a vegan coworker is being aggressive toward me about food

Continuing today’s theme of pushing things on other people that they don’t want, a reader writes:

I recently started a new job where I’m working with someone who is vegan. This is great and I have no problems with it at all. My diet also leans heavily towards vegan and I understand and sympathize with the reasons that can lead to this choice.

However, I seem to keep ending up in inadvertent conflict with my colleague in ways that surprise and baffle me. For example:

* After buying and showing him a vegan product I had just purchased (and commenting that I had done so in the hope of avoiding a more animal-product based health solution), I found myself harangued at length about how healthy non-vegan foods weren’t actually healthy, and “Would you eat a human? Have they done trials on the benefits of eating humans? No? Exactly!”

* I sent an all-office IM asking if anyone wanted a cheese sandwich I had accidentally bought (accidentally in that I thought I had bought a different filling). I received an email back from him demanding that I don’t include him on any further “offensive” emails. This was followed up by an office update telling all staff to use work communications appropriately.

I enjoy my job and I did enjoy working with this person, but now I feel quite thrown and unsure of how to react to him. I’m pretty annoyed at being accused of being offensive for my use of the words “cheese sandwich” and don’t want to bring it up as I can’t see a way of that conversation going well (I’m not planning to apologize; I don’t think I need to?!). I realize the obvious solution is just to never ever mention food (or nutrition or words that aren’t vegan) again, but I need help with how to get back to a place where I feel like I am comfortable in my work environment rather than slightly on edge in case he kicks off at me again for some insane reason.

Well, first, let’s state for the record that this isn’t about veganism or vegans; it’s about one rude guy who happens to be vegan.

I think your instinct to just never discuss food or nutrition with this coworker again are 100% correct. Don’t open the door to it.

He certainly overreacted about the cheese sandwich — but it also sounds like that office update reminding people to use work communications appropriately might have indicated that you shouldn’t be sending all-staff emails about food anyway, so that’ll take care of that.

But it’s certainly possible that despite your best efforts to avoid the topic with him, it could come up again. He could comment on your food, or he could overhear a conversation you’re having with someone else, or you might bring baked goods for the whole office, or who knows what. So I think you’ll feel more comfortable if you’re armed with some phrases to use if that happens. I’d use these:

“I’m not up for discussing nutrition.”
“I don’t want to get into this conversation at work.”
“I’d rather not discuss this.”

You can see these in a perfectly cheerful manner. But hold firm and tell him it’s not up for discussion.

Beyond that, there’s not a lot you can do. No matter how well you handle things, he might still be overbearing. If so, though, that’s on him, not on you — and by being prepared to set reasonable boundaries, you’ll look calm and rational to anyone watching and he’ll look like a jerk.

A request from me for commenters: Let’s not turn this into a debate on veganism. This is about dealing with this particular coworker, not about his stances.

{ 460 comments… read them below }

  1. Noah

    I think avoiding the topic and refusing to discuss it if it is brought up is the best bet. Same thing I do when people comment on the fact that I’m eating a salad for lunch. “Oh, you’re so healthy!” I really hate discussing food choices or diet, especially with co-workers.

    1. Elle

      Oh I just HATE this! I feel like saying, “trust me, my eating a salad was never intended to be a commentary on your food choices!” Actually, I just kind of laugh nervously and change the subject. I never know what to say to this – “um, I ate a cookie on Saturday?”

      1. BethRA

        “I just really like veggies”?

        (or, that you think plants are evil and want to kill as many as you can…)

      2. Loose Seal

        I’d love it — and be able to identify another AAM reader — if OP just sadly shook their head and said, “Not everyone can have sandwiches.”

        1. HRish Dude

          Unless it’s fish. If you’re eating fish in the office, you’re definitely eating it at me.

      3. Tommy

        And I would be thinking the following, “You ate a cookie on Saturday? I’ve eaten like three damn cookies every single day for the past two weeks.”

    2. anonanonanon

      I get so annoyed when people say “you’re so healthy”/”you’re so good” when they see me eating fruit and veggies. If they keep pushing it I usually just say something along the lines of how I enjoy fruits and veggies as much as french fries and ice cream.

      1. A Cita

        I get always reply: “Yes, I am!” and then wink.

        The wink is what makes it deliciously awkward. Am I kidding? Am I serious? Am I secretly devouring donuts in the loo?

              1. TrainerGirl

                Is it bad that my mind went into the toilet when I read ‘swallowing glazes”….?

                1. A Cita

                  I’m ashamed to admit that I hadn’t thought of that. I guess I need to pass the baton to you now.

      2. Allison

        I hate the “you’re so good” line as well. I’m eating vegetables, what does that have to do with my moral character? I feel like a child being praised for eating her broccoli, “what a good little girl you are!”

        1. anonanonanon

          Right? And honestly, I eat veggies because I enjoy eating them, not because I’m dieting or trying to be healthy by forcing myself to eat something I hate. I do sometimes crave fresh produce just as much as I crave dessert.

          I have the same feeling towards people who are all “Oh, I’m being bad today” when they eat a cookie. What do they want me to do? Comment on their diet? Tell them they should/shouldn’t indulge? I usually ignore those comments, but they’re vexing all the same.

          1. Kate M

            And sometimes I am eating healthier foods because I want to lose weight, and the LAST thing I want is for that to be brought to attention. Like…people aren’t blind, they can tell I’ve gained 15 pounds, but do you have to remind me that you keep track of my habits/food/weight? Because that’s where my mind is going to go.

            1. anonanonanon

              Yeah, that too. Really, unless you want the recipe or tell someone you’re so jealous of their food that you wish you were eating it instead of your own, everyone should just stop commenting on what other people are eating.

            2. Laurel Gray

              Yes. I made the mistake of discussing my diet/exercising with colleagues and a boss. The whole department was trying to lose weight. I showed the most progress physically but that was due to body shape and man oh man did my boss start policing my food. She made a point to “reprimand” me for any treat I had “OMG you’re having a Twix?! Bad Laurel!”. From then on, I had to hide and go eat to snack. My exit interview paperwork from when I left has a huge chocolate smudge at the top right corner I made with my middle finger. If you’re reading this old boss, bite meeeeeee.

          2. Noah

            This! I eat “healthy” foods because that’s what I like to eat. My mom was a bit of a health nut growing up and we didn’t have a ton of processed foods. It is what I’m used to eating and I’m not trying to comment on others choices through my own.

          3. Allison

            I don’t love veggies, they’re usually not my favorite part of the meal, but I definitely feel gross when I don’t eat enough fruits and veggies. My whole system feels off balance.

            1. RKB

              I can’t eat veggies after a bowel resection but sometimes I do anyway. I miss how fresh and … Real they taste! I had asparagus the other day and nearly cried, I really do miss broccoli and carrots — something younger me would be appalled by.

              And I can only eat so much meat and bread. :(

          4. SerfinUSA

            I have a coworker who talks about lusting after cupcakes and feeling wicked for eating them. Squicky.

        2. SMGW

          Totally agree. As someone with a history of eating disorders, I bridle at the morality that’s placed on food. “Oh, I’m being so bad for eating this!” You’re eating a bag of chips, you’re not committing mass genocide.

          1. Rebecca in Dallas

            +1

            We used to have an extra table in my department and for some reason that’s where any extra candy/food ended up. People would constantly stop by, look at the treats and then proceed to have a whole conversation about it. “Oh, I really want one of these cookies. I really shouldn’t. Maybe if I walk a little extra tonight…” Just eat the damn cookie or don’t, I really don’t care. No justification needed!

      3. KR

        I HATE this. I’m on the slim side, so whenever people see me eating healthy food or not eating as much as they think I should eat they always feel the need to comment on it. I know I’m smaller, it’s mostly due to genetics and luck, and I know I’m eating healthy now but you missed me eating an entire box of pasta to myself last night and I don’t feel like it’s any of your business.

        1. Rebecca in Dallas

          Same here. I eat relatively healthy (definitely indulge myself when I feel like it!) and work out a lot (because I like it), plus have pretty good genetics at least as far as body weight goes. I’ve definitely had my share of comments! “You’re eating a salad? You could eat a cheeseburger if you wanted, you’re so tiny!” Well, I don’t want to eat a cheeseburger. And yet if I said the opposite to someone (“You’re eating a cheeseburger? You should have a salad!”) I’d be a jerk. :/

          1. RobM

            This plays in to something I’ve experienced.

            I’m a middle-aged guy working at the same place for over 10 years now and I always used to be, well, vastly overweight (260 lbs). I saw the light 20 months or so ago and I’m now 168 lbs. The amount of comments and the personal nature of them took me totally by surprise.

            The comments from most people here when I started losing weight were nice and well-intended but after a while, it grated, especially when they kept coming and became quite intrusive into my habits. It’s not something I would ever have expected to feel upset over, but it did after a while.

        2. Clisby Williams

          Same here. It used to drive me crazy when people would harass me to eat dessert.

          Here, have some chocolate cake.
          No, thanks.
          Oh, come on, you can have just one piece.
          No, thanks.
          But you’re so skinny! You can eat it!
          Wishing I had said: If I wanted the damn cake, I’d have eaten it.

          I don’t really like sweet food – that’s why I hardly ever eat sweet fruits either.

      4. Jillociraptor

        I fully admit that I’m more of a jerk than is typical in responding to nonsense food policing, but I always respond, “Food doesn’t have moral value.” with a straight, neutral face and unnecessarily long eye contact.

        1. Hornswoggler

          “Food doesn’t have moral value.”

          Up to a point, Lord Copper. I expect I’m in a particularly contrary mood this morning*, but my instant thought was “What about ortolans, then?!” Seriously though, I think that your phrase might work in some circumstances, but in others it might open a whole other can of beluga caviar.

          *Spoiler: I am.

      5. Middle Name Jane

        This! Sometimes I eat salads, fruit, etc. And sometimes I’m in the mood for a cheeseburger. My salad doesn’t mean I’m on a diet, and my junk food doesn’t mean that I’m clueless about food. We have food police in our office, so I tend to eat at my desk.

    3. Clever Name

      Dude, seriously. I don’t have any dietary restrictions and I’m an omnivore, but I’d really rather not discuss my lunch at work. I think the only acceptable topics around somebody’s food/lunch is basically, “Wow! That looks amazing! Can I have the recipe?” or stuff along those lines. I’ve had coworkers go on and on about how bad my food smells, and I think it’s really inappropriate and unprofessional.

      1. TootsNYC

        the guy who works for me says, “I’m really not comfortable discussing my eating,” and he sounds just a little offended and uncomfortable when he does it. It works!

      2. Elle

        I make an apple bake that to me, is quite delicious – apples, oatmeal, almond milk, and eggs. However, apparently it looks kind of weird. I’ve had more than one person comment, “EWWW, that looks so gross.” I just kind of stare intently at them for a few seconds and they get the hint. :)

          1. Elle

            Happy to share! 1/2 c of oatmeal/oat bran mix, combined with water in the microwave. 1 chopped apple, 1 c of almond milk, and 2 eggs or equivalent in egg beaters. Put the whole thing in a glass pan and bake on 350F for about 20 minutes. I usually double the recipe though, to make two breakfasts. It freezes beautifully too. When I double it, I use a 9×13 pan. It’s quite good!

              1. TempestuousTeapot

                Don’t mean to butt in, but Bob’s Red Mill makes a great one. If you want a more cakey gluten free flour (but not oat bran), here’s a mix I found that works:
                8 cups finely ground white rice flour
                1 cup finely ground brown rice flour
                3 cups tapioca flour
                1 1/2 cups potato starch
                3 3/4 teaspoons xanthan gum
                Measure all ingredients into a large bowl; mix well.
                Then sift the ingredients together into a sealable container.

                I agree, Elle’s recipe sounds amazing!

          1. Julia

            Oh god, her bean brownies. No one so far has guesses what they’re made of, they’e so delicious.

            1. JessaB

              I had never heard of her, thank you oh so much (not *quite* sarcasm, cause her stuff is great sounding,) for distracting me with this.

        1. Eat my dust!

          Um, yeah, agreed. If your food just looks gross, whatever, but smell is pretty disruptive. One time I had an unknown coworker eat something that reeked vaguely of broccoli that had been left in a dumpster for a week (I honestly didn’t think it was food at first). Neither I nor my cubemate (who said he might be ill) went looking for them, though.

          If you’re eating something bad enough to draw comments, take it outside, I say!

          1. CharlieY

            I had a colleague who would eat super stinky garlicky food. When I made a (very mild honest) comment about his lunch being “a bit garlicky” then he accused me of being racist against the French! Shut me right up!!!

            From then on I just happened to keep some mints around to share for our post lunch meetings

      3. Edward Rooney

        If you heated up fish in the microwave or burned popcorn, I would argue that you set yourself up to be complained about how bad something smells. If it is a different ethnic food (some are more heavy on garlic/spices), then agreed they should just clamp it down.

        1. Colorado

          HA! I just burned popcorn in our small office and have been getting hell an hour! Oops..

          1. Rebecca in Dallas

            Oh man I made that mistake once and it was the worst. I felt like I was apologizing for MONTHS after it happened! It was an accident!!!

          2. Elizabeth

            I actually have discovered something worse than burnt popcorn. A burnt bran muffin. It happened on 3/22, and our microwave still stinks from it.

            1. Cube Ninja

              Try microwaving ramen for 3 minutes with no water. You’d swear my coworker was having the brimstone special for lunch – the smoke actually carried through a roughly 400 sq. ft area around the break room and the ambient air still smelled bad the next morning. If I recall correctly, the company actually replaced the microwave.

