In Defense of the Safety Blanket Lunch

Mackenzie Moore, Contributor

The Trader Joe’s Veggie Wrap with Hummus is not a modern miracle in terms of nutrition or flavor. A cursory Google search yields plenty of overexposed photos of its box, a Fooducate stamp of “B-” and a Reddit thread debating whether or not it’s completely vegan. Its reputation is average at best. No one waxes poetic on Trader Joe’s fan pages about it, nor has it ever built a cult Twitter following. And yet, I eat this lovely, bland cloud of a meal at least once a week.

I’ve come to lovingly accept that the Veggie Wrap is my Los Angeles safety blanket lunch, just as a grape PB&J on whole wheat from the 30 Rock commissary was my safety blanket lunch when I lived in New York. Both foods share the strange overlap of being inexpensive and extremely simple, and also, not entirely terrible – nutritionally speaking. It’s not a woo-woo beacon of vitamins like, say, a Power Greens wrap with salmon, bulgur, and cashew smear, but when I’m having ulcer pangs or stuck in traffic (which happens weekly) the thought of Swiss Chard makes my esophagus shudder. It’s neither the angel- nor the devil-on-shoulders of lunches, and that neutrality is wildly appealing. As adults, we like to section meals off into different buckets: good lunches, bad lunches, sad desk lunches, snacks that become lunches. We like to lean into lunch’s chameleon properties or run away from them, a daily chance to curb, reward, or ignore ourselves. You have to fuel yourself if nothing more, so why not make the pit stop in time a brief comfort, or even – dare I say – something that makes you happy.

Regardless of where I am in the year work-wise (most months in a TV writers’ room, others at home) I find that having a staple lunch food that’s easily accessible brings a wave of ease, no matter if I’m having a good or a bad day. On bad days, it’s a small, confirmed comfort; on good days, it’s an easy delight. Stigmas ebb and flow with keeping a regular lunch on rotation, and I too have fallen victim to burning out a restaurant (at my last job I went to CAVA, a palatial den of hummus and pita, every five days – and I’m sorry to say I haven’t been back since). That said, if you know what works for you, lean into it. Could there be an old saying about something that isn’t broken not needing fixing ringing in my ears? I’ve eaten a Veggie Wrap while dropping cabbage into my lap on the way to LAX, while my eyes where red and swollen from crying, and on a Saturday afternoon mid-picnic. It’s the jack-of-all-trades, master of none workhorse that I’ve found brings me life on a routine basis. When it comes to something as basic as food, the brief respite of a delicious, fluffy safety blanket is a 1+Up mushroom in the game of Super Mario we call life.

Mackenzie is a television writer living in Los Angeles who can been found moonlighting as an essayist and poet between shows. She’s on a first name basis with the bigwigs of the LA bagel scene and has met many nondairy cheeses she didn’t like.