Business Lunch

That blissful hour in the middle of the nine to five, where lady professionals meet to eat. Ragers by night and assistants by day, this page is devoted to making a record of the sumptuous details of our break from the cubicle.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006


on my first day of work at this job, nearly two years ago, my boss took me out for lunch to au bon pain. you may know of this popular chain -- i think they're pretty much everywhere. the first one i ever saw was in the port authority bus terminal (perhaps on a summer visit to see my friend katherine edla?). bright and airy, au bon pain serves a multitude of semi-fancy sandwiches, soups, pastries, etc. for reasons i can't quite remember, on that first day, i really hated it. $6 for a sandwich?! i remember thinking with some disgust. it felt too weird to be there...i was terrified of becoming unknowingly initiated into yuppiedom, placated with supple cheeses and squishy baguettes.

two years later, i find myself grabbing lunch from said eatery from time to time, completely of my own accord. i realize now that it's priced relatively decently, and that grabbing a $6 lunch does not make one a yuppie. this makes me feel kind of grown up. i've really seen over the past few years that it's going to have to take a lot more than an office job to change my identity -- a thing i really did fear in the beginning. coming towards the end of my time here (my first Real Job), i've spent a lot of time reflecting on all the things i've learned, the ways i've grown, and the ways i've stayed the same. it's a good feeling.

i got a cup of vegetarian moroccan soup from au bon pain, and a half of a meatless blt (brie, lettuce and tomato) sandwich. i walked along the grey sidewalk alone with the white paper sack in my hand and a philly weekly under my arm. for a block i walked behind two girls, clearly friends, talking and swapping stories in that familiar lunch time way ("how's your morning been?" "...i just had to grit my teeth and tell him 'move the traffic cone'"), and smiled thinking of the various lunching ladies all over our city. alone in my building's atrium i read and ate in silence, occasionally eavesdropping on other lunchers or glancing furtively at the woman next to me staring intently at a new york times crossword puzzle. i hoped she would ask me for a bit of help, perhaps a slang or pop culture-related clue that i could guess with ease. but she didn't.

two weeks, people. two weeks.


With a song in my heart and tears on my cheeks (metaphorically speaking, of course), I humbly regret to inform my lady lunching companions that my next three business lunches will be aborted before their births, which, as we all know, is no big deal. Get ready world, I'm leaving town! And yes, I just got back from vacation three weeks ago. Times are indeed tough, and upstate New York lake water courses through my veins, yearning to return home. But darlings, take this for what it's worth: my lunches will not be very good while I'm gone. Today's will be a bag of potato chips and an iced tea in the car on the Jersey turnpike, tomorrow's will be something from the bagel family at my parent's dining room table, listening to jackhammers from the construction down the street, and Friday's will probably be an overpriced sandwich, paid for by my mother, at a soft-focus, stoned-waiters hippie restaurant in Old Forge, New York, the land of my father's pride. Details of my journey will spill from my lips in the Secret Park on Tuesday, September 5. Meanwhile I'll be checking to see what you eat.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

a little late, 2 o'clock

Clearly last Friday took the wind out of our sails a bit, as it took until today to realign the powers that be and get the four of us around a table at the same time for lunch. And being that it is so rainy, we decided hastily, though not mistakenly, to dine at the Vegetarian Chinese restaurant on Sansom between 16th and 17th streets. Our dear friend Halimah, now departed for her final year at school, was supposed to write all about the lunch we had there a few weeks ago:

but now that she has resumed her studious habits in the great Hudson River Valley, its safe to say that she probably has forgotten all about her obligation to this little blog. Which is okay, it just means a little more work for this lady chicken.

