Lunch at the Shop: The Art and Practice of the Midday Meal

Lunch at the Shop: The Art and Practice of the Midday Meal


$23.20 $24.95 Save 7% Current price is $23.2, Original price is $24.95. You Save 7%.
View All Available Formats & Editions
Choose Expedited Shipping at checkout for guaranteed delivery by Thursday, January 24

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781419710650
Publisher: Abrams Image
Publication date: 03/11/2014
Pages: 160
Sales rank: 535,996
Product dimensions: 6.70(w) x 9.50(h) x 0.60(d)

About the Author

Peter Miller has operated his design bookshop in Seattle for 35 years. He trained as a chef with the remarkable Maurice Thuillier and is a regular contributor to the online magazine Christopher Hirsheimer, an award-winning photographer and editor, and Melissa Hamilton, a renowned food stylist, are the cofounders of Canal House and the authors of the James Beard Award–winning Canal House Cooks Every Day.

Read an Excerpt



The task of lunch is one of choreography and improvisation. Fewer people or more, less food or more — it is the cobbling together of different foods and different tastes. The right equipment will simplify the work, and keeping a selection of essential food in your larder will give you room to move, adjust, amplify, layer, and garnish. For a good lunch at the shop, we consider all the parts to be essential, with the radish and lemon just as important as the roast beef.

EQUIPMENT: Bowls, Knives, Cutting Boards, and Such

For nearly seven years, we have made lunch in a limited space with practically no storage, no shelving, and no oven.

There are some pieces of equipment that we consider crucial and fundamental, and there is no idleness to any of them; they must work well, clean easily, and demand little attention. Additionally, they must protect you and protect the food. It is better to have one small good knife than three large clunkers that have never been sharp and that are always threatening to slip off the food. Better to have inexpensive stainless-steel mixing bowls than lovely but heavy ceramic, flower-design bowls, which are liable to slip when washed in the sink with soapy hands. The stainless-steel bowls may get dented like a jalopy, but they clean easily, stack easily, and bounce when they are dropped. Your cutting board should lie flat, and whatever the counter surface, it must not slip or slide. We are making lunch but in very short order and often with a distracted mind — you are at work, after all, and any preliminary details that can make your preparations safer and easier should be considered.

Most workplace kitchens are part disaster and part abandon: At one office I visited, the hot-water feed had been disconnected, and that alone had disconnected the people in the office from using the kitchen for anything more than storage. Nothing could be cleaned. There was not a cup or spoon or lonesome fork in any drawer.

The following may seem a daunting list for those facing a reclamation of workspace, but it is, in truth, a list pared to specifics. Much of the equipment can be assembled from extras you have at home or purchased from restaurant-supply stores or even garage sales. Try to gather these few pieces one way or another, for they are essential and will allow you to make lunch in a way that is safe, healthy, and accurate.

Work Area

Claim your territory by cleaning, organizing, and demarcating an area for food preparation. You need to know the counter is clean (and can be cleaned easily), the dishes are not sitting on any debris or below any leak, and the refrigerator and microwave have been cleansed of their past. Food is a lovely discipline.

We purchased a small food-prep table from a supply store, and it made a great difference. No one left his or her coat on it or stacked boxes across it — the quiet authority, perhaps, of olive oil, butter, knives, and a dishtowel.

Two Stainless-Steel Bowls

A small 1-quart bowl and a larger 3-quart version (for making dressings, then for mixing salads, pastas, and such) will be some of the hardest-working tools in your kitchen. If you have the room, you might even consider the extra-large 8- or 10-quart size, which can be a great help with salad preparation. The bigger the bowl, the easier it is to toss the greens in the dressing.

Salad Spinner

Many lunches will involve greens to give the meal life, freshness, and detail. Unfortunately, greens are a Petri dish for cutworms, tiny slugs, and aphids. Even worse, most greens have been touched, sneezed on, sprayed — they have suffered all manners of abuses. You must wash them, and you must be quite rigorous about it, even if their packaging claims prewashing has occurred.

