My friend Michelle is helping me compile a book of my best columns. So in a recent course of conversation, she began to quiz me.
"Have you written any columns on cultural eating?" she asked.
I half-attentively looked up from my task at hand.
"You know," she said. "Every culture has its favorite foods ... those that are family traditions." (Michelle is of Greek extraction.)
"For example, I have my mother's original recipe for a yummy Greek dish called Pastitsio. And I'm changing some of the ingredients to make it healthier. Come over some evening and we'll cook it," she said.
"And have you written a column about eating at your desk? Eating on the run?"
I stopped to think. I've threatened editors that I may pop in unannounced some day ... just to see what they eat at their desks while they work. But I've yet to do that.
"Now that would be a good column," she said as she got up and walked across her office.
"Did I show you my 'salad on the go'?" she asked as she held up a wide-mouth Mason jar layered with colorful ingredients. "It's pretty simple. You need wide-mouthed, quart-size jars. I suppose you could do a pint jar - but that's not a whole meal," she said.
"Put the dressing (fat free preferred, or a little olive oil and balsamic) on the bottom. Add spices if you like. Then layer the heaviest veggies - broccoli, snow peas, artichoke hearts, mushrooms, shredded carrots.
"Next add tomato, crumbled feta, bacon bits (or a vegan bacon substitute). Then layer sliced hard-boiled eggs and some avocado. Add red-leaf lettuce or whatever you prefer. And top with grilled chicken breast.
"And I add a dollop of Greek (of course) yogurt," she concluded. "I make four (jars) at a time and keep them in the refrigerator. When lunchtime rolls around, I shake it up. And away I go!"
"Very cool!" I said as she finally had my undivided attention. "It's colorful! And healthful! And ... cultural. And fit for eating at your desk!"
"And what about comfort food?" Michelle continued. "You really need to write about that."
Looks like I just did. Thanks, Michelle.
Barbara Quinn is a registered dietitian at the Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula.