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I don’t work in an office anymore, but when I did, I almost always took my lunch. This was partly a function of the alarming rate at which my overly enthusiastic cooking generates leftovers and partly because a sack lunch is so much cheaper (and usually healthier) than whatever you can buy in midtown Manhattan. Eventually I found myself cooking dinner and packing lunch for a husband, too, but this (he) presented a problem: the pot of whatever-it-was that had, once upon a time, fed me for two dinners and two lunches now disappeared between the two of us in thirty minutes flat. And then he would look up as if to say, “Where’s the rest of our dinner?” If I was going to pack lunches, I would have to plan and shop for them separately.

Unfortunately, this was hard work. Sometimes I got my act together, but other times I simply had to do my best to suppress the knowledge that he would spend $6 on a sandwich while I bought a cup of soup and a roll for a handful of coins that instead could have purchased the raw ingredients for a whole pot of soup. Now, though, I’ve had enough. I’ve turned a blind eye to this scandalous waste too many times, and I’m ready to plan at least one tempting and varied sack lunch per week.

Yes, these lunches will usually involve a little extra cooking. One of my difficulties with packing a lunch is that buying deli meat and cheese gets expensive and boring (and involves waiting in a horrible line at my grocery store), so I usually forgo roast beef sandwiches and the like, unless I am roasting the beef myself. Try it out and you will, I guarantee, get an awful lot of gratification out of thirty extra minutes of prep work on Sunday night. Often these schemes will make more than one lunch; if you’re too proud to eat the same thing two days in a row, or if you can’t eat something more than 24 hours old, then your roommates or sweetheart or lucky coworkers will surely help you eat up the rest. There are, after all, few enough things in adult life that make you feel as cared for as a thoughtfully packed lunch. When you’re having a rough or hectic day and you finally remember at 1:30 that you should eat something before you faint, what’s more likely to turn your day around, a pizza bagel from the cafeteria on the second floor or a brown bag containing a tortilla stuffed with flank steak, jicama salad on the side? You deserve better than a pizza bagel. Pack yourself a lunch.

For this lunch I worked from a recipe for chili-rubbed skirt steak with a heart of romaine salad on the side, dressed with creamy chili dressing. At the butcher counter, however, hanger steak was irresistibly cheaper than skirt. I bought only a pound, thinking this would be good for two dinners plus one lunch; since we ended up wanting much more, I’m restoring the original proportions here. If you definitely don’t want to make more than one or two meals of this, just use half as much of every ingredient. Hanger steak is very flavorful, and I had great luck with this broiler method.

I love slicing meat and wrapping it in a tortilla (or your wrapper of choice) for a work lunch because this feels sneakily like eating meat with your hands in the office, your inner caveman’s quiet roar of protest against sitting in front of a computer and making/selling/buying widgets all day long. If that’s too farfetched for you, then just think of it as more direct access to some tasty meat.

This is nice with jicama slaw on the side, and since I’m having trouble coming up with a spot-on appropriate dessert I’m going to say you should tuck 3 or 4 store-bought gingersnaps in, since gingersnaps go with everything.

Chili-Rubbed Hanger Steak and Romaine Salad with Creamy Chili Dressing, In a Tortilla

– serves 4-6 for lunch (or 2 for dinner and then 2 again for lunch) –

Adapted from Everyday Food: Great Food Fast

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