmental worries.

  42. Bonnie


    WAHN – TAHN.


    To the utter delight of my 11th grade creative writing teacher.

    Broiled B. Sprouts – clean and quarter, toss with olive oil, lemon juice, salt, and pepper (or your favorite oil & vinegar dressing). Broil until softish and bits are browning.

    Pat Conroy’s food descriptions in The Great Santini are spectacular. Talk about evocative prose.

  43. Twisty

    Jess2 hits upon an important point re: Brussel’s sprouts. The teeny ones are indeed the delightfulest.

  44. KMTberry

    If we didn’t care what you had for lunch, we would be dead inside. I always want to take a picture of esp. great meals I have prepared for myself; but I don’t have a good camera….I have to take the photos OUTSIDE to even make them not be all red. (early version digital camera).

    I have a feminazi concern that I intend to address on my blog eventually, but I think it needs the more immediate attention of this Post: Why do so many women feel that they are not WORTH nourishing? Like Sybarite above, they do not take the time or put forth the effort to nourish themselves with healthy, delicious meals. (I know, I know, it is the whole misogynistic self-starvation patriarchy prescribes….but are we not, the readers here, the BLAMERS, ready to ditch those concepts?) I cannot urge you all enough to HAVE BREAKFAST, make yourself lunch and dinner, and GET ENOUGH SLEEP. What are you, some kind of slave who doesn’t deserve these vital things? Examine your motives for doing a poor job of nourishing and valuing YOUR BODY.Is it not time to leave these behaviors behind?

    Oh, and my embarrassment word is “Unison” pronounced “You-NISH-un” (I think my brain inserted an i; “Unision”).

    (I thought “Mis-CHEE-VEE-us” was the correct “SOuthern” pronunciation! That’s how my Georgia Grandma said it.)

  45. Pinko Punko

    Roast those bad sprouts with bacon and olive oil. So fracking good, and I used to hate them. They don’t even need the bacon, but you know what they say about bacon.

  46. Ron Sullivan

    There’s a word for that pronounciation* problem: misled, pronounced “MY-zl’d.” Chronic in early readers, i.e. smart kids, who see lots more stuff in print than they ever hear. I used to pronounce “pterodactyl” to more or less rhyme with “periodical.” Fortunately, it didn’t come up in conversations among third-graders nearly so often in 1958 as it does now.

    My late mother-in-law was named “Muriel” after a character in a very bad Victorian novel**. No one in her little Ozarks town in 1905 had ever heard the name pronounced, though, so it was pronounced “Merle,” more or less. Ignorant backwoodspersons? Nuh-uh; think about it: literate backwoodspersons.

    *Yeah, I know.
    **John Halifax, Gentleman by Miss Mulock. Muriel is the ethereally sweet little blind girl who dies tragically. Of course.

  47. Jodie



    I really embarrassed myself in the 3rd grade with that one.

    Although I DID have a Social Studies teacher two years later who pronounced Buddha as “BUD-HAH”. At least I had an excuse.

  48. Twiss

    Sorry, Ron, but the MIZ-l’d camp, however large, was simply MISSLED, i.e. baffled and confused. And then there was DILEMNA which still makes me think that dilemma sounds clunkily mispronounced.

    Given the wonderful vaguaries of English/American spelling and how it missled us eager little readers, this outpouring may have to be brought to a halt by a firm Twistydict.

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