In the past, our Lunch Plus One feature suggested a midday meal at a local restaurant and one other activity to enjoy, whether that be relaxing in an outdoor spot, browsing in a shopping area, or visiting an historic location. An outing to enjoy with friends or family members that was not too taxing.
However, about a year into the pandemic lockdown and after most of my contemporaries and I had received the vaccination, I was inspired to invite one friend over, at a time, for an easy lunch or a cozy tea. The point, I thought, was to connect face to face and not show off any (nonexistent) culinary skills. I decided to make things easy and offer a plate of different tastes making the meal light and simple.
To add a touch of elegance, I served lunch on my mom’s fine china, used my grandmother’s water goblets, and even dug out cloth napkins. The menu consisted of foods quick to prepare or pick up: chicken salad from Paul’s Fruit Market on slider buns, a few peanut butter-filled pretzel nuggets from Costco, crisp celery cut into hefty pieces to give the crunch of chips without the chips (a terrific idea offered by my neighbor), an olive or pickle, a couple of colorful cherry tomatoes, and for dessert a handful of Hershey’s Kisses, fruit, or a small cookie or two. Perfect and just filling enough.
Some days, if I was in the mood for a later afternoon visit, I would invite a friend to stop by for a cup of Earl Grey or an herbal tea. I could easily pick up mini cupcakes from The Fresh Market and small scones from Breadworks to serve. If I really wanted to get fancy, I would prepare tiny Benedictine sandwiches and top off our heart-to-heart chat with a piece or two of dark chocolate.
So the One in Lunch Plus One became not an activity but a person. My friends appreciated the invitation, and I appreciated the company. I certainly was in favor of the uncomplicated preparations and have continued to expand my guest list.
During these upcoming winter months, you might give this easy entertaining enterprise a try, and remember to keep things simple and stress-free. After all, this Lunch Plus One suggestion is all about conversation and connection, not culinary skills.
By Lucy M. Pritchett | Photos by Melissa Donald