Catering for a daily packed meal eater

Both my children take food with them to work – one likes something simple, a sandwich, some fruit, some nuts, maybe a couple of biscuits, grain bar or even cake, the other likes more of a meal. Both prepare their own things (most of the time – although sometimes there’s a last-minute panic and I rush to get something together!) When I was at work I never really fancied much, so some crackers, or maybe fruit, or maybe nothing at all but a cup of tea!

I was looking at Ruth Drew and her little book, The Happy Housewife. I think if it was published today there would definitely be a different title – these days it would be rather off-putting which is a shame because it has some splendid and practical ideas, written in an interesting and amusing way. It was published posthumously and is a collection edited by someone else of her writings and broadcasts. I’ve never heard a recording of her, and have only seen a couple of photos, but her personality jumps off the page.

Here is what she starts off by saying about packed meals:

When someone mentions packed meals we all think first of sandwiches, and very useful things they are too. But you can get deadly tired of sandwiches though f they’re your daily lot. And it isn’t everyone who wants to eat all the bread they involve.

Many people these days are very conscious of eating too much bread, and it seems a modern thing – but no! Back in the 40’s and 50’s it was something people were aware of too! Ruth goes on to suggest an alternative, a practical alternative, especially in those days when there wasn’t so much plastic ware – and even more so now when we are trying to use less and even avoid plastic! Ruth acknowledges plastic containers, but she suggests jam jars – which are now very fashionable. Oh Ruth, you were so before your time!

If you like doing things in style you can provide a picnic plate, so the jar can be turned out. But perhaps your devil may obligingly sup straight out of the jar with a long spoon and eat brown bread and butter or buttered roll or crispbread alongside.

So what does she suggest to be put in the jam jars? Pretty nearly all sorts, cold meat… diced and mixed vegetables… cold rice… olives, pimentos, raw mushrooms… dressed in the jaw with a little oil and vinegar.

Coincidentally, in my shortly to be published book, Saltpans, a picnic person visits Thomas’s wife who has a food and cookery school with some ideas:

Kylie had been seeing a picnic person who brought in some picnic stuff… I’m not sure how this fits in with everything else, but I didn’t ask as I tucked in!
Pies, brioche rolls with all sorts of unusual filling, sausage rolls but made with tuna sausage meat…  I thought they were  horrid, oily somehow, so I left them and tried the venison and pork sausage rolls… definitely up my street with a  smear of some type of berry jelly under the meat… oh and there were jars of salad, which I think is fashionable now but was very tricky to eat as I couldn’t get my fork at the right angle and I spilled an annoying amount down my front – luckily I have a spare shirt in my office (my office) because just as the children need spare clothes, so in actual fact does their father…
The picnic person had brought in some alcoholic ‘refreshers’ which Kylie wouldn’t try ‘because she was working’ – and I’m not? Well, whatever, I had a go at them – mostly too sweet for my taste, and unexpectedly more alcoholic than I’d have taken on a picnic…

If you need to catch up on Thomas’s adventures which lead to ‘Saltpans‘, then here is a link:


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