Food & Drink: Nicole Veash listens to Britons at lunch

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I just love cheese: the zoo-keeper

`I put lunch out for the elephants at 12.55pm and while they are munching, I go off for lunch as well. They eat half a bale of hay, 12 kilos of carrots, 5 kilos of apples, 3 kilos of bananas, 5 kilos of dog biscuits, a couple of loaves of bread and a couple of kilos of potatoes mixed in with hay.

I live in the zoo-keeper's lodge, which is about a minute away, so I always go home for lunch. It's always the same at lunch-time: cheese sandwiches. I know it's boring but I just love cheese. Two rounds on white bread, sometimes with pickle or tomato and just a bit of margarine or butter.

I'll always follow that with a cup of tea. I don't usually have a dessert and I'm not a great lover of fruit. I like relaxing at lunch-time and getting away from work is important because I've been there since 7.30am. All I really want to do is switch off, have a chat to my wife or just read a fishing magazine.' Cost of lunch: around pounds 1

Brian Harman, 47, is a head keeper in charge of the elephants at London Zoo, where he has worked for 30 years

Raw energy: the party person

`I come from a rather traditional rural background. The family would always sit down together at mealtimes, whether that was lunch, dinner or even breakfast. Looking back now we had masses to eat, all good solid British fare and lots of it from our garden.

If I'm at home at lunch-time, I never cook. In fact, the most I can manage is a baked potato. I believe in the raw energy diet. So it's always raw carrot, salads and lots of sprouting beans, with gallons of freshly made ginger tea.

When I go out, I tend to be more relaxed. Today, I had a crabmeat and coconut salad with a mushroom risotto at Mosimann's. Before lunch, I had a glass of champagne, a glass of white wine with lunch and lots of still mineral water. I finished with peppermint tea and no dessert.' Cost of lunch: around pounds 50

Liz Brewer is a society party fixer

Shuttle food: the astronaut

`The menu, which worked out at around 2,400 calories a day, consisted of both American and Russian food and we alternated between the two. The Russian food had lots of canned fish, which I wasn't keen on, although much of their other food was real good.

Lunch was invariably a dehydrated package system, to which you added water and put in a convection oven. As long as the food was mixed with some kind of sauce, something thicker than water, it would stay in its container.

My favourite lunch was mashed potatoes and onions, which were Russian, and American steak, which was just great. The steak was wrapped in a foil package.

We had little Velcro patches on the bottom of the food containers and on the table, so I stuck the packet on the Velcro and just opened one end of the steak. It was like squeezing toothpaste from a tube, just one bite at a time. If the menu allowed, I would have vanilla pudding to follow.

Shuttle food has really gone a long way. Before it used to be all cubes and tubes. They pressed peanut butter cookies and sandwiches into little cubes, covered them with gelatine and you would use your saliva to rehydrate the food. The tubes were like baby food. You could even get beef stew in a tube.' Cost of lunch: around pounds 222

Dr Norm Thagard was the first American to land on the Mir space station on 16 March, 1995. He ate 115 lunches while on board

Boil in the bag: the Royal Marine

`When I go on exercise, all my food has to be carried in a backpack. All the rations are long-life and come in little cardboard boxes, which we throw away at base to reduce the weight.

For lunch, I will take something from the wet pack, like 200ml of tomato soup, which I'll mix with the water I've carried with me from base. The main meal comes in a silver boil-in-the-bag. If I had a choice of ration, it would be the chicken and herb dumplings. Or, failing that, meatballs in tomato sauce, with, perhaps, treacle pudding for dessert. The chicken stew is surprisingly tasty. Then I'll have a coffee with whitener to finish the meal.

The food in the field is all right - in fact, I quite like it. There are seven menus to choose from - all very traditional, and we can bring our own extras, like curry powder or tabasco sauce, to jazz it up.

The ration pack contains about 4,000 calories. It's important to eat as much of it as possible, even if you don't feel hungry. At the end of the day if you are weak from lack of food while on exercise you are a liability to your troop.' Cost of lunch: pounds 1.60 - MOD obtain the ration packs at a subsidised rate

Corporal Kevin Farrell, 28, has served with the Royal Marines for 10 years. He now teaches new recruits at the Lympstone Commando Centre, Devon

Ravioli, any day: the schoolboy

`The only thing that annoys me about school dinners is the queueing. Sometimes you have to wait 20 minutes, which takes up most of your lunch hour. But having said that, the dinners are very good.

We have three options. There's the burger or pizza bar, which is all fast food, chips and fizzy drinks, and there's In the Pantry and In the Pink. In the Pink is a salad bar and people are encouraged to go there because there is always less of a queue. There's lots of lovely cheese, tuna, chicken and gorgeous salad.

But In the Pantry is my favourite, because you get a hot lunch, unlimited water and a pudding, like jam doughnut and custard, which I love. Also there's lots of choice. My favourite lunch is ravioli with chocolate cake and custard for pudding.

At my primary school, lunch was hell. It was all meals on wheels which had been put in the warmer for 10 minutes. But school dinners are much, much better.

I don't go to the burger bar much, because it's not very healthy. I'm not worried about the BSE scare, because I know that's been pushed out, it's just that I prefer more home cooking.' Cost of lunch: pounds 2

Michael Berliner, 11, goes to Bedford Modern School

A touch of custard: the judge

`If I've got time at lunchtime, I might pop across to one of the Inns to eat. Today, I had lunch at Middle Temple, which was rather good. I had salmon, beetroot, hummus, carrots and cucumber, with a bread roll and no butter because I'm trying to lose weight. I don't always have dessert, but today, I had apple pie with just a touch of custard.

Despite what people think about judges sleeping on the bench, I very rarely have any alcohol for lunch. Neither do my colleagues. The only time I do have a glass of wine, is if I'm not working in the afternoon, and that's very rare.

I do think it's good to have a break at lunchtime, so I only have a sandwich over my desk when I'm really busy. Otherwise, I'll meet up with my colleagues and we will go wherever the urge takes us. If the weather is good, we usually end up having a sandwich, which we take outside and eat on a bench on Gray's Inn lawn. I only have a hot lunch when I'm really hungry. I am overweight and I try to cut down, but the flesh is weak.' Cost of lunch: pounds 5.60

Peter Susman QC, 54, has been sitting on the bench as a recorder since 1989

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