The great lunch swap
July 23rd, 2010
12:00 PM ET
Share this on:

You're at work and lunch time rolls around. You've been responsible enough to brown-bag it to eat healthier and possibly save money, but then, you start peeking around.

Your desk mate's lunch looks far more appetizing than what you’ve sloppily tossed together for yourself. It's a scene that plays out from childhood lunchrooms all the way to your cube at work. Co-workers Callie and Tommy decided to rekindle their love of lunch by trying a three day swap.

Callie and Tommy established a few simple rules to their lunch swap:

1. No smelly foods - you don’t wanna be that guy at work.

2. Nothing that completely repulsed either of them. For Tommy, it was mushrooms and for Callie, red peppers.

3. For three days they would bring in lunch for each other and use retro-style lunch trays because festive presentation somehow makes food so much more appetizing.


Day One

What Callie made for Tommy
“When I make food for someone else I put so much extra time and care into it. I think we were actually both a little nervous about making food for the other person. Is my prosciutto sandwich going to live up to his chicken curry sandwich? I made mine this morning; are the tomatoes going to make the bread soggy? Performance anxiety!”

Tommy’s Take
“Callie’s sandwich was salty and delicious - especially the pancetta on the rosemary bread. Bread really makes a sandwich. My only complaint was that the tomato was a bit mushy because she had put it on the sandwich at home and tossed the whole thing in the fridge.”

“I think tomatoes are better if you wait and cut them at work. Just use them for both your sandwich and your salad. Callie apparently loves fruit, so I was given both white and red grapes, and a few slices of some sort of fancy watermelon. The fruit was great, but I think I ruined my shirt spitting seeds onto my plastic tray. Apparently they bounce. All in all a great lunch, and definitely something new.”

What Tommy made for Callie
“I’ve never really made a good chicken salad, but I figured since I wasn’t eating it I would experiment. Callie could be my gastronomical guinea pig. I threw together the chicken salad with canned chicken, which I find actually tastes better than fresh believe it or not, and mixed in some mandarin oranges and curry.”

“I also made a Caprese salad with fresh mozzarella and Roma tomatoes which are dirt cheap and taste less “tomatoey” than most. I mixed a little oil and vinegar with some basil, garlic salt and pepper for dressing and tossed it all on spinach. Spinach is the key to all my lunches. Those lettuce bags rot in a day and spinach has some sort of mutant capability that seems to make it last forever. Plus it’s healthier than most other lettuces.”

“To finish it all off I tossed some raspberries on some Greek yogurt. I don’t really get Greek yogurt, but it’s all the rage and I love a good bandwagon.”

Callie’s Take:

“I'm pretty sure Tommy snuck into my kitchen and took notes on 1. the obscene amount of yogurt I consume and 2. the lack of fresh veggies...or the presence of rotten ones. This made the Caprese Salad all the more fitting for a girl who just can't seem to keep fresh vegetables from going bad.

"The same goes for the yogurt that was dressed up with a bit of honey and raspberries. It was a perfect way to satiate my sweet tooth without sending me into a total sugar coma. As for the curry chicken salad with Munster cheese - that was maybe a bit of an odd combo - but piled on cheerful little potato rolls turned out to be quite tasty."

"What I didn’t expect was how lovely it was to eat lunch that was made just for me. I ate slowly and enjoyed each yummy bite—especially the tart pop of raspberry added to my yogurt."


Day Two

What Callie made for Tommy

“I pre-planned all my menus the weekend before so the fact that we both made chicken salad just means that chicken salad rules. I put a little twist in my chicken salad and added Greek yogurt to cut down on fatty mayo and give it a little tang. I also painstakingly peeled and sliced two perfectly ripe tender Georgia peaches. I was going to have an issue with Tommy if he said he didn’t like peaches, because if you have ever had a ripe Georgia peach, you know that they ooze the nectar of the gods.”

Tommy’s Take

“Callie packed her chicken salad in pitas. It was REALLY good. She put grapes in it and used spicy mustard and yogurt, which gave it a cool kick. For sides she stuck to her old standby and gave me sweet Georgia peaches - which for some reason are really hard to find in Georgia - and blueberries and sliced apples with cheese. I had only seen this done in a cheese commercial once, but it was delicious. It made me feel European, even though I think some of the cheese was American.”

What Tommy made for Callie

“One word (that should be two): EverRoast chicken. I don’t know what Boar’s Head does to the stuff, but it’s all I buy. I tossed together a sandwich with this lunch meat as well as some sliced avocado, Munster cheese and bacon I tossed in the microwave. I buy generic store-brand bacon because it’s the thinnest and microwaves the best; just toss it in with a bunch of paper towel for a minute on each side. (Apologies to any vegetarians at work - the break room will reek like pork for hours.)”