              1. Doriana Gray

                My brother set our microwave on fire twice when we were kids by doing this. He kept forgetting to put water in, and would put the Tupperware bowl in for 15 minutes while he went off to play video games. My mom was not amused when she had to buy two new microwaves within months of each other.

            2. JessaB

              Microwave smell fixes – put a safe dish with lemon water or something else citrusy and microwave it for like 5 minutes, then (use an oven mitt) use the water to actually wash the microwave. The heavy citrus smell can cut through the burnt smell and using the water to clean also helps (the steam from the water also breaks up any burnt bits on the walls.) That’s why a lot of cleaning products use citrus in the formula.

              There’s a company (I can’t remember which) that makes a steam thing to clean microwaves. Like those steamed veggies, it’s a little package that pops open after a bit and spews steam with cleaners all over the inside. I find the citrus water thing works as well.

              Also you can do it with a wet sponge squirted with lemon juice (also sanitises the sponge if you need to do that.)

              1. Miles

                just poke the dish with a pen or something before you touch it. Water is one of the few dangerous things to microwave because it gets past its boiling temperature without actually boiling until you touch the bowl or mildly agitate it in any way.

                And you don’t want super-heated water getting on your bare skin.

      4. JB (not in Houston)

        Lots of people at my office eat tuna, but I’ve had multiple people look at my fancy-pants sardines (I mean I buy a fancy pants kind at Whole Foods because it has fewer of the tiny bones) look at it, tell me how gross they think sardines are, and then, when I say that to me they taste very similar to tuna, tell me that they’ve never actually had sardines. I didn’t ask for your opinion on my lunch, much less an uninformed one!

        If anybody wanted to comment on the smell of my food, we’d have to have A Conversation. I think a lot of their food stinks, but I don’t say anything, and I don’t eat anything that’s universally considered smelly. I’m not microwaving vomit for lunch or anything.

        1. Putting Out Fires, Esq

          Oh man, now you’ve got me craving avocado and sardine toast (a little lime juice and splash of oil from the can, thick crusty peasant bread… So good.)

        2. Sadsack

          Sorry, I once had to ask a coworker not to eat sardnes at his desk. The smell was so strong. We are in cubicles and the smell was intense. He never ate them at his s desk again that I could tell.

          1. Mazzy

            I feel your pain. As much as we discuss it here, I still have people in my open space office bringing in fish. It doesn’t help that they added a nice kitchenette that is chic/modern looking, but attracts people to store food. I am also losing patience with my coworker who always comes in late and then eats, even though they have the shortest commute etc. There is loud slurping followed by burps. Seriously guy, take the five minutes and eat in your car. You’re already late.

          2. Robin B

            We have a coworker who used to bring sardines all the time. Well, unknown to us, when the office had a minor flood one of his sardine (empty) cans rolled under someone’s desk and it took MONTHS to find where that smell was coming from. Yuck.

            1. LCL

              This is an argument in favor of bringing in a dog to the office once in awhile. My dog, and really any dog, would have run straight to the area of the fishy can…

      5. Liana

        I mean, in all fairness, some food is really pungent, and it’s pretty annoying to make your coworkers put up with it. My officemate insists on eating tuna fish multiple times a week, and that smell lingers and is generally awful.

        1. Sydney

          Fish is pretty bad. I’ll only eat salmon in the office and I can eat it cold. Sometimes tuna but I didn’t know that the smell of tuna can linger.

          Maybe get some Febreeze?

      6. Elizabeth West

        Yeah, that’s pretty much all I ever say. I’ll ask about the FOOD, not about their dietary choices. I like food and if I see something that looks good, I like to know if I could make it.

    4. Ad Astra

      The best response to those comments (if “I just really love veggies!” isn’t accurate) is something like “Yep, I work really hard to eat right!” or “Yep, I’m doing my best!” My office is prone to TONS of diet talk, and because I happen to be trying to lose weight, I do sometimes get sucked into it. If I think this person actually cares about my diet, I might say something like “Yep, I’m eating a salad for lunch so I can make room in my calorie budget for beers after work.”

      But most people are just trying to make conversation and/or feeling a little insecure about their own food choices. So I go with “Your [cheeseburger/pizza/whatever] looks really good! Did you make that?” and now we’re talking about cooking, which is far less irksome.

      1. anonanonanon

        I don’t know, I think “I work really hard to eat right” could end up causing other issues, especially if the wrong person overhears it. I love eating veggies, but I don’t want someone thinking of the days I eat pizza as “not eating right” either.

    5. Preggers

      Yes, why must people always comment on salads! I either get that comment or if they are buying, “don’t feel like you have to be cheap because I’m buying.” I just look at them the what? I’m eating a $20 salad covered in fattening toppings, I’m not being healthy or cheap. I just feel like salad today!

      1. Michelle

        For a while my husband had to make a comment every time I drank water in a restaurant. The thing is, once I got in the habit of drinking water often, I started CRAVING it all the time. I wasn’t drinking it because I had to, but because I was really thirsty in a way that soda or tea would not satisfy!

        1. Emily

          Dinner without water is unthinkable. I was at a luncheon last week where they had pre-set the tables with glasses of iced tea and no water! I actually flagged down a waiter to request a glass of water.

    6. The Bimmer Guy

      The only thing I ever say about anyone else’s food is, “That looks good.” There’s hardly any way to misconstrue that, or to make someone else feel bad.

    7. Jaune Deprez

      I used to have a particularly awful coworker who would always comment when another woman had a salad for lunch. Her preferred method was to tilt her head to one side, widen her eyes, and coo, “Ooh, healthy girl!” in a sort of breathy Marilyn Monroe voice. Although, come to think of it, she said pretty much everything like that.

    8. Sketchee

      I’m with you there, Noah! I get a lot of comments from coworkers at my current job such as “You’re eating salad?! Why do you need to eat healthy, you’re already thin.” Many people don’t realize how bizarre that is to say. Not only commenting on my food choice, but on my weight which they know nothing about my history. I have just taken to avoiding the topic as nothing else seems to help

    9. AP

      Sometimes I think this is just a way for people to start conversation. Obviously not in the case of the person in the OP’s letter, but when someone comments on my food I usually assume they are trying to start some chit chat. So I just proceed with that in mind: “Yeah, I got this salad a Joe’s Salad Emporium. Their food is great. Have you tried it yet?” And that seems to work on the vast majority of people.

  2. sunny-dee

    but it also sounds like that office update reminding people to use work communications appropriately might have indicated that you shouldn’t be sending all-staff emails about food anyway…

    Not necessarily. We have office-wide mailing lists, and it is really common to post things like “birthday cake in the 3rd floor break room” or “anyone want a book on Java EE?” The “misuse” emails only go out when someone is upset about someone else’s message and decides it is out of bounds or two people get in a flame war and someone else is trying to shut that down.

    This is obviously culture specific — maybe their mailing list really is for certain topics, in which case that is out of step. But there are a lot of places where the “don’t put this on the Official Mailing List” email is really just a passive-aggressive smackdown, and it would be a sign of rudeness. (Looking at you, Maureen and Bob.) In my office, that’s how I would interpret his email — that Mr Vegan was in a snit, not that OP violated norms.

    1. BethRA

      I thought the same, but if I were OP, I’d ask specific questions about what is allowable and if/how food or other not-strictly-work related communications are handled.

      I’d also take Snitty McSnitface off of my food/book/whatever emails, regardless. (assuming it’s possible, of course)

    2. Laurel Gray

      Good point, that’s how it is here in my office.

      Food related emails are actually my favorite. The attached menu PDF and instructions that I reply with my order by 11am are the best.

      1. Bowserkitty

        I’ll be honest, I’d be very sad (and probably healthier, albeit grudingly) if department-wide “cake in the breakroom” emails stopped.

    3. Nerdling

      For real. “There’s cake in the kitchen” is probably the single-biggest use of the all-division email list that I see – and it includes a *lot* of folks who aren’t even in the same time zone, much less the same office. Yet somehow nobody gets their knickers in a twist the way this guy did. Even when it does leave those of us in the hinterlands yearning for cake. Or chili. Or whatever the main office is eating on a given day.

      Dangit, now I want cake…

      1. NK

        I’d never formally complain about it, but the use of a division-wide email list about cake in a location I didn’t work in would really annoy me (especially on a day I was craving sweets – so everyday)! Seems like someone could come up with a list of local people in that division.

        1. Nerdling

          You would think. The number of these that go out have actually diminished now that all division-wide emails have to be approved by the front office, but a lot still go out because it’s not at all unusual for folks from the satellite offices to be in the main office randomly for a variety of reasons. And these emails are generally limited to the times when there is cake in a break room as a result of the division-wide recreational group doing something in the main office – the leftovers are available to all employees who come by the office on that day. When a single unit has cake, those emails go out just to people in the immediate vicinity.

        2. Nerdling

          But I’m with you – I haven’t figured out why there isn’t a main office-only emailing list, given how many other email lists we have.

          And I still want cake.

        3. JennyFair

          This is valid, and when I was part of a work-from-home pilot, the on-site group just kind of..forgot all about us…so these emails were salt in the wound. Along with ‘hey, we’re having a contest, your entry is on your desk’. Um, no, no it isn’t. And the only thing worse than that would be if you’d actually snuck into my house to put it there, lol.

        4. Tommy

          Someone at my college started a Twitter account for free food on campus where people would post about any event that had food. It was truly a brilliant marketing tool.

        5. Lindsay J

          We got an email that there would be food catered for lunch for the next several Fridays due to good performance, and were dissapointed when it turned out it was for the main office only. They did try to withdraw the email when they realized it went out to everyone, but we had all already seen it.

        6. JessaB

          This, if it’s okay to do this, which I don’t necessarily have an issue with, I would absolutely either make, or cause to be made (sometimes lists have to be made at an IT level due to programming rules and a requirement to do them all in a set format) a list that is ONLY local people.

          I do not ever understand why a spread out company has ONLY one list which has everyone on it. There are loads of reasons to tell everyone but there are just as many for local things. There should be COMPANY LIST, COMPANY LIST: City Office, etc. To the best of my knowledge there isn’t a limit on how many distribution lists you can have.

      2. SusanIvanova

        We had building-specific mailing lists – that would cover about 200 people each – and there was also a “vultures” list specifically to advertise leftover cake or catering.

        1. Elizabeth West

          We have strict limits on who can access all-office email lists (we have a huge office with two buildings and that’s just on this campus). So this wouldn’t happen anyway. We generally wander in and out of the break room so much that we know if someone left freebies, and if a team member brings cake/brownies (mmmm), they tell everyone in the immediate vicinity.

          Though the brownies didn’t have to be announced–I could smell them. :)

    4. Kassy

      Our mailing list is similar, but I can picture an office where “work communications” might be taken really literally (I wouldn’t want to work there, but I can picture it).

      Still, even if that is the true issue, that was a really passive-aggressive way to go about it. Unless this is a widespread “problem,” I think a discreet email to OP would have been a far better way to handle that.

    5. Ad Astra

      Yeah, the cheese sandwich email would have been fine in my office. I once sent an all-office email asking if anyone had any Claritin and I got, like, six responses (and some Claritin!). But, I bet the OP knows her office well enough to decide if the “proper use” email was truly passive-aggressive or a reasonable reminder — even if we don’t have the context to tell.

    6. Sophia in the DMV

      It’s not clear to me whether the rude person sent the office-wide email re: work appropriate subjects or if it was someone else…

    7. lowercase holly

      especially since it was an IM and not a mass email (which can cause problems later with reply all, etc.)

      1. New Bee

        Yeah, I was reading “office-wide IM” as Slack or something, which is less intrusive then a mass email.

    8. Anna

      Yeah, since it was THAT GUY that sent out an email about how to use the office messaging system, I’d put less weight on it actually being a problem the OP sent out the message.

    9. Amy G. Golly

      It depends on who the “reminder” email came from. I got the impression that the “office update” was from someone official, as opposed to the personal complaint sent by the angry coworker. I wouldn’t be surprised if the update were sent in direct response to a request from the angry coworker, but even if it was, it’s still the official word.

  3. Putting Out Fires, Esq

    There seems like some feelings of… betrayal here? Like he thought you were gonna be his vegan (insert any slightly unmainstream/ difficult to negotiate in the office lifestyle) buddy and now you’re not, so he’s taking it personally. I mean, he wasn’t telling other people that cheese sandwiches are insulting, was he?

    I agree- avoid the topic entirely. He’s apparently insulted by your choices, so maybe he doesn’t get to hear about them any more?

    1. CADMonkey007

      I agree he might be put off by OP’s seemingly honest attempts of causal conversation. To people who are hard core, you’re either you are vegan or you’re not, there’s no “leaning into veganism” club. That said, there’s no reason he needed to be such a jerk about it. Since you’re new to the office maybe you can offer an apology and just avoid food conversation completely after that.

        1. neverjaunty

          Indeed. “I’m sorry I betrayed the imaginary alliance you had in your head” is not something OP needs to say.

          1. The Strand

            You know, “I’m sorry I betrayed the imaginary alliance you had in your head” can be used for so many work and personal situations… Thanks!

            1. Mockingjay

              “I’m sorry I betrayed the imaginary alliance you had in your head” = Plot for GoT.

        2. CADMonkey007

          OP didn’t do anything wrong but she does have to work with the guy. I’d rather apologize for something ridiculous and attempt to start over than put up with his comments everyday. If he still huffs and puffs about it, then put him on the “do not engage” list.

