Breakfast may be the most important meal of the day, but if you ride the mail boat in the Cranberry Isles, chances are that lunch is your most talked about meal. As you board the ferry with empty canvas bags, going ashore for appointments, shopping and such, you rarely hear us ask each other what we had for breakfast. What you do hear, especially during the off-season, is, “Where (why) are you going off the island today?” The answers are as varied as the passengers, and sometimes as predictable. When you try to fit a week’s worth of errands into a six-hour time frame, chances are you have a pretty well established routine; and that routine involves lunch. In my mind there are two different categories for lunch off island; having lunch and getting lunch.

If you are going off island to “have lunch,” it implies sitting down in a restaurant and dining with other people. Friends who are doing their errands together usually find time to have lunch. Lately I have heard people talking about Shinbashi, a relatively new Asian restaurant in Ellsworth. I would like to have lunch there sometime with my husband, Bruce, though it’s hard to pry him away from his favorite place to have lunch, Cleonice. The Mediterranean restaurant on Main Street in Ellsworth lures him in with their lamb burgers and spinach salad every time. Just up the street is Finn’s, with generous servings of Irish pub food, another place frequented by islanders. There are so many good options for having lunch in Ellsworth, it can be hard to choose where to go. The Riverside Cafe, 86 This, The Mex, Simone’s, Finelli’s, Martha’s Diner and the Maine Grind are just a few of the options. Last week, Carla Wedge and Annie Alley had wonderful clam chowder at Jasper’s, on the same day that Jane Gray met her daughter Hannah for a tasty vegetarian lunch at Chase’s in Belfast. If your day off island is centered in Bar Harbor, Jordan’s is always a safe bet for having a good meal.

I rarely “have” lunch off island, but I always “get” lunch. I never know how long an appointment or shopping will take, so I grab lunch when I can rather than making plans to meet someone at a specific time or place. Upon my return to Islesford, Bruce always asks me where I ate lunch. Most of the time my response is, “In the car.” In discussing this with other island residents, it turns out that quite a few of us eat in the car, with Hannaford’s being a common stop for getting lunch. I sometimes ask the sushi chef there to make me a roll with brown rice, avocado, smoked salmon and cream cheese, and I pick it up at the end of my shopping, before I check out. I have also enjoyed Hannaford’s turkey chili while perusing a People magazine or The Working Waterfront newspaper in my car in their parking lot. Some people will pick up a sandwich at Hannaford’s and take it to the Ellsworth waterfront to watch the osprey activity while they have a quiet lunch. When doing errands with her three children, Kate Chaplin often picks up food to have a picnic at Birsdacre, a 200-acre wildlife sanctuary just off of High Street on the way out of Ellsworth. There are times when the urge for bad food is strong and I will drive through McDonald’s for a cheeseburger and a small order of fries. While I wouldn’t even think of texting and driving, I admit to eating this kind of lunch with one hand on the wheel as I drive back to Mount Desert Island to finish the rest of my errands. (Any of us who eat this way should ask ourselves if it’s worth the risk to us and others to “save” a few minutes by eating while driving. We all know the correct answer.)

Ted Broadwell, first mate on the mailboat, enjoys a hot lunch in his car almost every day at this time of year. How? He plans ahead by making large meals on the weekend; like beef stroganoff, chicken alfredo, lamb stew and fried rice. He then packages the leftovers in 24-ounce containers to have during the week. His trick is to place the container in the back window of his car, park the car so that it is exposed directly to the winter sun, and let the full spectrum of light heat his lunch with a “green house effect” while he works on the boat. At lunchtime, his meal is ready. “Sometimes it’s even too hot to eat!” Ted hails from Georgia, but this sounds like Yankee ingenuity to me.

If you miss out on a food discussion on the morning mailboat ride, you are pretty likely to get a second chance on the way home. Especially when people show up with bags wafting the savory aromas of pizza, Chinese food or even Kentucky Fried Chicken. “Why didn’t I think of that?” is the collective consciousness of those of us who will be rushing to make up something for dinner as soon as our groceries are put away. Life is a little more simple when I remember to put a cooked rotisserie chicken on my shopping list.

When Islesford Postmaster Joy Sprague goes off island on Saturdays, she doesn’t usually have lunch or even get lunch. Instead, she calls ahead at China Hill and picks up an order of Crab Rangoon and an order of hot stir-fried veggies for dinner. She says a large size order is as big as two orders, but less expensive, so she asks for the large and saves herself from having to cook dinner on Saturday and Sunday. She also saves herself from feeling embarrassed about getting such a large amount of food for herself by asking for two sets of chopsticks when she picks it up.