What Does Lunch Look Like for You?

By: Jen Shoop

In this day of remote work, what does your lunch look like?

A colleague of Mr. Magpie’s recently posited that it is poor etiquette to eat while on a Zoom call. He and I conferred and felt this was not a bad bright line rule (no one wants to watch someone else eat…), but that there are circumstances to consider that might lend themselves to more flexible principles. For example, is this a quick, recurring chat with a direct report or a high-stakes presentation you’re helming? Will you mainly be looking at shared screens? Is it an enormous all-hands where most screens will be turned off anyway? Etc. And what if you are in meetings all day — what then? I thought back to my days in an office and remembered many conversations and informal meetings held at the lunch table, or while picking around salads around a desk. Has the screen culture upended that working lunch concept? Is it more or less unpleasant to listen to someone munching on a screen than to sit a few paces away from them in a room? Do speakers need to be turned off?

What do you think?

More generally, what does your lunch look like on an average workday?

I have a cushioned set of working circumstances: I am self-employed, set my own schedule, and can push things around as I please. I do have phone calls a few times a week, and I am draconian about showing up for those calls (e.g., not pushing them around or rescheduling at the last minute), but I tend to cluster these between 1-3 in the afternoon, as I find myself most creatively productive in the morning hours, and then like to leave an hour window for lunch and unwind (a buffer!) between 12-1. Last year, I committed to “no at-the-desk lunches,” and the habit has stuck. I had been finding myself mindlessly inhaling my lunch around the keyboard, which I hated, especially given how thoughtful Mr. Magpie is about our meals, including lunch fare. We nearly always plan our lunches 1-3 days in advance! Sometimes this just means issuing a placeholder (“we’re planning to order in tomorrow – we’ll figure out what we want in the morning”), but more often than not, it looks like: “let’s thaw out soup on Tuesday, make a salad on Wednesday, have dinner leftovers Thursday,” which entails reheating, ingredient-fetching, and other prepwork. Mr. Magpie and I eat lunch together almost every single day, knees knocking at the kitchen counter. I’ll push the timing around to accommodate his meeting schedule, but we usually aim for noon. We put on music, we catch up, we tackle STPs (Shoop Talking Points), and then we clean the kitchen together and go our separate ways. It feels delightfully civilized — and also like a breath of fresh air after sitting in the stale for too long.

Every week’s lunches look a little different, but in the past week, we enjoyed: homemade tomato soup and a radish-lettuce salad tossed with creamy dill dressing, Pho Nom Nom’s banh mis (seen above), leftover Persian food from Joon’s out in Tyson’s (very, very good).

How about you? Spill!


Your Nosy Magpie


+How do you meal plan?

+A recent food diary.

+This couscous salad makes an excellent lunch. It keeps well in the fridge. My mouth is watering thinking about it!

Shopping Break.

+Madewell has released a mesh flat — get the Khaite look for a fraction of the price, especially while the brand is running a 25% off promo! Also love these 90s straight jeans (esp in the white/ecru color) and this Khaite-inspired tote so many of you snapped up already. (The mini version is also really cute.)

+Gorgeous embroidered linen caftan. Also *love* the caftans from Asha. Either of these would be such pretty options for a maternity or newborn shoot. Or a family portrait on a beach!

+The new new for keeping little hands busy in car / restaurant / waiting room.

+These freezable snack pouches were the best gear purchase I made for my children this year. They actually keep the interior cold all day long, so you can pack cut fruit, yogurt pouches, cheese/salami without worrying it will spoil or get gross and slimy. They also have freezable lunchboxes but that might start to take up too much precious space in the freezer! I find two pouches fit nicely into one of the shelves on the door of our freezer. Several Magpie moms have also raved about the products from this brand for stowing/saving breast milk. Genius.

+Cute espadrille Mary Janes! Obsessed.

+One thing I missed in my Amazon Big Spring Sale roundup yesterday: these Sorbus bins. They are my absolute favorite for organization. In the medium, the perfect size for corralling oils / vinegars / baking ingredients / snack packs in a pantry, or shampoos / lotions / etc in a linen closet. It really is the perfect size – not too big that it’s unwieldy but not too small that it doesn’t fit what you need in there.

+A great midweight transitional cardigan to throw on over everything. Upgrade pick: Jenni Kayne.

+Speaking of Jenni Kayne — this under-$150 linen dress feels like something from Jenni Kayne: chic, artful, neutral weekend wear to live in.

+My children have been loving these dry erase chore charts. We’re honestly using them less for chore tracking and more to encourage them to be accountable for the little steps that need to be completed each day that we find ourselves constantly nudging them about — like finishing homework, wearing eye patch (my daughter has amblyopia and still wears a patch for an hour a day), laying out uniform. I find my daughter actually does these things with alacrity because she likes to check the box. We’ll see how long this lasts, but I’m encouraged.