The restaurant, which has recently been reviewed favorably in the Philly Weekly for its exquisite preparation of mushrooms, has come to hold a little place in our hearts for a number of reasons. Not the least of which is the ten foot by five foot picture of horses imbedded with tiny glimmering lights that hangs on the wall over our heads. It is pastel and gigantic and reminiscent of something you might have found on my Lisa Frank Trapper Keeper in the third grade. The waitresses are attentive and sweet and very pretty. The jasmine tea flows in a neverending stream. And their lunch special includes a choice of soup, side dish, and white or brown rice and costs roughly 6 dollars. The food, all of which is vegan, is delicious.

Today I stuck with something familiar: the sesame seitan. Large chunks of fried seitan and steamed broccoli covered in a sweetly savory brown sauce, alongside white rice, spring roll and miso soup. Karina ventured into new territory with a noodle dish (which doesn't come with rice) called Chow Mei Fun Singapore Style, thin rice noodles tossed with veggie chicken, vegetables and a yellow curry sauce. Kate went for the Kale with Dried Bean curd. Emily got her original entree, Bean Curd HomeStyle. Kate and Emily both got hot and sour soup, which I found to be slightly less palatable than the miso, though more flavorful. It's a tough choice. Emily ordered the seaweed side dish for the second time and seemed pleased. I never could get used to the texture.

We seemed a little sleepy. The weather here has made a few of us shut-ins. As Emily's sister Lauren put it, the weather has a case of blueballs; the sky has been heavy and gray for days. Kate confessed that she cried while reading the introduction to a hippie vegetarian cookbook, in which the author describes her dead husband and the meals they shared. I then confessed I knew exactly who she was talking about--Crescent Dragonwagon, whose cookbook was the official cookbook of the indeed Hippie co-op I lived in at college.

Emily lamented her faxed up morning, which consisted of a three hour struggle with her seemingly broken office machine. After purchasing a whole new fax only to realize she was having the same problem (no dial tone), she had to go get the floor office manager who is some heinous woman who of course informed her smugly that some dumb cord had just been unplugged the whole time.

We maintained our faces at lunch, but earlier in the day Karina and I had suffered grave disappointment when we had to go to DUNKIN F-ING DONUTS to get our morning bagel/english muffins with cream cheese tomato. Where they actually don't have tomato at all and make you spread the cream cheese on yourself. And charge you 75 cents more than the lady in our building, who has been mysteriously absent for the past two days. But she puts tomato and cream cheese on for you with salt and pepper too, when she's there.

Emily and I ate nearly our entire plates of food and I, for one, have been overly stuffed all afternoon as a result. Kate and Karina, little birds, took home hefty helpings.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Mean Inflation, and Other Sorry Tales

Thursday, felt more like a Monday. The world, working so fastidiously against us, and we, powerless to stop it.

First, Emily and I were abandoned (respectfully) by fellow luncheonettes, Kate who was very very busy and Karina who in top form, was getting a mid-day pedicure. Sigh. So Emily and I met at her building and headed due west, for the long anticipated, highly acclaimed, verdant food truck at 20th and Market for Fancy Falafel. We arrived to see the very eccentric falafel man wooing a father and his two children into purchasing a huge platter. We realized he was going to take a while with this and so we got in line, joined moments later by a very colorful Ryan who rode into Center City just to have lunch with us. We stood and stood. And stood and stood and stood. And ordered three falafel sandwiches. And stood some more. By now two more people had come up behind us. And at long last the sandwiches were ready. We stepped up to the counter to pay the man and he told us our total was Thirty Dollars.

We recoiled. Thirty Dollars?! ? He had to be joking. Oh, but he wasn't. We asked him why they cost six dollar a piece last time Emily was there and he cooly informed us that six dollars was three months ago, and this is now. Ten dollars each. Thirty dollars.

What tragedy! The boy behind us in line, who had already ordered, turned on his heels and just walked away. We reluctantly plucked the precious bills from our wallet and decided aloud, so he could hear, that we'd never return. We can't afford ten dollars on lunch! It was a sad day for us, a sad day for Business Lunch and a sad day for Philadelphia.

