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March 2008








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Eastern region bloggers

Tim BairdTim Baird
Carrboro, North Carolina

Born and raised in central Maine, my youth was spent mowing the lawn, kicking a soccer ball against the garage doors, and trying to sneak sugar cereal out of the kitchen cupboards after I was put to bed. More about Tim

Warren JohnstonWarren Johnston
South Royalton, Vermont

I am a baby boomer who grew up in a time when the trend in food was convenience and speed. It wasn't the fast-food era, but a post-World War II time when ... More about Warren

Barbara KattmanBarbara Kattman
Holliston, Massachusetts

We live in Holliston, Massachusetts. When we bought our house in Holliston about 27 years ago, Holliston was a rural/residential town of about 13,000 people. More about Barbara

Autumn LongAutumn Long
Wallace, West Virginia

My name is Autumn. I'm 24 years old, and I live in rural north-central West Virginia. I was born and raised in West Virginia, and in 2005 I graduated from ... More about Autumn

April LuginbuhlApril Luginbuhl
Cleveland, Ohio

My personal interests revolve around the environment, both knowing more about it and getting outside and enjoying my surroundings. This led me down an educational path to ... More about April


< Gardening Tips? | Main | Planting onions >


Posted at 1:18 PM on March 26, 2008 by Autumn Long (16 Comments)

I've been lulled into locavore lunch complacency this winter since my husband has not been working. He's a landscaper, so he gets about three months off each winter from mid-December to mid-March. (Don't even get me started on my extreme jealousy of these seasonal sabbaticals.) In winter, it's easy to plan for lunches: I generally pack my lunch, and I am satisfied with cheese-and-sprout sandwiches, or the occasional leftovers (although leftovers are relatively unknown in our household--we're big people, we eat a lot).

Now spring has sprung and Dan is back to work. Lunch planning must rise to a whole new level. Dan is a big man (6' 5"), and he works hard, so he needs to pack a mighty large lunch. In years past he's packed two lunchmeat-and-cheese sandwiches, usually made with ham or roast beef, plus an apple and a granola bar. I've been baking two loaves of bread each week, which is enough for the smaller lunches we've been eating this winter. However, I'm going to have to increase my bread production to accommodate Dan's two-sandwich working lunches.

Another issue is what to put on those sandwiches. I stopped eating lunchmeat years ago; the stuff just grosses me out. But protein is important for Dan, and anyway, he has a stomach of iron, so we've always bought lunchmeat for his workday sandwiches. I'm hoping somehow to avoid buying non-local non-organic lunchmeat this year, in the spirit of local sustainable eating. But I have yet to come up with a viable replacement. Last week Dan made egg salad for his lunches, which did the job, but I don't think he's going to want to eat egg salad every day for the next eight months. Last weekend I bought and cooked an organic free-range roasting chicken (not local, but it's been months since I'd eaten chicken, and it tasted soooo good) and made chicken salad with the leftovers. This worked fine for sandwiches, but again, I don't think I'm going to be making chicken salad every week all year.

My next plan is ham: Amazingly, we still have one large ham left in the freezer from the hogs we raised and butchered more than a year ago. This weekend I plan to bake the ham, eat a big ham dinner, and cut up the rest of it into sandwich slices. Then I will divide the slices into weekly rations and pack them in freezer bags for future use. This ought to get Dan through the next several weeks, but, unfortunately, that ham won't last forever.

So what can we eat for workday lunches? It must be portable, as Dan eats lunch on the job site, and very nutritious and filling. How do I avoid the dreaded lunchmeat?!

Comments (16)

Autumn, we have a similar lunch challenge, and I'm experimenting with tofu (local soy beans & processing). Nothing to report on that front, yet. But we did find a great alternative to chicken/egg salad & ham: olive salad. The olives don't grow in MI, but some of the other ingredients do: diced carrots & celery, chopped garlic, lots of oregano, ground pepper, red wine vinegar and enough olive oil to make a paste. Toast your local bread, shred a lot of local cheese on the toast & heat til melted. Let cool, add the olive salad and voila, an almost local sandwich! Donna

Posted by Donna McClurkan | March 26, 2008 2:56 PM

Mmmm, Donna, that olive salad sounds yummy! Thanks for the suggestions. Good luck with the lunches!

Posted by Autumn Long | March 26, 2008 3:58 PM

This has been a bit of an issue for me as well. While I like making sandwiches (sure cheaper than eating out every day), there are not a lot of local organic "lunchmeat" options other than ham, turkey, chicken or roast beef (or eggs & tofu for those non-meat eaters).

Coming from a family of butchers, sausage was a big part of growing up so giving up lunch meats has been pretty hard since converting to the locavore diet. I am hoping that with the coming Farmers Market season, I will find some local providers of good sausage. In the meantime though, I am going to have to try that sprout & cheese idea - that sounds pretty good!

Posted by Scott | March 26, 2008 10:30 PM

If Dan would be willing to share those ham sandwiches, I would happily consent to carry his tools and carry things to the yard waste bin all day. Yum!