+Just ordered these fun $14 shell earrings. They remind me in shape / style / chunkiness of the earrings from Aureum. You might remember I own and love these knots — almost always wearing them or my pearls during the week — and Aureum offered us 20% off sitewide with code JENS20.

+These indoor fans might be the most attractive fans I’ve ever seen. Gorgeous!

+Have been eyeing a Hunza G suit for my girl — I think she’d love the look/fit, and they are OSFA so you can get years of wear out of them, which is compelling, and drives the cost per wear down considerably. Also found these $14 Hunza G-inspired swimsuits at H&M — the lavender would be cute tucked into an Easter basket!

+Chic way to pack lunch, if you are still in an office setting!

+Speaking of H&M – this eyelet/lace shirt and skirt situation is insanely chic! I would probably wear the shirt over a white or nude tank with light wash denim.

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15 thoughts on “What Does Lunch Look Like for You?

  1. I love preparing a finely chopped salad (I’ll finely chop even a quick bagged salads – love a dill pickle or kale/poppy seed dressing one) with a protein (canned or leftover salmon, deli meat, etc.) and if I’m extra hungry, I’ll throw it into a wrap! Some great suggestions in the comments for the upcoming work week – I may have to try my hand at the wonton soup!

    Also – I’m glad to see a mention of persian food here! If you want some unsolicited suggestions from a lifelong DMV resident and Iranian-America about the local persian food scene – try takeout from maman joon (in tenleytown/mclean) or shamshiri (the O.G. persian spot! I’ve heard from folks with family abroad that shamshiri is the first stop when they land at dulles airport!), or dine in at Rumi’s near the convention center in DC! (and report back on what you think!)

  2. My brother and mom have misophonia, so I think while eating you should be muted! Maybe black out the image as well but if it’s a large meeting your icon is tiny anyway.

    We eat lunch together too, since my husband works from home! I make a point of it, my parents work from home but always wolfed something quick at their desks, which is fine occasionally but tough to sustain for years. It’s our big meal of the day, usually around 2 when our son wakes from his nap. The French prefer to serve meat at lunch than dinner. I usually make several things, or assemble from the fridge. Cold roast chicken and tofu are staples for adding protein. I might do polenta with meat sauce (zucchini grated in), a baked chicken and rice, salmon sushi bowls, peanut noodles with cucumber, carnitas and Guac, a lentil salad. Something that will hold until we’re all ready since he’s 2 and doesn’t like to wait! Usually some fruit and chocolate on the side. If he doesn’t nap, it’s a smoothie bowl or buttered baguette with sardines or crudite plate with a peanut butter sandwich. We also have hot dogs and fries or black bean nachos a lot! This is his chance to use proper dishes and silverware and practice sitting politely. He usually takes a half hour longer than the grown ups, but that’s fine with us. Dinner is usually veggie-forward, soup or pasta or a roast veggie bowl, eaten haphazardly before bath time, and I’m often solo since my husband works American hours and may have a zoom meeting. My son’s favorite is frozen from Picard and I microwave precooked quinoa, peas and butter, and the adults add pesto or an Indian simmer sauce. I use the recipe manager Paprika, this week we’re doing meatball bahn mi, Peter Berley’s Greek baked tofu (you have to try, we’ve been making it since college!), hoagies with Italian meats, and an Indian-spiced cauliflower. We also like a special drink with lunch. I favor mint water or Coke Zero, my husband likes the alcohol free golden ale from Athletic Brewing. Maybe split a Demi bottle of wine on the weekend. We might get delivery sushi as a treat, or in the summer we will take the kids to the pool and lunch at the beach club a few mornings a week and my husband starts his workday after.

    1. Wow – this menu sounds fabulous! I love the note about your son taking a good thirty minutes longer than children. This is something I’m struggling with in our households, especially during the harried morning hours. I feel like I’m always expediting! And even at night time, when my son’s slow dinner seems to encroach upon and defer bedtime. I am not precious about the exact time he gets to bed, but if we’re outside of the window of normalcy, I just know we’re in for a meltdown the following day. Help! How do you maintain calm in this? Or, what’s your perspective? Do you ever find yourself expediting your son? I don’t want to be — I want him to enjoy his meal!