Three sad puppies, we walked around the corner to eat these foiled falafels of gold in the courtyard of Twenty 21 JFK Boulevard, a super bourgie plaza in the middle of an office building with benches and tables and Au Bon Pain. Which really wouldn't have added to the day's humiliation except that upon entering the little spot, a security guard informed Ryan that he was not allowed to bring his bike in, so he had to go lock it to a post. The outrage!

And to top it off, I sat down on the steps and realized that I was in fact, too nauseous to possibly eat any of my fucking sandwich. Of all times to have a tummy ache! Alanis Morissette was actually singing! It was like a nightmare.

But REAL. Minus Alanis.

Emily and Ryan ate the succulent bundles of flavor--the falafel balls are actually green, they're so fresh. Despite some sauce leakage issues mid-meal, they appeared wholly satisfied. We talked, but inconsequentially. Ryan took my sandwich home and put it in the fridge. We cursed the falafel man and his high prices and vowed to never return.

Thursday, August 24, 2006


the company of ryan and mary was, ofcourse, lovely and the mild weather was agreeable. however, the sad-itude of our mini lunch club is summarized here, my first and hopefully only craig's list "rant."

when the lunch isn't business

following a whirlwind morning of what has become all too frequent at work: fixing a problem which i had not only forseen but voiced concern over, only to be ignored, then as now, i was given a rare and shining gift: the door (for just the afternoon, of course. it is inconceivable that i would leave my job without first making a pro and con list with my lovely lunchmates). i strolled out into the heat at 2:00, my bike, having been sheltered in the air conditioned lobby all day, gave me the same but opposite of that warm and slightly orgasmic tingle when you put on jeans fresh from the dryer. my dry hands clung to the faint coldness of the handlebars and i could almost feel it floating away. the bike ride down broad street was hot but short, and i was unlocking my door before the quarter hour. there is something exhilarating about weekday afternoon light. i fear i've been trained so much to fit into my secretary muffin mold that it looks different from weekend afternoon light. as a child my favorite disease to get was pinkeye, since i without question needed to stay home from school until long after the outward symptoms had cleared up, but felt as jumpy and healthy as any kid would, just with some crud in my eye that was kind of fun to pick out anyway. in short, it was all the gain with none of the pain, and this is how i felt this afternoon in my house. i changed into my house shorts, put on npr, bemoaned the fate of poor, weird, little Pluto, chopped some scallions and roasted tomatos and made myself a kickass omelette, topped with a generous glob of sour cream and a liberal shaking of hot sauce. i read my book in my bright kitchen, and then washed the dishes. luxuriant! of course, the rough then knocked the smooth out cold when i went upstairs to de-cathair my ex-roommate's and soon-to-be new roommate's room. the clumps of black hair jumped and scurried across the floor like bugs as i swept.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

bits and pieces

at approximately noon today, there was an absolute flurry of business lunch related emails with subject lines reading "cadets" and "re: cadets" and "re:re: cadets." the thesis of these emails was that everyone was all poorly prepared for lunch . with the food supply running frightfully low at clap it off (damn those deceitful, dark corners of the fridge!), this is not a surprise. there were some efforts, though: in what one can only assume was a half conscious state this morning, mary made herself a sandwich of banana, almonds, cream cheese, and honey mustard on an onion pita. an onion pita. she ended up eating half of it this morning anyway and then left the other half in the fridge at her work. thusly, no one could share in the experience of such a creation being devoured. emily made a cream cheese and tomato sandwich on pita and brought half a peach. the first half fell prey to the juicer earlier this morning.

so the plan was for everyone to scavenger for her own lunch and meet at secret garden at 1:45. mary and emily joined forces and went in on a health salad from kennedy. they showed up at 1:53 to find a smiling karina lunching on nothing but a chocolate milkshake from the diner. a lady traffic cop was sitting across from karina reading a book, a pack of marlboro reds and a warbling walkie talkie her only accessories. there was something very nostalgic about this sight. the salad was opened and munched upon, kate's whereabouts were questioned. finally around 2 p.m. kate breezed through the park gate ("like a beacon of light," mary said), decked out as usual in a foxy dress with deli sandwich and chips in tow.