First, you must wash your hands. Then put the greens into a large, deep bowl filled with cool water to soak. Let the greens soak for ten minutes. Local greens can be particularly muddy, especially if there were constant rains where they were grown. You may need to change the water once or twice. Lift the greens out carefully — you do not want the impurities that have fallen off them to grab on again — and place them in the colander insert of the salad spinner. Hold the colander insert over the sink to drain the greens. Shake the colander insert well, put it into the spinner, and spin the greens for a minute or two until dry.

Be careful with the greens, for their sake and for yours. Remember to rinse out the bowl you used for soaking; you are coming back to it with the salad. The salad spinner will require a good rinse each day and will need to be disassembled and given a full soaping once a week.

The spinner is also a lifesaver for fresh herbs — basil, mint, cilantro, parsley, and the like. They are all quick to go limp in hot weather. Soak them in cold water for ten to fifteen minutes and then spin them dry, and they will often be completely revived.

Cutting Board and Breadboard

We use a medium-hard-surface cutting board, 10 by 16 inches, which is large enough to hold a couple of prepped items in a corner while you are chopping another item. Most important, the board must lie flat so that it will not slip while you are cutting. (There are hard-surface cutting boards that clack when you chop on them, and they are helpful for certain work, such as prepping oysters and seafood. But for general lunch tasks, use a softer-surface cutting board, made of polypropylene.)

Use a separate surface for bread, both to protect your knives and to protect yourself. The breadboard may even work best out on the table, away from your usual countertop or work area, giving you more room. If it is a wooden board, protect it by keeping the surface clean and dry. Be very consistent with your cutting boards: By not chopping both vegetables and meats on the breadboard, you avoid having to clean its porous surface with soap and water each time it is used.

A good cutting board will also help the performance of your knives.

Three Knives

A 10-inch straight-edged knife for chopping, a paring knife, and a serrated bread knife (which can also be used to slice tomatoes) will be enough for most lunches. The knives must be kept sharp. A dull knife will be more prone to slipping off the food toward your fingers, making it far more dangerous than a sharp one.

Carrot Peeler, Cheese Grater, Can Opener, and Corkscrew

There are many varieties of each, of course, and most people have two or three varieties in their kitchen drawers. The only important detail is that the peeler must peel and the opener open — basic details but ones not to be taken for granted. (There are more can openers in Zambia that cannot open a can than anywhere else I have ever visited — it is almost a point of honor to wrestle with a can. I brought a new OXO can opener as a gift on my last visit there and made a little speech about its abilities. By the morning, it had disappeared.)

Saltshaker and Pepper Mill

If you can find one, get a pepper mill that can produce both coarse and fine ground pepper. You will appreciate good peppercorns even more when you can vary their effects.

Plates, Cups, Pitcher, Pasta Bowls, Soup Bowls, Knives/Forks/Spoons, Paper Napkins, and Dishtowels

Of the many high-design cooking products that we sell at the shop, only a few have made it to our narrow and particular list of essentials for lunch preparation. Most were simply too fancy for the work. We have only an odd collection of plates and an even odder range of silverware.

We use squat Orskov glasses from Copenhagen. Both oven- and microwave-proof, they hold precisely 1 cup of hot soup, yogurt, or red wine with equal elegance, and they are easily hand-washed. They are an inexpensive luxury and will allow you to serve soup alongside a salad or sandwich without taking up the room required by soup bowls. Because of the clear glass, the soup is visible, which is an advantage over serving it in a coffee mug. (You are not only making lunch, you are making your lunch look better than everyone else's!)

We use a glass pitcher for water. I am always a little surprised by how much water people will drink if it is presented in a good pitcher.

