banana thefts, peppers for potlucks, and other weird office food stories

In honor of the day of gorging that will take place tomorrow, here are some of my favorite stories from last week’s post about weird food happenings in your offices.

1. “I used to work with an awful guy who used to dig his hand into bowls of catered food at our work lunches. Like pasta salad. it’s one thing to grab a few chips with your hand, but he’d put his dirty ass hand into a BOWL OF MACARONI. he was a total pig and if there was an email that said ‘leftovers from whatever meeting in the kitchen now!’ people would run to make sure they got there before old filthy hands got there because once he was spotted in the kitchen, all food was officially considered contaminated.

One time I was carrying a stack of boxes that I had a huge bowl of fruit salad perched on top, and was struggling with a door. He ran to get in front of me and I thought he was going to open the door, but he stuffed his hand down into the bowl of fruit salad and grabbed himself a handful of dripping, juicy watermelon and pineapple and cantelope and walked away from me just munching on it. I almost puked. I seriously hated that guy, it’s been years and I still hate him.”

2. “Not weird, but one of the funniest potluck moments was at a breakfast potluck. On the sign-up sheet, someone wrote ‘Peppers.’ We all assumed he was going to make some kind of savoury breakfast dish with peppers. Nope. He literally brought in a couple bell peppers and cut them up. For breakfast. Everyone else in my office makes fairly elaborate potluck dishes, so we had fun teasing him for that one.”

3. “I worked in a small office for a larger company with about 12 people in my department and we had our own lunch room. When it was time for lunch (11:30 am), someone would ring a bell (like at the hotel front desk) alerting everyone it was lunch time. If you did not come to the lunch room, someone would come looking for you and ask why you were not at lunch. The boss said it was for team building, but in reality he liked to have an audience for his stories/rantings/topics of the day. If someone was having a side conversation while he was telling a story, he would glare at the offenders and talk louder. Lunch was often the worst part of the day.”

4. “I’ve been through my share of great and not-great potlucks, but my most extreme office food story is the moment I learned to appreciate my surly coworker.

My surly coworker and I were tasked with providing light refreshments for an all-staff meeting (more than 200 people) on an extremely tight budget (less than $1 per person). My coworker went to great lengths to talk (badger) local vendors into deals so we could get the best spread possible, and she did a great job. It was nothing fancy, but fresh fruits, mini pastries, crackers, spreads, and coffee–enough for everyone to have some of everything.

During the opening address (by a senior manager), before the refreshments were officially served, someone standing near the refreshments at the back of the room was sneaking food off the tables and putting them into a plastic bag she had brought. A few of us noticed but were so appalled (and trying to stay quiet) that we just watched, silently aghast, the collective ‘who *does* that??’ on hold in our minds, waiting for the speech to end. That is until my surly coworker saw her take an entire bunch of bananas. ‘EXCUSE ME,’ she shouted from the front of the room, ‘THIS IS NOT A GROCERY STORE, AND YOU DO NOT DO YOUR FOOD SHOPPING HERE. PLEASE PUT THOSE BANANAS BACK ON THE TABLE.'”

One beat of silence, bananas go back on the table, speech resumes. I’ve never been so impressed.

5. “I make a mean chocolate cake with cherry pie filling included …chocolatey, moist, great texture and a Carmel frosting. At OldJob, I had to quit bringing it because Donna would talk about it, talk TO it, and make moaning NSFW adult noises while eating it.

No one could look her in the eye for days after eating that cake.”

6. “At my last job, I invited a bunch of coworkers over for pizza from my wood-fired oven. It’s a serious piece of kit – it’s effortless to crank it up to 900 degrees, and it’ll put out a Neapolitan pizza in about a minute and a half. My coworkers brought a ton of beer, and I slung pie for hours while we all debated the merits of various IPAs. While drinking them.

When everyone’s pizza urges were sated, I closed the oven door and let it start to burn itself out, which takes over a day. My wife and I know to never open the door once it’s time to let the oven wind down, but my coworker Bill didn’t know the rules. And Bill was very deep in his cups. So he bellowed, ‘Man, I wonder if it’s still hot in there?’ and grabbed the door.

One of the interesting side-effects of flameless combustion in a low-oxygen environment is the buildup of pyrolytic gases in the oven. This is more than an academic point. PROTIP: when your drunkass opens the oven while your host screams NOOOOOOOOOO and tackles you, the inrushing draft of oxygen will result in explosively energetic resumption of combustion, firing a jet of howling flame across the patio and lighting several pots of decorative plants on fire. And that’s if you’re lucky enough to be Bill, and aren’t just lit on fire like a human road flare. Maybe just don’t.”

7. “Yesterday there was a multi-department company-sponsored pizza lunch as a thanks for a big launch. He whipped out a Swiss army knife and walked around the building to every pizza, cutting out the ‘buy ten, get one”’ coupons on every box. This was very soon after the food was delivered and served, so he was hacking and sawing away at the boxes while holding up a line of people who actually wanted to eat, and also mangling/creating giant holes in the boxes that made the hot food turn cold right away.

I watched this go down with a mix of aggravation and admiration for his sheer DGAF.”

8. “We usually have a potluck at the end of the year. Some people make a fancy dish, buy a thing of cookies or chips, a veggie tray, etc. My favorite was last year when someone unwrapped a block of cheddar, put it on a plate and stuck a plastic fork in it. Like it was Excalibur.”

{ 453 comments… read them below }

    1. RabbitRabbit*

      Are you kidding, half of us will start making suggestive statements about it in here and the other half won’t even be able to deal with it.


        1. oranges & lemons*

          One of my favourite blog comments of all time was from someone who admitted that she regularly talked to food that she was cooking, reassuring it by saying things like, “Don’t worry, I’m just making you more comfortable.” I wish I could remember who/where that was.

          1. JamieS*

            Yeah it’s cute when she’s talking to bell peppers and pasta. It’s cold-hearted when saying it to a live lobster right before dumping it into a pot of boiling water.

            1. Candi*

              I read a comment once from a guy who had an interesting way of cooking lobster.

              He’d put sodium bicarbonate (measurements not given) in a pan of cool water and put the lobster in. After about ten minutes, he’d transfer the lobster to the boiling water.

              Allegedly, the lobster had gone unconscious due to oxygen deprivation and wouldn’t feel being cooked.

              Note I make no claim as to the scientific validity or effectiveness of this method.

              I love how lobster tastes. :( But I can’t eat it knowing that that’s what they do to preserve the maximum freshness and keep the meat from being tainted by the animal’s death. There has to be a better way.

              1. blargh*

                Most people I know just put a knife to the brain and cut it in half. It’s instantly dead. None of that 10 minutes of oxygen deprivation bullshit.

    2. turquoises*

      Seeing as Alison’s list articles are usually 5 items long, I thought for a second that you were joking about wanting the recipe for Excalibur Cheese!

    3. notthemomma*

      If any of you make this and take it to work to test other peoples reactions, I want stories in an open thread!!
      In a very weird way, this has made my day!
      1 box chocolate cake mix (I prefer Pillsbury)
      1 can cherry pie filling
      3 eggs
      Combine cake mix, cherry pie filling, and three eggs. Mix until well blended. If you mix by hand, the cherries won’t get cut up.
      Bake in well greased and floured 9 x 13 pan. Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for 35 to 40 minutes.
      I prefer caramel frosting, but any type will do.

      1. Amethyst Anne*

        My Mom and I made this using white cake mix. It is very good! Even without the frosting. It’s good as breakfast too! We had wanted to try this recipe using a can of apple pie filling with spice cake mix.

        1. Candi*

          Thank you for answering my question! I can’t eat chocolate, so knowing white cake mix will work is great! :)

          1. Amethyst Anne*

            I made this cake with the spice cake mix and apple pie filling (with no frosting) today. Delicious!

            It is best to blend the dry mix and the eggs together until there are no dry lumps of mix, before adding the pie filling. I cut up the apples into smaller pieces.

      2. MCMonkeyBean*

        This sounds so good! I assumed the cherry pie filling was used as, well, a filling–but this sounds much less complicated.

    4. sharon g*

      Just an FYI for those who haven’t tried the cake: Oh. My. God. I totally get why the woman was making noises. YUM! I made one a couple weeks ago, and I’m making 3 more for this weekend’s Christmas get togethers. It’s delicious, and so easy to make.

