What's for Lunch?

You might think a peanut butter sandwich and an apple would do the trick, but when we asked the current crop of SPH students what they bring to school for lunch, we found the answers to be a whole lot more complicated-and intriguing-than that. Quinoa tabbouleh? Seafood pasta? Twizzlers? Who knew? Herewith, a sampling of the bounty. Photos by Peter Smith.

  Renee Pitter, HBHE '09

 Fried plantains: "My parents are from Jamaica, and everyone from my family was born there except for me. I'm a first-generation American. Plantains are what I used to eat growing up. They go with dinner and sometimes breakfast and lunch."

Nicole Dickelson, HMP '10

Tuna salad with hard-boiled eggs, green peppers, onions, relish, mustard, mayo; tossed green salad.: "On the days when I have class from 10:30 to 2:30, there's no lunch break, so you eat in class. So I take out the tuna and everybody's, like, 'It smells bad. It smells like fish.' And I'm, like, 'I'm eating tuna. Sorry.' It's a grad-school staple. When I go home for breaks, I make sure I don't eat it."

Jonathan Dunford, HMP '10

Canned soup, Doritos, carrots, a Twizzler: "It's my typical lunch. I bring it in and nuke it in the cafeteria pretty much every day. We usually buy a whole box of soups at home, and I pull out whatever's handy. Today it's potato-broccoli-cheese."

Nikita Shah, HMP '10

Gluten-free ginger snacks, brown-rice bread with peanut butter and jelly, grapes, cherries.: "I'm following a homeopathic regimen. It's a five-part detox process, and the first step is cutting out all wheat and gluten. It's been quite an adjustment, but I definitely feel better and have more energy. Friends call me 'Bird,' because I'm always eating fruits and nuts and berries and things like that."

Deena Thomas, Epid '09

Lemon rice, dal with spinach.: "I grew up in India, and I used to use a lunch box like this in grade school. It's called a tiffin, and they come in many different shapes and sizes. Some have five compartments, some just have one. Some are round, some come in a Hershey-kiss shape."

Paula Johnson, Ph.D. candidate, EHS

Sardines, quinoa, chard, cabbage.: "I like sardines because I'm getting my essential omega-3 fatty acids, and they're also an eco-friendly fish choice that I think more people should know about. They're a small fish, they're not in danger of depletion, and they're lower down on the food chain, so there's less risk of consuming bioaccumulative contaminants."


Jonetta Johnson, Ph.D. student, HBHE

Whole-wheat pasta (with scallops, shrimp, and calamari), side salad, tangerine, peanut butter cookies.: "I'm from Georgia, but these days I don't usually cook Southern food. For me, Southern food has always been more of a social or special-occasion thing, involving love and laughter and company or family, and not the hurried life of a grad student. Whereas pastas are easy, quick, and you can add anything to them."

Jamie Jee, HBHE '09

Beansters sandwich with guacamole, green-leaf lettuce, smoked turkey, Roma tomato, and alfalfa sprouts on 8-grain whole wheat bread.: "This is my power-lunch sandwich. I'm an active athlete, so I can and do eat a lot of calories. The emerging literature on how skinny people can be less healthy than heavier people is interesting-I think it means we have to move away from BMI as a metric."

Zachary Smith, HMP '09

with his wife, Sarah, and children Alison and Josh. Sandwiches on homemade bread. : "Our church encourages you to be financially self-sufficient-to have stores of food in case you lose your job. So we have a storage room off our apartment where we keep wheat. My wife grinds flour and makes bread and then makes sandwiches and brings them to SPH once every week or two, and we have lunch as a family. The best part of lunch is my family."

Derrick Pfeffer, HMP '09

Baklava.: "Normally I eat it for dessert. It's cheap, and it's sweet, and it's not too much. I like to try new things. I love Ann Arbor because it has so much diversity. On one street you can have foods from lots of different cultures-Middle Eastern, Korean, Indian, Japanese-and whatever I'm in the mood for, I'll go for."

Madelyn Verlin, HMP '10

Apples, raspberry yogurt, granola bar, cinnamon-raisin bagel with cream cheese.: "I typically eat not a large lunch, but I have little snacks throughout the day. Today I got here at nine in the morning, and I leave at nine tonight, so I'm here for 12 hours. I've already eaten once today, so this is like my second round."

Valentina Stackl, HBHE '10

Earl Grey tea with milk; turkey, cheese, and tomato sandwich; sugar snap peas, tomatoes, carrots; Austrian chocolate.: "Everything is organic, except for the mustard on the sandwich, which I brought home from Austria on  break.  My dad is in Austria, and I grew up there. Although I try to eat organic, if it's delicious food from my childhood, I'm going to eat it."

Carrie Rheingans, HBHE '10

Red quinoa tabbouleh, white rice, black beans, <em>chupe cashqui</em> (a vegetarian soup from the Peruvian Andes).: "I'm a vegetarian. Technically I'm a fake-atarian, because I do eat meat sometimes-I like the flavor. But for social reasons I decided a year and a half ago to reduce the amount of meat I eat. So much grain goes into feeding the meat that feeds one person-you could feed tenfold as many people with grain."

Carrie Rheingans's Peruvian mountain soup Chupe Cashqui (a vegetarian soup from the Peruvian Andes)


  • 6 medium sized potatoes (can be any type)
  • 4-6 medium-large eggs
  • 2 bunches scallions
  • 1-2 handfuls shredded mozzarella
  • 4-6 oz. queso fresco (cheese)
  • Handful of fresh mint leaves
  • Salt to taste

Fill a stock pot full with tap water and bring to boil. Peel potatoes and chop into cubes. Add cubed potatoes to the water and simmer. When the potatoes are cooked, break the eggs over the water and drizzle the insides into the water. Wash and slice the scallions, including the green ends. Chop queso fresco into cubes and add to the soup. Scatter the shredded mozzarella into the soup. Wash and chop the fresh mint leaves and add them right before taking the soup off the burner to be served.

Things to keep in mind:

  1. It's pretty difficult to create an un-tasty soup!
  2. Be sure to add the potatoes first so they're cooked through by the end.
  3. Plan to add the mint leaves last so they don't turn brown from overcooking.
  4. Add more water as needed.
  5. This soup tastes good hot or cold, and can stay refrigerated for a couple days (if it lasts that long!).
  6. You can alter the recipe by using chicken stock or by adding pieces of cooked chicken, cilantro, or any other creative ingredient you like.