together at last, the lunching ladies perused the many favorite topics of conversation including work stuff, travel tales and random anecdotes. a man asked kate for a cigarette which will no doubt become an annoyingly common occurance. each separate but worthy lunch slowly disappeared as the precious minutes ticked on, and the conversation naturally turned to veronica mars, the greatest television show ever made. concerns and displeasures about the first two episodes of season two were aired out, along with predictions and guesses as to the already-established mystery. the obligatory Logan Echolls Debate was had, with both camps firmly holding their ground. ("i just really love him," karina swooned). the lady traffic cop long gone, the hour nearly three, the group separated. kate back to broad street, emily and mary back to jfk, and karina to the salon for a late afternoon leg waxing.

tomorrow -- fancy falafel.

when the lunch isn't the lunch

Sometimes it happens that the Business Lunch is mostly business and little of lunch. Due to pretty intense fuck up of mine last month I had to spend the afternoon reinstating complaints at City Hall and filing them for service at the Sheriff's Office. I was back to the office by 3 and wanted to get some foods in me, but more than that i wanted to run my Personal Errands: and I did and it was very interesting.
First a frantic search for Season 2 of Veronica Mars, which was realeased today, led me to Borders where a cute girl with cute short hair and glasses found it behind the counter in a box. I was teetering on the borderline of paralytic embarrassment asking for a DVD of a UPN show, approaching the counter with trepidation, my dorky heart beating faster, would they smirk at me like the Information Ladies at Tower had not 15 minutes before (they hadn't gotten it in), would they send me away smarting and unfulfilled? Providence obviously throws the bone-eye toward Kristen Bell as well, and Season 2 was delivered unto us. Then I got a Borders frequent buyer keychain thing because the cute girl asked me too. Does this mean I should shop there more often? I have shopped at Borders since I moved here now exactly twice, I don't see much more in the future, sorry cute Borders girl, you can give them the discount card, but you can't make them shop.
Next item on the Business BusinessLunch was Trying On Jeans at The Gap. I tried them, tehn I bought them, and it was very interesting.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Secret Parking, With Chin Hair.

Indeed, we went secret parking today to our favorite place on Chestnut Street. The sun was shining, the birds were hopping, the wind was not too windy. The fountain, however, was again not founting which we've decided is unsettling for a number of reasons, but most importantly because we feel unsure about dipping our toes in such stagnant water? Particularly when oily pools of bird poop are floating around. We toyed with the idea of climbing on top of the pillars that make up the fountain to eat our lunch, but because we have no idea why the fountain isn't on, it could really start again at any moment and wouldn't THAT be quite the embarrassment-- undies wet and seven feet in the air!

Karina was filing paper work at the Courthouse, casing the joint for our inevitable takeover, and so she was absent, but Emily, Kate and I met on one of the better benches, where you can eat and sit and see your friends all at the same time. My lunch was a soggy bog of leftovers from yesterday, a bruised peach and some triscuits with Neufchatel cheese (lower in fat than cream cheese, I think I grabbed it at the grocery store to give it another chance, but again I must conclude that when something like cheese loses fat, it also loses flavor...) Kate was eating a gigantic piece of cheese pizza--I should have tricked her into trading with me, although then i'd probably just have one more piece of pizza and one less friend (cry!). Emily really beat us both in this game though when she showed up with fancy pants olives and ravioli salad from dibruno bros., the fancy pants grocery right across the street from the secret park. It is the famed cheese and food shop from South Philadelphia, where they sell only the most delicious things. Our friend Zeke is a cheese man there. He is nice.

We discussed how sparsely green the park was, in a good way, and the frequency at which you masturbate when you are on a road trip with a friend--once, for future reference. Plan accordingly and leave your electric buzz at home.