  1. Cute Li'l UFO*

    That was such an incredible thread. I missed out as I was finishing up a contract that was sucking my soul, but at said contract I had some catered food and ate a little ball of steel wool in my fried plantains. I pulled out some of it but in the ensuing “OMFG” I accidentally swallowed the rest of it.

    After what happened there, I WOULD be the person to end up eating steel wool.

    1. DecorativeCacti*

      That beats my friend who ate a banana muffin wrapper and all. She didn’t figure out what happened until she went to look for the wrapper to throw it away.

      1. Alli525*

        That’s like that old urban legend about the Queen once having to eat a paper doily because her guest accidentally ate his. Stories like that are probably why I’m so fascinated by the UK.

      2. Cute Li'l UFO*

        I will readily admit to taking some very enthusiastic bites of sandwiches… but didn’t it seem a little dry and, ahem, papery?

  2. nep*

    #3 — Oh that would be horrible. I would have to reallllly have to like that job to stay and put up with that every day.

    1. Stranger than fiction*

      I’m wondering how that was even legal. I mean, being held captive with your coworkers and boss does not constitute a proper break. (But I realize this could be outside the US)

      1. Candi*

        Depends on the state. Too many don’t have ANY laws about breaks; some only have laws for minors. (Gives all such a stinkeye.)

        Now, in my state, the DOL would likely consider it a violation of the hourly workers MUST get half an hour for lunch*, since they’re still plugged into work. (The half hour is unpaid, unless the employer decides otherwise.)

        * no later than 5 1/2-6 hours after shift start

    2. Mrs. Fenris*

      Not as bad as this, but I used to work for a tiny company whose entire full time staff was the owner, his wife, his mother, me, and one peer. We were not allowed to leave the building for lunch. Technically we could have eaten at our desks, but the few times my peer coworker tried it, he definitely got the stink eye. So, lunch, every day, consisted of sitting around a tiny table with my boss and his family, watching the local news and then whatever junk show came on afterwards, with lots of commentary from the family about what was on TV. Their favorite topic as a group was their general superiority to the rest of mankind, so lots of “wow, that guy is an idiot, we would never fall for that.” My one deal-breaker was whenever the wife’s brother would drop in for the fun. He took the “general superiority” thing over into overt racism, and I refused to be in the same room with him. I worked for those people for way too long.

      1. Wintermute*

        As an aside, if I recall, if you’re not free to leave during lunch it isn’t legally a lunch break in at least some states: you have to be free to leave if you wish, whether or not you can as a practical matter (especially if it requires leaving through a security mantrap, etc) is a different matter.

        1. Candi*

          In my state, you don’t necessarily need a dedicated break area or be able to leave, but you must be unplugged from work during breaks and lunch if you’re an hourly worker.

          We have nice break laws, too. A paid 15 minute break after 2-2 1/2 hours, unpaid half hour lunch after 5-5 1/2 hours, and another paid break after that if you’re working an 8 hour shift. And the DOL takes enforcement of such seriously. (Yay!) Even the most toxic places I worked followed the law.

          (Hourly-paid nurses are an exception to must-have scheduled breaks -but they still need to get breaks.)

        1. pumpkin spice.*

          SO funny that you said that. this is my post, and i had a male friend at work who, one day when i was complaining about Old Filthy Hands, said, “you know he doesn’t wash his hands in the bathroom right? i pee next to him all the time, we’re on the same pee schedule and he NEVER washes his hands.”

          1. Alli525*

            At my former job, my cubicle was mere feet away from the only restrooms in the office (my coworkers frequently liked to joke that the seating assignment was a punishment). I unfortunately knew which C-level exec never, ever washed his hands – and funny enough he was the one leering at all the young women in the office, IMAGINE THAT.

          2. Snark*

            I was joking earlier, but I seriously think this guy must have been raised by wolves. Like, I’m not sure how you disregard norms around non-grossness this thoroughly unless your mom threw you chunks of raw elk at mealtimes and taught you to howl at full moons.

            1. Artemesia*

              I don’t understand why people are not constantly on him about this until he is bullied into stopping. Unless this is the boss, every time he does this, people should go ‘Ewww, get your hands out of our food.’

              1. Candi*

                pumpkin spice mentioned a few things in the comments on the original thread which can be summed up as “Teflon to shame”. Plus he was above a lot of the people who had to deal with his nastiness.

          3. annejumps*

            I once worked at a place where I was close enough to the restrooms, and there was one dude who, every time he went in, exited the men’s room immediately after the sound of flushing. Grossed me out every time.

            1. Liz*

              I must mention that I hate flushing a toilet with no lid, so it’s not uncommon for me to wash my hands and then flush the toilet with my foot as I’m leaving.

              It probably looks bad, but I prefer not to be crammed in a tiny room with an open flushing toilet.

      1. JustaTech*

        I once followed a guy in the cafeteria line in college who didn’t use a plate, just plopped the food straight on the tray. And this wasn’t just any old cafeteria food, no, this was super-fancy last dinner before winter break Thanksgiving/Christmas dinner food. So mashed potatoes, lobster, steak, like, good stuff that should have been savored, or at least appreciated. But no, just blopped on the tray like it was slop.

        But at least he used the serving utensils!

        1. twig*

          I remember neo-hippie kids in college doing that! They thought they were being less wasteful.

          I worked in the dirty end of the dishroom in our dining hall — it was NOT helpful. (these same people would seldom deign to scrape off their trays into the provided trashcan before sending them down the conveyor belt to the dishroom)

          1. copy run start*

            Oh man, you reminded me of this neo-hippie my college roommate tried to date! He was nervous peeing the whole time he was at our place, and not once did he flush the toilet. Not once. Normally I tried to stay out of my roommate’s love life, but I damn sure put a stop to that one. There are other ways to conserve.

            1. Koko*

              I totally believe in following the rules of the house when it comes to flushing policy. If I’m over at a hippie friend’s house and I see that they don’t flush their toilet for pee, I won’t either out of respect for their wishes. But when they come over to my house they damn well better flush after they pee. My toilet, my rules.

    1. The Other Kate*

      I think I literally gagged when reading that…. I would never be able to eat anything at that office.

    2. Specialk9*

      He jumped in front of an overloaded colleague struggling with a door, reached into the precariously balanced bowl of fruit salad with his bare hand, grabbed a fist full of dripping fruit, and walked away. What even…

        1. nep*

          Is it just this massively rude person’s way of claiming every dish as his own? Because who’s going to touch it after that?

          1. nony*

            That was my great-grandfather’s method of claiming the entire biscuit tin as his own. Go over, look in the tin, give each biscuit a good fondle, put them all back but the one he wanted…

            To be fair, that was one of the less heinous things he did. My other great-grandfather decided to do some research into the family his daughter was planning to marry into, and got the near-universal response of “oh God!”

            1. Artemesia*

              I have a real aversion to buffet restaurants for this reason. I one sat at a buffet in SE Asia (I was a guest and thus didn’t have a choice about the restaurant) I saw a guy go up to the huge basket of rolls at the end of the table and literally paw through all of them fondling all of them until he found the perfect roll (they were identical as far as I could tell, but now they were identically covered in his disgusting essence) And kids and buffets? And older men who like to taste as they go? And women who stick their fingers into the dressings to decide which one they want. Shudder.

              1. Feline*

                I live in a tourist area here in the US, so we have a combination of people from outside the states who probably aren’t familiar with some of the food on the buffet plus kids whose parents are on vacation and aren’t paying much attention to them at the buffet. The result usually is Inappropiate Things Entering the Chocolate Fountain. That’s the name of the horror documentary I will someday make about the whole thing. I would probably be sued by the buffet industry and never be allowed to show it, though.

        2. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain*

          I would have lost it the first instance of him sticking his hand…his HAND…IN THE PASTA. I would have been the talk of the company for generations for my immediate and unfiltered reaction to that.

