Yesterday I went to a professional event over the noon hour where every attendee got a boxed lunch. At such events, the boxed lunches are grouped and stacked by the kind of sandwich printed on the outside, and you make your choice, take your box back to your seat, and hope for the best.
I say “hope for the best,” because when it comes to boxed lunches there’s a significant element of risk involved. Sure, you can choose whether you want “roast beef” or “chicken salad” or “Italian” or “a wreck” (whatever that is), but of course the sandwich descriptions barely scratch the surface of the important information you’d like to know in deciding what to have for lunch. At a restaurant, you’d be able to make choices about the bread to be used, find out what is put on the sandwich and add or subtract as you see fit, and pick your side dish, but in the boxed lunch scenario you’ve got none of those options. You’ve got a mound of closed boxes in front of you, and it wouldn’t be seemly to start opening them up and pawing through the contents to determine which box is best suited to you.
Yesterday I went for the grilled chicken sandwich box. The grilled chicken came on a sub bun and — inevitably! — had lots of sliced tomato and shredded lettuce and other vegetable matter on top. In the boxed lunch world, the prevailing assumption is that everyone will want every conceivable vegetable on their sandwich. Call it the highest, or lowest, common denominator effect. I despise both tomato and shredded lettuce, so I had to figure out how to remove them. Since there was no utensil in the box, I removed the offending items by hand, which was a messy operation that created a small mound of unappetizing, limp vegetable matter in the box. Add to that the fact that once shredded lettuce is added to a boxed sandwich it can never be fully removed because it tends to adhere to the bread and hide in cracks and crevices of the meat, and you’ve captured one aspect of boxed lunch roulette.
There’s more, of course. With a standard boxed lunch, you get a side and a dessert. Usually the side is a bag of potato chips or Doritos, but sometimes, if you’re lucky, it’s a small fruit bowl or edible pasta salad. Yesterday it was barbecue-flavored potato chips, which equates to a losing spin on the wheel. I’ve not conducted a scientific study, but I have to believe that barbecue potato chips appeal to only a tiny, tastebud-challenged segment of the American population. Lacking the ability to appreciate delicate and nuanced food flavors and spices, this poor group must opt for chips coated in heavy, dusty, quasi-sugary artificial flavoring that stains your fingers red as you eat them. I therefore passed on the chips and found myself wondering — if you’re making boxed lunches, why not just opt for regular potato or kettle chips, rather than pushing the envelope with something like barbecue or ranch or vinegar flavoring? But although the side was a dud, the dessert was a positive — an oatmeal cookie that I saved and brought home to share with Kish.
Ultimately I got a pretty good sandwich after the vegetable removal process was completed, skipped potato chips that I shouldn’t have eaten anyway, and brought home a good cookie. All told, I’d say I broke even in yesterday’s exercise in lunch box roulette.