Over the last few years as I have made the transition from rowdy feminist to gracious housewife (no snickering) I have had to let go, painfully, one at a time, of many of my previously adamant conclusions about life. Some things that just sounded so wrong my 20s, I have had to accept in my 30s as the only sensical way forward.
In my 20s I was 100% certain that I would never:
- separate my whites from my colors, or even own a washing machine for that matter
- live in a house that had a tv
- buy a multi-colored plastic toy new from the store
- and I would certainly never, never pack my husband’s lunch
You can guess where all those conclusions led. I feel like my life overall has been a series of letting things go, but never so much as this whole marriage and parenting proposition. When two people get together and decide to throw everything they’ve got into a singular new venture, the only efficient way to do it is as partners– each person using their own unique skill set to cover whichever end of the workload they are most fit for. Depending on the particular partnership this might mean splitting the jobs straight down the middle, or it might mean designating areas of ability and expertise. In our partnership, like many others, we work toward the same end doing very disparate jobs.
The ‘end’ of course is a happy healthy family. Healthy people need to eat lunch, lunch has to come from somewhere and if I want to have some control over the wholesomeness, ethics and frugality of this lunch, then it needs to come from our kitchen. My Man, despite or because of his righteously brainy nature, does not take the time to make his own lunch. In his defense, the kitchen is decidedly my realm. It always has been, and I know that I do run a fairly intimidating front. I know what’s in the fridge, where it is and when it runs out. Moreover I have extremely strong opinions about everything food related.
At any rate, some time after our move down here to the real world I started making his lunches, which more or less amounted to setting a tupperware of leftovers on the counter next to his backpack in the morning. That worked for awhile, but we often don’t have leftovers and also they require him to take a trip to the microwave which requires an interruption in his studying. I would get livid when those tupperwares came back to the kitchen still full of food now unsafe to eat. Livid, I tell you.
Eventually my mind made the traverse to sandwiches. I know, I know– they are as normal a food as you can imagine right? Why would it take me so long to consider them? Normal as they are, sandwiches have some inherent DIY problems. First and foremost, homemade whole wheat bread doesn’t stay soft more than a day, after that it really needs to be toasted to be good, and even then it’s often too thick and strong for a proper sandwich. And what of lunch meat? Inethically raised meat, innoculated with known toxins, sold for just under a fortune, all for something that tastes so foul? Why? But having been raised in America, I couldn’t really think past lunch meat for a sandwich.
So, it took me a while.
The first fix was the bread. After years of trying to make one loaf do double duty, I finally gave in to making two distinct kinds of bread. I like really dark nubby stuff for my morning toast– thick, dense, wheaty. The kind of bread that sticks to your ribs. Completely inappropriate for sandwiches. I am slowly refining my sprouted wheat bread for the morning toast purpose.
Meanwhile, my cherry-popper bread recipe makes a lovely light, spongy bread that squishes just right. I use about 1/3 white bread flour, often add leftover cooked oatmeal and can never bring myself to add the butter, but otherwise I almost follow the recipe.
The second fix is dumping lunch meat altogether. I get bone-in, skin-on pastured chicken breasts (in my opinionated opinion skinless, boneless chicken is waste of money) season them and roast for 30 or 40 minutes at 350F. They slice best once they’ve completely chilled in the fridge. (Keep the skin, bones and pan juice for stock!) I was worried that the smaller pieces of this home roasted meat would fall out of the sandwich, but it works fine and tastes so good!
The last fix is the freezer. Because now that you have this good homemade bread that’s only going to get staler, and this good freshly roasted chicken that isn’t laced with preservatives and therefore only lasts a few days in the fridge, you’ve gotta make good on it. Also, who wants to drag out all the sandwich stuff every single morning? I know making food ahead and putting it in the freezer is a totally Betty Crocker thing to do, but get over it! Those 1950s housewives were not stupid, as much as we have tried to frame them so. A freezer is a beautiful thing to waste.
A Few More Tips:
- If you plan carefully, you can roast the chicken at the same time the bread is baking.
- Don’t cut the bread until it’s completely cooled, preferably the day after baking so you can get good even slices (ditto on the chicken). Use a serrated bread knife and a light hand so you don’t smash the bread. Make the slices thinner than you might think.
- Be generous with the mayo. Good advice for life in general.
- Don’t put any veggies on, they don’t freeze well. You can add sprouts or lettuce when you pull the sandwich out of the freezer every morning, just gently pry the pieces apart and stuff the greens in. They do get a little frostbit, but still add some crunch and freshness. Cheese freezes just fine.
- I use those filmsy little sandwich baggies that just fold over. If they can be kept track of, they can be washed and re-used. I’m looking for some square tupperware sized for homemade bread.
- Stack them carefully in the freezer so that they don’t get squashed.
- A sandwich pulled out of the freezer in the morning and kept at room temperature is just about perfectly thawed by lunchtime, without any worry of food spoilage! Bonus!