          1. Snark*

            I’m just amazed that not one person was like “WHAT THE HELL WAKEEEN WERE YOU RAISED BY WOLVES OR WHAT”

              1. pumpkin spice.*

                i mean, people did. of course people did. but he was in a higher position than many of us in the office, laughed it off/scoffed like we were stupid Americans for caring about imaginary germs, he’d pretend he didn’t know who any of us were so he could retain a position of power over us (like “oh nice to meet you, I’m Filthy Hands, I’m an executive blah blah blah.” “yes, i’ve worked with you for 9 years and we’ve met approximately 763 times. and it’s a pleasure every time, asshole.”) he was a jerk to anyone he considered beneath him.

                1. Snark*

                  People like this are why we need to colonize space: just so we have airlocks handy to blow them out of.

                2. pumpkin spice.*

                  am in full support of that and also, am 100% positive that i’ve uttered the phrase, “[old filthy hands] is definitely on my list of people i would shoot into space, if i had the ability to shoot people into space.”

                3. Anon Marketer*

                  You are way more tolerant than I am. I would have raised enough of a fuss to get myself fired, I can’t even imagine dealing with a co-worker who does that, UGH.

                4. Temperance*

                  Was it like a cultural issue or something? I am trying so hard to come up with reasons, but ugh, I hate him.

                5. Specialk9*

                  “People like this are why we need to colonize space: just so we have airlocks handy to blow them out of.”

                  Indeed, dripping watermelon fist guy, who doesn’t wash his hands after pooping, is going right out the airlock.

                6. SusanIvanova*

                  In the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series, Earth was populated by all the people that the Golgafrinchans shot into space. Explains a lot!

                7. SS Express*

                  I HATE people who pretend they don’t remember you. I know a guy, a friend of a friend, who does this not only to me but also to another friend who is much closer to the mutual friend and has therefore met the guy like 20 times. He’s sort of an alternative arty hipstery type and just thinks he’s way too cool for us. Once, when I was a new graduate at a very big company, I was introduced to the Vice President (who was based in another state) and he said “oh, SS Express, you send the weekly teapot sales report for State – so nice to put a face to the name”. No prizes for guessing which of these people actually impressed me.

          2. Arya Snark*

            Snark and I have something in common beyond our names. I would have said something similar to Wakeen followed by giving him the entire bowl of whatever, telling him to enjoy it and not let it go to waste because no one else wants it now that he’s had his nasty paws in it.

            1. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain*

              NO! He will not get to eat the entire bowl. That would be rewarding his piggishness and he would learn (if it wasn’t his plan already) to ruin any dish he wanted all to himself.

              1. Alli525*

                Or pull a Miss Trunchbull and force him to eat the ENTIRE bowl in one sitting while everyone watches and taunts him.

            2. nonegiven*

              Hell, I don’t care how high he was, every time I saw him do that, I’d upend the bowl into his face.

              1. Specialk9*

                That’s been my mental video. Exec filthy hands claws into the communal bowl like a velociraptor… Closest co-worker solemnly upends bowl over his head, and other co-workers scoop up the food that had plopped to the table to drop helpfully back in his head. Then it turns into pelting him with macaroni and pineapple.

          3. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

            Me too. I wouldn’t have been able to control the, “Did you just stick your hands in the food? Do you know how unsanitary that is? Use utensils or you are not allowed to eat at all”

        3. pumpkin spice.*

          this was over 10 years ago and i’m still gagging about it. i am almost positive i wrote a long myspace blog post ranting about it at the time.

      1. tigerlily*

        Yeah, the first time he did that to something that was mine, I probably would have made a big production of bringing the bowl with the rest of it over to his desk in front of all our co-workers, and telling him he better eat it, enjoy cleaning it up, and then make it very clear he was not to touch anything else of mine ever again. That guy is disgusting.

    3. LoiraSafada*

      This is why I’m not a fan of potlucks, even though this letter doesn’t have anything to do with them. I just don’t trust other peoples’ food hygiene.

    4. Stranger than fiction*

      So gross. Hopefully it wasn’t the same guy I saw who was knuckle deep picking his nose on the train yesterday.

    5. Julie Noted*

      Awkward cultural differences question time?

      Are Americans unusually nauseated by the concept of uncleanliness? I keep hearing stories on US-dominated sites about people vomiting/retching/being close to vomiting at the idea of eating food touched by someone else’s hand. Never come across it in real life.

      It’s not cool to touch other people’s food; no disagreement from me. But unless I’m looking at a hand covered in sores touching something I’m about to eat it’s not ever something that makes me feel sick at the thought.

      So, what’s up with that? Does your culture have an especially low disgust threshold, or is this just an example of extreme metaphor? (Thinking “not cool” –> saying “I needed to puke”)

      1. Kismet*

        At least some of it is extreme metaphor, or at least it would be among my extended family, though I have met some people who are actually that disgusted.

        I’m with you – it’s not cool to stick your hands, especially unwashed, into someone else’s food, but it doesn’t make me recoil in horror, and honestly I’m pretty sure that most family-only holiday meals we’ve done have involved hands plating food or inquisitive kids poking at food at some point and no one cared unless the hands in question were exquisitely filthy. I’m thinking especially of comments about other people touching things like bread rolls – most people I know wouldn’t bat an eye at that.

        I’m not saying other people’s reactions are necessarily wrong, but mine isn’t either – and I find disgust to be such an interesting thing. I know I find some things revolting that most other people love, and it can be such a weird thing to navigate. (My cousin was not impressed when I had to physically leave her house after smelling her award-winning casserole, let me tell you.)

      2. Augusta Sugarbean*

        Well of course any answer to your question would be a meaningless generalization. There might be some regional…commonalities, for lack of a better word, but I don’t think anyone can accurately describe “American culture”. The only thing you can say about “all Americans” is that they are “all American”. I think what you are seeing is sort of an equivalent to the squeaky wheel gets the grease, i.e., people who have a severe aversion to other people’s hands on their food are going to be the ones who comment. Plenty of people don’t have that kind of reaction will just read and move on.

      3. bigboicat*

        Dude, we’re not in a culture where eating communally and sharing dishes is normal, let alone grabbing food with your bare hands. This isn’t even getting into how people don’t even wash their hands enough to begin with, let alone before they do that. Most of us don’t want to eat things that someone who just touched their penis while peeing and didn’t wash them stick their hand in it.

        1. Julie Noted*

          Neither do I. But as I said, there’s a difference between finding a behaviour offensive and having a physical reaction to it. I’ve never in my life seen anyone have that kind of reaction, or heard anyone in the flesh recount a story that included a gag reaction to food being touched by someone’s hand. I’ve come across it countless times online in US-dominated spaces, though. Hence my interest in whether this is a real thing.

      4. Dove*

        I think it’s probably less this being an extreme metaphor or American culture having an especially low disgust threshold, and more to do with America having a lot of trouble with food-borne illnesses; food poisoning isn’t unusual, and it’s pretty common for there to be recalls of contaminated food.

        Now, combine this with the fact that a lot of Americans are food-insecure or live in food deserts (or both). Add a healthy sprinkling of horror stories about food service workers who don’t wash their hands properly, or who deliberately contaminate the food they’re serving. Add the fact that salmonella and e.coli are common enough that health warnings need to be added to menus in establishments that serve meat – unless it hits medium-rare, a steak can’t be guaranteed to be 100% safe for consumption, it’s just not hot enough to have killed off any bacterial load it might be carrying.

        Mix in the fact that potlucks and other communal office food events rely *really* heavily on everyone practicing good hygiene, and you get a culture where a good portion of the people are going to be pretty squeamish about unsanitary conditions; some people just can’t risk getting sick from an office meal, and others are put into a particularly bad place if they’re forced to choose between throwing out what could have been an entire week’s worth of leftovers or risking food poisoning.

        1. Anion*

          I heartily disagree with almost everything you’ve said here. If you think food-borne illnesses, food poisoning, and recalls of contaminated food happen only or mostly in the US, you are 100% incorrect. Those same warnings often appear on menus in other countries, as well, and if they don’t it’s not necessarily a good sign. Americans who ate beef in America over a twenty-year-period are not prevented from giving blood; the same cannot be said for some who ate beef in other countries during that period. And it wasn’t in America that several huge national grocery store chains were found to be selling own-brand pre-cooked meals in which the “beef” was actually horsemeat, unbeknownst to them because they weren’t even checking the quality of those foods made and imported in Eastern Europe in highly suspect conditions.

          The fact that it’s not all over the news in other countries (or doesn’t make the news in the US) doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen there. Americans are picky about food hygiene because we as a nation are and tend to have very high standards. That’s not always the case elsewhere. And it’s certainly not the case in the US because our food is generally unsafe for consumption, ffs.

          1. Birch*

            High standards or lack of education about what actually causes foodborne illnesses? And maybe a distancing from food production (actual food, not extruded “cheese flavor product” or whatever). And also a bit of hypocrisy. It’s a combination of these things. I keep seeing americans commenting on european-made food videos about how gross it is that chefs will use their bare (clean) hands for food prep, yet in the US it’s common to see food service workers use the same gloved hands to handle money, raw food, cooked food, personal phones, and whatever else is in the room.

      5. Koko*

        I’m going to say yes, and that it’s wrapped up in our Puritan heritage. There are many ways in which Americans are more obsessed with purity and cleanliness than other cultures, IME. It also manifests in, for instance, Americans having less tolerance for body hair than most other cultures – even though skin with hair is not inherently dirtier than skin without hair, there’s a significant chunk of Americans who find armpit hair or pubic hair or leg hair on a woman not just aesthetically unappealing but “gross.” One of the most common reasons cited for infant circumcision is that a circumcised penis is easier for the parents to clean.

        Cleanliness is next to Godliness, as they say, and that thread is woven into the fabric of America.

      6. JameDarling*

        I’ve had the unfortunate experience of eating after someone whose hands were so filthy their touch changed the flavor of the dish. Since then, someone whom I am not relatively certain has good hygiene touching my food with their bare hands makes me unable to eat that food. It’s a learned reaction, for me.

    1. Anna Tolstoyevsky*

      Not too brilliant at basic safety skills though – how is it OK to have drunk people around a device that becomes a flamethrower under certain circumstances? I have not seen any mention of having given the guests an “academic lecture” on consequences of opening the oven, either.

      1. Catalin*

        If he’s drunk enough to want to open random doors, an academic lecture would have been utterly lost on him.

      2. OlympiasEpiriot*

        Yeah, I’d have had a warning taped up for those who had never been over before.

        I mean, when I’ve lived on a farm, I give non-farm-background guests a quick rundown of “leave the gates as you find them, if there’s a bovine alone in a field it is likely The Bull and don’t walk in there, don’t stick your fingers in the chicken cage, don’t chase the sheep, and don’t stand close to the hind ends of cattle and horses”

        1. Engineer Girl*

          I was 5 when I learned the chicken cage thing (first time sent to collect eggs)
          You can stand close to cows and horses if you watch your feet (make sure they don’t step on your feet). The danger zone is about 3 feet behind the animal. That gives them enough room to haul back their leg and give you an impressive kick.

            1. JessaB*

              OMG I had to stop by to say yay Breaking Cat News. Have you been following the Thanksgiving story line? Poor Woman there’s not going to be any food left.

              We used to have fun potlucks at work, except for the people that pretty much took huge servings of stuff (and went back into the office to dump it in their Tupperware to take home,) I mean seriously. The boss would fire up the grill for hot dogs and burgers, and buy hotel pans worth of veg and potatoes and beans and stuff and stacks of cornbread and people would be like packing up a week’s worth of lunches before the second shift got there to get some. Some people are outrageous.

              At least unlike hands in food guy, they used serving utensils.

        2. Artemesia*

          I was about 12 when I decided to ride the horse in the field behind our house (we were new in the neighborhood) I carried a big piece of wood to use as a stepstool and it was heavy and I dropped it as I approached the horse from the rear quarter. He kicked out with both rear legs ruffling my bangs. Right there nearly lost my brains.

      3. Anion*

        Yeah, I totally don’t want to pick on the OP, but I imagine after that s/he was careful to always warn guests that the oven remained extremely hot for a long time so they shouldn’t go near it!

        I’m confused about the coking method, though, because the wood-fired ovens I’m familiar with (I’ve read a lot about them, because my husband has promised to build me one soon–I bake a lot) you cook in after the fire has gone out. Like, you build a roaring fire in the oven, it goes out, you scrape out the ashes and then put in your pizzas/breads/etc., and the residual scorching heat cooks them very quickly. I know restaurants with wood pizza ovens keep the fire on all the time, but those are restaurants that need that blazing heat for hours on end. So I’m really interested in the oven itself and how it works!

      4. Augusta Sugarbean*

        How is it okay to get drunk enough to wonder “hey, is blindingly hot oven still blindingly hot?!”

      5. Leenie*

        I’m not inclined to blame anyone too much. I’m actually just surprised that they’d sell a thing like that without any kind of a safety mechanism. If it takes a long time to cool down and there are kids about – it seems like a tragedy waiting to happen. That said, the LW managed to get through unscathed with presumably no litigation or charges, so maybe I’m overthinking it.

        1. Viva*

          No different from a home oven, though. No safety mechanism on those, unless you count the locking bar but if a child can reach the oven door to pull it open they can pull back the locking bar too.

          1. Viva*

            Actually now that I think about it I only remember locking bars on ovens that are self-cleaning, not regular ones.

          2. Ann O.*

            Home ovens don’t shoot out fireballs when you open them! You can get a nasty burn if you touch the still-hot rack, but that’s a good bit better than a fireball.

            1. Leenie*

              Yes, that. It isn’t really comparable. There’s a lot of dangerous stuff around the house. But shooting fireballs is next level dangerous.

  3. Detective Amy Santiago*

    My question is this…

    When will Snark be inviting all of *us* over for pizza in his wood-fired oven?

      1. Snark*

        Though, sadly, that oven got broken when we moved. But I have replaced it with one that is 100% less breakable and also 100% less capable of lighting your face on fire.

        1. RVA Cat*

          Good to know. I’m glad you tackled Bob before he could burn half his face off and have to turn to supervillainy…

      2. Aurion*

        Snark, you are my personal hero on this forum. :D

        And I’m pretty sure the AAM commentariat would be 100% less gauche as party guests than the people mentioned in our stories.

      3. paul*

        So any place in the San Juans?

        I’m actually trying to plan a short trip to Trinidad and/or the Comanche National Grasslands this winter; my kids have been going absolutely gaga over mountains and bighorn sheep for some strange reason. Trinidad has the mountains, the canyon that’s in the grasslands has a herd of bighorns…

        1. Snark*

          I’m about two hours north of Trinidad, actually – and now everybody knows where I live, haha. And that’s a great destination – Trinidad is fun, the Spanish Peaks are right there, and the prairie is totally underrated for natural beauty.

          1. Arya Snark*

            If we ever make the move to Trinidad that we’ve been contemplating, I’ll be expecting an invite to pizza night.

              1. Arya Snark*

                I’m sick of living in the Denver area. Trinidad seems like a good town for the most part and it’s so beautiful there. I work from home so it’s doable. My husband’s job is another story but with the lower cost of living there, we can make it work.

          2. paul*

            Got up there this summer as part of a short trip to Raton; the state parks there are amazing. I grew up in the part of Arapaho National Forest that’s in Clear Creek County so it really reminds me of home kinda.

            Wound up finding what I *thought* would be a fun back country dirt road heading out of Sugarite Canyon heading north into CO but there wound up being a big iron gate across it a efw miles in. Pity.

            Really want to try Spanish Peaks and Comanche National though….

            1. Miss Pantalones en Fuego (formerly Floundering Mander)*

              Comanche Grasslands are amazing to drive though in the summer. Lots of rock art around there too if you’re interested in that kind of thing.

          3. College Career Counselor*

            That is a great location for pizza (and beer–I used to live there some years ago).

          4. CaliCali*

            Waving hi from a little further north (my user name is relative to my state of origin, not where I live). AAM Front Range Meetup/Pizza Party sounds doable, right?

          5. Miss Pantalones en Fuego (formerly Floundering Mander)*

            OMG. I think you live in or near my home town. Party next time I visit my parents!

          6. Tuesday Next*

            When I first read this I actually thought you meant the “Trinidad and Tobago” Trinidad. I had no idea there was more than one.

    1. CoveredInBees*

      Seriously! I made pizzas last night in my lame old gas oven. I want the woodfired! I want a bubbly and lightly-burned crust that you can’t get in an oven that only goes to 475 F.

      1. Snark*

        There’s a somewhat finicky but functional option called the Uuni that burns wood pellets, and it’s $299. A woodfired oven is surprisingly attainable these days. And oh my god, I love mine. It’s not just for pizzas, either. I do empanadas and flatbreads in mine almost as often. And you can roast veg and fish and stuff in there too.

        1. Snark*

          Of course, that might not be an option for you, don’t mean to assume anything – I just meant attainable in contrast to some gigantic multi-thousand-dollar masonry oven, which used to be the only option.

      2. kittymommy*

        Lol, I made Totinos party pizza in my toaster oven last night, that’s fancy, right?? It was sausage…

      3. Arya Snark*

        Right? I thought I was being all fancy pants because I used a pizza stone the other night!

        Did I mention the fresh basil???

        1. Snark*

          Honestly, if you’re looking to upgrade pizza night, a pizza stone or steel is the single biggest improvement you can make. If “cookie sheet, residential oven” is one end of the scale and “one-ton Le Panyol woodfired oven” is 11, the stone gets you to at least 4-5, because it dumps a lot of thermal energy into the pizza and you get oven spring – that nice airy, foamy texture with gaps and air pockets.

          1. Arya Snark*

            Considering the alternative (BlackJack seriously makes the best pizza in this ‘burb) my homemade pizzas are amazing. I can’t always get it as thin as I’d like (I’m from NY so this is an issue for me) but it’s still better than anything I can get without driving 15-20 miles or going downtown.

            1. namelesscommentator*

              I use a rolling pin and can get it as thin as pie crust! I’m newly transplanted out west and missing east coast pizza standards so this is key.

            2. Birch*

              Try making sourdough crust. The gluten structure develops better strength with more time, and you can stretch it much farther. Bonus: sourdough tastes 1000x better than dry yeasted doughs and isn’t any harder to make.

          2. neverjaunty*

            Yes. And pizza stones have all kinds of other great uses – I put my pie plates and roasting pans on them to get the bottoms of things to cook evenly.

          1. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

            Nah, you’re making pizza. You need pizza dough though, and some tomato sauce and cheese and probably some other stuff like pepperoni.

            You do end up with pizza, but not for very long.

      4. Alexandra Lynch*

        My husband has promised me for 20 years that he will build me a woodfired oven in the back yard for historical cookery.

        There is no oven in my back yard. And I am sad. Because now his health is such that I will never get that oven. And where I am moving to after he dies has a homeowners association that won’t permit it. Alas.

            1. Snark*

              Also, do not grab any mac and cheese with your hands. There are multiple uses for a pizza peel; pray you do not learn more than one.

  4. caryatis*

    Nothing wrong with breakfast pepper guy! Probably a lot healthier than the elaborate (I’m guessing cheese, meat and/or sugar-filled) dishes others brought. I’ve often been tempted to bring in a dish of hard-boiled eggs myself.

    1. a1*

      I often eat veg with breakfast – tomatoes, peppers, usually but other things, too. And raw, sliced up on the plate next to eggs or whatever I’m eating.

    2. ThursdaysGeek*

      I worked with a guy years ago – we brought in jalapenos from our garden. For a morning snack, he would pour himself a cup of coffee and grab a jalapeno and munch on it with his coffee.

    3. Snark*

      But….does anybody say to themselves, ever, “Y’know what sounds good for breakfast? A sliced bell pepper.”

      1. Just employed here*

        Combined with something else at a potluck, absolutely! Not just bell peppers on their own…

        1. Specialk9*

          Totally me. I like breakfast veggies, raw or grilled. I’m guessing he was paleo or whole 30 or something.

      2. Asha*

        Yes! I eat bell peppers for breakfast every weekend. Usually with an egg or two, but they’re a great way to start the day.

      3. Cassie*

        I have a health-nut friend who eats bell peppers like one would an apple, just grab and take a bite. It’s oddly compelling to eat in her vicinity.

        1. JustaTech*

          Does your friend work for the Chairman, in a lair under a volcano with a stadium for culinary battles?

        2. Breda*

          I did this as a kid! The first time I ever had a bell pepper was fresh off the plant in my dad’s friend’s garden, and it was the BEST THING EVER. So my mom started just buying me peppers to eat like an apple as a snack. I was the rare child who was really into vegetables, though. My mom says it’s because she gave me green beans to teethe on.

        3. Just employed here*

          I do this! I’ve also been known to hold half a cucumber like an ice cream and just eat it up in big chunks.

          I guess I’m just too lazy to go through the hassle of making a salad out of various ingredients if I’m eating at home on my own.

          1. Elizabeth West*

            I do that with big pickles. You used to be able to get them at the cinema I went to as a child. Everybody else would have popcorn or candy; I often had a pickle. :)

          2. JeanB in NC*

            I actually recently saw someone eating a cucumber like that, peel and all. Never seen that before.

      4. Antilles*

        I’ve absolutely done that.
        Though it’s typically because we had peppers for dinner the night before and it’s super-easy to just grab the remaining pepper slices from the fridge – not because I’m actually grabbing a full pepper out of the fridge and cutting it up.

    4. KHB*

      I love how the hotel breakfast buffets in Stockholm and Copenhagen (and probably elsewhere in that part of the world) have sliced peppers, cucumbers, and tomatoes to go with the bread and cheese. It makes the whole meal feel lighter and more interesting. I wonder if Dr. Breakfast Peppers is from Scandinavia?

        1. Chocolate Teapot*

          In Central Europe too. I wonder if it’s because Hungary is famous for peppers and paprika.

    5. 5 Leaf Clover*

      I didn’t get #3 at all. Peppers seems like a perfectly fine veggie alternative. It’s also IMO not very nice to judge someone for bringing a simple, easy dish to a potluck. Not everyone likes to cook or wants to have their non-work time used up that way.

      1. StudentPilot*

        I have to take 3 buses to get to work, and it’s rare that I can get a seat. If I have to bring something to a potluck, yeah it’s going to be small and easy, I’m not carting around some large dish while I stand, transfer, and wait for over an hour.

      2. ThatGirl*

        It’s not that, so much; it’s that sliced up peppers don’t really fit with a “breakfast potluck” motif. Even fruit might have seemed a little less weird. Sliced up raw peppers aren’t really a “dish,” they’re just… veggies.

        1. ggg*

          My sister-in-law is from Eastern Europe, and has raw vegetables as part of a healthy breakfast every day. Usually salted radishes. But sometimes peppers.

      3. LoiraSafada*

        Bringing some raw vegetables that are three for a dollar is pretty stingy and lazy, though. Not being able to cook isn’t really an excuse. A couple raw vegetables are not “a dish,” either, unless you’re bring a crudite platter or something (which, again, is extremely cheap and already put together at your grocery store of choice).

        1. That Lady*

          I’ve worked at some places where the idea of spending even a dollar on my coworkers gives me the hives to think about years later.

        2. Specialk9*

          I want to buy bell peppers where you are! I can easily spend $5-6 on three bell peppers, unless they’re green.

      4. LBK*

        I mean…it would be like if there were a pie baking contest at work and you brought…peppers. There’s nothing wrong with eating peppers, they just don’t quite go with what the theme was supposed to be. It would have been less weird to just not bring anything.

        1. Just employed here*

          But then again we have letters from people who don’t like it when there’s lots of unhealthy (and *only* unhealthy) food on offer at work.

          At least this guy was offering an alternative to that

        2. Blah*

          I mean, I’ve never eating straight bell peppers for breakfast or seen someone else do it, so I understand the weirdness there, but as a major component of a breakfast dish? They’re pretty common. Might well be a regional thing, though. I grew up on CalMex and Southwestern cooking, so bell peppers are a whole lot more ubiquitous than they’d be in, say, the Midwest.

      5. SS Express*

        It’s not weird because it’s insufficiently extravagant. It’s weird because it’s so far removed from what most people would include in a breakfast menu. Slicing up a couple of oranges, apples or bananas would be just as easy but much more in line with typical breakfast food. Or avocado, if you want savoury options (that would be slightly more expensive, though probably still pretty affordable if you only buy a couple).

    6. CheeryO*

      Yeah, I promise you’d rather eat some nice fresh veggies than anything I attempt to cook. It’s kind of mean to pick on him.

      1. Snark*

        It’s just amusing because, even for a non-cook, that’d be about #935 on the list of possible things to bring in that situation. It’s so not obvious.

