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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Wednesday, December 5, 2001

Market Basket
What's in your desk? Desperation!

By Wanda Adams
Advertiser Food Editor

Some weeks ago, I asked office workers to share their stories about "file-cabinet food": The stuff we keep in our desks for the days when we're too busy to eat.

In return, "Charlie" e-mailed me a "workplace pantry inventory" that ran to more than 40 items, from whole-wheat fig bars to balsamic vinegar. The Honolulu office worker asked that I not reveal his name: "To prevent my pantry from being raided by moochers, office rats or the hungry hordes!"

This guy knows how to make something out of nothing. He keeps orange marmalade and brings in cream cheese and nut bread so as to make what he called "a proper afternoon tea." He has a 2-cup Pyrex measuring cup and Hauser's vegetable broth powder at the office, then buys fresh broccoli or cauliflower at the cafeteria salad bar to make a quick, hot veggie soup with a little wheat or rye crisp crumbled in for texture. He keeps multi-grain cereal to snack on or to have as cereal with Rice Dream or other unrefrigerated milk alternatives. And he has a spice cupboard including Sriracha hot chili sauce, Dijon mustard, olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

Charlie says the weirdest thing he ever tried was a sort of split-pea soup made with those Japanese wasabi pea snacks and hot water. Ouch!

Roberta Ann Mero of Waimanalo sent in a tested recipe for "desperation soup." A bit of scrounging would probably turn up these ingredients in any office in America: 4 packets catsup, 1-2 packets hot sauce, 1 packet grated cheese and 1 package crushed red pepper (in other words, one McDonald's, one Taco Bell and two Pizza Hut condiments). Bring 1 cup of water to a boil in the microwave, stir in the other stuff and serve with crackers or just drink it down. "A good warming soup especially for a cold day," Mero wrote. I'm taking her word for it.

Like many of us, Cynthia Tang has an unpredictable job: "Lunch plans fall through at the last minute on a consistent basis. There's usually some kind of 'fire drill' at 4 p.m. so that means I have to stay late. Ah, the glamourous life of an accountant!"

Tang said the worst thing she ever did "while toiling away one night" was to polish off all the peanuts in the gumball dispenser.

Now she maintains a "a little grocery store" that includes instant cereals, dried soup in a cup, dried fruit, unsalted almonds, Luna energy bars and, in the kitchen freezer, Lean Cuisine meals. "It is rather sad to be eating three meals a day of dry food, but it beats scarfing down a bag of Doritos," she wrote. Amen.