Lunch is a bugger. The organic, no preservatives lunchmeat at my grocery deli just went up to 14.99/lb. My fallback is peanut butter but there's no way to justify that as local. I'll muse on that one. Guess homemade hummous is a stretch as well?

Maybe Dan should start eating more cottage cheese? ;-)

Posted by lisa | March 27, 2008 2:44 AM

Why not make homemade pasta and try pasta salad? Lots of veggies with things like ham, bacon, chicken bits, etc. can be used. It's hearty, filling, tasty and healthy.

Posted by Judie | March 27, 2008 3:02 PM

Scott, Lisa, and Judie, thank you for your comments.
Judie, pasta salad is a great idea, and I definitely will follow this suggestion in the coming weeks. Planning ahead is something I still need to master when it comes to lunches.
I guess the main problem with lunch is the monotony factor: Anything eaten day in and day out, no matter how tasty, becomes boring after a while. So, Scott, cheese & sprout sandwiches might sound good to you right now, but I have to confess to throwing an "I'm tired of cheese sandwiches" fit and eating Chinese food for lunch yesterday (for the first time this whole year!)...and boy did it taste good. We are lucky to have lots of local pork products in this area, so we do eat sausage regularly and often take the leftovers for lunches.
Lisa, your organic lunchmeat prices are definitely way beyond my budget! I still have a stash of peanut butter, which I'm trying to stretch out into this locavore year as far as possible, haha! But as I'm sure you know, I'd be hard-pressed to convince Dan to trade his ham for the likes of peanut butter or cottage cheese :-)

Posted by Autumn Long | March 27, 2008 4:31 PM

Whatever happened to thermos bottles? We'd put a cold drink or hot soup in them in our lunch boxes.
A hearty bean and sausage soup or leftover spagetti??? How about minestrone...veggies, meat and pasta. Take that ham bone and make some soup. yummy and that great homemade bread.

Posted by Margaret Flynn | March 27, 2008 4:58 PM

Hi Margaret,
Thermos lunches are a great idea! I do try to take soups and other leftovers for lunch whenever possible. In general, I agree that this is a good option. However, my landscaper husband does not want to eat anything hot on the job, since he works outdoors in the hot sun all day. Maybe cold soups like gazpacho would work. I can only imagine what his coworkers would say if he started eating things like gazpacho and baguettes with hummus at work. Soooo not manly (but delicious!) :-)

Posted by Autumn Long | March 27, 2008 5:10 PM

Hey Autumn,
I look at this site periodically because I know Tim Baird, one of your fellow Locavores. My wife and I have a similar lunch meat "gross out" problem. I eat it; it grosses her out. My question/comment is this: what qualifies for you as "lunch meat"?
I'll freely admit that a slurry pressed into a sheet and then punched into perfect circles is pretty gross. As is anything followed by the word "loaf". But bologna and other processed meat isn't all that's available in the deli section. Salami is a cured meat that has been eaten in many forms for centuries. Ham, turkey, and roast beef can all be found in minimally processed forms. Is it the sliced quality that stops you? It seems to stop my wife. Ultimately for your benefit and your husband's (I sympathize with him, I was a carpenter) I submit that any meat that can be eaten locally and organically can be sliced and put in a sandwich, thus making it "lunch meat". And free-range ground beef made into meatloaf (the only acceptable loaf) is also good between two slices of bread. Thanks and keep up the good work

Posted by Simon Adams | March 29, 2008 8:34 AM

Simon, thanks for your comments. You make a good point: what is the definition of lunchmeat? It's true that any meat can be eaten on a sandwich. Meatloaf sandwiches are an excellent suggestion. I guess it's the processed, pressed, and mechanically sliced qualities of typical deli-counter lunchmeat that gross me out. This is why I'm planning to create my own "lunchmeat" from our last farm-raised ham. After the ham is gone, we'll see where the lunchmeat muse takes me. We have a local butcher where I can buy local meats and slice them at home for sandwiches. I think this will be my next tactic.

Posted by Autumn Long | March 29, 2008 1:04 PM


Hi Autumn,

I brown bag, but my lunches are not going to meet the protein and volume requirements of a 6'5" meat eating man doing physical labor in the hot sun for long days. With your homemade bread, sandwiches is the logical conclusion. The Earl of Sandwich invented the portable protein wrapped in its own napkin, and we haven't improved on it in hundreds of years.

So here is how my family feeds a huge number of people on the cheap at a family gathering with lots of outdoor activities. Over half of the family is currently teenagers, and although they are not all men, the women are vigorously athletic, and pack it away with the best of them. This is based on three premises:

1) Grilled food tastes just as good cold as hot.

2) Cheap cuts just need to be cooked longer.

3) Condiments, the spicier the better.