        1. Samata*

          I know! Just unexpected. I wouldn’t mind it but I can tell you the people briging storebought goodies in for a potluck breakfast around these parts are bringing in donuts from wal-mart or a box of muffins from the bread aisle.

          1. Snark*

            Yeah, most branches of my flowchart for “What should I bring the office for breakfast” end with “a clamshell box of donuts, some bananas, and a dozen bagels with cream cheese.” None of them end with peppers. I’m just fascinated that someone’s does.

        2. Turtle Candle*

          Right. Bananas or apples or oranges would not have stood out, probably. There’s nothing wrong with peppers, but they do stand out on a breakfast buffet in a way that I would find mildly amusing too.

          1. Ulf*

            I think it’s just fine. I like peppers; I also don’t tend to draw bright lines about what is a breakfast food and what isn’t. (I had corned beef hash and eggs over easy last night for dinner.) I would’ve gladly taken some.

    7. Blah*

      Aw, man, what you gotta go is, shred some potatoes with the biggest holes on a cheese grater, then chop up all the bell peppers and maybe a jalapeno or two (I’d remove the seeds, don’t need too much heat here), and throw the mixture into a hot nonstick or sprayed skillet, stirring until it gets cooked. I like to melt some cheese on top, but that’s optional. I usually cramble a couple eggs to go with this, too. It’s probably not 100% the healthiest breakfast, but it’s so good.

    1. Seal*

      Me too. A former staff member did something similar at another department’s office party. Unfortunately, she was the one stealing the bananas, so to speak. When I asked her what she was doing, she said she was having guests that weekend. I was so appalled and mortified that to my everlasting embarrassment I just stood there, mouth open. Next time I will not hesitate to shut her or anyone else who tries to blatantly steal food down.

      1. Just a thought*

        I feel like I might concern troll them, as much out of an intent to embarrass someone who didn’t need it as to open a conversation for someone who might.

        “Hey, are things okay at home? I know what it’s like to be in such a tight financial situation that even a few dollars for bananas is too much. Can I help?”

        1. babblemouth*

          A person that shameless would probably just take it as an opportunity for free money. Some people can’t be concern-trolled, they truly live beyond irony.

    2. Detective Amy Santiago*

      My favorite banana story is how one time my best friend (who works at Starbucks) had someone come through the drive through and order a single banana. That was it. Who DOES that?

        1. Hey Karma, Over here.*

          My guess is someone who has trouble getting out of the car. I’m honestly giving this a lot of thought. Even at 55 cents a pound, you could get at least six for the price of one Starbucks. I need to know!

        1. nep*

          (Except I’d never pay what Starbucks is probably asking for a banana — but just the idea of it, I’d do it.)

      1. Quickstepping Matilda*

        My favorite banana story is sort of gross, so be forewarned. :)

        My toddler son used to love bananas. But they were constipating for him, so we didn’t keep them in the house. We took him to a big open house party with some friends when he was about 2 1/2.

        Well, he found a fruit bowl on the counter with a whole bunch of bananas in it. He would take one out, take it to an adult, and ask, “Will you please open this for me?” The adult would beam at how cute and polite he was, and say, “Yes, of course!” without asking us, because hey, it’s a banana – perfectly healthy for a kid. A friend who knew the score observed this and gave us a heads up, but by that time, he had eaten four whole bananas.

        The poor kid didn’t poop for a week. The fruit bowl was never on the counter at subsequent parties.

        1. Miss Pantalones en Fuego (formerly Floundering Mander)*

          Ha, this reminds me of the dinner where my niece kept asking for watermelon chunks. There were lots of us crowded around the table and we were all chattering and distracted, and we kept giving her more. Finally grandma asked why the huge bowl of watermelon was half empty and realized my 4 year old niece had eaten it all by herself. I do not envy the evening my sister and her husband had.

          1. DeeMona*

            My daughter did the same thing, but with clams. She was 2 or 3. I finally heard my mom tell her no more or she would get sick. I looked down and she had to have had 30 empty clam shells in front of her

        2. Tiny Soprano*

          One of my little cousins was like this, only instead of bananas it was apples, and instead of constipation it was horrendous farting. A trip to the doctor confirmed that his little belly had been turning his 4 or 5 apples a day into horrible belly cider. So when they say an apple a day keeps the doctor away, they really just mean one singular apple. Pretty sure it was the first time a kid’s ever been told to eat fewer apples by a doctor.

        3. Bea*

          Awwww!!!! I was a kid who LOVED veggies and fruits, so I gave myself a massive tummyache as a first grader from over doing it on the cabbage we were taste testing that day at school. So I feel your little dudes pain on that one!

      2. LBK*

        When I worked at Starbucks we had a regular who rotated through 2 or 3 very strange drink orders, the oddest of which was her “smoothie” – 2 bananas blended with water.

      3. CaliCali*

        Two theories: someone hungover, or someone with a small child losing their shit who really just needed some damned food to calm down.

        1. turquoises*

          yup. Or someone with a disability who needs a quick blood sugar boost. This is just nowhere NEAR the radar screen of things that are worth judging other people for….

          1. Lissa*

            Ok, but you can think “that was really odd! I wonder what that was about?” without “judging” the person . . . a lot of odd things happen, I often wonder at them, but it isn’t malicious…

            1. Turtle Candle*

              Right. When I worked at a grocery store, there was one guy who came in three times a week for one avocado and one can of Diet Coke. Always both and never anything else. We sure noticed and remembered Avocado and Diet Coke Guy—and I don’t think a mild “huh, wonder what’s up with that?” counts as being judgmental.

              1. Just employed here*

                Sounds like a much healthier snack than just the Diet Coke on its own!

                (I have a ten-month old, and on most days I carry around a banana and an avocado. He loves both, and if we stop for a snack somewhere he’ll have a bit and I’ll have the rest as my snack.)

      4. Erin*

        Done it. I was on a work trip and hadn’t had breakfast. i expensed that bad boy, too.

        I probably could have googled, found a grocery, and bought a single banana there. But instead I passed Starbucks, which had andrive-thru.

      5. Emmylou*

        I buy bananas all the time at Starbucks. Yup they’re $1 but they are THERe and I’m buying them because I didn’t have a chance to go to the grocery store or I’m traveling for work and I want something that isn’t a muffin for breakfast. If I used drivethroughs I would totally do this.

  5. Sara*

    I missed this one! #4 and #7 reminds me of the time that a vendor bought pizza for the building (which is like over 200 people) and a woman just picked a whole pizza box up and brought it back to her cube. Not to share – she said it’d be a nice treat for her kids AND she also got herself a plate full of pizza for lunch. And she wasn’t like a late comer, she was one of the first few people in line. Ridiculous. She was one of those ‘race to the kitchen for leftover conference food’ people too.

    1. Murphy*

      I am also a race to the kitchen for leftover food person! (Actually, my desk is between the big conference room and the kitchen, so I often internally debate how long good manners dictates I have to wait before jumping out of my seat.)

      But I don’t grab heaps of food for later and for other people (!!). That’s just rude.

    2. Lolli*

      This isn’t about food but is along the same theme of ‘take home a whole pizza for family’. Years ago, my manager brought Christmas gifts into our team meeting. There were 3 females and 4 males on the team. He had 3 presents wrapped in pastels with big bows. He said those were the female gifts. He had about 6-7 other gifts that weren’t wrapped but had brown bows. Apparently, those were male gifts. Each person could pick a gift (any gift). We went by seniority. The first woman took a ‘female’ gift. A couple of men took ‘male’ gifts. One man grabbed a ‘female’ gift and said, “I haven’t gotten my wife anything for Christmas”. Everyone thought he was joking but he wasn’t. The next person to choose was my office mate. She was horrified because she didn’t want to take the last ‘female’ gift and leave me with a ‘male’ gift. But she really didn’t want a screw driver or big tape measure either. She apologized to me and took the last ‘female’ gift. The room was very awkward as I went to pick a ‘male’ gift. Frankly, I didn’t mind. The ‘female’ gifts were Christmas themed kitchen things (like a small platter or bowl). Really not my thing. But my office mate was so steamed she held it against him for years. Our manager never brought gifts in again.

        1. EddieSherbert*


          (also, I don’t want any of those things. My kitchen and my toolbox are fully stocked, hahaha)

        1. Snark*

          It’s like fractal cringeworthiness, where no matter what scale you observe it at, it makes you want to cringe.

    3. TCO*

      There were so many stories in the original thread about people taking home food for their kids/families (in situations where it’s not a poverty thing). I don’t get it! I’ve definitely had work events where there were leftovers (again, after everyone has eaten their fill) that will go be thrown away or go bad unless people take them home. In that situation, sure, I’ve brought home leftovers for me and my husband. But I don’t understand this sense of entitlement that every work treat is surely meant to be shared with my little darlings at home and that they deserve Daddy/Mommy’s work food more than actual people who work there do. It’s so weird!

      1. Chocolate Teapot*

        I have told the story before about the co-worker who always made a bee line for the leftover food from high level meetings. She kept rolls of tin foil and freezer bags in the office kitchen cupboard to transport her haul.

        Normally at high level meetings, I never got to eat much at lunchtime, since I would be doing urgent, last minute things which I couldn’t do in the meeting, so, when the meeting was over, I would fetch a supply of sandwiches.

        One day co-worker complained to me. “Why are there no leftovers? Normally there are plenty of sandwiches left.” Erm, because we had more attendees at the meeting this time.

      2. DDJ*

        I’m the same way! If it’s the end of the day and there’s a tray of sandwiches or a few pieces of pizza – particularly on a Friday, and leftovers aren’t going into the fridge for the next day – I’ll take the rest home. Easy weekend food! But I won’t do that until 4:00-4;30.

      3. Kismet*

        I’ll be blunt, as someone who grew up in a household that struggled with food insecurity, stealing food from your coworkers/workplace isn’t acceptable when you’re poor, either, especially because you don’t necessarily know what your other coworkers’ struggles are. It’s easy to fall into the trap of excusing it for yourself because “they” are all better off than you, or somehow you deserve it more, but you don’t actually know that.

        It’s one thing to take home some leftovers that are truly left over, or to take home extras you’ve been offered. It’s another to just presume that you deserve Sally’s lunch because Sally must be better off than you and thus should subsidize your food bill.

        1. Birch*

          Yeah, and especially these people who are claiming stuff that isn’t even leftover yet! I’ve definitely been in the situation of last-in-line-for-office-lunch meaning I-don’t-really-get-to-eat-today, just because they didn’t order enough or someone took too much. It sucks no matter what your home situation is when you don’t get to eat lunch! The most I’ve ever taken extra is one single-wrapped piece of chocolate from the bowl, or that time we cleaned out the stale cookies from the cabinet (they were a year expired but we ate them anyway because we are researchers).

    4. Viva*

      IME those ‘race to the kitchen for food’ types are rarely what Alison calls Quality Employees. Rarely. I’m not talking about partaking, I’m talking about literally racing to grab a slice of stale pizza, or being gluttonous, or grabbing the whole lot to take home.

      Over the years my admin jobs have had me organizing food many, many times. The only two ‘quality’ people I saw do this kind of thing were asshole-ish dudebro types – both VP’s. (Not quality because they were VP’s, but because they were good at their jobs). Everyone else who was this ‘race to get food’ type – literally dozens of them over the years – were mediocre employees, at best.

      1. Rob aka Mediancat*

        I’m a “race to the kitchen for food” type, and I’m not the type to take more than my share; I just want to get there when there’s more of a selection. If there’s a dozen bagels left I’ll take one, and only one. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with being first, or third, as long as one isn’t hogging the food.

        And I’m not a mediocre employee, either.

      2. Diane Berg*

        As an admin myself, I have witnessed behavior that I find unbelievably entitled, greedy, and just plain terrible manners. The thoughtlessness is stunning. We have a very diverse workforce, so I always provide meals that meet as many needs as possible. So why do the non-vegetarians help themselves liberally (they are always first in line!) to vegetarian/vegan food? Why does one guy (I know he is not Muslim or otherwise restricted from pork, since he eats regular bacon too) grab all the turkey bacon? Of course, this is the same guy who, going through the hot breakfast buffet set-up, has two plates piled high–one with ONLY bacon, probably 20 slices. We have a Queen Bee Wannabee who declares she “needs” to bring extra food home because she “doesn’t cook”. My favorites are the folks who never eat breakfast, never provide for lunch for themselves (I guess because they just realized they are adults and will need food), and will prowl the building looking for leftovers and get their drawers in a bunch when there isn’t anything for them to eat and they are “starving”. Add to this the rudeness of those who grab food from a meeting and return directly to their desks because they are “too busy” to sit in the meeting. They will do this even if the CEO is giving a presentation. The level of entitlement is staggering.

        1. Kittyfish 76*

          Totally agree about the vegetarian/vegan food. I tend to avoid meat if I can. And of course there are always 50 meat selections and 1 vegetarian. And the veggie always goes first!

    5. Anion*

      My response to “Oh, this will be a lovely treat for my kids,” would be, “Yes, but it’s *meant* to be a treat for those of us here in the office, so I’m going to put that back on the table with the others. I’ll make sure to let you know if there are leftovers for you to take home,” as I grabbed the box and put it where it belonged.

    6. Wired Wolf*

      At my workplace the bakery regularly brings the leftover/messed up housemade pizza and other goodies into the break room (the breakfast pizza is to die for but you need to be there the instant it’s brought in). I’m guilty of stashing a few pieces in my lunchbag to take home, but most if not all of it is just going to be thrown out anyway. I’ll see servers and housekeeping staff take an entire fricking tray of the baked goods (which is a no-no in the sense that all food must stay in the break room)… One housekeeper tried to take the entire box of bruised produce the second it was brought in.

      One of our perks is a free staff lunch every day; supposedly it’s a violation of company policy to take that food home, but I see people stashing it all the time….of course not covering it or putting a name on it (so management won’t find out who’s hoarding food, but some of my coworkers can’t possibly be that smart).

  6. Elmyra Duff*

    At OldJob, we frequently had mandatory overtime, and sometimes the boss would buy us pizza to say “Thank you.” She stopped doing that after awhile, and someone asked what happened to the pizza, and she said we weren’t grateful enough for our ‘Thank you” present, so she stopped. Like, she made such a huge deal about how the management staff was so thankful for us working and made a show out of marching the pizzas into the break room. Were we supposed to buy them food to say thank you for them saying thank you?

    1. AndersonDarling*

      I’ve known managers like that, they think their staff should gush thanks for anything the manager does.
      You ordered pizza online and paid for it with the company card? Oh my goodness! We are unworthy of your generosity!

      1. Antilles*

        Doubly weird since the so-called ‘generosity’ is in large part just a way to keep employees at their desks working rather than needing to leave for food.

      2. Snark*

        And, y’know, sure. Thank the boss for the pizza. “Thanks for the pizza, it’s hitting the spot,” is about as effusive as thanks need to get for, mas o meno, $40-60 worth of delivery pizza. Especially when that pizza is ostensibly a gesture of appreciation for working mandatory overtime, which does not benefit the workers in the slightest.

    2. fposte*

      Speaking from the other side, if people being ungrateful means people were complaining about where the pizza was from or that it should/shouldn’t have had this topping or another topping, yeah, that’ll disincline me from buying people pizza.

      1. Samata*

        Oh lordy, this reminds me of a Blood Drive I did one. I coordinate a few a year and always buy lunch for the staff out of my own pocket. Their manager tells me every time not to do it but it’s nothing great, just a few pizzas and a big salad and their (non-alcoholic) beverage of choice. Plus they are there from 10 – 2 on a Saturday.

        One time when I brought it back one of them looked me right in they eye and said “I am so OVER pizza. UGH!” I think my hair actually caught on fire.

        1. Samata*

          **to be clear I don’t work with the staff at the drive, I am the person who coordinates to bring them on site at my location and I advertise for the drive****

      2. Bea*

        This is where I stand too. I have had people turn their nose up at assorted treats over the years and once I recognized that was happening, I stopped trying. Thankfully it was only one workplace that had people who were persnickety, the next one was over the moon over any kind of treats and I was happy to bring in cookies or whatever else came to mind over the few years I was there.

        I don’t mind when people don’t partake in the freebies that are offered but do not ever complain that they’re not “good enough” or that you want something else. I’m not a short order cook.

