This is Sara. She lives in Montreal, but she used to live in Ottawa and that's how I first met her. Now I see her a few times a year at zine fairs or readings in one city or another. She's mostly vegan and really needed some lunch suggestions for lunches she eats while travelling to and from Ottawa. Here are her needs in her own words:
I am a graduate student at Carleton University in Ottawa, but I live in Montreal. Once a week I have to commute by bus between cities. The busy schedule of that day means that when I bring a lunch from home I have to carry it around with me through the morning and early afternoon and then eat it on the bus around 3pm. This presents a few challenges. First, I have a lot of stuff to carry already, so bulky containers and packaging just aren't practical (if it was more than once a week I'm sure I would have to figure out a new bag system, but for now this is how it is). Second, eating on the bus obviously means I can’t do any kind of preparation (heating, assembling, etc.) before I chow down; and since I am often next to another passenger I have to be pretty self-contained and not messy. Because of the absence of containers, a sandwich is usually the best bet, but these can get a bit soggy and sad by 3pm. So I guess what I’m looking for is either a yummy, filling sandwich that won’t get soggy, or an alternative. Also, I always want something sweet at that point in the day (esp. chocolate!), as well as something snacky for the bus ride. I have a refillable water bottle with me all the time.
I can sympathize with Sara about the bus eating. When I was going to university, I used to ride the bus frequently between Peterborough and Ottawa and I got quickly tired of the roadside stop food options. Greasy french fries and stale granola bars can only go so far.
I'm very picky about the sandwiches I take with me for lunch. Sandwiches are always best when freshly made and almost all of my favourite sandwich ingredients get pretty yucky when they've been sitting around in a room-temperature bag for a few hours. Lettuce wilts. Avocado goes brown. Tomatoes make bread soggy. It's all very discouraging.
Item 1: A Nut Butter Sandwich
Yes, I'm going back to grade school with this one, but the wonder-bread-and-skippy combination need not be a part of an adult diet. When I make nut butter sandwiches these days, I start with some hearty, whole grain bread. I like Kamut multigrain bread myself because it doesn't taste super whole-wheaty, but it is hefty enough to fill me up. Instead of regular peanut butter I use a natural, unsweetened, chunky almond butter. To compliment the taste of that you can add a bit of agave nectar (or honey if you eat honey, let's not get in a big fight, vegans) and voila! A sandwich that won't get soggy or yucky looking if it sits in your bag for a few hours. If I think I'm going to be really hungry I pack two of these. I always want more after I've eaten one anyways. I actually kind of want one right now.
Alternate Item 1: Chickpea Salad Sandwich
This is one of my favourite sandwich fillings. The recipe came from 'Wichcraft in New York via Smitten Kitchen. The ingredients are simple to find and work with and it also stays quite nice throughout the day. I'm putting it second because a) it can be a bit messy and b) it has raw onions in it. However, if you'd like a different kind of sandwich this is always delicious. To solve the above noted problems I'd recommend pita bread (which keeps the salad elements contained) and either leaving the onions out, buying some gum, or learning to love your onion breath.
Item 2: Ginger Chocolate Chip Cookies
These are here to fulfil Sara's need for something sweet. They are easy to make (add chunks of candied ginger to any chocolate chip cookie recipe, mine is here), always delicious, and an excellent treat, post lunch. And ginger helps with any motion sickness the bus might induce. Bonus!
Item 3: No-Bake Energy Bites
For further bus -snacking, I would suggest a variation of these Energy Bites from the Smashed Peas and Carrots blog. They're a little cookie-ish to be added to a lunch where I've already recommended cookies, but the recipe is flexible and you could leave out the chocolate chips and put in something different to make them less cookie-like. I like them because they fill me up and don't give me a sugar crash. They can be carried around all day and still taste good. Sometimes I keep them in the freezer and just take them out in the morning to put in my lunch. By the time I'm ready to eat them, they've defrosted perfectly.
Pair those items with a piece of fruit or some carrots and celery sticks (or some of the pickles that I know Sara has been making lately!), and you have a lunch for the bus that won't get yucky and, better yet, will reward you for a day of hard work and travel.