We start with a big BBQ for huge amounts of food at once. I grill veggies using grapeseed oil, because it has a way high smoke point so you can use a real hot grill. I either grill on a cast iron grill over a gas range, or in a cast aluminum BBQ over charcoal. Winter veggies that grill well are any squash, all roots, potatoes, sweet potatoes and any onion. Grilling makes them all sweeter. Any summer vegetable can be grilled, and peppers (frozen whole) and eggplant and summer squash (frozen in grillable shapes) can be grilled all winter.

It sounds like you may have local beef, chicken, pork, and fish, so grill it up. I have no advice here, the manly men in my family show up with smokers, and BBQ's the size of my first apartment (and we are camping, mind you) and discuss the best wood to use, and handle everything. Suddenly there is pulled pork and jerk chicken and ribs and tri-tip. They say the long cooking makes cheap cuts great, since we may be feeding up to 40 people. They shop ahead and store it in my freezer if there is a good sale.

After the big grill up is the big BBQ dinner including pasta salad. To make it manly, use big pasta, like shells, and big hunks of veggies. I use raw broccolli florets - that'll give it some crunch. This dressing is a sure fire, pot luck worthy recipe:

1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 cup mayonnaise, home made and I am sure you added the oil ONE DROP AT A TIME.
2 tablespoons milk
3 tablespoons vinegar (I like red wine vinegar)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper (I like more)
1 tsp dry or 4 tsps fresh tarragon (or more)
4 cloves garlic (at least)(the manlier the men, the more the garlic).

Blend, makes about 1 cup. If you are using fresh tarragon, blend everything else and then put in the tarragon and pulse. That gets you a nice white dressing with green flecks. If you blend too long you get green, but it still tastes great. If you cut down on the milk and olive oil, it is a dip or sandwich spread.

Then, the leftovers are all iced or refrigerated, and become sandwiches for the next week. I like cheese and grilled veggies, like squash and onions and peppers. The carnivores slice the meat just enough to make it fit on the bread, put on grilled onions and peppers, and we all head for the condiments.

Horseradish is easy to grow, and easy to make into sauce. Pickles, both sweet and dill, are easy to grow and make. Pepperoncini (pickled peppers) are my specialty (blue ribbon at the State Fair, if I may brag). I see you are starting your seeds now, and you can get both the green and gold pepperoncini pepper seeds from Nichols Garden Nursery. You can also pickle hot peppers, so the fire level is up to you. Let me know if you want pepperoncini recipes.

Another great sauce is roasted or grilled peppers (from sweet to spicy), a little olive oil, a wine or basalmic vinegar, oregano or thyme, and fresh ground pepper blended up. Less oil gives you a dip or sandwich spread.

So when Dan sits down with his cold grilled meat and veggies sandwiches on homemade bread, with horseradish or pepper sauce running off his elbows, pops a few pickled peppers, and then opens the pasta salad container and the nearest guys pass out from the garlic fumes, I think the testosterone level should be plenty high.

Wow, I think I will have grilled eggplant (frozen last summer) with red pepper sauce for dinner.

Good luck with your garden, mine is just starting up too.


Posted by Kathy | March 29, 2008 2:30 PM

Kathy, thank you for the most entertaining and informative comments EVER! You rule. I will definitely be trying out that dressing recipe, which sounds delicious AND oh-so-manly. And, yes, I would love your recipe for pepperoncini. Thanks again!

Posted by Autumn Long | April 1, 2008 5:21 PM

How about falafel and hummus in a pita pocket? Hard boiled egg or two on the side for extra protein

Posted by NJ | April 2, 2008 1:39 PM


As a P.S. to Kathy's grilled cornucopia...yummmm.
Last summer I was into making pannini's for my staff at work. I'd take a focacia, slice it so I had 2 big but thin pieces of bread put pesto on one side, brown mustard on the other, cheese, grilled veggies and some kind of meat, stick it together. I'd heat up my little George Foreman grill (one of the small original ones) or you can use a skillet. Brush olive oil on the outside, heat it up until it browns nicely and the cheese melts. Wrap it up in wax paper and pack it away.
The bread came from Whole Foods via our local health food store. But you could make it, put lot's of Italian Herbs and form the bread really flat.

Posted by Margaret Flynn | April 2, 2008 3:00 PM

Two more awesome suggestions from Margaret and NJ! I think my lunches are going to be a lot more interesting this year...Pita pockets with falafel and hummus, barbecue sandwiches, grilled meat and veggies on panini, meatloaf sandwiches, pasta salads...yum yum YUM!
NJ, do you know if I can grow chickpeas here in West Virginia? I'm already dreaming of all the homemade falafel and hummus I could make...Now excuse me while I go find a napkin to wipe away my drool.

Posted by Autumn Long | April 3, 2008 3:38 PM

I suggest various forms of chili in a thermos. No one can say it isn't manly, filling, healthy, and can be made from local ingredients. You can grow the beans yourself. Add some shredded cheese if you want a super complex protein along with your homemade bread. Also if nice and spicy -- or flavorful with grilled meat in it -- will taste just about as good cold.

Good luck!

Posted by Barry | April 9, 2008 9:10 PM