          1. neverjaunty

            1) There are ways to politely respond to his nonsense that don’t involve apologizing, as AAM said.
            2) Apologizing is just going to cement in his head that he is right and OP is wrong, because she just said she was wrong, didn’t she?

            1. CADMonkey007

              Why does it matter who is right and who is wrong? Sometimes you swallow your pride and make amends because that’s what mature people do. Obviously he’s a jerk but, a “hey, I feel like we got off on the wrong foot, can we start over” kind of conversation is not going to kill anyone.

              1. Terra

                It depends on what you mean by apologizing and what kind of person the person you’re apologizing to is. A lot of people specify apologizing as containing the words “I’m sorry” which may or may not be a big deal depending on the type of person you’re apologizing to. Some people take them as just other words. Some people take them as some sort of concession which can cause political problems. The worst type of people take it as a reason to get even angrier if the apology is not up to standard, see the infamous “I’m sorry I hurt your feelings.” “You should apologize for the thing you did that hurt my feelings, the state of my feelings isn’t something for you to apologize for.” and so on arguments.

                1. Not So NewReader

                  I agree. And I am someone who believes in the importance of apologies. But there are some people who will not handle apologies in a responsible adult-like manner. I think this guy is one of those people. He will take the apology as meaning he is right all the time. And that is not what the apology covers.

                2. Countess Boochie Flagrante

                  Eh, I’m going to quibble that it isn’t being “the worst type of people” to dislike fauxpologies. There’s such a thing as only being sorry you got caught.

      1. Bwmn

        I’ve found that “spectrum” eating often gets attention – whether people are vegan or not. I’m not even a vegetarian, but usually eat tofu for lunch. No matter how long I’ve worked with people, every time there’s an interaction in the kitchen about lunch “That’s tofu? Are you a vegetarian?” It’s as though the idea of eating vegetarian (or vegan) for a meal and not being a vegetarian/vegan is just too confusing.

        That being said, unless this place has a clear workplace culture that’s very vegan – I don’t necessarily think an apology is in order. Where I used to work the ED and a significant number of others were vegetarians or vegans and it was just very clear that while eating meat at work wasn’t forbidden, it was best to keep in mind the office culture. So while putting brussel sprouts in the microwave might not be loved, it was largely ok – however microwaving strong smelling meat had a far more negative reaction. But I would hardly say that dynamic was normal or that someone’s first response would be to apologize.

        1. Julia

          Dude, Asian cuisine has lots of Tofu, but I know almost zero Asian vegetarians, so the correlation is like zero.

    2. NK

      Yep. I wonder if he’s like this with his other coworkers who don’t have a remotely vegan diet.

      1. Elizabeth the Ginger

        I’ve noticed that often people get into the most vitriolic conflicts with those whose beliefs are ALMOST the same as their own.

        1. Rusty Shackelford

          From Emo Phillips (source in reply)

          Once I saw this guy on a bridge about to jump. I said, “Don’t do it!” He said, “Nobody loves me.” I said, “God loves you. Do you believe in God?”

          He said, “Yes.”

          I said, “Are you a Christian or a Jew?” He said, “A Christian.”

          I said, “Me, too! Protestant or Catholic?” He said, “Protestant.”

          I said, “Me, too! What franchise?” He said, “Baptist.”

          I said, “Me, too! Northern Baptist or Southern Baptist?” He said, “Northern Baptist.”

          I said, “Me, too! Northern Conservative Baptist or Northern Liberal Baptist?” He said, “Northern Conservative Baptist.”

          I said, “Me, too! Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region, or Northern Conservative Baptist Eastern Region?” He said, “Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region.”

          I said, “Me, too!” Northern Conservative†Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1879, or Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1912?” He said, “Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1912.”

          I said, “Die, heretic!” And I pushed him over.

              1. Aunt Vixen

                I believe it is! It is also an amusing mystery to those of us who are not Lutheran.

                1. TK

                  As an active, life-long member of one of these Lutheran denominations (in which my brother is a seminarian), I would note that the differences between the ELCA and LCMS are actually pretty significant compared to the differences between, say, one of them and another Lutheran group. And they are more significantly different now, even, than they were when Woody & Kelly argued about it.

                  Still, I get the humor to outsiders.

              2. the gold digger

                Don’t forget the Wisconsin Synod. (I think my grandfather was Missouri Synod. My husband used to attend and we were married in an ELCA church. Worlds of difference.)

                And there is always the Judean People’s Front vs the People’s Front of Judea.

            1. NoTurnover

              Ha! I’ve never seen that, so thank you for that.

              I’m lifelong ELCA and in spite of how ridiculous it seems, I do consider it pretty legit. A) LCMS doesn’t let people with vaginas, like my mother, preach B) LCMS doesn’t let us take communion, which is kinda cold and C) I always have to explain what “kind” of Lutheran I am to people, so they get I’m more of a Social Justice Christian than a You’re Going to Hell Christian.

          1. Artemesia

            40 years ago two of my students were roommates and were in a major kerfuffle and came to me complaining about each other. Their debate was just like this joke — it involves being washed in the blood of the lamb or something and they were in slightly different fundamentalists sects. This slight difference in doctrine was totally making it impossible for them to live together without drama and anguish. My extended family belong to several different sects including a few Jehovah’s witnesses, some Nazareens etc etc and were always getting into these snits about who was going to hell.

        2. Ann O'Nemity

          Reading the OP’s letter reminded me of some of the conversations I had when I was a vegetarian and my sister-in-law was a vegan. I always thought that in her mind she was trying to save me, and that the meat-eating members of our family were lost causes.

    3. AMG

      So much this. I tried to be vegan and opted not to so I have seen plenty of this type. There are the live-and-let-live vegans, and there are the ones who love and protect all forms of life except omnivores, who they want to stab with a dull butter knife.

      I remember Alison describing some people as ‘bite-y’ once and they are best dealt with as though you are watching a movie. I’m betting people already know he’s that irrational guy.

      1. RVA Cat

        He’s a Vegan Fundamentalist. Funny how pushy extremists can act alike, despite how different their beliefs may be….

      2. OP

        And the wanting to stab omnivores with a dull butterknife is Absolutely accurate for my colleague!

    4. OP

      Weirdly I actually think that at the time I was the one feeling slightly betrayed – it’s rarely been the case that my dietary habits have left me accused of being the animal eating jerk. Normally I’m in the left wing hippy group :)

      1. Putting Out Fires, Esq

        I guess someone can always take a more extreme position than you. Of course you aren’t being personally and publicly offended by his veganism, so I don’t think you’re in the wrong here.

    5. Nerfherder

      Tell him you joined PETA and come to work the next day with a T-Shirt that says “PETA: People Eating Tasty Animals”

      1. AMG

        You would be so ironically surprised. Many consider it their duty to evangelize ‘for the animals’ and ate anything but accepting of 100% veganism.

      2. Onomatopoeia

        Lol apparently my personality is a lot more vegan than I thought – I consider “Live and let live” to be very vegan-oriented motto O.o

    1. INTP

      Most of us have limits to what we can live-and-let-live about, though. If you conceptualize of animals as being as sentient and conscious as humans, then dairy and meat farming are quite literally slavery and murder, which most of us would have a hard time not speaking up or getting emotional about.

      I don’t think the vegan is necessarily a terrible guy. I think he’s just operating in a different headspace than the rest of us. And while he sounds annoying to deal with, I imagine it’s even harder to be him if he is subjectively seeing people gleefully consume byproducts of slavery and murder all day.

      1. videogamePrincess

        I can see where the vegan is coming from for sure, but I’m just not sure he’s approaching this in the most polite way. That being said, this isn’t the OP’s battle to fight. It might make sense just not to bring it up to him.

        1. JessaB

          I’d rather he not be subjected to a tone argument because that’s derailing but an office is not a place of free speech unless it’s some kind of government employment in the US and even that has limits. He can feel whatever he feels, but he can also be told that it’s not a subject to be gotten into at work. At which point he has a choice to stay and understand that his very valid viewpoint is simply not to be brought up just like religious arguments are not to be brought up, or he can find a workplace where his position is more acceptable.

          Honestly, I don’t like him from the descriptions and I think his position is wrong, but there are things that need to be kept out of the workplace for the sake of keeping peace and allowing people to actually work. Those things should include politics, religion and FOOD because food is a huge issue for some people whether due to doctrine, eating disorders, cultural differences, etc.

          Obviously religion is fine in a church, synagogue, mosque, other religious place of business, as is politics in a campaign headquarters and food in a restaurant, but the point is stuff that is very divisive should not be up for discussion in a place where everyone has to work together unless it’s the point of the work.

          And yes that makes issues for people who believe they should be able to say anything they want, and I’d not make blanket prohibitions in the absence of trouble, but as soon as problems crop up BOTH sides need to cease and desist.

      2. fposte

        He’s not doing much for his cause, though. Ultimately, I think any foodshaming, like other kinds of shaming, is likely to be self-indulgent rather than morally driven–it’s not about the outcome but the satisfying indignation.

        1. AMG

          Yeah, that’s the problem. It’s not that you have that stance, it’s how you express it to others. Aggression is going to turn people off very, very quickly.

          1. videogamePrincess

            Honestly, in that situation I would be fine with someone saying “Hey, please don’t waive that cheese sandwich under my face. I find cheese to be a good derived from animal slavery and hence offensive.” But there really isn’t an excuse for aggressive or passive-aggressive behavior.

        2. OhNo

          Agreed.

          Consider, if you will, the issue of cheap clothes (from Walmart or something similar). I’ve certainly had acquaintances who abhorred certain kinds of cheap clothes and wouldn’t touch them with a ten foot pole because they are often the product of slave labor in factories overseas. But they also didn’t run up to everyone they saw wearing those kinds of clothes to berate them about supporting slavery. If the person seemed receptive to the topic, they might bring it up politely, but that’s it.

          You don’t see too many people getting militant about foreign factory labor on a daily basis, and in complete honesty most of us would find it irritating if we did encounter someone who constantly berated us about our clothing and/or brand choices. Why should it be any different if the topic is food?

          Having a polite conversation with people who are interested is one thing – lecturing someone who didn’t sign up for Veganism 101 is another.

          1. Ask a Manager Post author

            I think a good comparison is if you lived in a country where it was normal to eat cats and dogs, and you found that shocking and upsetting. Most people would probably say that you were entitled to find it shocking and upsetting, but that you should also recognize that you were living somewhere where those were the norms. You could decide to turn it into a crusade, certainly, but you’d also need to recognize that there were places where it wasn’t appropriate to do that (like your job) or at least where doing it would come with real consequences to your relationships and how you were perceived.

            1. Nico m

              And focus your attention on stopping McDogalds, not berating someone who has a jerk pug leg twice a month.

          2. anonanonanon

            Cheap clothes are different because a lot of people buy cheaper clothes at Walmart and the like because it’s what they can afford. Sometimes it’s not a choice so much as a necessity.

            I’ve found a lot of the people who talk about slave labor of those companies don’t realize that there are other issues at play when someone goes to purchase something from Walmart or a similar corporation. They may hate what the company stands for, but they might not have access to alternatives (for instance, my very poor hometown has a WalMart and Salvation Army that was the only place you could get clothes if you didn’t have a car to go to the closest mall 30 minutes away).

            1. OhNo

              “Cheap clothes are different because a lot of people buy cheaper clothes at Walmart and the like because it’s what they can afford.”

              Same goes for non-vegan food, you know. If you’re working three jobs and desperately need enough calories to keep going at exceedingly low prices, preferably in the form of little-to-no-prep, super-fast meals, you’re not going to find much (if any) vegan food that fits the bill. Plus there’s the issue of food deserts, where people are lucky to have access to any food at all, let alone the fancy, hard to find protein substitutes that many vegan recipes require.

              I’m speaking from experience, by the way. I spent three years wishing I could go vegetarian, but the only way I could afford food was to buy high-calorie, packaged stuff that invariably has some kind of animal product in it. (And before someone jumps in to say “Rice and beans! Peanut butter!”, most packaged rice and beans contains animal-based broth, I never had time to make my own from scratch, and I have family members that are allergic to nuts, so I couldn’t/can’t have nut butters around.)

              1. all aboard the anon train

                Choosing to go vegan for non-medical reasons is choosing to go on a diet that costs more money because of personal preferences. That’s completely different than having to buy cheap clothes because of lack of money.

                1. Countess Boochie Flagrante

                  … What?

                  Choosing to go vegan for non-medical reasons* = lifestyle choice that costs more money, due to personal sense of ethics.
                  Choosing to buy clothing only made under specific conditions = lifestyle choice that costs more money, due to personal sense of ethics.

                  The comparison really is pretty on point.

                  *Are there medical reasons to go full-on vegan? I’ve heard of doctors recommending vegetarian diets for controlling things like cholesterol, but I can’t imagine the difference going full vegan would make.

            2. fposte

              Sure, some people can’t afford to pay much for clothes. But most people buying at Walmart aren’t buying there because they’re poor; they’re buying because it’s there and it’s cheap. (There’s interesting research about raising the minimum wage that notes that the really frequent Walmart shoppers, who are mostly middle class, would bear most of the raised expense.)

              If you don’t want to make it about clothes, we could talk about rugs–rugmaking is probably the worst industry for child/slave labor. Or we could talk about agriculture, as noted elsewhere on the thread. Or we could talk about chocolate, which, jokes aside, nobody needs to have to survive.

              I don’t think you have to lead a completely pure and exploitation-free life, if you can even figure out how to do it viably, but people seem to resort to black and white thinking in both their offense and defense when it comes to single-point issues. And in the modern world, most of us have some guilt on our hands.

        3. INTP

          Oh, I totally agree that he is not handling it well, his behavior is not helping any person or animal, he is not communicating effectively, and if he wishes to hold a job outside of an explicitly vegan establishment he needs to learn to deal. I was just pointing out that I can see how “live and let live” wouldn’t really apply when someone thinks that what they are being intolerant of is truly terrible and more important than their coworkers’ feelings.

      3. neverjaunty

        Sorry, no. He’s operating in a perfectly normal headspace that lots of people share – “I have strong personal beliefs and if you don’t agree with them, I’ll harangue you so that you bow down to them”. It’s hardly unique to vegans, and whether his beliefs do or don’t have value is beside the point.

      4. The Butcher of Luverne

        But in the workplace, shaming your colleagues about what they put in their mouths is Just Not Done. It’s unprofessional and really none of his business.

      5. Cat

        The thing is, if he actually viewed it as equivalent to those things he’d be morally obligated to take much stronger action than being snotty to his co-worker.

      6. L McD

        It’s gonna be rough for him when he learns about who picks his fruits and veggies…..

        1. L McD

          …. Which just to be clear, isn’t me criticising veganism, just pointing out that he’s picking and choosing his outrage here and no one needs to feel obligated to validate his personal opinions on animal welfare just because that’s his chosen issue.

      7. Not So NewReader

        “Operating at a different headspace”

        While this maybe true AND some of his talking points may be actually valid- the work place is not the place to push that agenda. There is a time and a place for everything- the work place is not for individuals to promote their favorite issues.

        PLUS, he will not pick up too many converts by announcing how stupid they are for what they are doing. Putting people down seldom persuades them to do something different.

        He’s got the wrong venue and the wrong approach. I sincerely hope this guy does not work in marketing or PR- he is too willing to be lead around by his emotions.

      8. Elizabeth West

        He sounds like the kind of person who would be like this about whatever he espouses, though. I’ve seen this self-righteousness many times and it’s not limited to vegans or religious people.

  4. Master Bean Counter

    I think if you don’t discuss food with this guy the drama should die down. It’s like if you find out someone really (annoyingly) likes Micheal Bolton. You just avoid discussing that singer with them and possibly the whole area of music unless you are up for a 15 minute diatribe about how Micheal Bolton is the greatest singer ever.

      1. Rebecca in Dallas

        I admit it, I’m a Michael Bolton fan! I celebrate the guy’s entire collection! For my money it doesn’t get any better than when he sings “When a Man Loves a Woman”!

        1. Adonday Veeah

          Have you heard him sing opera? Yep, really. He has a CD. It’s called “My Secret Passion.” It’s just so wonderful.

          1. Rebecca in Dallas

            I was continuing the Office Space references, lol. I don’t actually love Michael Bolton. But I’ll believe you!

            1. Oh, I'll Answer The Phones.

              *leans in & whispers* What’s your favorite song of his?

              for the record, I have no feelings for or against Michael Bolton, I just love the logic ‘He’s the one who sucks, why should I change?’

            2. Adonday Veeah

              That’s what I get for turning off my cable. I’m hopelessly outa touch.

              Just read a quick review of this flick — “A shapeless comedy of little merit.” Now I GOTTA see it!

              1. Amadeo

                That’s a pretty apt review, really. My previous boss couldn’t stand that I hadn’t seen it so he lent me is DVD. I was completely unimpressed, but I can see how it’s hilarious to others.

                1. UK Nerd

                  I didn’t much like it, but it was worth the effort of watching it just so that I’m not baffled by people going on about red swingline staplers and minimum pieces of flair.

      1. Grey

        Off topic, but I like your Gravatar because I can click and drag it, and make him “attack” comments I don’t like. Not in this thread, though.

        I’m easily amused.

  5. Laurel Gray

    OP, avoid this guy, he’s a prick. This has nothing to do with veganism, he just has serious hang ups around his food beliefs. These are HIS problems, not yours. Unless you said that cheese sandwich had a nice ass there was nothing offensive about that email. We live in a society where people can choose to follow whatever diet they like and they have the right to not be harassed about it – particularly at work. Please please please hold firm on the “I do not discuss food at work” rule with him, even if you want to discuss food with coworkers. I think by keeping the topic of food off the table you will get your comfort back in your work environment.

      1. Laurel Gray

        I meant she doesn’t have to have a discussion with him about anything that isn’t tied to their job duties. Reports and meetings? Sure. The weather and events in the local news? Beat it. It’s one of the best ways to create a boundary that probably should have been there since day one. And she can totally be uber pleasant with it all too.

    1. Julia

      “Unless you said that cheese sandwich had a nice ass there was nothing offensive about that email.”

      This made me laugh out loud.

      1. Colleen

        Me too!!! I had to email that sentence to my sister, as the fave sentence o’the day.

      2. Creag an Tuire

        Cheese sandwiches MASSACRED my people.

        How could all of you be so insensitive?

  6. Lady Kelvin

    I want to preface my comment by saying 1. I’m not a nice person and 2. I have lived with/am good friends with people who observe various types of diets including vegetarian/vegan/kosher/etc and I bend over backwards to accommodate peoples needs because I can’t eat any dairy and I understand. That being said, if I was in your shoes I would make sure to bring in steaks and ribs and delicious pulled pork sandwiches and eat them in front of him because he is an obnoxious, self-righteous, #$%)(* and I would enjoy making him mad. But since you do have to work with him, I recommend never discussing food of any kind with him and if he starts talking about food choices/being vegan/etc just say “That’s nice” and walk away (if possible). Just don’t engage. He is looking for a reaction to give him an opportunity to preach, so don’t give it to him.

    As for the email thing, I actually disagree with Allison and think that in most workplaces there is a listserv or something that you can send things like that too. We have one that you can opt out of but I don’t because it is hilarious what goes on there. It is often used to sell things (its a graduate campus so lots of students/postdocs moving in and out all the time) and the joke is that you can sell anything on the info list. Once someone sold an empty toilette paper roll. I think they got a quarter for it. Amazing.

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      I know you are joking, but since some people do seriously think stuff like that, I want to note that the “aggressively eating meat in front of vegans/vegetarians to make a point” thing is really not cool. It’s like flaunting pictures of aborted fetuses in front of someone who genuinely believes abortion is murder. It’s really disrespectful and unkind.

      1. ThatGirl

        I’m not sure aborted fetuses are quite the same as pulled pork sandwiches, no matter how strongly some vegans may feel that meat is murder. Eating aggressively/loudly/annoyingly is one thing (I agree that’s not cool), but people gotta eat lunch — very few people ever need to look at fetus pictures.

        1. Ask a Manager Post author

          Yes, you have to eat lunch. But you don’t need to deliberately try to taunt someone with something they find upsetting, which is what the “aggressively eating meat in front of them to make a point” is about. If you’re just eating your lunch and not trying to do it AT them, then cool.

          1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)

            I agree that there’s never any cause for rudeness/intentionally causing someone pain. But, in practice, what’s the difference between eating a roast beef sandwich in front of a vegan and “aggressively” eating a roast beef sandwich in front of a vegan? Like, moaning about how delicious the dead cow is? (Yuck, and I’m not vegetarian.)

            1. Ask a Manager Post author

              Yes — talking pointedly about how much they enjoy eating a dead cow, etc. I used to encounter that all the time when I worked for a group that promoted vegetarianism.

              1. Artemesia

                I’ve seen that too and agree with you there. WE have vegan and vegetarian relatives who are not aggressive about it but are strict about it and we go our of our way to not make a big point of talking about meat; we talk about other stuff when eating together if some are eating meat and some veg. But these people also don’t lecture us about being omnivores. I think the aggressive meat eating comments are coming specifically with regard to people that try to bludgeon others with their eating choices. A tool like this guy would bring out the worst in me; probably makes those who just let it go better people than me.

            2. BethRA

              You laugh, but I’ve seen people do things like that. (and not just about meat, either)

            3. A Cita

              Yes, like that. It’s moaning and groaning about how delicious it is, but also emphasizing that it’s a DEAD animal, it juices are BLOOD, and making “moooooooooo” sounds. I imagine it’s disgusting for anyone to watch, regardless of dietary habits.

              1. Faith

                For some reason, this reminded me of this creepy guy I used to work with who would say things like “Meat is good. Meat is murder. Therefore, murder is good.” I’m not even vegetarian, and that would make me shudder.

              2. Amadeo

                Yes, I’m an obligate carnivore and that would drive *me* insane to listen to. Mainly because it’s incredibly annoying. I’d either have to leave the room or push the offender out of their chair in a fit of pique.

              3. Rebecca in Dallas

                I’m a vegetarian and a while back my mother-in-law made steak or roast beef or something (lol clearly I have no idea) for dinner and everyone just kept going ON about how juicy it was and how they could just sop it up with their bread. I finally had to excuse myself and pretend like there was something I needed to do in the other room. Blech.

                1. Beezus

                  I would have to go with you, for a different reason – I find soggy bread absolutely revolting, lol.

                2. Doriana Gray

                  @Beezus I feel the same way. In fact, I’m so glad most gluten-free bread I’ve tried is hard as a rock so I don’t have to worry about that anymore. I hated soggy bread as a kid. Any time we’d go to Burger King, the bottom bun would inevitably be mushy because of the meat juices, and I’d have to throw it out.

              4. Elizabeth West

                Not a vegetarian or vegan, and I probably wouldn’t want to listen to this either while eating. Though I did once scarf a chicken-fried steak while watching Faces of Death….

          2. A Cita

            Yes, thanks for this. People have actually done this to me a lot (and I don’t comment on my vegetarianism, so it’s unsolicited). They think it’s funny.

            1. JB (not in Houston)

              Totally agreed. I have a friend who is vegan and who absolutely never makes unsolicited comments about it. But some people treat her like she’s trying to convert them just by existing in their world, and some of those people enjoying making a big deal in front of her about eating meat. Thankfully, it’s not many people who do that.

              I’m nearly vegan, but in addition to it being a choice, I’m allergic to many of the most commonly-served meats in the US, so people leave me alone about it because they don’t know it’s also a choice.

              1. Rebecca in Dallas

                One of my good friends is vegan and she said people always feel like they have to tell her anytime they eat kale or quinoa. “Hey, Jackie, I ate some quinoa today and thought of you!” She’s like, “I really eat a much more varied diet than those two things, but good for you!”

                1. A Cita

                  Oh, the completely inappropriate responses flooding my brain: “And I was thinking about you too the other night when I was…..”

                2. JessaB

                  OY especially since quinoa is becoming such a problem. The places where it’s grown, it used to be the staple food of the area and now the locals cannot afford to eat it because it’s being sold to markets outside their country as a luxury good.

              2. Lindsay J

                Yeah, I’m not a vegetarian by any stretch, but one of my good friends is and it’s weird how a lot of people find the idea that she doesn’t eat meat offensive to them. They’re always haranguing her about how good bacon is and how good steak is and how plants are alive too and what about the bugs and mice that get killed when wheat is harvested, etc. Or quoting stupid references like “PETA: people eating tasty animals” or “for every animal you don’t eat, I eat three.” She’s not being vegetarian at you, she’s not preaching to you, and what she eats doesn’t affect your life in any way. Move on.

          3. ThatGirl

            Oh, I agree that taunting is bad.

            I just found the aborted fetus example a bit extreme — perhaps more like being obnoxiously/vocally pro choice.

        2. Violet721

          I actually think Alison’s example is valid though I realize that it can be difficult to understand if you don’t view the ethical treatment of animals as an important or moral issue. Animal rights activists believe that animal lives are just as important as human lives. So in that regard, hearing someone make jokes about killing animals for his/her “tasty” sandwich can be just as upsetting if someone was making a joke about violence towards humans.

      2. Oh, I'll Answer The Phones.

        I agree with both of you. More than that, however, I believe that people ask for a lot of what they get.

        It sounds like this guy hasn’t tried very hard to address the situation with OP (if it is or is not a personal thing, either way) one on one, in a way that is both humble and directly explanatory. It doesn’t sound like he even wants OP/others to follow certain rules the would give a moderated workplace a chance, but to WANT what he wants. Which is unreasonable, and if, even if confronted about the unreasonableness, he was still so, then I would consider that sort of an attack on my beliefs/person, however severe the harassment got. Game on.

        Using one of the oldest lines of reason, “He started it.”

        And in this case, he did start it; if Pro-Lifers start harassing me at work, I will harass them back, and probably worse – hey, I’m competitive. (Note : I would have a stronger case for taking the abortion thing to a manager/higher-up, and so I would in that case, as abortion I guess strikes all of the big 3 public-no-nos : Politics, Religion, & Sex, as opposed to veganism, which I’m not even sure a manager/higher-up would feel necessitated their responsibility to take seriously, until the situation worsened to where I couldn’t perform my job around this person which might be a point I’d consider leaving.)

      3. Rachel

        This is a kind of odd analogy, Alison, since the only people I ever see using pictures of aborted fetuses for anything are anti-choice protesters outside women’s health clinics. Eating meat “aggressively” is a weird choice and can be kind of rude, but this analogy feels off.

        1. Ask a Manager Post author

          To me, the comparison works. It’s taking something that someone feels strongly is cruelty and making a point of shoving it in their face in order to mess with them. (Obviously, that’s not what protesters outside clinics are doing, but that’s not the example I was using.)

        2. mdv

          There is a group that has come to the university where I work several times and set up billboard sized displays with pictures of aborted fetuses right in the middle of the highest traffic area of campus, for a week. It was HORRIFYING the first time I saw it, and then I knew to avoid it at all costs ever after.

          So my point is “yes”, people do actually do this in places other than outside women’s health clinics.

        3. Violet Fox

          It’s also putting another hot-button issue into the discussion, and I am not sure that is particularly wise.

        4. Margaret

          There’s a huge race I’ve run for a few years (45k people) at which a group of anti-choice protesters set up with huge gross signs along the course – it has nothing to do with the organization putting on the race (they support various local charities, but nothing overtly pro-life by any stretch). They just want to take advantage of the large captive audience. It’s really disgusting, and I can’t believe they don’t see that even if someone were open to their stance – that’s not the way to approach them that’s going to change anyone’s mind!

          1. Anna

            /startsidenote
            Many of the photos they use are fake. There was someone outside Lilith Faire in Portland one year who had a large photo on poster board that was supposed to be gross and you were meant to think it was an aborted fetus, but the more I looked at it the more obvious it became that it was a photo of a sleeping baby with some gross photo doctoring. Or the photo that went around not too long ago that purported to be a doctor holding an aborted fetus that was “clearly” old enough to be a formed baby. Except it was a photo of a stillborn baby held in his father’s hand that he had taken as a memorial of the baby. So…don’t believe everything the protesters say.
            /endsidenote

      4. Allison

        I’m going to agree, eating meat obnoxiously, just to spite someone, is stupid. Meat is not a weapon!

        When I was in high school, I would have been the type to troll judgmental people with things I knew they didn’t like, but now it just seems really immature and definitely not something I’d want to do at work.

      5. neverjaunty

        Yes, thank you. And it’s also extremely rude to vegans or vegetarians present who AREN’T flapping their gums about others’ food choices but have to listen to “mmmm, this baby cow is so tasty!” nonsense.

        I’m an omnivore. I’m not an omnivore AT people. That’s just dickish.

        1. TootsNYC

          heck, I’m an omnivore, and *I* don’t want to hear “mmm, this baby cow is so tasty!”

          I don’t want to hear YOU about your food choices any more than I want to hear him.

      6. oleander

        I take your point, but I think the analogy’s a little off — “flaunting” pictures of aborted fetuses is an unkind thing to do to anyone. No one sane *enjoys* looking at pictures of aborted fetuses, regardless of their beliefs on reproductive rights…

      7. orchidsandtea

        Alison, while I agree that it’s disrespectful and unkind, I don’t think that’s a fair comparison. Death of a human and the death of an animal just don’t have the same weight. Animals certainly deserve respectful treatment, and some feel they deserve the same protections humans have (like OP’s vegan coworker), but animals and babies aren’t the same thing. Considering we know from past threads that quite a few of your readers have miscarried, it may be prudent to avoid future comparisons to fetuses.

        1. Be the Change

          Unless you practice complete ahimsa, in which case the lives of animals and humans are quite the same indeed.

          …As my husband, who was raised Jain, delights to point out whenever the topic even tangentially arises. He genuinely does not understand why the USA is so lathered about abortion and pretty much shrugs its collective shoulders about animals.

        2. Jay

          That is because of your mindset. The issue there is the measured importance of life (human or otherwise) to an individual. I can see an aborted fetus and feel terrible. I also have the capacity to feel terrible when an old 15 foot alligator was caught by a hunter today in Lake Okeechobee. Neither had caused any harm but both are dead unnecessarily. My being bothered by an animal does not negate the way that I feel about a person. Man people can’t relate to this and have told me that “I love animals more than people.” I don’t think that the subject of aborted fetuses should be omitted or any others that may cause others to feel uncomfortable. I’m hyper-aware when it comes to things that may offend but others that belittle the concerns of others demand the utmost respect in regards to things that they’re passionate about. I’ve personally worked in government and healthcare positions requiring hands on work with people and animals in all stages of life. None should be taken lightly and I’ve yet to meet the person that can give an acceptable answer as to why and how the value of any life can be weighed.

    2. Artemesia

      I’m with you — if I worked around a dick like this guy, I’d be bringing steak sandwiches to munch on for the next week. I know lots of vegans and vegetarians and always try to accommodate when inviting people for meals and it is rare that they behave like such tools — I suspect the occasional tool would have been that way regardless of what his particular hang up was — it isn’t the food, it is this guy.

      1. Laurel Gray

        When you bring in these hot and aromatic sandwiches, please be mindful of your colleagues who brought in boring left overs in an attempt to save money and drop some lbs for their upcoming vacation this summer. Thank you. :)

        1. Artemesia

          Most of the time at work I brought in boring leftovers; I actually prefer them to sandwiches. So I’d be having the left over soup or stew right next to you.

    3. OhNo

      I have to admit I would be a little tempted to start bringing in steak sandwiches everyday for lunch. But then, like you, I am not always a nice person. :)

      OP, if you just can’t get away from this guy’s weird harassment and unnecessary food shaming, no matter how much you try to avoid the subject, try calling him out on it. “My food/eating habits are none of your business.” “Why are you making such a big deal out of my diet? I don’t make comments on your meals.” “You know, I have vegan friends, and none of them feel it necessary to lecture me about what I eat.”

      (I had to do this with a dear friend of mine once, and it led to a very enlightening conversation about feeling defensive regarding lifestyle choices. After the talk, we both felt a lot more comfortable discussing our different choices with each other. I doubt that’s the goal with this coworker, but it just goes to show that confronting someone nicely can work out well sometimes.)

    4. Catalin

      Lady Kelvin, I just want you to know that the second I read “I’m not a nice person” I immediately thought, “Damn, this is going to be great!”

      That said, Alison’s right (per usual). This has nothing to do with the man’s diet and everything to do with the stick up his…
      (Insert joke about roughage)
      (Insert insincere apology about joke about roughage)
      The only thing your coworkers should know or care about regarding your diet is when there’s a severe allergy involved. I’m allergic to one kind of nut so I can’t have mixed nuts. No one waves them in my face.

      1. Not So NewReader

        Yeah, my knee-jerk was “I am really going to enjoy this post.”
        I am not a nice person- lol. I have had plenty of days where I have said that. sigh…

  7. INTP

    I do think that the coworker is being overly aggressive and not communicating well here, and this hasn’t been my experience with vegans in general, so I want to emphasize that I am not criticizing the way the OP originally handled it. What OP did was not wrong or outside of social norms.

    However, for the sake of conceptualizing it in a way that helps to foster the empathy necessary to get along with someone, it seems like this guy, whether right or wrong, perceives of animals as as sentient and conscious as humans. Given that, I imagine it would be highly upsetting to hear or think about animal products. I would find it highly upsetting to read or hear about sandwiches produced with the byproducts of enslaved, poorly treated humans, and difficult to keep my mouth shut about people eating enslaved humans and their byproducts. Even the most tolerant of us have limits to our “live and let live” ethos that definitely include slavery and murder, and in this guy’s universe animals are equal to humans so farming and slaughtering = slavery and murder.

    So, I would just think of this guy as occupying a different headspace than most of us, and try to have empathy for that for the sake of getting along with him. Imagine how it must feel to be in that headspace, and I think it will become easier to forgive him for his seemingly irrational behavior (which is a lot more rational when you conceptualize things from his perspective) and move on.

    1. Heavenly Mashpea

      This was a delightfully well-thought out message. The world needs more people like you in it!

    2. Putting Out Fires, Esq

      But… And maybe I’m reading more into this than is in the letter, but it doesn’t sound like he’s ever expressed those feelings (that cheese sandwiches are insulting) before? Presumably other coworkers are omnivores and he doesn’t say they are being offensive.

      1. Creag an Tuire

        As someone said upthread, it seems he’s not offended by non-vegans eating cheese sandwiches, he’s offended because OP is a Fake Vegan who offered her cheese sandwich to someone else instead of publicly executing it for it’s filling-based treachery.

        1. Laufey

          And it’s really ridiculous, because if you ordered the wrong sandwich, wouldn’t it be better to give it away to someone who still needs lunch, rather than force that person to also buy an additional sandwich, thereby increasing demand?

          One of my college roommates was what she called a “practical vegetarian.” She didn’t seek out meat and only prepped vegetarian meals for herself/guests, but if someone served her meat or would otherwise have thrown out a perfectly good block of cheese, she would eat it, because she felt that trashing food was just wasting the animal’s life.

    3. Observer

      I’d have a lot more empathy if he didn’t push the health aspect so hard. A moralizing tone is annoying. And I can see someone having a hard time with what they see as murder. But when someone is going on about how unhealthy things are, and how no one has done studies on them, etc. that’s not about ethics or humane behavior.

    4. Ad Astra

      None of this makes his behavior any less rude or off-putting, but it does make it easier to empathize with a rude and off-putting person. And, in a situation where you can’t 100% avoid someone, empathy makes everything so much more bearable. The people who drive us nuts are still people.

    5. neverjaunty

      Again, I respectfully disagree, and empathy doesn’t necessarily breed forgiveness. Sometimes it just makes it clearer that somebody is a glass bowl.

      Imagine if instead, this co-worker belonged to a fundamentalist religious sect, and that people who didn’t rigidly follow its tenets were doomed to eternal hellfire. If he were haranguing the OP to stop wearing above-the-knee skirts or belonging to a different faith, would we be urging everyone to take pity on how hard it is to be him? Would we be suggesting that the OP let it go if the co-worker responded angrily that the OP’s email about a sandwich was promoting forbidden food? I mean, eternal damnation is a lot worse than slavery and murder – doesn’t he get even more slack than the Vegan Avenger here?

      1. INTP

        Actually, I use the same strategy to be able to stomach my religiously pushy family members that think I’m going to hell. I think that as far as behavior in an office, it’s more serious when someone’s haranguing targets an economically or professionally underrepresented group like women rather than arbitrary targets or the 99% of the office that isn’t vegan or whatever. But I do think that whether someone is just trying to control people to control them, or genuinely thinks that they are saving people from eternal hellfire and misery, should factor in to how to evaluate and deal with the behavior. Not just for the sake of the person doing the controlling, but for practical reasons – people who think they are helping are not persuaded by the same methods as people who don’t care about helping and are just trying to control people. And I would feel bad for someone who thinks that 99% of the people he encounters are doomed to eternal misery, that must be frightening.

        At the end of the day, both Hellfire Dude and Vegan Dude need to accept that they’re choosing to work in a society where their beliefs are not widely held, and learn to get a grip on their emotions and lay it off in the workplace to get along with everyone. But I think that it can be helpful their coworkers that are interested in moving on from conflict and rebuilding a working relationship to try to view things from their perspective too. It doesn’t excuse all bad behavior but it can help people to take it less personally.

    6. Camellia

      Am I the only person who keeps thinking “Soylent Green” when reading all these people-eating analogies?

    7. Not So NewReader

      I think this is very kind thinking that INTP has described here.
      And there are some useful points.
      This coworker could be spending way too much time reading on animal rights issues. I know when I read too much on a topic it fills up way too much of my brain space that is needed for other things.

      The one thing that caught my eye is INTP’s observation that vegans in general seem to be a pretty gentle group of people. This guy sounds like he has taken in too much red meat and coffee. It is amazing how OD’ing on those two things can change a person. I remember seeing a man at the grocery store. He was extremely loud, pushy etc. I looked down on the conveyor belt and he was buying A LOT of red meat, easily fifty pounds or more. When he left the clerk said, “He eats too much red meat.” I laughed in agreement.

      I wonder if this guy is eating a pound of burger every night with the shades drawn.

      Additionally, while it may help OP to realize that he has stuff that weighs heavy with him, this “stuff” should not trump her right to be spoken to with baseline respect. He is not being paid to monitor people’s food intake. He is being paid to work cooperatively with others on things that pertain to the business. OP, at some point maybe you can say to him, “I don’t eat exactly like you do. But we both have to work together so we CAN eat. Can we agree that having food on our tables and a roof over our heads is the most important thing and the rest is secondary?”

      1. Elizabeth West

        Or, he could be fairly new to it himself–sometimes when people take on a new lifestyle or change (like quitting smoking, to use a fairly widely-known analogy), they become very militant about it in an attempt to cement it into themselves. But even if he’s not, the militant approach is very off-putting, especially if he wants to make a point. People stop listening to you when you yell and throw things, even figuratively.

        1. Jay

          I was thinking the same thing. A lot of “baby” vegans (feel free to insert crossfitters, paleo enthusiasts or weight watchers subscriber) memorize all of the propaganda and are more SJW’s than anything. I give them 2 years before they run to something else.

  8. Heavenly Mashpea

    I’m so sorry you have to deal with this. “Cheese sandwich” is not an offensive phrase to anyone without serious problems.

    1. Ineloquent

      Maybe OP could start using it as his own personal pseudo swear word? “My cheese sandwiching computer just froze again!”

        1. Ask a Manager Post author

          But realize that it’s rooted in making fun of an objection to animal cruelty (even though the coworker himself behaved like an ass). So I request that we not.

          1. Anna

            I don’t think so, Alison. The phrase is inherently not offensive and is not inherently about animal cruelty. What if it were vegan cheese? It would still be a cheese sandwich, wouldn’t it?

            1. Ask a Manager Post author

              But it doesn’t refer to a vegan cheese sandwich in this case.

              I have a handful of issues that I’m very much a stick-in-the-mud on. Animal cruelty is one of them. The way animals are treated on factory farms in the dairy industry = not funny. So I’m sticking with my request, which I don’t think will be terribly hard to accommodate.

              1. ha

                “I’m not a vegetarian because I love animals. I’m a vegetarian because I hate plants.”

          1. Master Bean Counter

            Hey now, every time you see this guy you are going to think he’s a cheese sandwich and you are going to smile. We have just brightened everyday you have to put up with the cheese sandwich.

    2. Lindsay J

      This. I struggle with these things sometimes because I want to not offend anyone. However, there comes a point where I wonder how people like this exist in the world because the world just doesn’t cater to their sensibilities and I don’t think it is reasonable for them to expect it to.

      What is this dude going to do if someone eats a roast beef and cheese sandwich on the bus on the way to work? How does he go to the grocery store without seeing animal based products that he finds offensive? Does he watch TV – there are commercials about cheese and all other types of animal products there?

      I completely respect his choice to not consume any animals or use any animal products. I completely respect that he finds the idea of the conditions these animals are raised and slaughtered in to be appalling. I completely respect that he has the right to forbid animal products from coming into his home, to ask that the company accomodate him when they cater food for everyone, etc.

      But I don’t think it is reasonable for him to expect that people never say the word “cheese sandwich” within earshot, nor is it acceptable for him to expect others to change their eating preferences at work to accomodate his beliefs. (I think it would be reasonable for him to ask the OP to eat lunch in the lunchroom if she is eating animal products if they share a cube or office or something so he doesn’t have to see it being consumed , but not to change her eating habits entirely or to overly go out of her way to avoid mentioning animal products in any way.)

  9. Terra

    If avoiding food talk doesn’t work sometimes you can out awkward people like this. For example every time they try to bring up uncomfortable food topics say very seriously “I prefer not to discuss food since it can cause disordered eating in people who have those conditions or are at risk of them.”

    Either they want to avoid the eating disorders discussion enough that they shut up or they become that guy who keeps trying to talk about food after someone mentioned eating disorders. It seems pretty effective in general although you run the risk of people thinking you’re the one with the disorder so your mileage may vary.

    1. Argh!

      I always suspect some kind of diagnosable disorder in people who are too rigid and moralistic about food. It’s just food. Sheesh.

      1. Ad Astra

        Not every person I’ve known with rigid or moralistic views on food had an eating disorder, but every person I’ve known with an eating disorder had rigid or moralistic views on food.

        1. Argh!

          I didn’t say eating disorder, just disorder, like obsessive compulsive personality disorder or something like that.

        2. Countess Boochie Flagrante

          Every person you’ve known with an eating disorder that you knew about, maybe.

          I have an eating disorder. I do not have “rigid or moralistic” views on food. But my eating disorder is also not highly visible for the most part. Most eating disorders aren’t.

      2. JennyFair

        It’s called Orthorexia. I’ve also heard it referred to as ‘righteous eating’, but that’s not in the DSM :)

        1. Argh!

          I thought I’d heard of something like that! Any time someone is on the extreme end of something or other I have to wonder if they’re really mentally ill. The personality “disorders” are supposedly less “severe” but they’re a severe pain for those of us who have to live with them.

  10. Anna No Mouse

    I spent 20 years as a vegetarian, some of which was as a vegan, which was not a healthy choice for me. I always made my food choices about me and what I wanted, and never talked about the healthfulness of other people’s food choices unless they directly asked my thoughts.

    What one person puts in their body is not necessarily the right choice for someone else, and anyone who pushes their beliefs on others, be it religious, nutritional, political, etc. needs to be told that their behavior isn’t appropriate. Just don’t engage, and don’t make excuses for yourself. You haven’t done anything wrong, and this person deserves no further thought, other than they are an obnoxious coworker.

  11. AnonMurphy

    I’m…still baffled by this part:

    “Would you eat a human? Have they done trials on the benefits of eating humans? No? Exactly!”

    1. Lizabeth

      Why, oh why, did Hannibal Lecter’s comment about wine and fava beans pop into my head?

    2. Noah

      Yeah, I did not get that part until I read INTP’s reply above. Not saying I agree with the stance that animals = humans, but at least now I can see where vegan coworker was coming from.

    3. sunny-dee

      And just to point out … he’s actually wrong. There have been studies of cannibalistic tribes in Papua New Guinea and parts of Africa. Cannibalism is a very unhealthful diet — science says so.

      1. Almond Milk Latte

        It’s common enough that if you suffer from shaky hands, WebMD asks you if you’re a cannibal from Papua New Guinea.

      2. Gene

        Only if you are consuming nerve tissue, especially brain. That’s now one contracts Kuru.

    4. Nerdling

      “I believe a number of groups have consumed human flesh throughout history. That’s why, if I recall correctly, it’s referred to as ‘long pig.’ Most of the studies that you find referencing the negative aspects of eating human flesh center around eating gray matter and ending up with lovely gray matter-destroying diseases as a result. So, I guess, really, as long as I don’t eat someone’s brain, I’d be okay. I hadn’t really thought about that. Thanks!”

      1. A Cita

        “I’m not sure of the scientific evidence, but I knew of a guy who ate nothing but human brains and he seems to have lived a really long time. He can only walk in straight lines and seems to be hungry all the time, but otherwise seems fine. YMMV.”

        1. Nerdling

          “Although now that you mention it, you do look pretty delicious.” *wipes drool* “Anyway, enjoy your lunch. I’ll see your gray matter – I mean you later.”

      2. Allison

        There’s actually a horror/”found footage” movie about a modern day cannibal who lures women into his basement, slaughters them, then cooks and eats them, and it’s called “Long Pigs.” I kind of want to see it, but I think because of the disturbing subject matter I’d have to buy the DVD . . . not sure I’m *that* intrigued.

        1. Noah

          Wouldn’t that be a fun one to explain in your Netflix list? Because you watched Long Pigs you might enjoy….

          1. Allison

            I doubt Netflix will ever add something that disturbing to the streaming service. Then again, they’ve had all 3 Human Centipede movies, soooooooo . . .

          2. Oh, I'll Answer The Phones.

            Dumplings! (the Hong Kong film)

            side note, I love that movie. so weird and good.

            1. Allison

              Wasn’t that a short film, in a 3-film collection? I think I saw that one a while ago, really creepy.

              1. Oh, I'll Answer The Phones.

                hmm wiki says the film was an extension of the story from the 3-short-film collaboratio- OMG just read the plot of the original story on wiki.
                no effing wonder you were creeped out.

                haha the film did not end that way – in theory, I still like the film’s ending vs the short-film ending I just read on wiki. Maybe it was her being my favorite character that makes that so… unpalatable. Ha, yes, I punned there.

              2. Oh, I'll Answer The Phones.

                & thanks for pointing that out – Park Chan-wook is one of (if not my absolute) favorite directors of All Time, and he is one of the three directors in that collaboration you mentioned. awesome!
                The title you mentioned is called Three… Extremes; it is based on the concept of Three, which is three different stories done by three different directors, put together into one movie. Three… Extremes is the one with Dumplings (original story, not exactly the same as the feature film) from director Fruit Chan and a story from Park Chan-wook called ‘Cut’.

                1. Doriana Gray

                  “Dumplings” was amazing. I wasn’t too jazzed about the other two movies in that collection, but “Dumplings” gave me the creeps (and made me wish I had written it).

            2. Rat in the Sugar

              Ha! I ordered that one on accident in high school (thought I was getting a different Chinese horror flick) and my very Catholic mother was a bit shocked to walk in the room. (Didn’t forbid me to watch it though, one of the many things for which I will always love her.)

              1. Oh, I'll Answer The Phones.

                that is hilarious (and awesome of your mom; Dumplings is too silly to condemn, anyway)!
                & kudos to you for getting through that one as a high schooler; think I was too when I picked a random HBO title to watch one afternoon.

    5. Creag an Tuire

      It reminds me of an anti-piracy PSA.

      “You wouldn’t download a car! You wouldn’t download… A HUMAN!”

  12. irritable vowel

    This guy is no different than the janitor who seems like a nice guy but give him an inch and he wants to rant inappropriately about how “foreigners are taking our jobs” or whatever (I have one where I work; many of us do, I’m sure). There are zealots and bigots on every point of the spectrum. He’s got an axe to grind, and the only thing you can do is not give him an opportunity to start grinding it. Keep any conversation with him focused on work, even if it seems like whatever non-work related topic you might bring up doesn’t have anything to do with veganism–he’ll find a way to steer it there. (And at least if you’re focusing only on work, *you* can be the one to say he’s being inappropriate if he takes it into vegan territory.)

      1. Analyst

        Right – if someone thinks you’re “like them” be it race, gender, vegan-preferred diet, whatever, they might think of you as “safe” and then spout all sorts of offensive nonsense at you.

  13. A Cita

    I, and the rest of my entire office, had a similar experience with a colleague who is Paleo. They made horrible, unsolicited comments about other members’ eating habits, weight/bodies, sugar consumption, and once told me that I could be vegetarian and exercise all I wanted, but I was unhealthy and was going to suffer and die eventually because I ate carbs (and that I might as well be addicted to cocaine since it’s probably healthier; I pointed out it was more expensive though, then asked if it came in chocolate flavor).

    I also said something similar to what Alison recommends, and the key to making it stick is to be a broken record about it. I’m not this colleague’s favorite person any more, but at least I don’t hear this stuff now (unlike our other colleagues). So you may also have to accept this person will not be your biggest fan. Though I don’t it’s much of a loss.

    1. the golddigger

      If course you will die eventually. We all will. Even the paleos. (None of the original paleos are still alive, are they ?)

      1. Chinook

        “If course you will die eventually. We all will. Even the paleos. ”

        I know I am going to die, so I would rather die happy on chocolate flavoured crack than have those around me die sooner because I chose to subsist on a diet of baked chicken breast and carrots and take my resulting withdrawls out on them.

        1. Oryx

          Haha, my college roommate used to joke about her tombstone saying something very similar to that.

        2. Artemesia

          The first thing I did when I thought I was dying (luckily the first worrisome test results were overruled by later less worrisome test results) was eat chocolate and such. I’m trying to lose a few but heck if I am dying I am not denying. And then since I am old, I realized I am dying anyway a lot sooner than probably most people here and so a little self indulgence is in order whether there is a final diagnosis or not. We call it the ‘wet cat food ‘ stage of life. We always pampered the old cats.

          1. the gold digger

            I think you have the right attitude. I always think, “I could skip dessert. But if I were hit by a bus tomorrow and lying on the road in the last 15 minutes of my life, my last thoughts would be, ‘I should have eaten dessert.'”

            Priorities.

            PS You don’t want to be too thin if you are sick – your body needs those reserves. Seriously!

    2. Ad Astra

      Paleo works for a lot of people, and it’s really not a totally insane way of eating, but zealots can make any lifestyle unbearable (hello, Crossfit!). Unless you hunted or gathered that food without the aid of a grocery store, I’m not impressed.

    3. Gene

      My retort to Paleos is something along the line of, The Original Paleo diet can be summed up as ‘anything I can catch or gather that doesn’t make me sick’.” And I guarantee if one had a time machine, you could get those folks to do anything you wanted with some chocolate cake.

    4. Doriana Gray

      and that I might as well be addicted to cocaine since it’s probably healthier; I pointed out it was more expensive though, then asked if it came in chocolate flavor).

      Brilliant, lol.

    5. Tavaril

      A coworker has a wonderful sign in her office: ‘Throw your chocolate into the bushes. If you had to hunt and gather for it, it is paleo’.

  14. Katie the Fed

    Much like the jerkface from yesterday who hijacks meetings, this guy is almost certainly annoying more than just you. So I guarantee everyone rolled their eyes at his response to your innocuous email, just as they’ll support you politely shutting him the hell down when he starts with this stuff.

  15. Argh!

    I used to work with a Food Nazi, who felt she had to tell me the nutritional pluses and minuses of everything I brought to my desk. It was really about my weight, which I found profoundly rude, so I let her know in a rather loud voice. She stopped it.

    She, on the other hand, ate lots of vegetables, and she farted loudly all day long. I never took her to task on that, since I was upwind. But I always wanted to.

    1. Doriana Gray

      You should have! Lol. Tell me she at least sat by a window that could be cracked…

  16. Michelle

    Wow, he sounds so pleasant to work with. I agree with those who say that the best option is to just not talk about food around him and if he tries to start a convo about food, use the “I’d rather not talk about it” line.

    The email thing is a little puzzling to me because it’s not like you were hawking your side business; you were offering a sandwich to other coworkers that you couldn’t eat and would otherwise go in the trash. I don’t think that’s misusing the email system. Wonder if the coworker said something to a manager to prompt that email?

  17. chump with a degree

    Unfortunately , your coworker is a dickweed and veganism is merely a conduit. Avoid as much as possible.

  18. Nikki T

    When I read it, I thought he (the jerk) sent the ‘office update’ about using work emails appropriately because I can’t imagine that is the first time someone has sent out a message about food or whatever….

    1. Dana

      That’s how I read it too. People send group emails all the time about things like food. But the angry snapback would be uncalled for.

  19. jamlady

    “I need help with how to get back to a place where I feel like I am comfortable in my work environment rather than slightly on edge in case he kicks off at me again for some insane reason.”

    This is what resonates the most with me – this isn’t really about veganism, but rather feeling suddenly uncomfortable around a coworker and not knowing what to do about. I work on a small team that I love, but about a month ago, it came to light that my coworker has been missing deadlines and messing up and it’s effecting our whole team – in response, I’ve been taking on more responsibility and he started acting really hostile. My boss is aware and we’re trying to figure out what to do, but mostly, I’m still trying to figure out how to be around him – we went from cordial coworkers to me getting sick from the stress of working with him. I agree that keeping topics away from food will help a lot, but even maybe taking a step back from him when you don’t have to communicate for work would be helpful too. I’m usually all about direct approaches, but your coworker (like mine) sounds aggressive and irrational. Maybe distance is key (if possible)?

