We all know that breakfast is important, but many of us overlook lunch. It's time to stop eating convenience food 'al desko' and start making exciting packed lunches
It was a classic case of misdirection. While we were busy telling our children that breakfast was the Most Important Meal of the Day, while we shovelled oversweetened granola and gulped down sugar-rich smoothies, while we yapped about antioxidants and phytoflavinoids, we somehow forgot about lunch.
Consider the grim bathos of the term al desko, the spurious arguments over the merits or otherwise of Pret v Eat, the anaemic miso soups and the homogenous sandwiches (how do they make them all taste the same? Remarkable). Lunch is not a pleasure but something to get through, to keep you going until a proper meal. Or the four o'clock slump, at least.
It is becoming ever clearer that this isn't good for our health, our wallets or our general wellbeing. One in five people work straight through lunch. Three in five eat at their desks. And while I don't even come close to agreeing with ex-public health minister Anna Soubry's endearing assessment of eating over a keyboard as "disgusting" – my own, covered in crumbs, is too much of a giveaway – there is clearly a growing sense that we're becoming less and less acquainted with a meal that was once for many the most substantial of the day.
As ever, how you eat your lunch and where is largely up to you. If the highlight of your day is, in fact, the walk to Pret, the frisson of excitement as you vacillate between the wild crayfish and rocket sandwich and the chunky humous salad wrap, crack on.
If, however, just once, maybe twice a week, you fancy changing it up, saving a few quid and, most importantly, having something truly delicious and homemade to fall on at midday, then I've written a book with your name on it. Well, my name, but still. It's called Love Your Lunchbox and is my paean to a good packed lunch.
Because I'm every bit as familiar as you with the walk to the shop, the crap sushi or the claggy sandwich, the bag of crisps and the salty keyboard, and I wanted to eat better lunches. When I was little, my packed lunch, tucked inside my trusty Thomas the Tank Engine lunchbox, was genuinely the best bit of the day. Would it be a cheese and pickle sandwich or a ham and lettuce bap? Quavers or Hula Hoops? Would there be a Club biscuit or a Kit Kat (or a dreaded, cardboardy Blue Riband)? Granny smith (thumbs down) or golden delicious (thumbs up)?
I might not have the surprise nowadays, since I pack my own, but I want lunch to retain that sense of promise, to have all the delight of a Christmas stocking and none of the disappointment. We don't want the same sandwich every day any more than we want the same pair of socks every Christmas. Love Your Lunchbox is a book for anyone who wants better socks. Or, rather, lunch.
Every day this week I'll be posting a recipe from the book. I hope you like them. Oh, and you can still have crisps. I know I will.
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