Lunchtime. How many of you eat lunch at your desk? Me too, sometimes. My phone will ring, I will stop eating to answer it, and twenty minutes later, I will hang up and look at my sad, half-eaten tupperware of salad under the white glare of fluorescent lights and feel overcome with discontent, knowing that the phone will ring again before I finish.
About a month ago, I decided to do something about it.
Nearly every day for the last month, I have eaten lunch in my car. This is more fun than it sounds. My parking lot is an open-air lot with spaces under some shady trees. The temperatures here in South Florida have stayed in the low 80's, even at noon, so every day, I get in my car, put in the key so that the battery comes on, turn on Fresh Air with Terry Gross, and roll down the windows. If my cell phone rings, it is usually someone I'm willing to speak to with my mouth full. If it is not, I won't answer.
Lately, I have noticed other office workers taking refuge in their cars at lunchtime, too. Our parking lot is starting to feel like a drive-in theater around noon, without the carside service or the big screen. We have a line of cars with their windows down, filled with people eating, reading books, chatting on cellphones, and listening to music. One of my colleagues admitted that she took a nap in the backseat of her car last week.
I love these stolen moments of personal time. They may not last much longer, with the summer approaching and my need for air conditioning increasing. Sooner or later, I will have to decide whether I can, in good conscience, actually sit in my car with the engine running while I eat. Sadly, the answer is probably no. I'll have to figure out another way to enjoy my lunch and Fresh Air. I bet that I can squeeze in another two weeks, though, before it really gets hot. Maybe three weeks. Or four.
Curried Chicken-Coconut Soup
Adapted from this recipe at Epicurious.com
This recipe can be made ahead of time. Just stop right before adding the spinach and refrigerate until you are ready to finish. Heat the soup over medium heat until simmering, then add the greens and finish the recipe.
3 cups low-salt chicken broth
1 13.5-ounce can unsweetened coconut milk
3/4 cup chopped green onions
2 1/2 tablespoons mild curry powder, such as Garam Masala
1 1/2 tablespoons minced fresh lemongrass (from about 3 stalks)
1 tablespoon minced peeled fresh ginger
4 raw chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch by 1-inch cubes
2 cups baby spinach leaves, loosely packed
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
In a medium saucepan, combine the chicken broth, coconut milk, green onions, curry powder, lemongrass, and ginger. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally, then reduce the heat to medium and add the chicken. Simmer, partially covered, for 8-10 minutes, until the chicken is firm and opaque.
Turn off the heat, then add the spinach leaves and cilantro and cover for 1-2 minutes, until the spinach leaves have wilted. Add the lime juice and serve immediately, garnishing with lime wedges.