This historic pandemic school year was one of ups and downs, but the downs won by a landslide, multiplying like gremlins frolicking under a waterfall. As I wrestled simultaneously with multiple personal life stressors (going to school part time, an interminable home construction project, weeks of obsessive hand-wringing over whether the pandemic would ruin our spring break trip, months of impotence, worry, and tears as a beloved young family member fell ill and died while COVID stranded us helplessly on the other side of the ocean), I and my fellow teachers groped our way through distance learning, then hybrid learning, followed by distance learning again, until we were finally forced fully back into the classroom with the entire student body midway through the school year and before vaccines were available to us.
During distance learning, my teaching was peppered with a never-ending loop of admonishments: Turn on your camera please. Turn off your microphone. Your camera needs to stay on at all times. Who are you talking to? . . I can clearly see you’re talking to someone . . . You need to stop talking and pay attention. Turn on your camera. Can you please move to a quieter room? Stop putting emojis in the chat box. I couldn’t hear you—turn on your microphone. For the last time, turn on your camera!
During hybrid and when we were fully back in person, dodging invisible puffs of virus-contaminated air, the content of my nagging changed, but the broken-record feeling remained: Please cover your mouth and nose with your mask. Where’s your mask? Cover your nose please. Pull your mask up. Cover your nose. Stop chewing your mask. You cannot trade masks. Cover your nose. Your mask is not a blindfold. Cover your nose. Your mask is not a hat. Cover your nose. Cover your nose. Cover your nose!!
So yeah, the year pretty much sucked.
Dragging a reflective rake through the muck on this final day of the school year, though, I pulled one unexpected “up” to the surface and today I’m going to hose it off and dress it in its Sunday best just for you. In short, I’ve finally figured out how to brown bag it at work.
I’ve long known I should eat more salads, but all that prep work—chopping, chopping, chopping—was a big turn-off. And every day readying and assembling the ingredients? No thank you. But then, rummaging through the pantry one day, I unearthed a long-forgotten compartmentalized storage container hiding in the back on a crowded shelf. That discovery, along with our bunny‘s insatiable need for greens that meant we always had a container of chopped lettuce on hand, gave birth to an idea: Salad Week.
I didn’t like the idea of dedicating an hour or two to buying, washing, and prepping all the salad ingredients on a precious Sunday afternoon, but given that the reward would be a week of easy salad lunches, and also that Sunday afternoons have that depressing back-to-work-soon feeling anyway, I figured I’d give it a try.
What I haven’t told you yet is that I envisioned Salad Week alternating with Soup Week, because, as a human, I can only stand so many salads.
So, every other Sunday I could be found shopping and chopping, but also stirring and heating, as I prepped the week’s soup. Tom Kha is my go-to soup (hint: always add more ginger than the recipe calls for) but I think I threw in a Mexican Tortilla Soup a few times and—true confessions—a canned soup or two when I had a particularly busy weekend.
In short, I’d say Soup and Salad Weeks have been a success. I wouldn’t go so far as to say I enjoy the process—the ever-helpful husband once tried to liken it to travel planning, saying that with all the planning and organization, I was “architecting” salads. I quickly liberated him from his misperception—but I’ve enjoyed the results.
Since tomorrow is the start of my summer vacation, Soup Week and Salad Week will be going on vacation, too. I’ll spend the next three months reverting back to my livin’ dangerously methods of “punt” and “make do” when it comes to the midday meal. But come fall, my Sunday afternoons are going to get a lot choppier.