Lunch Spot

This is John. We ride together on Thursdays, to survey snowmobile routes, place directional and safety signs, and trim limbs and brush.

The day is enhanced when you can eat lunch in a good spot. Today we made it to Naneum Meadow. I was fooling around with my gear and turned to find John leaning his pack on the steering column to make a comfy couch. He’d poured a cup of tea from his thermos and was settling in to bask in the sun and eat his sandwich. Ah. Thirty minutes of conversation about random topics. I remembered various trail crew trips to the meadow…the time Jon was gored by a wheelbarrow handle and we all laughed because we thought he was fooling around, the time Tiffany and Dave were tossing rocks down into the turnpike, the time I took a break from hauling gravel and followed butterflies into the meadow…We talked about skis. Should I get skate gear or back country gear? What’s next in my skiing career? What’s the last new thing you learned that you are really enthusiastic about? (Yoga, botanical drawing…)

Then we went back to work.

Snow Ranger Lentils

Photo by John Morrow

Everything about winter is a little harder. More clothes, more gear, more logistics. That’s why I am a firm believer in a hot lunch. Nothing puts the heart back into a cold snow ranger like something to eat out of the thermos. I grew tired of sandwiches after my first 5 seasons in the woods, and now going on thirty seasons will do anything to not eat a sandwich.

Lentils are easy, nutritious, and versatile. Most importantly, they are not related to sandwiches! Here’s how I cook ’em:

Pick over the lentils and remove bad ones and rocks. I don’t measure, just put a goodly pile in the bottom of a pot or the slow cooker. Cover with plenty of water. They soak up a lot, so add more as needed during cooking. Cook in the slow cooker on high for 2-3 hours, or on the stove until lentils are soft. Add chopped onion, a rib or two of chopped celery, a couple of sliced carrots, minced garlic, and some chopped green pepper. Season with salt and pepper. For meat, you can put in a couple pieces of cut-up smoky bacon, or pull italian sausage out of its casing in little blobs and drop in. At this point you can season one of two ways: with bay leaf and oregano, or with cumin. The cumin is spicier. Let all of this simmer together until the vegetables are tender.

For lunch, I preheat my steel thermos with boiling water for several minutes. I put the lentils into a 2-cup glass measuring cup and microwave for five minutes. Dump the hot water out of the thermos and pour in the lentils. This is just the right measurement, and the spout on the cup keeps the soup from making a mess of the thermos. Put the cap on. I keep my thermos a little warmer in my pack by slipping an old wool sock over it. Eat lentils with a homemade roll or slice of bread, and you are set to get back out there into the wintery world.