my momI’m on deadline for an article I’m writing for O, the Oprah Magazine. It got to be lunchtime and, food lover that I am, I got hungry. (I’m not one of those people who says, “Oh, I got so busy I forgot to eat lunch.” I don’t think I’ve ever forgotten to eat a meal in my life.)

I put together a lovely lunch of leftovers — always happy to see food I loved again!—but, due to the short deadline, I had to eat while working. As any good doctor and my mother will tell you, eating while working is a bad idea. I’m sure there are a lot of physiological reasons for it, but the most important one to me is that I was so busy concentrating on my work that I never tasted the food. An entire plate of penne with shredded zucchini, cannellini beans, and breadcrumbs, and a fresh slab of mozzarella cheese with a slice of farmers’ market tomato and fresh basil went to waste.

Pasta and Tomatoes with Zucchini (adapted from a Whole Foods recipe)


1 large zucchini
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
3-4 Tablespoons of olive oil, divided
2-3 plum tomatoes, cut into eighths
½ can cannellini beans
½ box whole wheat penne (or similar pasta)
1/3 cup bread crumbs
5 or so fresh basil leaves, chopped, or 1 teaspoon of dried leaves
Parmesan cheese
Juice of ½ lemon
Salt and pepper
a side of sautéed beet greens

Preparation: Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Put about a tablespoon of olive oil in a non-stick baking pan, set tomatoes on top, and drizzle olive oil on them. Season with a little salt and pepper and top with a tablespoon or two of Parmesan cheese and half the chopped basil. Bake for 10-15 minutes.

Set pasta water to boil. Toast the breadcrumbs in a pan for about two minutes. Remove from pan and set aside.

Heat the chopped garlic in a generous tablespoon of olive oil while you shred the zucchini. When the garlic is fragrant, about three minutes, sauté zucchini, about five minutes. Remove from heat.

Drain pasta and put into a large bowl. Add zucchini, cannellini beans, and lemon juice, drizzle with olive oil, and mix. Top pasta with tomatoes, remaining basil, and as much Parmesan cheese as you like. Serves two pasta lovers.

It all sounds really good when I re-read that line, but I got just about as much enjoyment out of it as you just did, and I’m the one who ate it. Now, I’m full but dissatisfied.

My grandmother was a busy working woman too, but she lived in a time when people took a lunch break. It seems indulgent now, but I’m sure I’d be working more effectively if I’d taken the time to breathe, eat, and not try to do two things and once, neither of them well. Lesson learned!

Do you work over your lunch, or are you one of those European lifestyle-loving people who takes a sane amount of time to eat and enjoy your food?