On fasting, self care and healthy lunch

I’m sitting on my desk at 5:10 on Wednesday night having broken my cardinal rule of lunching—that is, not eating lunch, by which I mean to say that today I did not. It’s okay, it happens to everyone, and I’m pretty sure I had a good reason. Today is Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement, where observant Jews fast from sundown to sundown in hopes that growling tummies give way to piety and elevated spiritual focus.

There’s a lot of interesting theories on why and how this fasting came to be a part of this holiday, but that’s for another column. Today I’m reflecting on this lunchless existence, about how I feel after eight hours of work and no fuel.

My zest for lunch is renewed. Now, granted, I haven’t actually eaten yet, so perhaps it’s just any thought of food that is making me excited, but I think there’s more to it than that. Fasting is spiritually complicated. Asceticism is in general, the idea that by denying the body you can purify the mind. It’s a slippery theological slope, especially for someone who thinks that compassion and justice come from care and attention, not deprivation.

I guess what I’m trying to say, in defense of lunch, is that taking care of yourself and your body is an act of kindness. What if we thought about the food we ate as a gift? What if we thought about the time we set aside to pack and eat lunch as prayer? Maybe that’s taking it too far. My focus sure isn’t what it once was, back when I ate lunch (yesterday), so forgive me.

And now, I will sign off with some quick healthy lunch ingredients to have on hand to turn a lackluster lunch into a slam dunk:

Avocado: Smear it on a sandwich, chop it up on top of salad, or just slice it in half, sprinkle with salt and eat with a spoon.

Edamame: Easier to find than you may think (Asian grocery stores, Trader Joe’s frozen section, my CSA share), these soybean pods, once steamed, are great sources of protein and other nutrients. Happily eaten at room temperature, they’re a tactile lunch addition.

Honey Crisp Apple: Nothing like it, especially in the fall.

Tortilla Chips: For people who choose salty over sweet.

Dried Fruits: There are a surprising number of them on the market to add a little sweetness to your day, from tart dried cherries, to chewy dried apples, banana chips, craisins, raisins, dates and figs. A few of these might stand in for chocolate. The key word is might.