Bag Lunch: Time to Take it Outdoors

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A week ago Saturday it was 70 degrees in Chicago. Sunday they had 6 inches of snow. Go figure. At least Central Park is starting to turn green. The winter of our discontent is drawing to a close and one might argue we can all use a little fresh air. If the downside of mobility is that you are on call 24/7, the good news is you can do it on a park bench for a stolen hour at lunchtime.


There are options, so many options. We are amok in food trucks and I for one own at least a half dozen shirts permanently marred by my enjoyment of a good street cart  schwarma dribbling tzatziki sauce down my front.

Local delis are a quick and easy provider, but if you are on a budget, add that slice of American cheese, a tomato, and slather it all on a hero and your five-dollar sandwich has become a ten-dollar affair. Which also begs the question, how do you like your meat sliced? Something went terribly wrong in my childhood because I can only eat my deli sliced razor thin. If I can’t read my newspaper through it, the deal’s off. I once had a roommate from the UK whom we sent out to get deli from the corner store. He came back with sandwich meat sliced thicker than Spam. We forever relegated him to beer patrol.


It’s hard to ask the harried deli guy to custom slice your meat when there are a dozen people in line behind you. If you still have kids at home, as I once did, the solution was simple. Whatever they ate, I slapped together an extra white bread special for me. Sure I got some looks when I pulled out a Fluffernutter from my briefcase, but I think they were looks of jealousy. Today, at my Chelsea, Manhattan office, I’ve refined my game and taken to prepping a quick lunch at my desk. Shameless plug: Fairway! Their deli folks know from thin. But as the days grow warm and your cubicle confining, don’t be bashful about plying your favorite local grocery store for DIY ingredients. There is something about a bologna and cheese sandwich on a delicious fresh roll that can’t be beat. Except to get it away from your desktop and enjoy it on a park bench in the middle of a sunny spring afternoon.

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Bologna and Cheese

The techniques demonstrated here work equally well with Genoa salami, provolone, muenster, Swiss, and any good deli turkey, roast beef or ham.


•  1/4 pound of the best beef bologna (or favorite sandwich meat) you can source, sliced thinner than a whisper

•  1/4 pound white or yellow American cheese, sliced a micro-meter thicker, so that you can pry the cheese slices apart

•  One super fresh roll: hero, onion, ciabatta, sourdough, whole wheat. TRICK:  Grab a plastic bag, put your hand in it like a glove, and test the freshness in the roll bin until you find the right one. Then pull out, reverse the bag to carry your roll, done!

•  Mustard or mayo. Your local deli probably won’t notice you nabbing a few extra takeaway packets when you’re stealing those sugars


1.)  Slice roll almost all the way open, but not fully, otherwise when you bite in you’ll suffer “sandwich slide.”

2.)  Slather only the top of the bread with appropriate condiment. This is a complement to your handiwork, not the 3rd ingredient.

3.) Layer in round one of your chosen sandwich meat, crumpling each piece like paper mache.

4.)  When you have good coverage, lay on one and a half slices of the cheese, same rolling style.


5.)  Repeat these steps once. A good sandwich does not need to be a meat & cheese pie.

6.)  Fold top of bread over the bottom and slice on an angle. I’m not sure why, but it always tastes better!



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