“For sides I globbed some hummus on the tray with some carrots then tossed together a salad with the spinach and raspberries from yesterday and a little gorgonzola and champagne pear dressing.”

Callie’s Take

“I have to admit, I was a bit hesitant about the microwave bacon on my sandwich, but it was delicious. My salad was so fresh because the ingredients were in separate containers so they wouldn’t get soggy the night before. The bread was a bit overly bready and dampened some of flavor of the bacon and turkey. Tommy later disclosed that the bread may or may not have expired.”

Day Three

What Callie made for Tommy

“I maybe spent a bit more time on the gnocchi than anything else, but it was leftovers from the night before. However, I think there's a huge difference between homemade leftovers and some soggy takeout that's been floating around the back of the fridge for who-knows-how-long. I put some serious love into my gnocchi and didn't skimp on the gorgonzola sauce. You just can't muck up Italian cooking with lower calorie substitutes.”

Tommy’s Take

“Callie went all out for the last day. Gnocchi is my favorite, and she tossed it with some prosciutto, chicken, basil and a nice light cream sauce. Delicious. She complemented the Italian dish with a Caprese salad which was delicious (but seriously, Callie, stop copying me.) The toasted walnuts she added really made it pop. She also mixed some fruit and yogurt, though she avoided the Greek variety – Callie is free of food pretentions.”

What Tommy made for Callie

“I’m only one person and lunch is my big meal, I like to throw some stuff in a crock pot at night and wake up to the smell of pot roast in the morning. Then I take it to lunch. Callie was the beneficiary of my crock pot creation, which was just store-bought gravy, onions, carrots, potatoes and pre-cut chunks of meat. It’s not pretty, but I think it’s pretty delicious.Since that meal had veggies and sides in it, I just played to Callie’s produce soft spot and threw together a little fruit salad with the leftovers from the other meals.”

Callie’s Take

“The beef stew that had been slow cooked overnight tasted just like something from mom’s kitchen - before the advent of the microwave that is. The only issue here was its rather disgusting appearance. Several of my co-workers delicately asked of the brown glob on my lunch tray, what is that? I, however, proudly defended my gross looking but rather yummy home cooked pile of deliciousness.”

soundoff (65 Responses)
  1. oogmar

    My coworkers are all chefs! Please, make food for me!

    (The last lunch a coworker made me was when we were bored after the breakfast rush: smoked Coho salmon that he'd caught the previous day and smoked overnight, shallots, and yogurt made into cakes with home-made aioli and chiffonade basil as a garnish. Sinfully good.)

    August 15, 2010 at 1:41 am |
  2. Anna

    Those lunches sound fabulous but who puts that much effort into lunch for work? I prefer to put more effort into dinner because I get to eat that at home with my honey. At work, I'll eat a PB & J and be done with it.

    Also, why are people so negative whenever they see a feature story about something that's not a pressing world issue? If journalists only wrote about bad news stories they would need lifetime supplies of prozac!

    July 25, 2010 at 10:44 am |
  3. JB

    if I still worked, I would try this

    July 23, 2010 at 10:06 pm |
  4. Liz

    What a great way to have fun with taking your lunch to work!

    July 23, 2010 at 7:46 pm |
  5. Rocky

    Would totally do this. My co-workers and I were just talking about how we hate making our own lunches. I've worked with them for several years and would totally know what each other likes and dislikes. Last year I spent several nights with a girlfriend while her husband was out of town and she made me lunch to take every day. It was great.

    July 23, 2010 at 6:25 pm |
  6. Truth

    You mean your cocktail weiner?

    July 23, 2010 at 4:27 pm |
    • Turbo Man

      It plumps when you cook it

      July 23, 2010 at 4:40 pm |
  7. Turbo Man

    I would have fed her my "Ballpark Frank" every day.

    July 23, 2010 at 4:15 pm |
    • Phil

      I don't think she would be satisfied.

      July 23, 2010 at 4:25 pm |
  8. Darkspiral

    Who in the hell makes that kind of food?

    July 23, 2010 at 4:13 pm |
  9. deuce

    I can tell you, my lunch "partner" would be getting peanut butter and jelly or ham and cheese. Maybe you guys spend 30-45 minutes putting together some awesome lunch every day, but I've got better things to do with my time...