We also celebrated today's dvd release of Season Two Veronica Mars with a hefty hoorah! (In our hearts.) We will all rendezvouz after Quizzo tonight in our living room to watch three to four episodes.

As we were leaving, a very blonde and impish homeless woman asked Kate for a cigarette. And how could she refuse? The woman's blonde, prickly beard could have blinded any one of us in a fight! (Oh, we also talked about fights with blonde girls.) She eyeballed our lunch and informed us that she also had had a good lunch today. In the end the lady was pretty amicable and harmless. As we walked out the front gate to head back to work she even bid us adieu.

"Bye, girls. Have fun."

Monday, August 21, 2006

moshi moshi

Usually I like sitting upstairs at Moshi Moshi, far from both the maddening crowds and the waitstaff, who often forget you tucked away up there. Today I sat in front of the door next to two tables of fellow Girls Who Lunch and read while I waited for Karina and Mary. At the table next to me one luncher nearly spit out her miso soup and said to her companion, "He's a republican? Well that changes everything." I believe those exact thoughts, if not the words, have rolled around in my own mind before, and I didn't know how to feel about that.

Karina and Mary arrived and we ordered with only a cursory glance at the menu. Chicken, tofu, and salmon teriyaki boxes for myself, Mary, and Karina, respectively. Emily was lone wolfing it again (we miss you Em!), and the restaurant was dark in the way that bars are dark during the day, with one or two shafts of light piercing the back wall. The radio was playing adult contemporary, a crapshoot with odds so terrible that one feels joyful at the slightest upswing, even if said upswing is Rod Stewart.

The weekend, friends and legal jargon occupied our conversation. Hey everyone in Internetland! Mary needs a job. Why don't you give her one? She has great work clothes.

Friday, August 18, 2006

lone wolf

today everyone (kate, mary, karina and - sob! - one time limited edition lunching lady halimah) went to our vegan chinese spot. $6 for the best plate of food ever. i am certain there will be a lengthy,charming and jealousy-enducing post about it.

i had to skip this special occasion (ham's last day of work yesterday) because at the last second i was alerted that i had to be in the office from 1 to 2 p.m. for a "technology assessment" by some company that might take over the meeting of all our virtual communication needs. as enthralling as it was to talk shop with two techie dorks (and lordy they were dorky), i mourned over and over the lunch that was taking place without me across town.

at 2 p.m., stomach a-growlin', i hustled over to kennedy and got a hefty egg salad sandwich on rye, with lettuce, maters, onions (but they left out the onions?), and a heap of pickles on the side. kennedy totally empties out after 1:45 or so, when most folks' lunch hours are over. it is at this point when the deli staff gets to eat and hang out, the old people can gum their food in relative peace, and late comers like me get their choice of sun drenched seats next to the huge window. i ate pretty fast and skimmed the city paper. it was good times, but damn i missed you guys.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

time travel thursday

It was the hottest of times, it was the sunniest of times, it made me think of all the dark winter sandwiches I've eaten in the lobby of my office building while blankly turning the pages of some newspaper. The other day in Love Park I had noticed some office minions with a picnic blanket spread out before them and had scoffed (internally) and proclaimed them dorks. Today, however, the idea did not seem so farfetched or prissy, as the grass dirtied my shoes and left its marks on my legs. The feast was exquisite: two halves of yesterday's health sandwiches, emily's quadruple threat sandwich, mary's pesto, a jar of hummus, a stack of triscuits, artichoke spinach dip, an amazing and amazingly full tupperware of mary's roasted asparagus and tomatoes
and a bag of M&Ms and a whoopie pie for desert. The setup left us free to explore many and varied combinations. Some who were not enthralled with the artichoke dip may not see eye to eye with me on this, but I felt that the only dud in the bunch were the Amish pickles, which were uniformly squishy and slimy. And they were made by the Amish! One would think that those folks could make a pickle right, but they must be too busy not having sex, or not doing whatever it is they don't do.