    Let’s just say I’ve been working from home a lot.

    1. TootsNYC

      I think this *is* the core of her question, and the topic on which answers would be most helpful.

      I might suggest that she work on mentally “subtracting” him from the “folks at my office” group.

      We normally want to be on friendly terms with folks at work, and he is someone you’ve been friendly with.
      So now shift him over into “sort-of strangers at my office.” So don’t have social conversations with him; if he joins a group at the water cooler, ease out of it. If he asks a social question, answer absently and with your eyes on your work, and with a fast but short-lived smile.
      Keep plausible deniability (“What do you mean? I’m perfectly pleasant to you–just yesterday we talked about that movie, what more do you want from me?”), so never act unpleasant or irritated, just be sort of bland and vague and disconnected.

      And remind yourself: “It’s his problem; it’s not mine.”
      The most respectful thing to do when people have “issues” (whether they’re this hangup of his, or someone’s genuine disability, or whatever) is to respect their autonomy and adulthood by letting them, and only them, be responsible for dealing with their problem.
      Not that you make it worse, but you don’t leap to pick up stuff for the guy on crutches if it looks like he can get to it. Or, you pick it up quietly and without comment. You let people propel their own wheelchairs; you let angry people have the calm and space to get over it; you ignore people’s tears and simply carry on while they collect themselves without pressure.

  20. hermit crab

    OK, I can’t be the only person here who used to read the Love Letters column on boston dot com circa 2009 — “[grilled] cheese sandwich” was the go-to euphemism for something you really shouldn’t talk about in an all-office email, and initially that’s what I thought was going on here! But sometimes I guess a cheese sandwich is just a cheese sandwich. :)

  21. Allison

    He sounds like a jerk! It sucks when someone who’s into an alternative lifestyle has to get all self-righteous and in everyone’s face about it, vegans and cyclists are among the most annoying, even though I know plenty of people in both groups who are totally respectful.

    And like everyone else is saying, I hate when people comment on their coworkers’ diets. I have people commenting on my daily bagel, which I bring from home and toast in the office, like it’s their business. I also hate people who comment on their own food choices – “I’m gonna be good and have a ~salad~ for lunch” good for you, I don’t care. “Ugh, I’m being so bad, eating this burger,” then go for a run later! Also no one cares. At least, no one should care. Eat what you want, let others eat what they want

    . . . unless it stinks up the office, in which case you should say “please don’t heat up fish in the microwave,” not “ohhhh, fish again, Jane? must be nice to eat fish so often.” Don’t make “innocent comments” about someone’s food choices to point out bad manners, it’s super annoying and never solves the problem.

  22. Dana

    You treat this like any belief system you don’t necessarily agree with (or agree with but aren’t as strict about). You just don’t engage. Alison is right. It’s best to just avoid any conversations that might make them overreact. Just so you don’t have to deal with them. It’s not worth your time or energy. You can’t control how he feels and all you have to do is work with the guy. I know it’s probably especially hard because you should be kindred but he made even a shared passion feel like a land mind conversation. Focus on work and you’ll find new kindred spirits.

  23. Fawnling

    As a Vegetarian for 6 years I constantly have to defend my dietary choices because of people like these (mostly with non-vegs). This guy is an ass, plain and simple.

  24. CeeCee

    While I do this that this coworker might be a bit extreme, my question for the LW is: Does he just go on these vegan based tangents regularly, without prompting?

    Not to sound harsh, but in both examples the LW gave, she opened the door to food conversation. She bought a vegan product and showed it to him (assumedly to talk about it) and she sent out the letter about the sandwich.

    I’m certainly not saying the coworker isn’t a bit over the top, but if he’s not the type to begin on unsolicited rants about veganism without some kind of doorway to food discussion, the solution could be as simple as stopping the food talk. In none of the instances provided would the LW need responses like “I’m not interested in discussing that at work” because she’s the person who started the discussions.

    1. CeeCee

      An example to clarify: I rarely ever discuss politics, but if you start talking about politics, I might speak up with my opinion. Coworker might be the same way. He might be a silent, angry vegan until someone starts talking about food.

    2. Allison

      I don’t think OP brought it on by bringing up the topic, the vegan coworker could have been polite or, in the case of the cheese sandwich, simply chosen not to engage at all! I’m a little surprised the vegan reacted that way to the OP buying a vegan product, why not be happy that OP made that choice even if they’re not 100% actual vegan.

      You can discuss topics like veganism and politics without being a jerk.

      1. CeeCee

        I completely agree that you can have such discussions without being a jerk. And I agree that the coworker was definitely in the wrong. But I just feel like the approach people in these comments have had toward the coworker is overly harsh, especially since, from what we know, he isn’t starting these food conversations. He didn’t see the LW eating a non-vegan meal and make a snide comment. She started discussing food and he went on about his overly-passionate (for lack of a better, nice word) opinion.

        He definitely came off as a jerk, but it’s obviously something he feels strongly about it. From the info we have it just seems like he’s not altogether a bad coworker, or even a jerk in general, until you bring up the topic he’s passionate about.

        1. fposte

          But the topic is food. That’s like saying “He’s not a jerk until somebody breathes.” He has a responsibility not to be a jackass even when people bring up his pet topics.

          Sure, it makes sense for the OP to consider limiting her conversations with him, in a “don’t use that bathroom because it floods” kind of way. But the problem is still that the bathroom floods.

    3. LSCO

      Yes the OP opened the door to food conversation, but in both examples the coworker’s reaction was over the top and extreme. In the first encounter he could have simply said that yes he knew about X product, or that he’d not heard of X product. Instead he treated to the OP to a tirade about his veganism and his beliefs. The second encounter was an all-staff email. If he really was offended by the offer of a cheese sandwich, he could have at most politely emailed the OP to ask to not be included in food emails in future. He didn’t need to “demand” he not be included in “offensive” emails.

      I agree with your broader point – the OP should probably just avoid food conversations with this guy altogether. But she wasn’t wrong in the first instance to instigate these conversations with the coworker. It is his over-the-top reactions which are solely the problem.

      1. Allison

        I do agree that now that OP knows this guy goes on obnoxious rants about food, OP should avoid the topic, knowing that he’s gonna do it every time food comes up. But the first few times, no, OP wasn’t inviting him to act like that.

        1. Elizabeth West

          Yeah, she asked him about a product she assumed he would have some knowledge of. Now she knows she can’t bring that up with him because he’s an ass about it.

  25. animaniactoo

    Items I’ve found useful (or have been successfully used on me…) when cheerfulness has run its course:

    “Jeff, I understand you feel strongly about this, but I don’t want to talk about it.” said either with a compassionately rueful sort of cheerfulness or dead-calm-i’m-looking-you-in-the-eye-and-letting-you-know-I’m-serious-about-this-no-joke-in-sight”

    “Okay, you’ve got one minute to get it off your chest/make your point” (and then move on immediately even if it means you have to completely cut him off “Nope! Sorry! No more today! Try again tomorrow!” (said very very cheerfully)).

    “Jeff, this is more detail than I want to know (or have time for). Sorry, I have to get back to working on…/Mary did you catch…”

    1. bearing

      I can feel my face contorting in various ways as I try to imagine how to conjure up a “compassionately rueful sort of cheerfulness.”

      I can see how it would be useful to be able to translate text to facial expressions.

        1. Not So NewReader

          All I can think of is my dog’s head tilt. You know, like Nipper, the RCA dog.

  26. Anonymous Educator

    I hope this isn’t too off-topic, but this problem made me think of the documentary Cowspiracy, which starts off as a fairly reasonable inquiry into “Could the cow industry (meat and milk) be a huge part of human-caused global warming?” and then slowly devolves into “There is no middle ground. The only way to save the planet is if we all go vegan. If you don’t go vegan, you’re destroying earth.”

    1. OwnedByTheCat

      So, recently I was diagnosed as pretty seriously lactose intolerance. Cheese = not my friend. (SO SAD). My partner bought me a vegan cookbook so I could look for interesting recipes with no cheese (i don’t eat a lot of meat anyways).

      4 pages in they started comparing eating meat to Hitler. We both decided to sell the book.

      1. Anonymous Educator

        That’s awful! I’m sorry that happened to you. A cookbook really shouldn’t be trying to proselytize!

      2. Anna

        I had to stop following someone on FB because they went from “I’d like to plan a camping trip with other vegans so we can not worry so much about having to cook differently for everyone” to “I just don’t want to be around meat eaters.” One I could completely understand; the other started to feel judgmental and shitty.

      1. fposte

        From what I can see, it’s a point of discussion, with people spread out along the spectrum. It’s further complicated by the fact that fertilizer can include bits of animal (bone meal, blood meal, fish, culled chicks), not just animal poop.

      2. Anonymous Educator

        In the “documentary” there’s a brief discussion about whether “meatless Mondays” might help (in other words, couldn’t we just lower our consumption of steak, beef, and milk to fight global warming?). For some strange reason, one of the “experts” interviewed just dismisses the possibility, and the viewer is supposed to understand that veganism is the only way we can save the earth.

        1. Countess Boochie Flagrante

          Ah yes, cause if you can’t go all the way, then don’t even bother trying!

  27. Lauralk80

    Sometimes I think people are too sensitive in general…but then sometimes I think the topic of food should go hang out with the other unmentionables like politics and religion, especially at work. I hate food commentary but I also know most people are just trying to be nice/make chit chat.

  28. Rebecca

    What we eat or don’t eat or prefer to eat isn’t anyone’s business, much less our coworker’s business. I think it’s fine to say “oh, I’m Vegan, no thanks” if someone offers you a ham sandwich, for instance, no problem. But, please don’t launch into a tirade about your personal beliefs. A simple “no thanks” is fine. On the flip side, if you are the one offering the ham sandwich, don’t start in on the vegan person about why they won’t eat ham and hassle them about it. That’s not acceptable, either.

    I have been on the receiving end of being questioned about my food choices at work, and I shut it down every time. It’s no one’s business what I eat or what I don’t eat. If there’s a problem, my doctor will point it out to me. I don’t need my coworkers to do that for me.

  29. LQ

    Having a stockpile of responses in case he does head down that path is a really good tactic to get back to a feeling of normal. You can know with confidence if he comes up to you and launches into something you’ll have a response. The ones listed are a good start but I know I’d want more, what is the next part of the conversation to it feels normal.

    So having some things that you feel good talking about and know won’t be incredibly uncomfortable are good.
    “Where are you at with the TPS reports?”
    “How did little Suzy do with the water park over the weekend?” (Anything to get people talking about something else that they are happy to talk about is good.)
    “I have been having the worst time connecting to the internet lately, are you having any trouble with it? No? Huh, I think I have to go fight with the computer some more.”

    Combine these and you have…
    Something something uncomfortable something
    “I’d really rather not discuss this. Can you tell me where we are with the TPS reports?”

    1. Bowserkitty

      Did you get that memo?

      (okay, I’m 2/2 for Office Space references in this post)

  30. B-Bam

    Following the comments, all I can think of now is the manager or HR person who has to talk to the co-workers engaged in food battles. “Sam, we need you to stop shouting ‘cheese is murder’ in the lunch room.” “Sally, you have to stop aggressively eating cheeseburgers in front of Jim’s cubicle.”

    1. Creag an Tuire

      “And I can’t believe I have to say this, but Wakeen, you absolutely must stop sexually harassing Sally’s lunch.”

  31. Macedon

    I’d suggest avoiding food talk and, next time this happens (if there is one), stop him during or after his outburst and tell him that you do not want to participate in a discussion about dietary choices and the logistical/moral/whatever background behind them. Add that you are not comfortable with his aggressiveness, if necessary.

    You could go as far as taking him aside now, telling him that he has made you uncomfortable in these incidents, and that in the future you would like him not to engage with you on any food-related topics. I think that’s not quite called for, personally, but up to you.

    I’m just vegetarian, and I’ve enjoyed the sanctimonious oratorship of vegans and taunting omnivores alike. If they become diligent about pursuing their dietary agenda, there’s little middle ground and it’s best to cut that at the root.

  32. OP

    Thank you so much for all the comments! In reply to the questions:
    – yes the office email was from him and I’m pretty sure was a passive aggressive dig at me
    – vegetarianism is quite a big thing in the office but it’s not mandatory

    After asking Alison, I did have a chat where he explained why he had reacted that way (as suggested, due to his belief that animal farming is slavery and murder, and not wanting to be involved in those conversations). He also asked me to tell him if he ever upset me about that so I told him that his entire reaction had done that very thing. Bridges were glued together and since then I have avoided food conversations like the plague.

    I do absolutely respect and in many ways agree with the ‘animal farming is slavery and murder’ perspective, and I actually am grateful to be in an environment where those things are considered and discussed and make me regularly look at my own choices. Nonetheless some of the things that get said during the day do really grate. Comparisons using the cowspiracy mindset against colleagues who have made huge environmental or animal welfare contributions. Casual observations about how pregnant cows are killed and the unborn baby used for leather…(the most recent gem). All possibly valid but still really quite upsetting and kind of passive aggressive when said (to an interested colleague) whilst other people are just trying to work.

    I don’t really think there is much I can do about that though, unfortunately. Days when he is not in are definitely less tense for me.

    1. Laurel Gray

      Glad you two were able to patch things up and avoid any direct awkwardness. I’m surprised that he took it upon himself (as opposed to management doing it) to email the whole office about using email appropriately. Makes me think you really did say that the cheese sandwich had a nice ass. :)

    2. Rebecca in Dallas

      Glad things are a little better!

      That’s cool that you work in a veg-friendly office! Makes me curious about what kind of industry you work in, but I’m sure you don’t want to reveal too much info.

    3. KR

      I am laughing at the idea of mandatory vegetarianism in an office setting. Anyway, I’m glad you were able to have that conversation with him and wish you good luck in warding off future fun facts. I think I’m like you in that I am happy to see other perspectives and know how my choices affect others along the supply chain – but not at work.

  33. newlyhr

    He’s a rude guy. Food is his topic du jour, but don’t be surprised. If you shut him down on the food talk, he will probably figure out a way to be rude about other things. Just be prepared. He wants to argue and he will find something to argue about.

  34. April

    I love all of these comments. I find it so amazing how many people have someone in their office who constantly feels like they need to comment on someone’s food choices. I guess there is at least one in every office! I am currently pregnant and eating a lot of junk food that I would normally not be eating. I get a lot of those “wow that doesn’t look healthy” and “Should you really be eating that?”. Today someone said to me “I hope that’s decaf” in response to a frozen coffee drink that I was drinking (it was decaf not that it matters). I guess there are just a lot of people who can’t help themselves from commenting and feel that they are not only nutritionists but also your personal doctor who knows all about your health and dietary needs. I personally just like to respond with humor. “are you going to eat all of those” … Sure am!! “how much sugar is in that?” …. An awful lot and boy is it tasty! It isn’t even with sugary treats too. I was eating a banana the other day and someone said that they read an article somewhere that eating too many bananas causes birth defects… seriously??? Or eating cashews and I was told that it would give my baby a nut allergy. Sigh.

    1. KR

      I heard encounters with rude people during pregnancy make for a frustrated mother. Just a rumor.

    2. animaniactoo

      It’s totally time to step that up.

      “How much sugar is in that?” “Oh man, not enough. Why do you have more?”

      “I saw that eating bananas can cause birth defects” “Awesome! Maybe it’ll be a super power. Seriously, which of the X-Men do you think I should shoot for?”

      “Are you going to eat all of those?” “No, I’m pretty sure the baby’s going to demand half. Huh. I wonder what happens when s/he poops. Do you think it mixes with my poop and I get rid of it for the baby?”

      “Eating nuts will give the baby a nut allergy.” “Hmmmm. Does that mean if I drink milk, the baby will have a meat allergy? What about eggs, do you think that’s safe? OMG IS THERE ANYTHING I CAN EAT WITHOUT ENDANGERING THE BABY?”

      1. April

        LOL No apparently there isn’t much that I can eat that won’t cause some sort of mutation.

    3. Artemesia

      I love these responses. My daughter’s go to response when people make passive aggressive criticisms of her parenting choices is ‘well, I guess I just don’t love my baby as much as you do’

      1. Not So NewReader

        Nailed it. Because that is where people are going with their comments. “Well you would be doing X if you actually love your child.” Ridiculous.

    4. Katie the Fed

      I got in a bit of trouble many years ago when I brought in girl scout cookies and one of my coworkers gave a haughty sigh and a “I can’t believe you would bring those in – Girl Scouts give money to Planned Parenthood” and I replied “hooray, cookies and abortions for all!”

      I got a stern talking to.

      1. A Cita

        LOL! That’s great!

        “Everytime you eat a girl scout cookie, an angel gets its wings.”

      2. Anonymous Educator

        That’s awesome. I would have been tempted to say, “Oh, I didn’t know that. I love Planned Parenthood. Maybe I should buy some more Girl Scout cookies…”

    5. Elder Dog

      Actually, it’s not eating nuts that will give your baby a nut allergy. People who insist on giving out unsolicited advice really have an obligation to keep up with scientific advances.

      1. Putting Out Fires, Esq

        At this stage in pregnancy, I’m eating what stays down, period. But yeah, current thinking is exposure in utero is a good thing. Nuts and strawberries and eggs for all!

  35. Brett

    If only OP’s workplace had a few even mildly strict Jains working there. I suspect co-worker is the type who ends up turning his veganism into a competition in his head and would not cope well with people who had a more strict form of vegetarianism than him.

  36. Doriana Gray

    * I sent an all-office IM asking if anyone wanted a cheese sandwich I had accidentally bought (accidentally in that I thought I had bought a different filling). I received an email back from him demanding that I don’t include him on any further “offensive” emails.

    LMAO! Your coworker is a nut.

  37. LibraryChick

    I can honestly say that I have never been offended by a cheese sandwich.
    I used to be a retail manager at a place where most of the employees were part-time college students. Remembering what it was like to be a starving college student, I would often bring food in for my staff to snack on while working their shift. That ended when someone complained to our headquarters that I was ruining her diet. Basically, because one person didn’t have self control, everyone else had to suffer.

  38. Amy

    The only thing worth commenting on is something like bologna sandwiches and mountain dew. Like, do you not care about anything at all?

  39. Girasol

    What is it about food that turns people into nosy critics? People who can keep an even tone on football, religion, and politics will point to another’s lunch and say “you shouldn’t eat that” or “you’re gonna get fat” or “you don’t eat enough.” We Americans (at least) are downright neurotic about food.

  40. Elder Dog

    That guy’s not talking about your food. He’s berating you over his politics. Tell him you prefer not to discuss politics at work, and if he won’t stop, handle it like any other person trying to push a personal political agenda while at work.

  41. Sammy

    Off topic, but this is honestly confusing me and I would appreciate clarification. I searched through the comments and wasn’t able to find this information, so I am asking the question:

    What the hell is a “cheese sandwich”? A cold sandwich of two pieces of bread with nothing else except cheese? Or is it, like, a grilled cheese sandwich? I understand what that is, but have only ever heard/seen it called, specifically, a “grilled cheese sandwich” and not a “cheese sandwich”.

    1. fposte

      While Wikipedia claims that it’s basically cheese between bread slices, the ones I’ve seen are more like cheese with sandwich veggies like lettuce and tomato. They’re cold, not grilled. In the UK, you can also get cheese and pickle, which is very nice.

    2. Murphy

      I used to eat cheese sandwiches a lot when I was younger (not much of a sandwich person now). But yup, it was bread and cheese. That’s it. Good cheddar on nutty bread is delicious.

    3. Panda Bandit

      There are some nice-looking cheese sandwiches out there. A place near my work does a really thick slice of brie or mozzarella on crusty bread, usually with tomatoes and lettuce and toppings like pesto.

    4. Cath in Canada

      A friend of mine (a fellow Brit living in Canada) once wrote an epic Facebook rant about how north Americans treat cheese like a condiment, adding it as an afterthought to a turkey or beef sandwich, when every good Brit knows that good cheese is a sandwich filling in its own right. I eat my (cold) cheese sandwiches with lettuce, tomato, and Branston pickle when I can get the original recipe (the north American rights got bought by an American company and now the stuff you can buy here is sweet like jam, which, blech).

  42. OP

    Actually, in this case one other thing has subsequently come up which I would be grateful for some input on if anyone is still reading.

    As part of the occasional diatribes on the (admitted) evils of dairy farming, my colleague will talk about how dairy cows are ‘raped’. The word was used two to three times yesterday. Now interpretation aside, I do find that word really triggering and upsetting. Does anyone have any ideas how I shut that down without having to say “Hey well I’ve actually Been raped and experienced other abuse, please knock it off” to someone in the office…because well, probably quite obviously, that’s not a conversation I want to have!

    1. OldAdmin

      Is it an option to say exactly that? I.e., that these expressions are triggering and upsetting, AND inappropriate for the workplace?

      1. OldAdmin

        Also, doesn’t all this already constitute an unwanted political discussion (as in food/economics/globalization etc. politics), and clearly disruptive / harassing behavior in the office?
        I don’t mean anything covered by law, but in the company culture, possibly even an employee handbook?

        1. OP

          I think I need a script for how to say that without outing myself, as there are less than 7 people in our office.

          1. Erin

            “Can we please not talk about rape, animal or otherwise, in the office?”

            “Talking about raping animals offends me, much the way cheese sandwiches offend you. I’ll stop if you stop, agreed?”

            “We can agree to disagree about food, but seriously please don’t talk about animals being raped. I don’t need to hear about that at work.”

            “I’m trying to work here, if you could refrain from the animal rape conversations, that’d be great.”

            Honestly, I think you need to be a little bit assertive and possibly borderline aggressive, because tiptoeing around this guy, or even treating him like a normal, rational person is obviously going to go nowhere. He needs to be shut. Down.

            Whatever script you decide on, use it *in the moment.* Don’t let that moment go by and be haunting you all day until you finally bring it up at some point in the future. Shut the conversation down immediately.

            What a tool. Sorry you’re dealing with this.

          2. E

            Can you explain that that word is not a good choice and just ask him to refrain from that choice of words? I don’t think you need to specify your history at all, just tell him that hearing that word used is upsetting to you.

            1. JessaB

              I’d go after him in terms of language not in terms of “I am a victim of rape,” but “using rape in that manner is problematic language, and it can hurt people who actually were raped (without saying you, like I are part of that group.) Please don’t use that word.” And honestly every time he does that “I asked you before to please find another word.”

    2. Countess Boochie Flagrante

      I think what I would go for is just shutting down the larger conversation altogether. If you can get it across to him that discussing the evils of any animal-based food industry is not good work conversation, you shouldn’t need to get specifically into that part of it.

      So the minute he starts on “hey did you know dairy farms-” you throw up a hand and go “Nope, I’m aware, thank you this is not a discussion we need to have, bye.” Or a politer version, I guess, but the same sentiment.

    3. Rebecca in Dallas

      Yikes! Maybe you could try, “I don’t think someone who has experienced rape would appreciate that comparison.” Then you’re not outing yourself has having been a victim but maybe that will make him realize what he’s said could be triggering? Though it might still end up with him explaining why he thinks so.

      Sorry you’re having to deal with this!

      1. Observer

        I might phrase it bit more explicitly – “I don’t think anyone who has actually experienced rape would appreciate being compared to a cow in heat.”

        He’s a boor, but even he might be taken aback enough to realize that he’s going to have a hard time explaining that away.

    4. animaniactoo

      I started out doing this a different way – but I think it’s actually avoiding the point.

      You have a path to address this – he told you to let him know if there’s anything he does that upsets/offends you. So tell him: “Jeff, you asked me to tell you if anything you did bothers me, and both hearing you describe cows as being raped and talking about it at length does. I’d really appreciate it if you could not bring that up again to me/in my hearing”.

      He tells you you’re too sensitive? “Maybe, but it bothers me.” He tells you that you don’t care enough, etc.? “Maybe, but I think it’s kind of inappropriate in the office, since it does not relate to our work.”

      If you catch him in the moment – “Hey Jeff, can you please stop? This is really bothering me.”

      You’re looking at it from the small standpoint of your trigger (easily understandable), but it looks like really this is just part of the overall stuff and one of the ones that you can *in particular* respond to as part of the overall.

    5. Elder Dog

      Before he gets going, when he starts in about any of this stuff, hold up your hands and tell him to stop. Tell him you’re feeling bullied and all this political haranguing is interfering with your ability to work. If he objects tell him you’re starting to cringe when you see him coming.
      You say he’s a good guy, so he probably won’t try to argue you out of it, but if he does get up and walk away. Turn your back on him.
      You don’t have to get into the specifics of what offends you, just shut it down as soon as the words (or the tone!) comes out of his mouth.

  43. Emily Whitby

    Soo many responses to this! It took me a few minutes to scroll down! What about confronting him? Why hasn’t anybody said that? What he said made you feel bad and you don’t have to feel like that at work. Personally, I am vegan but we still live in the world with other people and we all have to get along. Maybe he doesn’t know that he’s annoying you? He never will if you don’t tell him :-) I hope it works out! Emily

  44. Justin

    Why talk to an idiot with a nazi-eque food agenda at work with about the food you eat at work? Who cares? Want some advice? Do your job well. Take your pay. Go home and sleep with your lover. Play some Nintendo. Smoke a J. Wake up. Do it all over again. #don’tengagemorons.

  45. HowDareThey

    Being accused of using email inappropriately would, for me, be a trigger for a very quick word with my immediate supervisor — I might say “I’m just checking– I didn’t meant to overstep the boundaries on work email, I just didn’t want to waste food.” There’s a chance the boss will open up a little about the situation and indicate that Mr. Vegan is driving people crazy and boss will even have a little advice. It’s also possible that others have been genuinely abusing email and Mr. Vegan whining was just a last straw and that practice has to be tightened up, and the boss may say no more than “No non work related emails” and be silent. This would indicate that Mr. Vegan created some tension and the boss wants it to end. Either way it gives you valuable information.

  46. Guest

    I’m aware that I’m late to the party, but I was reading through the comments and something stuck out to me.

    To people seriously identify as an ‘omnivore’? I’m sure some people say that in jest, but it seems others actually go around calling themselves ‘omnivores’. To me, whether or not you’re vegetarian is beside the point. You’re a human being, of course you’re an omnivore. It’s like identifying as a mammal or something.

    I don’t mean to chastise anyone, I just think it’s funny. Don’t mind me, I’m probably just bring too literal.

  47. Secretary

    This is unfortunate on so many levels. My husband and I are both vegan, and people like this just give us a bad name.

  48. The Snark Knight

    With all the food allergies and conditions that require special diets, it’s best not to even bring things up about food.

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