    July 23, 2010 at 3:41 pm |
  10. Pedro












    July 23, 2010 at 3:14 pm |
  11. Tyedye

    Instead of going for the pre washed and bagged lettuce, go for the head of lettuce. Look for a tight head free of rust (brown). A head of lettuce will keep for a week or two in the veggie drawer if you don't chop it up. If you chop it up, splurge on a salad spinner. The secret to keeping lettuce longer is keeping them dry. I spin my lettuce two or three times and place them in a Tupperware container IN the veggie drawer. Place a paper towel in the bottom of the container to absorb any excess liquid. Lettuce keeps longer in the winter then the summer for some reason but chopped lettuce in the Tupperware usually keeps a week or longer in the summertime. Also, never cut your lettuce with a metal knife. That will cause almost immediate browning. Tear the lettuce with your fingers or use a plastic serrated knife.

    July 23, 2010 at 3:14 pm |
    • Lady

      Thanks for the helpful advice. I didn't know about the metal knife thing.

      July 23, 2010 at 3:29 pm |
    • Cheryl

      Good to know, thanks!

      July 23, 2010 at 3:37 pm |
  12. Hawaiikaos

    Two of their meals were sandwiches and salads - how generic, but then I eat stuff like pho for lunch. I wonder if sandwich/salad everyday is a southern thing. Their portions seem awfully large as well. At least they mixed it up on the last day a bit.

    July 23, 2010 at 3:07 pm |
  13. xmxm

    At least they could have taken pictures of lunch size portions instead of Saturday night portions.

    July 23, 2010 at 2:26 pm |
    • DrFood


      July 23, 2010 at 2:34 pm |
  14. speedro

    I think it's funny she was scared of bacon from the microwave. People get so adamantly freaked out about things when they don't understand them.

    July 23, 2010 at 2:25 pm |
  15. daniela

    Is just me are is CNN not doing news anymore and just throwing out crap. Lunch swap this is something a ten year old would do with other classmate. Further the writing was a ten year old level as well. CNN please actually write proper stories. This is why are news is the laughing stock world wide.

    July 23, 2010 at 2:23 pm |
    • speedro

      Why 'are' news...? Did you write that comment by using dictation on your computer? Weird.

      July 23, 2010 at 2:26 pm |
    • grammer?

      *our* ...and you complain about them writing for a 10 year old.

      July 23, 2010 at 2:39 pm |
      • TheWonderHorse

        Grammer.... your name should be spelled Grammar.

        When people make that typo it always makes me laugh. Learn how to spell grammar before you nitpick the sentence structure of your peers. A good post should include proper spelling and grammar.


        July 23, 2010 at 2:49 pm |
    • Philip

      Coming up later will be Joy Behar doing an interview with all of the starving inner city kids, who are being oppressed while these two cook for each other.

      July 23, 2010 at 2:42 pm |
    • Phil

      Don't you read the headline of the article before you click on it? If not, you probably should. If so, you should know what kind of article it is and avoid it if that's not the kind of article you want to read. Not everything needs to be about the oil disaster. The writing style is casual, which is perfect for this type of article. Grow up and realize that different topics are meant to reach different audiences and often work best with different writing styles.

      July 23, 2010 at 4:22 pm |
  16. gr1088

    This is a bad photoshop picture. That's all I thought.

    July 23, 2010 at 2:07 pm |
  17. Gaurav

    For sure they like each other. I am a vegetarian so a lunch swap would be an inconvenience to other person more so than it would be for me. When it comes to going to an extra length to make sure other person like what I cook would be way too much to do because I would at least cook something that I would like to eat.

    July 23, 2010 at 1:47 pm |
  18. tairy greene

    the gravy is theirs!

    July 23, 2010 at 1:47 pm |
  19. Stephanie

    My co-worker and I have been doing this for over the past month and have been blogging about it – check it out!

    July 23, 2010 at 1:44 pm |
  20. lacrosseson

    I think it's funny how much effort they go into to make the other happy instead of just swapping what they made for themselves.

    July 23, 2010 at 1:29 pm |
  21. Chris

    Figures the LIBERAL MEDIA is trying to push a COMMUNIST style "lunch swap"! What will the liberals want next, a breakfast cereal called Obama' "O"s!!!

    July 23, 2010 at 1:04 pm |
    • Dave

      You're a freak.

      July 23, 2010 at 1:18 pm |
  22. Jackie

    Sounds like so much fun!! I don't have the guts to cook for anyone other than immediate family. I wish I did; this would be a great way to add some oomph to otherwise boring lunch hours! And yes, I think there's a crush there too! :)

    July 23, 2010 at 1:00 pm |
  23. Sandra

    These 2 guys HAVE to be single. Any working parent would be tossing in a pre-packaged Kiddie Lunch kit, a Juicy-Juice inabox, and an apple (with the worm cut out leaving the brown spot) - and they'd be lucky to get that!!

