Mom taught us to pack lunches. The grammar school did not have a cafeteria, and we lived too far to walk home for lunch, so we carried lunch boxes including a thermos of soup, a sandwich, a piece of fruit, maybe a cookie. And a nickel with which to buy a pint carton of milk. When we were tall enough to operate at the kitchen countertop, we participated in the lunch box assembly line, cleaning the lunch pails and thermoses, making the sandwiches and wrapping them.

To weekend Pony Club meetings, we would also take lunches. And as Young Entry into the hunting field, we carried sandwich cases and flasks on our saddles.

Now, still and ever a horseman in motion, I pack a hamper. In summer, the contents are a litre of water, a litre of Tonic Water (human muscles need quinine to prevent cramping in extreme heat–read the label to avoid unwanted additives), salt pills (learned that in Pony Club!) and Fruit Sandwiches and Gazpacho. Eating utensils  and a hand washing kit…the fingernail brush is essential. Carrots, one for me and several for the horses.

Fruit Sandwiches are an assembly of the best bread I can buy, crunchy peanut butter on one slice, Nutella on the other, a pealed julienned banana, and another fruit.  In cooler weather, I sprinkle a little cinnamon in between the layers,  before closing and wrapping. Recent weeks, the local peaches have been plentiful, California raspberries at a dollar a pint are irresistible. Michigan blueberries are plump. So the second fruit varies, but the banana is essential for potassium, also for the muscles

At about 500 calories per sandwich, the nutritional values are excellent, if and only if you read the labels of the peanut butter jar and bread loaf wrapping. If you take the time to do the shopping, you can minimize the “food-like substances” health risks and maximize the “real food” nutritional values. I discovered recently that the brand of peanut butter I had been buying for a couple of years contains hydrogenated vegetable oils THAT’s not food. . Should have known there was some reason it was on sale. Changed brands.

The bread I buy contains 12 grains!   and raisin juice and brown sugar (which is NOT refined sugar, it’s ok). It’s store brand and so popular that grocer cannot keep it on the shelves. So when I see it, I buy several loaves, and freeze it. These are the grains that are the foundation of the nutrition pyramid. So I want ALL of them, everyday.

Gazpacho need not be cooked. You can run it through a food processor to make it less chunky. But I hate to clean the food processor, and I can sharpen a knife. My version is rustic, more like a cold summer vegetable stew. The amounts of the ingredients van vary according to what’s available. I mean, who cares whether this batch tastes a little more like yellow pepper than green pepper?

Ingredients:

Cucumber, Red Bell Pepper, Orange Bell Pepper, Yellow Bell Pepper, Green Bell Pepper, Red onion, Plum or Romano Tomatoes

Olive Oil, Ground Sea Salt, Ground Black Pepper, Vegetable Juice

Utensils

Long sharp knife,  LARGE Stainless steel or glass mixing bowl,  Cutting board

Food processor (optional)

Preparation

Cucumber first: Wash it.Cucumbers are coated with a wax to preserve them through transit and market. Yuck. But the best of the nutrients are in the skins. So, rather than peel them,  put a few drops of liquid dish detergent on your fingertips, and under the sink faucet, scrub the ‘wax’ away with your hand, until the water no longer beads on the cucumber skin. Then, with your longest, sharpest knife, section the cucumber, stem to stern, opening and exposing the seed core. With the back of the knife, scrape the seeds into the refuse container. Then dice, finely, and sweep into the mixing bowl.

Now, clean trim,  de-seed, and dice, finely, the peppers, and tomatoes, and sweep each into the bowl, grind a littel sea salt over each layer. The salt brings the juices out tf the vegetables, so the flavor exchange begins immediately.

Drizzle olive oil over all the ingredients in the bowl…two, three, four ounces, then toss all the ingredients together. I like to leave this on the counter for an hour or so, before adding the vegetable juice. Not too much vegetable juice, you can always add more later.

Vegetable juice? My neighborhood market sells a plastic bottles store brand including tomato, carrot, green pepper and celery juices. If yours does not you can opt for that famous 8 Vegetable Juice brand.

Cover the bowl with ANYTHING BUT ALUMINUM FOIL, and refrigerate overnight, 24-48 hours is better.

Then dish it out. In the very hottest part of summer, I’ll put a helping in a little plastic container, and put that in the freezer overnight.  Then take it out and put it in the hamper. It will defrost and be icily refreshing come  picnic time.

For a gourmet presentation, serve in glass bowls, garnish with celery, parsley, or cilantro leaves, offer a wedge of lemon or lime, crusty bread, dry white cheese. Here’s the aftermath of last night’s supper, to which I added about a cup of vegetable juice before covering and refrigerating for later refreshment:

Advertisements