Mar 17, 2014

We Had Lunch at the Shop. Literally.

Peter Miller is a gracious host. Bustling around the kitchen underneath the office of architectural firm Suyama Peterson Deguchi (located behind Peter Miller Books on 2nd Ave. in Seattle) he urges me to sit down, make myself comfortable, and insists on preparing lunch himself. This simple act of preparing a meal is the inspiration for his new book, Lunch at the Shop: The Art and Practice of the Midday Meal ($24.95; Abrams Image, March 2014), in which he advocates for people for forgo fast food and take time to prepare and enjoy a good, healthy lunch. He’s been doing just that every day for more than 10 years at his eponymous bookshop.

“At our old space we didn’t have a kitchen,” he says, as he dexterously peels then slices an avocado for a mixed green salad with fresh feta cheese and an olive oil dressing. (For 25 years Miller’s shop was located at 1930 1st Ave.)“It got expensive for people to constantly go out to lunch, and people started bringing in things they had made at home. We’d sit down and eat lunch together, and it just evolved from there.” Miller says that you really don’t need a lot of time to make a great lunch at work. For me he pulls off a salad, fresh semolina bread with whipped butter and reheated pasta with peas, tomatoes and fresh basil that he’d made the night before in less than 10 minutes. All those years of practice have paid off: he’s an excellent cook.

“The key is to be able to use things that you have around,” he explains to me, as he pulls out plates and silverware, “and make sure you have good, high-quality ingredients. They make all the difference.” Peter Miller Books is close to the sundry stalls of Pike Place Market, giving him access to an abundance of fresh ingredients. His top recommended places to stop? Frank’s Quality Produce for veggies, DeLaurenti for various items such as olive oil, and Pike Place Market Creamery for cheese.

Lunch at the Shop has a list of kitchen items to have on hand for quick and easy lunchtime prep (i.e., salad spinner, carrot peeler, cheese grater), more than 45 recipes, and ideas for throwing together a meal using the shops in the neighborhood around your workplace. While he doesn’t have a favorite recipe or number-one tip, he does recognize that everyone runs at a fast pace runs at nowadays. The joy of sitting down with other people to chat and share food, even for just a few minutes, is a wonderful reason to have lunch at the shop, office, conference room, or wherever it is you may spend your time.

Be sure to stop by Miller’s shop to pick up a copy of Lunch at the Shop: The Art and Practice of the Midday Meal. I recommend dropping in around lunchtime.

Peter Miller in action, whipping up a delicious lunch in the kitchen below his eponymous bookstore.

Pasta with peas, tomatoes, and fresh basil.
Greens from Pike Place Market with avocado, feta cheese, and an olive oil dressing Miller made on the spot.  

Along with the usual set of necessary office supplies, Miller makes sure to keep mealtime necessities in his office.

The cookbook author serving up some salad. 

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