    July 23, 2010 at 12:59 pm |
    • ashley

      um.. it's a guy and a girl. and they're adults, not kids. how is your comment at all relevant to the article?

      July 23, 2010 at 1:34 pm |
      • Tammy

        Working parents have no time for making fancy lunches... as I know from my own experience

        July 23, 2010 at 1:58 pm |
    • speedro

      It even states in the article the the guy is single. Are you trying to make yourself feel better about all the work you do as a parent? Ok, here you go, Good Job being a parent.

      July 23, 2010 at 2:23 pm |
      • Truth

        Tammy sounds like a lousy parent.

        July 23, 2010 at 2:40 pm |
  24. Ronnie

    Never heard of Gnocchi ! I had to Google it !

    July 23, 2010 at 12:59 pm |
    • me

      are you ten years old?

      July 23, 2010 at 1:22 pm |
      • WinchLock

        Calm down there, not all of us grew up/live around those kinds of foods. Honestly, it's the first I've heard of, gnocchi as well. Does sound like it'd be interesting to try though.

        July 23, 2010 at 1:34 pm |
      • speedro

        Easy there pal. Not everyone grew up in the city as a metrosexual such as yourself. The world is bigger than you appear to understand.

        July 23, 2010 at 2:14 pm |
      • Mike

        haha wal-mart must be slacking

        July 23, 2010 at 4:12 pm |
    • joe08

      I had to look it up too! Now I want to try some.

      July 23, 2010 at 1:29 pm |
    • Katie

      And now yu can buy them at the grocery store. Just boil them, and put yuor fav sauce on them. Less work, less mess, and still yummy!

      July 23, 2010 at 3:26 pm |
  25. Sue

    How DARE she say that Tommy's crock pot stew was as good as her mother's!!! NO WAY!!
    Callie's Mom

    July 23, 2010 at 12:54 pm |
    • joe08

      If your callie's mom does she talk about tommy much? You need to pushing the issue, he can make really good stew!

      July 23, 2010 at 1:31 pm |
  26. Ann

    This is hilarious!! Callie & Tommy are both so picky they should HAVE to make their OWN lunches. Sounds like this was so hard for them , but so funny their descriptions of their efforts that they should stick to writing and pick up deli take-out every day!

    July 23, 2010 at 12:51 pm |
  27. meATL

    For fresh veggies, I know this might sound like a plug, but those Debbie Meyer Green Bags that you can get at BedBath&Beyond ACTUALLY WORK. I can buy veggies now! Keeps salad greens for 2-3 weeks. Reuse them too. (And this isn't coming from someone who buys all the crap from "as seen on tv" (my mother bought them for me, so figured I had to use them, and now can't keep veggies without em!)

    July 23, 2010 at 12:51 pm |
    • Megan

      If you can't keep veggies fresh you're either buying an obscene amount in which case the solution is obvious (stop!), or you're not eating enough veggies. A head of lettuce shouldn't take you 2-3 weeks to consume... try a few days.

      July 23, 2010 at 2:14 pm |
      • Sandy

        If you're eating organic some veggies can spoil within a couple days.

        July 23, 2010 at 3:53 pm |
  28. spins

    joe08: hahah, i agree. if i made that for my coworker, my husband wouldnt be too happy with me.
    that too i'm vegetarian and most people wouldnt know what to make for me.

    July 23, 2010 at 12:48 pm |
    • Tina

      Actually, spins, how about a vegetable stir fry with "Gardein beefless tips"?

      July 23, 2010 at 6:45 pm |
  29. joe08

    I think they secertly have a crush on each other.

    July 23, 2010 at 12:33 pm |
    • Matthew

      I agree - it's a man and a woman, and unless you kind of "liked" someone you wouldn't want them making your lunch. Especially when you read what lengths they went to make each other happy. They noticed what each other liked, etc.

      July 23, 2010 at 1:18 pm |
      • jc

        Or they could just be trying very hard to outdo each other. :)

        July 23, 2010 at 1:40 pm |
    • speedro

      They are totally going to hook up.

      July 23, 2010 at 2:20 pm |
      • Captain Obvious

        I have something I would like to feed her.

        July 23, 2010 at 2:37 pm |
    • Phil

      I don't think female is his sexual preference.

      July 23, 2010 at 4:11 pm |
    • MartyO

      Thats my first thought too! We all know food is the easiest way into someones heart and here they go preparing masterful lunches for each other (although it seems Callie got some of the worst of it...expired bread!?!?!)...someone follow these two!

      July 23, 2010 at 11:39 pm |
| Part of