Eating in the breeze

BOSTON has such infrequent alfresco weather that when it hits I feel a moral imperative to get out there and enjoy it. On the five days every year when it's hot and dry, I'll leave the office and eat lunch outside. With blue skies, passersby walking at half their normal pace, and dogs leaping in delight, it's as close to paradise as one can get in the city. The ``close'' is because blue skies are always accompanied by wind. That's the law in Boston: If you want blue skies, you get wind. If you want no wind, you get muggy. And Boston winds are fierce and fluky. They wrap around skyscrapers, barrel down corridors, and lift lunches with equal glee.

I've developed a strategy for coping with the breezes that I'll be happy to pass along to you:

Eat sandwiches that won't fly apart. Drink out of an aluminum can. Put the paper the straw comes in in the paper bag; then sit on the bag. The big thing to worry about is the napkins. You can't very well put them in the bag because you're going to need them. So you put the napkins in your lap and hold them down with your elbows. Then you eat fast. `Course you can't see much that way, and if someone comes up to talk to you, just nod vigorously and keep eating. If they're from Boston, they'll understand.

Salads are the worst. Salads are for days when you feel very strong. Salads take a strategy second only to the Normandy invasion. Pieces of them can take flight at any time, and a bad gust will pop the whole thing down your front. My strategy is to keep the plastic wrap around the salad, and eat cautiously out from under it. I stop when a big gust blows, hold everything down, and wait for things to ease up before surreptitiously wolfing the next bite. Sounds about as much fun as eating a sandwich while looking at your lap, doesn't it? Well, it's worth it when you get used to it.

Also, you have to wear the right clothes to do this. Forget silk. I don't care how gorgeous a day it is, if it's windy, forget silk. You want a wedge of tomato dripping with Italian dressing taking sudden wing and coming in for a three-point landing on your blouse or tie? Ladies, wear a cotton dress, preferably with a full skirt (no wraparounds, please!), in a bright print that you made yourself in 8th grade home ec class. A smock might not be inappropriate. Gentlemen, you might consider army fatigues. Or plastic ties.

You may well ask, Why is this person going to so much trouble? Wouldn't it be easier to eat inside, sit in a chair, and wear that silk blouse? Yes, it would be. And one could stick with tuna salad forever instead of trying sushi. I figure I brave the elements here in some fashion all year round. This is just the summer version.

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