The architect David Chipperfield designed a lovely tableware line for Alessi called Tonale, in several earth-tone colors. We were shipped four Tonale pasta bowls in error a few years ago, and everyone quickly suggested we try them out. They are not inexpensive, but it seemed a worthy experiment. To their true credit, we have never used anything else since then — for pasta or for salad. They have a very helpful shape — flat-surfaced with a 2-inch tapered rim — and they can be stacked. They look wonderful laid out next to each other. The pasta bowls make the meals seem more intimate in scale. Lunch is a daily affair and seems to work best on simple, undecorated plates and bowls.

The shop kitchen has a drawerful of random knives, forks, and spoons for every lunch, and they have never seemed intimidated by the bookshop's display of European flatware. But one piece, a simple butter knife made in Finland for Iittala, somehow made it back into the equipment drawer and has been in daily use ever since.

We use plain white paper napkins for the lunch and dishtowels for cleanup.

Two Rubber Tubs, Wire Dish Rack, Dish Soap, and Sponges

You may not have a dishwasher; we certainly do not. In that case, you will need something in which to hold dirty dishes, wash them, and dry them. A few rubber tubs and a dish rack can be a great help for stacking dirty dishes or letting clean ones dry.

No one likes washing dishes — certainly not at work — so we soften the task by giving it a little attention, using a natural sponge and a dishwashing liquid that is both eco-friendly and sweet smelling. Small matters, surely, but crucial, especially over the course of many lunches. You must keep everything quite clean, or the task itself becomes dreary ... and unhealthy.

Refrigerator, Microwave, and Panini Press

In any size or shape, they are each important. Since many office kitchens do not have ovens or stoves, none of our recipes call for pots or pans to be used in the shop. If you choose to microwave your food, do so only in glass containers, never plastic.

If you have concerns about using the microwave, you could buy a single-burner gas stove top that can be used inside. Electric cooktops, too, are now quite sophisticated and capable. If you use a cooktop, you will need a good saucepan with a lid and an 8-inch sauté pan.

You could skip the panini press, but it is a great help in reviving stale bread and weary palates. Any soup or salad is quickly lifted by grilled slices of bread that have been rubbed with a little garlic, olive oil, salt, and pepper — or even a bit of basil.

Storage Containers

You can become a crazy person about storage containers. But if you keep your senses, you may come to see that food storage offers, in truth, a particularly insightful look into any culture.

I had always collected matchboxes in my travels, but now, in any new country, I find the kitchen store, the supermarket, or the hardware store and check out the food containers. My daughter looks for the best new versions in Stockholm and gives them to me for the holidays. It is amusing for her to watch me examine each new variety.

The Swedes have their versions, the Finns theirs, and the Danes theirs, as well, all intensely researched and designed to be economical, eco-friendly, aesthetically pleasing, basic, specific, and often brilliant. And this is simply a sampling from Scandinavia.

If you charge your traveling friends with bringing back containers from their journeys, you will get a sense of the wide range of products. But no matter where they are from, food containers must not leak, stain, or grow foul. They must protect, display, endure, and, in some cases, be lovely.

Start with the basics: containers that are both airtight and nontoxic. You will need a few small ones for sauces and a few larger ones for soups and pastas and stews. It is important that you be able to either see or identify what is in them. Be certain which ones are microwavable and which are stackable. If you find yourself meeting after work and discussing food containers, however, you have perhaps gone too far down the right track.

Duralex in France makes wonderful glass containers for storage, heating, and serving. Their glasses can also hold hot soups. Bormioli in Italy makes the larger glass storage containers we favor for pastas and meats. Weck, a hundred-year-old German firm, has a handsome glass storage system with very simple clips and rubber seals. And OXO, from New York City, has developed stackable, leak-proof containers that bring order to a fridge. We also keep a selection of reusable empty 32-ounce plastic yogurt containers around for the times when less fancy will work. (These, however, do not go into the microwave.)

At a cooking site, not a full-fledged kitchen, the role of food containers is more crucial and more intricate. Under the best circumstances, newly filled containers will be arriving at the shop as newly cleaned containers are heading out for more supplies.

