By: Nicholas Cox
I’m gonna brag a little bit here, because I believe that we on the St. Paul Roving field crew have really figured something out. We’ve figured out how to keep our chainsaws sharp, navigate winding trails through the woods in big trucks, keep ourselves dry when it rains, cool when it’s hot, and warm when it’s cold, but so has most everyone else who does this work. What I believe we, and only we, have truly figured out is lunch.
“What do you mean Nick? It took you 26 years to figure out how to nourish yourself via a midday meal?” you may be thinking to yourself; Well then I’m sorry to say, you obviously have not figured out lunch. Let me provide an example: Today at 12:15pm, my crew and I were biting into hot Kansas City barbeque beef brisket sandwiches, mmmmm mmm delicious. But we were in Minnesota! In a truck in the middle of the woods! How could that be? Well that’s a secret, but we figured it out (mostly our crew leader Mike).
Though one’s journey to lunch is solely his own, I am willing to give a few tips to those who often find themselves in lunchtime environments such as ours:
1. Don’t be cheap, buy yourself some sort of vacuum style food containers. This will keep your lunch hot or cold well into the afternoon. There are a couple of styles and brands, some of which work better than others. CCM bloggers aren’t paid to advertise one or the other (unless any vacuum food container execs out there are reading this and are interested in my endorsement!!) so find me in person and I’ll share the peer reviewed results of my research.
2. Plan ahead, at least a little bit. When rushing out the door at 6:40 am, there’s nothing worse than realizing nothing in your fridge nor your cupboard is gonna cut it for lunch - guess you’ll have to rely on picking up some gas station chicken tubes. Keep this in mind at the grocery store. Having a handful of the right foods in your fridge makes it easy to put together a tasty and healthy lunch in seconds flat. Carrots and hummus last forever in the fridge, and can withstand sitting in your backpack all day at any temperature without getting too funky. Lunch extras such as almonds, peanut butter, dried fruit, and granola bars can sit at the bottom of your pack for months without going bad, always at the ready to fill in the gaps left by a second rate lunch.
3. Think outside the cooler. This is where our lunchtime performance levels really soar, and where yours can as well! The secret weapon we hold on our crew is a small propane grill that’s always in the truck. With this simple item you can still enjoy last night’s leftovers hot, even though you didn’t have time to reheat them in the morning. Or you can go the distance and cook up some salmon, brats, sweet corn, a fried egg - the possibilities are nearly endless - all in no time thanks to the wonders of propane. Of course, grilling at lunch is only possible and/or appropriate in certain situations, so I advise all to use their best professional judgement and to always follow Leave No Trace principles.
If you work in an office with a stove, oven, or microwave, you may not be terribly impressed. But I assure you figuring out lunch has been a great accomplishment on our crew and in our field, where we’re often eating lunch in the woods or in a truck. A 10 hour day of hard work requires healthful nourishment. But lunch can also be the one thing we look forward to during a grueling day’s work, and is even integral in establishing and maintaining good crew dynamics. I can confidently say we’ve figured out lunch on our crew, and I hope some others can say the same. Now if we can only figure out breakfast, hot waffles would be a great addition to the commute to the work site each day….