Beyond the Brown Bag
With the close of summer, more discipline seems to descend on my household: more schedules, more deadlines, more items on the never-ending “to do” list. I’m not sure why this happens, but my guess is that nearly everyone reacts to the schedules the school year imposes.
After the weightlessness of summer, to me, a little discipline feels good. The summer break is always welcome, but there’s something energizing about the cooler air, the shorter days, and the anticipation of diving in to new challenges that makes me look forward to the beginning of the school year.
There is one drawback, however: lunches. In the mad dash to get everyone where they need to go and check all the homework and still do the basics like paying bills and laundry, fall brings the challenge of packing lunches for those who refuse to eat cafeteria fare. It doesn’t take too many peanut butter and jellys before I start to wonder why I thought the discipline of the school year was a good thing.
I’ve found that with a little creativity, sandwiches can be as fun as a summer day at the lake. Mixing and matching breads, fillings, and spreads opens up enough possibilities for the pickiest of eaters. Although these aren’t recipes in the strict sense, here are a few thoughts to get you started.
You don’t always have to choose between wheat or white. Try wrapping your favorite fillings in a tortilla. Cut a round of pita bread in half and stuff it. If you have leftover French bread, ciabatta rolls, focaccia, or other dinner rolls, cut those in half and fill them. Buy different breads such as rye, or breads made with nuts, cheese, or herbs for some different flavors. To make the most of the really juicy tomatoes that are abundant this time of year, pack them separately so your bread doesn’t get soggy and tasteless.
If you really want to “go wild,” skip the bread altogether. Wrap your sandwich in a large leaf of lettuce or cabbage.
Mayonnaise and mustard are fine, but to jazz things up, try some different spreads. Try salsa or guacamole for a Mexican-flavored sandwich; try hoisin sauce for an Asian flair. If you like them, try Indian chutneys, pesto, or an olive spread.
Lunch meat is fine, but widen your horizons a bit try some new twists. Slice an avocado in place of meat. Melt a rich, smoky cheese like a gouda, and add a slice of a tart Granny Smith apple. Slice some roasted vegetables–red bell peppers, onions, eggplant–and melt your favorite cheese on top, along with some fresh herbs and a little fresh black pepper. Or try greens like spinach, watercress, or arugula for some extra kick you just can’t get from lettuce.
And don’t forget combinations that you enjoy in other “settings” — turkey and cranberry taste just as good between slices of bread as they do at Thanksgiving; pizza combinations like canadian bacon and cheese work, as well.
With so many options, there’s really no need to settle for another PB&J. Think outside the bag!