Setting the Table

We have varied plates and forks and glasses here at the shop, some better than others. But we are very consistent about one thing: We always set the table. We never serve lunch without place mats. They need not be more than the sheets from last year's calendar, the brown wrapping from a package, or the blank back pages from a half-used ledger pad. We have cut out two sides of a shopping bag and made some elegant settings that way.

Fork on the left, knife and spoon atop a napkin on the right — it makes all the difference in the world.

If you are very lucky, then you have a place near your work that sells fresh flowers; having them on the table will add a true touch of elegance to a lunch. You need not buy elaborate bouquets. A few tulips in the spring, a couple of peonies in June, the roses of August, and the summer dahlias — they are the colors of a season. By fall, you can add the lovely geometry of dried flowers and branches to the asters. By winter, you are confined to the colors and flowers of other climates and hemispheres and to dreaming of spring.

Buying flowers is not an easy habit to maintain. I knew a man who wrote into his will that, after his death, a rose should be delivered to his wife every week for the rest of her life. He died five years ago and is still getting credit.

ESSENTIAL FOODS: Specific On-Site Ingredients

These essential foods are the heart of what you will be making for lunch — if you want to scrimp, try to do it on something else (perhaps fuel consumption). There will be days that are carried and rescued by the quality of these products, days when your spirits have flagged but the essentials bring you back up.

It is not necessary to have all the essentials on hand at the same time. Some essentials, such as breads or meats or cheeses, are conditional. We keep a feta on hand as much as possible, for it can brighten a salad or make a very small amount of lentils seem consequential. If there is a reason to celebrate or luxuriate, be it success or not, we often splurge on prosciutto; it is expensive — in a way, the Champagne of meats. Even one slice, laid on a plate with a little fig paste and a chunk of Parmesan, can, like a glass of bubbly, bring a smile.

The sauces are also conditional. They are very fragile and last only a few days. When you decide to make a green sauce (see this page), for example, plan to use it all, either at first or over a couple of days. It is wonderful, but you must keep track of it. If you have extra, then adjust the next day's meal into something that also benefits from a green sauce. Nothing can make the task of lunch more burdensome than a refrigerator filled with forgotten food.

Depending on season and taste, some essentials will figure prominently at one time and less at another. We grew accustomed to the pickled onions from the Boat Street Cafe in Seattle, using them to bolster sandwiches and grains or anything that needed propping up. When Boat Street stopped their production for six months, every sandwich seemed to miss that sweet taste. While we never did find a replacement that we liked as much, it gave us a chance to experiment with other pickles, condiments, and garnishes.

Some of the foods are permanent features. We always keep Parmesan on hand, and always the Reggiano brand. It is expensive, but it is the horn section to this orchestra and earns its keep each time we use it. Even the last dried piece can, when grated over a soup or pasta, draw out a freshness and taste that simply do not exist otherwise.

Do not be intimidated by the list of essentials. The most important requirement is that you carefully select everything in your pantry — that you are always conscious of the difference that a good vinegar, for example, will make over a poor one. Lunch is quickness, and a few strokes make all the difference.


Excerpted from "Lunch at the Shop"
by .
Copyright © 2014 Peter Miller.
Excerpted by permission of Abrams Books.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

INTRODUCTION: The Making of Lunch,
CHAPTER 1. GETTING STARTED: Stocking Your Work Pantry,
CHAPTER 2. FIRST INTENTIONS: Meals Made Entirely at the Shop,
CHAPTER 3. THE FORMIDABLE ALLY OF HOME: A Bit from Here, A Bit from There,
CHAPTER 4. LUNCH IN CONTEXT: Eating Seasonally,
CHAPTER 5. TIMES OF INVENTION: Making Lunch with the Neighborhood,
CHAPTER 6. A WEEK OR TWO: A Plan for the Lunches,

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See All Customer Reviews

Lunch at the Shop: The Art and Practice of the Midday Meal 3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
EM166 More than 1 year ago
I saw this cookbook reviewed in the magazine Fine Cooking and thought it might be a good book to add to my collection. I wasn't impressed and returned it.