Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Between the Vending Machine and the Take-out Counter

Balsamic Garbanzo Salad

At one point I practically lived off feta cheese, spinach and Kalamata olives. Those were the days I worked in a cube farm with charcoal walls and windows about a half mile away. I was so healthy people said while I constructed enormous salads in the breakroom and pinned sarcastic notes to the freezer about food nabbing and socialism. That's were I watched the I.T. guy burn down the microwave with a take-out pizza box lined in foil. I think he still owes me for not ratting him out.

It's not that I was so healthy, it's just that I got sick of vending machines and restaurants and the money, money, money of eating at work, and I realized that lunch on the cheap also meant carrying it in. The thing is, I didn't bring a proper sack lunch. I've been vegetarian for I don't know how long and sandwiches were more of a hassle than I wanted to deal with. So I decided on salads--huge salads decked out in grape tomatoes, sunflower seeds, olives, feta, hard-boiled eggs and vinaigrette dressing on a bed of baby spinach. If I piled enough stuff in the bowl I wouldn't have to look at the egg salad sandwiches and plain white bagels riding around and around in their electric carriage; I could sit at my desk with headphones on and listen to something sinister by Clive Barker while obsessing over wedding cakes and Pacific Northwest treehouses.

There's something wonderful about working in a mindless job gnashing out minute by minute in pointless abandon. I had my first NaNoWriMo behind those charcoal walls. Later, when I managed my own team of misfits and Death Eaters, I wrote a few short essays and started up the Team Evil zine. Fifty hours of structure can kick out a good lot of creative energy if you have a mind for it, and I'm pretty sure my mind was starving for a formative kihap.

I'm still a huge fan of the spinach and feta fandango, but with two kids at home and a constant need to keep the food lively and inventive, it doesn't get as much play. These days we're into anything that can be made into the shape of a face, a rocket ship, or an animal. Also anything made from fruit, blended or frozen, or whipped into a muffin and toasted in the oven will do. Still I keep feta on my shopping list and spinach in the crisper for nights like this, when I get a hankering for an old recipe misplaced at the bottom of the box.

Balsamic Garbanzo Salad

(All measurements are approximate. Use your discretion)

1 Can of low sodium garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 Cup of roasted, unsalted, sunflower seeds
A Handfull of Kalamata Olives
1 Ounce of Feta Cheese
Some Grape tomatoes or one tomato finely chopped
1/4 Cup Balsamic Vinegar
1/4 Cup olive oil
Crushed black pepper and salt to taste

Mix ingredients in a bowl and serve over a bed of baby spinach. Be sure to wear headphones and listen to a compelling audio book of your choice. Create something beautiful. 


  1. I always love reading about pat jobs, how they shape us. And that salad -- yum.

  2. Does that say "pat"? Never type comments on the go. I meant PAST. There's nothing pat about "listening to Clive Barker while obsessing over wedding cakes" or creating a zine called Team Evil :)

  3. The salad recipe looks amazing! I love this kind of food. Isn't it fascinating how much food is tied into our past selves and our memories?

  4. Christi, I just found an old copy of that zine. It was actually called "The Abyss: Rumbling from the Darkside." We were given the name "Team Evil" by a competing manager, but instead of fighting back, my gang decided to embrace it. Some strange and unfathomable days I kind of miss that sort of crazy.

    Lisa, I hope you like the salad. I was surprised to find it recently and, even more so, to realize I hadn't made it since we lived in our old apartment.

  5. This is a recipe I will love for lunch. It is printing as we type.

  6. I'm glad to hear it, Darlene. I love a recipe that says mix and eat. :)

  7. Yum. To the recipe and the backstory. I love garbanzo beans. Thanks for the reminder about a great combination. I like your spin on it, V.