      1. Hi Jen! I know the feeling. If he’s eating diligently and we don’t have anywhere to be, I let him continue! The thing about boys as little as ours is that dinner requires a lot of fine motor skills and motor planning as much as anything else. Balancing peas without dropping them, scraping a bite from the corner of a plate or bowl, etc. If I preload a spoon or fork and he eats it quickly that’s a pretty good indication what’s holding him up. If he’s not making what I think of as progress I offer a modification: cut it smaller or in strips, different utensil, add a “sprinkle” (chia seeds help with slippery foods like avocado). If your son consistently delays a certain breakfast food you could change up the format, like wrap eggs in a tortilla, or try a smoothie with a spoon instead of a straw, or cut toast into sticks, that all helps my son. A binder like yogurt or whipped cream can help him eat pomegranate or blueberries more easily. Even giving him that small choice helps his buy-in to attack the food! If he’s truly delaying bedtime (which sometimes he is with his bedtime snack more so than our main dinner) I grab the visual timer we use for brushing teeth, and I give him the choice to finish himself and we put it away when time’s up (usually 5 minutes) or to have me feed him, which he usually only chooses if he’s tired and it’s something tougher to get in his mouth. My son also eats much more quickly with an edged plate/shallow bowl than a flat plate since he has an edge to push against. And if the issue is me, not him, I pop in my headphones with an audiobook and clean up the kitchen near him while he sits, or I’ll put the Frog & Toad audiobook on for both of us. That diffuses some of the tension I feel gathering! He seems to sometimes eat better solo after we’ve finished, I’ve noticed a large gathering pulls his focus completely away from getting food in his mouth. And I take him at his word if he says he’s done, as long as I’ve reminded him this is his last chance to eat before we brush teeth. The thing that helps me keep calm is…what skill does he need to build? Eating something saucy? Wiping his hands periodically? Trying something new? Using a utensil in each hand? Sitting in his seat longer? Half the things that frustrate me are things he’s genuinely working on. And he eats a wider range of foods in these solo times, since pressure or commentary is genuinely not helpful to kids trying something new! And I try to separate my own success from his. I made the thing, I offered it, it counts whether he eats it or not. Hope this helps!

        1. Also, I now serve dinner earlier to accommodate my slow eater!! Not always possible, but it helps relieve the pressure on me as bedtime approaches, or I give him a head start by offering a vegetable “appetizer” while I finish the main meal.

        2. These are great! Thank you – hadn’t thought specifically about manipulability of the food/meal/utensils. He’s older (4.5), but I’m sure there are dishes that are giving him trouble. I think he gets distracted most of the time, and the idea of putting on a Tonies or audiobook might be a winning one — thank you!


  3. I have been wanting to try out Joon – sounds like it’s worth doing so! I love Persian food, we used to eat it every week growing up at a now defunct place in Bethesda (RIP Villa Gourmet), and it’s one of my favorites for leftovers.

    My husband works primarily from home and I have a hybrid schedule where I have to go into the office 2 days a week. The nights before those 2 days we make sure dinner is something that packs well for lunch the next day. The lunch options around my office are almost non existent and I find when I do buy something out I just end up feeling frustrated by spending money on something mediocre, so I try to bring my lunch 95% of the time on days where I go in! On days at home we eat a mix of dinner leftovers, sandwiches (there are few things more delicious than a sandwich on a fresh loaf of bread with all of the layers constructed exactly how you like them), or something fresh that can only be made at home when you have full use of your kitchen (french omelet is one of my go tos).

    Also excited for farmers market season to ramp back up – I love lunch salads made with fresh spring greens, peas, etc, and a favorite summer lunch is a BLT with heirloom tomatoes.

    1. Yum – BLT is the ultimate, and I totally agree with your subtext: they demand a really good tomato, so you have to wait all year for them…

      Love the fact that you focus on packing a lunch to avoid the disappointment of a mediocre take-away one. Mr. Magpie is SO the same way — he’d rather skip lunch entirely than having something “less than”!


    2. We eat BLTs for breakfast all summer! Or we’ll do with a fried slice of ham instead of bacon, and I love avocado on there. Tomato season is the best!!!

  4. I also work remotely and typically prep lunch right at noon and eat thereafter. The prepping ranges from simple to complex. On days with a heavy workload, I may just make avocado toast and cut up some fruit alongside or have leftovers. The vast majority of days, I have time to assemble a sandwich (usually caprese) or make a salad + dressing. On days where my workload/meetings are extra light, I cook a more complex meal that may take 1-2 hours (e.g., a grain bowl); this usually yields leftovers for later in the week, and I love when I’m able to do more time-consuming cooking during work hours instead of in the evening or on weekends. Rarely, I will meet a friend for lunch (bread furst, tatte, etc.). As I write this, I realize my lunches are what would be considered typical in the U.S.- soups, salads, sandwiches, open faced toast, grain bowls, etc. Not sure I love this and definitely something I want to examine more. I love that there is a whole world out there with people who live many different ways, and I try to remember that what I see around me based on where I live is not the end all, be all for “normal” or “acceptable.” I would love to reflect more variety in my lunch routine accordingly… just need to figure out where to start. I actually wonder how different my lunches might look if I still lived in NY… so many international lunch options no matter the neighborhood!

    1. Hi! What an interesting insight / reflection, not far afield from my “aha” moment while eating over my keyboard. It felt wildly out of sync with my own aspirations to make space for pleasure, slow down, be mindful. I needed to put my money where my mouth was!

      Anyway, interesting point about the variety in your diet! I’m now conducting a little audit of my own…


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