In the fairytales and adventure stories of my childhood, the first thing a character had to do before she embarked on a journey, whether she was a princess or a milkmaid, was pack a small but sustaining bundle of bread and cheese and sausage. Consequently this trio has always seemed very romantic to me, but only recently did it occur to me as a superfast and easy lunch for non-storybook types, too—all shopping, no work.
I would take a hunk of baguette, some rounds of salami, a slice of good cheddar, and an apple. You might prefer ciabatta, mozzarella, prosciutto, and olives. We’re really just talking about a deconstructed sandwich, I suppose, and not a particularly healthy one, but I love the idea of stopping work and really enjoying these few things instead of continuing to type with one hand while the other moves a sandwich from desk to mouth and back again.
If you want to bake your own bread, try Nigel Slater’s Really Good and Very Easy White Loaf from Appetite, as baked here by the Amateur Gourmet. I’ve made a half-recipe twice, and besides being gorgeous and tasty it makes really excellent toast. If you can’t bear the thought of lunch without vegetables, make fresh-pickled vegetables from The Art of Simple Food. They’ll keep for about a week without any sterilizing of bottles and are good for picnics and exploring, even if your picnic is at your desk and the only thing you’re exploring is the internet.
- 1 1/2 cups white wine vinegar
- 1 3/4 cups water
- 2 1/2 tablespoons sugar
- 1/2 bay leaf
- 4 thyme sprigs
- Half a dried cayenne pepper or a pinch of dried chile flakes
- 1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds
- 2 whole cloves
- 1 garlic clove, peeled and cut in half
- A big pinch of salt
- A few cups of tiny pieces of one or more vegetables, for example cauliflower florets, sliced carrots, quartered pearl onions, halved okra pods, small turnips cut into wedges, whole green beans, small cubes of celery root, etc.
Combine all ingredients but the vegetables and bring to a boil.
Cook each type of vegetable separately in the boiling brine. Remove them when they are cooked but still a little crisp and set aside to cool. When all the vegetables are cooked and cooled, allow the brine to cool to room temperature. Put the vegetables in a jar or other covered container, cover with cooled brine, and refrigerate.