The discussion wandered towards a subject any working girl worth her blisters knows plenty about: money, the lack thereof, and how to best swing that pendulum unevenly so that it spends more time in the first territory than the second. One conclusion: some people get it, some people don't. From there we traveled back to our squeamish and immature gradeschool selves and discussed the physical properties of various types of animal shit. This was followed by a leap ahead of five years or so while we reminisced about the kids we knew in seventh grade who did drugs, and how simultaneously scary and cool they were. We heard a peircing scream and stood up in excitement to see a man carrying a woman towards the fountain, all wordlessly praying the he would have the guts to throw her in. He did not, but nobody's perfect. All in all, the company was a treat perhaps more exquisite than the meal.

The same cannot be said of Love Park. It is simply not doing it for us. There was a crab shell in the grass, there have been bird shit incidents in the past, and the place in general just reeks of business, something we try to distance ourselves from for this hour. So with no glaring regrets I say, "Smell you later Love Park. It's not you, it's us. Us and Secret Park."

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

kennedy, kate, the last piece of pie

we ate a bit late today - not until 2 p.m. in a pleasant departure from our normal eating spot in Love Park, we went to "the secret garden" on 17th and chestnut, a tiny shady oasis in the middle of center city. there is a fountain and chairs and tables bolted to the ground, and a nice collection of random people. less weirdos than love park, to be sure.

and it was the triumphant return of kate! she was on a month long candadian roadtrip and missed many a business lunch. mary, karina and kate all bought health sandwhiches from the kennedy food garden on JFK Blvd. between 19th and 20th streets. kennedy makes the best sandwiches in the city, always bursting with fillings on super perfect baguettes. the health sandwich is a particularly genius combination of avocado, feta cheese, lettuce, tomatoes and peppers. it's supposed to have bean sprouts on it but it never does. it appeared as if all three sandwich eaters wisely saved the second half of their health sandwiches, which may make an apperance at lunch tomorrow.

emily again packed a lunch which consisted of the vegan stuffed pepper leftover from yesterday (surprisingly good cold) topped with amish ketchup, a tiny cream cheese, tomato and spinach sandwich, and the last piece of pie. said pie was a ridiculously simple and delicious vegan peach & blueberry confection that mary whipped up last weekend. it was a special pie. emily relished each bite. pie gets better with time. but not too much time.

there were conversations about bikini waxes. the sun came through the leaves. kate was back. we went back to work at luxurious hour of 3 p.m. and all was well in the universe.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006


Today the usual trio, Emily, Karina and I met at the crosswalk island in the middle of JFK Boulevard. Karina and I bought a few things at the corner, and we walked across the street to Love Park. We sat down under a tree to share our little morsels. It was a new tree spot, because someone unusual was sitting in our usual place near the bushes with the mice. I had an optometrist appointment this morning at nine o'clock on the dot, and so forgot to pack a lunch. Karina did too. Emily brought one. Among us, we came up with:

1. two stuffed grapeleaves, leftover from yesterday.
2. a small container of fruit from the fruit salad lady, honeydew, mango and cherries.
3. the "Special" platter from the falafel truck of stewed tomatoes and eggplant, hummus, tabouli, rice and pita bread.
4. Some vegetable tofu soup for Emily, whose tum tum was hurting.
5. One leftover stuffed pepper from last night's dinner, which was left for tomorrow, because we got too full.
6. One bottle of water, to share.

We ate quickly and then all three of us closed our eyes in the grass. After three or four minutes, the fountain turned itself on and we caught a few misty droplets of water through the breeze. Emily walked over to the edge of the pool to dip her toes into the water, but the waves were too impressive. I went to join her because the ants were biting my legs in the grass. We had to watch out for the fountain wave puddles which nearly soaked Emily's skirt when they jumped up onto the ledge where we were sitting! A girl sitting nearby was eating a platter of lettuce and stuffed grape leaves and pita wedges on a plastic black plate. We wondered where she got it.