It feels like a million years ago since I commuted to downtown Minneapolis every day for work.

In a prior job, we operated a service center so we rarely attended meetings or had team bonding events. We were so eager to catch our buses after work that we never had happy hours, either.

Our department launched an effort right before the pandemic banning anyone to work from home. For any reason. Even if you had a medical appointment in the middle of the day – you still had to come back to the office.  Many buses didn’t run mid-day and parking ramps jacked up prices after their early-bird specials. Once I paid $35 to park for the last few hours.

As rumors of a pandemic swirled, I recovered from a really bad cold. Anti-Asian rhetoric escalated and I was terrified of riding the bus and having to cough. I remember expressing a “Hellooooo, I’m Asian and have a cough can I please work from home?” concern.

Once they let us work from home, we never returned. Now. I primarily work from home with occasional office days, which I don’t mind.

I miss wandering the skyways for lunches and hot chips, but I do not miss the daily commute.

I took work snacks very seriously and stored a wide selection in a file drawer behind my desk.  Some might call it a curation. You’d typically find hot chips, Trader Joe’s organic white truffle potato chips, pea pod puffs or crunchy okra chips, and chewy fruity candy like Eiffel Bon Bons. 

My coworkers knew I had the best snacks. I I always shared.

Sometimes I’ll take a break and visit a random convenience store to check out their chip selection. Gas stations and convenience stores have the best selection of small bags of hot chips. I love finding brands I’ve never seen before.

A little grocery store near my house sells Earl’s, a brand I’d buy in the skyways that I rarely see in grocery stores. Earl’s Food Products is a local brand that doesn’t even seem to have a website or social media presence. Their “hot” flavor chips and puffs reminds me of my favorite Red Hot Riplets from St. Louis whose sweet, spicy, BBQ flavor makes them so special.

Lay’s Flamin’ Hot Potato Chips  are the most accessible hot chip that gives me some Red Hot Riplet vibes. Speedway Speedy Choice Carolina Reaper cheese puffs are also a good choice. They give me a tingly head rush.

One thing I liked about working at an office was the corporate cafeteria. I’ve always been obsessed with them. 

They’re like secret, little, ordinary oasis-is. The mundane tastes exciting on a stressful or very boring day. No matter how ordinary the cafeteria may be, you always look forward to it. Each with their own special or tradition.

When I worked for a hospital system in Fargo, German Sausage Chowder day was a big deal. We lined up early to enjoy a bowl before they ran out. In Minnesota, I always knew taco salad day by the long line-  and yes, they served it with “salsa-ranch” lol. And they could hardly keep the wild rice and chicken soup pot full.

Now I like to I treat myself to a sandwich from the little restaurant in the building. It’s part of a restaurant group that services business centers -it’s even called “Corporate Eats.

Update 5-9-22: In our particular building, the restaurant seems to have raised prices near our company’s officially return to work. While I understand prices have gone up for everyone, the quality should match. I also prefer that restaurants roll-in prices for simple things like bread choices or a handful of kettle chips instead of up-charges for everything. For these reasons, I have been bringing my own meals or going elsewhere recently.

It’s the kind of place that has a typical menu of lunchy things like burgers, salads, sandwiches, chicken tenders and employees may call you “hon.”

The thing is that the deli chicken and turkey sandwiches are actually not that ordinary – the sandwich bread is soft and spread with the right amount of mayo. The vegetables are fresh and stacked high. The “Fresh Roasted Chicken Breast Sandwich” actually  contains chilled, roasted chicken breast, sliced thick. And if you order the Thanksgiving turkey, you’ll find a pile of pulled roast turkey.

The fries may not be homemade, but they’re crisp, salted, and satisfying.

A touch of salt, an endorphin rush from the heat, some comfort. Work lunches and snacks don’ t have to be revolutionary to be good. They just have to be made with care and hit the spot.