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.

3:30 pm, June 11, 2021: best moment in history

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.

The shredded chicken or tuna as well as the indispensable grated or crumbled cheese, reside in their own, separate containers.

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.

Is it rabbit food or human food? Yes.

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.

Oops. It appears I’ve dribbled some beet juice on my student’s work.

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.

Adapted from a Williams Sonoma cookbook imaginatively titled “Soup.”

I’ve always wanted to put the Tom Kha recipe in my Travel-Inspired Baking section, but that would violate the rules, so I’ve included it here.

Fear of a lawsuit from the Thai government must have inspired the name change.

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.


Many thanks to Janis at Retirementally Challenged.  It was her quest for a solution to the daily lunch problem that shifted this post out of the drafts file and onto your screen.

29 thoughts

  1. Even working from home, I have to prep most of my salads in advance if I am going to eat them in the brief respites I have from my typical (apparently) 11-1:30 phone calls. My prep is uglier of course! Happy summer!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You probably have a decent cafeteria in your hospital? I gave up on school cafeteria food at the end of first grade when I went home and announced that I didn’t like school hot lunches. (My mom made me cold lunches after that, and they usually included a Twinkie or something like that, which I loved at the time.)

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Tom Kha? More like Yum! Ya!! I’d slurp on that in the middle of the day. Or even during other parts of the day.

    I can’t imagine the stress you must have dealt with in the classroom, both real and virtual.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Your salad prep sounds very manageable. I love the compartmentalized storage container so much… it keeps the ingredients away from each other until you combine them – no more soggy red peppers or beet-colored everything (although, I can assure you, no beet will ever be found on a salad of mine… why add the taste of dirt?). Thanks for the link. I’m happy my post prompted you to set this one free! Thanks also for the soup recipe – it looks yummy!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I hated beets my whole life until sometime in my late 20s when I went to lunch with a friend and she had beets with her meal. For some reason, they suddenly looked good to me. She let me try one and much to my surprise I liked it! It’s funny how tastes (can) change through our lives. Weirdly, I think beets taste like corn.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. You were “architecting” salads? Oh that man! That’s a desperate way to make salad prep seem interesting. I find it boring to make salads, but I like to eat them. Not like a bunny likes to eat them, but like an adult woman who attempts to be less plump rather than more plump.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. I used to be a teacher, but way before COVID was a thing, so in-class teaching it was…I can’t imagine just how tricky it must’ve been to keep students engaged virtually! As for salads, I’m not a fan of them (i.e. I’ll eat them, but I don’t crave them), and I find the lengthy prep time a chore, all the while difficult as prepping days in advance will lead to wilted greens by the time you get to them. I prefer cooked vegetables, but really, anything to remain healthy, I applaud it!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I made a big pot of Mulligatawny Soup yesterday. It is definitely soup weather here and any thought of salads have been given the flick! A delicious and hearty soup and perfect for school lunches. Bon Appetit….but in the meantime, enjoy those holidays!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. We had a couple of miserable days last week when it got down to -2C and lots of rain and patches of snow on the hills around us. Today is a glorious blue sky day and going for a top of 14C. Perfect for gardening.

        Like

  7. Meal prep salads are a great way to enjoy an easy and delicious lunch during the summer months. As a vegetarian, I love making basic meal prep salads so that I can decide the day I serve one how I’m going to top it. Congrats on making it through the school year 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I am definitely making the recipe for the Thai soup! It sounds delicious even though Dave will probably pass on it. Congrats on being DONE with school -I know it was an awful year to be a teacher. Feeling sorry for myself that I missed seeing you two when Dave and Ruby were over so am wondering if we can do a bridge night after you get back from Sonoma? Please reply with a date after which you are available and I will plan it! Don’t hesitate to enjoy those delicious wineries!

    Anne

    On Fri, Jun 11, 2021 at 4:32 AM The Travel Architect wrote:

    > The Travel Architect posted: “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 ” >

    Like

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