5 Day Guide To Enjoying Lunch At Your Desk

Life is too short and lunchtime too brief for dull food. Especially if lunch on an almost-daily basis is eaten (not synonymous with enjoyed) at your desk. With imagination, a closet "cellar," a pantry drawer and some well-chosen CDs, you can convert your desktop into the best table in the house.

Monday. The world is your oyster, and here's a pearl or two: Monday means reentry into the workplace, and, like a rocket reentering the earth's atmosphere, if your hull isn't well insulated you'll burn out. So comfort food is a good cushion for the soul. And who does it better than the French? How about a salad Niçoise: big chunks of tuna and egg, little black niçoise olives, tomatoes, tender green beans and tiny potatoes nestled on crisp lettuce, dressing on the side. Or, a slab of creamy quiche and a petit salad. If you don't have a handy bistro that delivers to your 'hood, stop by the deli counter and grab a wedge of Brie, a perfect pear, some grapes and a baguette. Or try a slice of pâté, some French bread and a jar of cornichons (you'll already have mustard in your pantry). Ah, c'est magnifique. Put on Edith Piaf's "La Julie Jolie" CD or Charles Aznavour's "Greatest Golden Hits," and bon appétit! Should anyone dare to disturb your déjeuner, just cop the attitude of a surly French waiter: "Did monsieur make a reservation to speak with me?"

Tuesday calls for shifting into higher gear and flavors. Order Tex-Mex or your favorite Mexican fare. If you're a chile-head, tell them to turn up the Scoville units (that measure of chiles' ascending fire). Plug your earphones into "Salsa Superstars" (a hot collection of salsa artists on Sony Discos), or Ricky Martin's "Vuelve," which is much better than his overplayed English-language CD. If you have a portable video player just put on Shakira's Whenever Wherever on Loop. Now pick up a pair of maracas and play along.

Wednesday is midweek, the halfway mark. Things can go up, things can go down. But the true optimist will always see the glass as half full, not half empty. The ideal lunch for positive energy is from the sunny Mediterranean: Italian. Pizza, pasta, sub and sausage sandwiches, beef and peppers, antipasto platters... what's not to like? And to serenade you, Luciano Pavarotti's "Amore: Great Italian Love Songs." Fantastico! There will never be anyone again like the Maestro!

Thursday: projects beginning, projects nearing completion, meetings and memos. This time of complexities calls for a delicate balance of yin and yang. The logical choice, Asian cuisine. Got Thai? Satay skewers with peanut sauce, cucumber salad, spring rolls, pad thai, or even a Panang (the mildest) curry with shrimp and jasmine rice. Crave Chinese? Egg rolls, pot stickers, moo shu vegetables, cashew chicken, kung pao beef. Or go ahead, you know you love it, sweet and sour pork. Have a yen for Japanese? Miso soup, a dozen different kinds of sushi, a big bowl of udon noodles and some fragrant green tea. You might catch some koto: Pick up "Koto Music from Japan" or turn onto contemporary jazz with Hiroshima's "Between Black & White." Just remember: Chopsticks for Chinese and Japanese food, but for Thai food, never! Thais use a large spoon and a fork. Never did figure out how to eat soup with chopsticks anyway.

Friday is tying up loose ends and kicking back: picnic day. Pack (or have delivered) ham sandwiches, potato salad, pasta salad, baked beans, hamburgers, hot dogs, fries, fried chicken, New Orleans po' boys and all manner of barbecue. Cut loose with Clifton Chenier's "Zydeco Dynamite" anthology. Weather permitting, take a blanket and go to the park. If not, find a corner in the atrium, a vacant office, or an unbooked conference room.

My desk or yours? So there's someone in your office who inspires more than professional interest? If you don't want to risk an overture that might result in outright rejection or be misinterpreted (did you say "sexual harassment"?), sharing lunch is neutral ground and a discreet way to get better acquainted.

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