It should be a midday break from the daily toil, a chance to enjoy some great food.
In reality, for many of us, lunch winds up as a sad-looking snack, bought or made in a hurry and eaten at our desks.
It needn’t be that way, and thankfully it isn’t always, as our Culinary Journeys quest to find the best lunchtime feasts discovered.
For our latest food challenge, we asked folks to use the #CNNFood social media tag to show us what they take to work.
The response was mouthwatering.
Boxes filled with kuska rice, paneer korma with carrot and green onion raita joined balsamic and rosemary-coated vegetables and lemon pepper chicken breast.
Here are a few of our favorites:
From France to San Francisco
Two mothers from France, now based in San Francisco, make lunch boxes for their young children each day.
They post these treats on Instagram via @teukoapp.
We loved this one in particular for its sheer variety of food: mixed fried vegetables, soba noodles, grated zucchini and carrots, followed up with a hard-boiled egg, bread and cheese, then strawberries to finish.
Healthy AND tasty — these moms know how to feed their kids.
African dishes and recipes
Telling us to “pay attention to your tummy,” Instagram user @sweetvinekitchen — aka Tolulope Olayinka Martins– posted a mouth-watering photograph of her draw soup with farina.
The recipe includes smoked turkey, dried prawns, smoked de-boned catfish, chopped okro, ground ogbono, chopped spinach, iru (locust beans), chopped Jamaican pepper, palm oil, salt and Maggi bouillon.
Draw soup is popular in southeast and southwest Nigeria and is typically made from okra, ewedu or pumpkin seeds.
Martins, a Nigerian American, is a nurse in Newark, New Jersey who runs an African kitchen on the side because “my love of food won’t let me sleep.”
She likes nothing more than “to explore and showcase African dishes, cuisine and recipes to the world.”
This dish, she says, can be packed for lunch at work, gives energy and is filling.
Honey-glazed in Hong Kong
It’s hard not to look forward to lunch time at work when there’s honey-glazed ham, Gruyere, aged Cheddar and Dijon mustard on wholewheat toast lined up.
Instagrammer @kwskan made himself the ultimate comfort food, taking the classic ham and cheese sandwich and making it his own.
His Instagram is dedicated to mouthwatering delicacies and fine wines, and he boasts more than 2,000 followers.
Japanese bento boxes fit for royalty
This beautiful array of small dishes from Instagram user @rounakkinger made us wish we were in Japan for lunch time.
What they call their Royal Japanese thali could keep all but the hungriest going for the entire day.
Nigeria cooks up a lunch time storm
Despite the name, Instagrammer @nigerianlazychef is anything but lazy.
This photograph from Nigeria, rich with both color and ingredients, shows mackerel in basil and tomato sauce.
It’s an online winner drawing praise and recipe requests from other Instagram users.
Food prep straight from the U.S.
Instagram user @nikolejl — Nikki LeCompte — shows us how to get organized.
LeCompte, from Grand Haven in Michigan, likes to cook a large meal at the beginning of the working week and then put small portions into containers that she can easily grab on the way out of the door each day.
That way, she says: “I have a delicious, healthy, home-cooked meal no matter how crazy my work day might become.”
She adds: “This is one of my more simple preps. I just tossed potatoes, carrots, onions, mushrooms, broccoli and cauliflower with a little olive oil, garlic, balsamic vinegar, rosemary, and of course a skillet with a little olive oil, lemon pepper and a touch of rosemary to tie the two flavor profiles together.”
Healthy leftovers from Dubai
When we set our #CNNFood challenge, we said we’d love to see leftovers put to good use.
Francois Giussani, from Switzerland, is currently living and working in Dubai as a chef instructor to young talent.
Posting as @frangius69, he says this dish is about “light and balance.”
This delicious-looking salad is made up of fridge contents and is both healthy and bursting with color.
It’s made up of baby spinach, leftover rice, salted egg, corn, tomato, tuna fish and green peas.
Food for the heart and soul
A food blogger with a passion for photography, Instagram user @foodforheartandsoul made a lunch box with a mix of kuska rice, paneer korma and carrot and green onion raita.
Combining Indian and American cultures, the photographer and food creator has a blog dedicated to their love of food.
Where the Wild Things Are
Last up is this imaginative and playful lunchbox concoction by Instagram user and internet blogger @lunchboxdad, aka Beau.
Based in Oklahoma City, Beau created his online persona to help make lunches fun and to connect with his children — showing them lunch can be exciting as well as tasty.
This particular lunchbox, inspired by the Maurice Sendak book “Where the Wild Things Are,” includes snap peas, broccoli, wheat bread, peanut butter and jelly, Nutella, yoghurt, dried mango and green mango, strawberry cream cheese, a slice of cheese and one strawberry.
Beau’s blog offers step-by-step instructions on how to recreate it.