    3. NorCalPM*

      Which is why I NEVER eat food provided by my employer and avoid potlucks like the plague. Employer-provided food usually isn’t what I’d pick, and with potlucks you’re playing Russian Roulette with your digestive tract.

      I’ve worked with people whose at-work sanitary practices were appalling. I can only imagine what their at-home food prep practices are. I prefer to eat food I choose and prepare. I get to eat what I want. I know how it was made. And I can afford to get what I want. And in the Spirit of Thanksgiving, I am grateful for that.

  7. Kristine*

    Surly coworker from #4 needed to be loaned out to the office in #1 to put the brakes on Macaroni Hands!

    1. Menacia*

      You beat me to posting the same! It is incredible to me that no one called Shovelhands out on this appalling behavior.

    2. OlympiasEpiriot*

      As I don’t remember the specific incident in #4, I assume the writer doesn’t work with me; however, I am most definitely Surly Coworker.

      I am aghast that no one ever spoke up against hand-grabber in #1. I would have spoken up and, if that wasn’t enough, probably grabbed his wrist the next time.

      1. LCL*

        I did bitch out two northwest stoners at the local grocery salad bar. Yup, so high they weren’t all there, and helping themselves by hand from the bins. I actually had to say something to one of them twice.

      2. pumpkin spice.*

        I’ve seen a bunch of comments where people are making assumptions and saying they’re shocked “no one ever spoke up against #1.” People did all the time. You can’t always stop people from behaving badly but that doesn’t mean no one spoke up! People called him out on it all the time.

        1. nonegiven*

          If I’d called him out and saw other people call him out, I’d tell him if I caught him again, he’d be wearing it and follow through.

        2. NotAnotherManager!*

          His manager should have told him that he was no longer invited to lunches unless he learned to use serving utensils. That is just beyond the pale. I am not a germaphobe at all, and I think I threw up a little bit in my mouth reading about that. It’s ridiculous to expect his coworkers to try to police his behavior and to ruin perfectly good food because of one boor.

        3. OlympiasEpiriot*

          Yeah I’ve read your responses to this. The guy’s a nut case!

          I’ve spent time in environments where people eat with their hands. Hygiene is huge. The food isn’t served like what would be served at a typical north American buffet. There’s a whole ettiquette around eating which he wasn’t following (judging by the several different cultures I’ve been honored to be a guest in).

          My gast is utterly flabbered!

          1. OlympiasEpiriot*

            And, it wasn’t clear from my reading of the bit that was quoted that ppl *did* call him out.

            My apologies AND my sympathies!

        4. It's-a-me*

          I would have been dumping the (now-inedible) bowls over his head. Every damn time.

          But then I’m in the fortunate position of being able to survive being fired.

        5. MarsJenkar*

          I suspect there have been at least some coworkers who have fantasized about dumping the now-contaminated dish on Shovelhands after he touched it. And the longer he keeps it up, the more likely it’s going to *actually* happen.

          He needs to be stopped. Preferably *before* the situation escalates that far.

    3. kittymommy*

      Surly co-worker needs to go on the road, stopping in various locations, telling idiotic/rude people off in workplaces. I’d follow with popcorn and beer.

  8. Anonymous in the South*

    A local company had Thanksgiving dinner catered in last week for their employees. Very large plant, several shifts. Within hours, tons of people were sick. Dozens where so sick they were hospitalized and the ER was overrun with hundreds of sick people (again, very large manufacturing plant). Health department and other agencies are currently investigating. Turns out that the what made so many people sick was salmonella poisoning. The restaurant is cooperating and put out a statement saying how sorry they were.

    1. Hey Karma, Over here.*

      That is awful. I wonder how it will play out with sick time, medical bills, work delays. It’s a nightmare for the poor employees. “Well, I was able to walk to the bathroom, so I guess I can go in and try to cover for my team. And hourly people…

    2. NorCalPM*

      Which is why I NEVER eat food provided by my employer and avoid potlucks like the plague. Employer-provided food usually isn’t what I’d pick, and with potlucks you’re playing Russian Roulette with your digestive tract.

      I’ve worked with people whose at-work sanitary practices were appalling. I can only imagine what their at-home food prep practices are. I prefer to eat food I choose and prepare. I get to eat what I want. I know how it was made. And I can afford to get what I want. And in the Spirit of Thanksgiving, I am grateful for that.

    3. OverboilingTeapot*

      I feel bad for restaurants this happen to. Sometimes, yeah, their entire place is completely unsanitary. But sometimes it’s just one gross, irresponsible employee. That’s all it takes, and it can ruin somebody’s business.

  9. Teal*

    If there’s a choice between ending a team event due to low participation, or making it mandatory to ensure proper team-building…. you should always end it. If no one wants to eat lunch together, making lunch mandatory will be extremely counterproductive.

  10. Lynca*

    Probably the weirdest food related thing at my work was that the old management used to buy everyone turkeys or ham. They’d play it up as some kind of bonus.

    But then they’d buy the worst quality food so not many people would take them. Except my old supervisor, he’d take as many as he could stuff in his car (for some reason). The rest ended up going to waste. Thankfully new management has stopped that practice and put the money towards other events during the year, which is honestly better.

    1. NorCalPM*

      I’m a vegetarian. I guess I’d be out of luck. Or…not…

      I love being a vegetarian for many reasons. One of them is that it makes it so much easier to gracefully get out of work-provided meals, either commercially prepared (no thanks to Domino’s Pepperoni Pizza) or potlucks (yeah, bringer of the ham casserole. I know you don’t wash your hands after using the toilet. What else don’t you wash when you’re at home preparing that potluck casserole?).

    2. Elizabeth West*

      At OldExJob, we got a certificate from Butterball that you could use at a grocery toward a turkey (it’s some kind of corporate program). I’m either alone or traveling on Thanksgiving and don’t like turkey much. I always gave mine to someone who had extra people.

    3. Anion*

      Ugh, choosing the turkey/ham for the employees is gross. I once worked for a smallish company with a lot of employees (24-7 call center) and they really couldn’t do super-generous Xmas bonuses to everyone, but everyone got a $25 grocery store gift card and a little note about how the turkey was on them.

      Some people used to really whine and moan about those and how small an amount it was, but I actually thought it was nice; in a place with that much turnover and that many employees, what are they supposed to do, go broke giving everybody five grand? Even people who’ve only been there a month? AFAIWC, it was $25 I didn’t have before.

      The owner really liked me, but after I sent a thank-you note to him for the gift, he loooved me. I think it’s one of the reasons I was promoted a couple of months later.

      I would not have been sending a thank-you note if I’d been presented with some sort of Best-Rite Turkey Food shaped like a turkey. I’m very picky about my meats (and my general kitchen hygeine and cleanliness; I mentioned once here that it’s pretty normal for me to wash my hands more than 50-60 times a day. My hands are already feeling super dry from prepping the turkey today and the attendant constant washing). So yeah, in that situation I’d rather get a $5 gift card than the $5 20-pound turkey.

      1. Bea*

        My previous boss used to give us all gift cards for the local supermarket as well in the same “the turkey is on us” way. It works out great because you clearly can buy anything at the store, so it’s just pitching in grocery money in general. I thought it was fantastic and generous of him, he didn’t have to do that.

        I can’t stand people who whine about a gift of any kind. It’s a bonus, everyone gets one, nobody is getting more than anyone else unlike usual bonus structures.

        1. LDN Layabout*

          Depends on how closely they follow kosher/halal laws. If the company is buying the cheapest option I doubt they’d shell out for more expensive meat.

    4. Elizabeth*

      I had three siblings who all worked at the same very large chain store where they’d get a turkey at Christmas, which meant turkey dinner redux several times per year as my mom pulled yet another one out of the freezer after a few months!

    1. Fake old Converse shoes*

      For some reason my savage, no filter Calculus teacher came to mind. Or Peter Capaldi’s Doctor.

  11. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain*

    I’m sorry I missed the thread the first time. I would have added one I heard from my mother, who was an elementary school teacher. One of the third-grade classes was growing a sunflower from seed to harvest, as a class science project. Everyday the whole class would roll their growing plant out to the playground in a little red wagon so it would get plenty of sun. They would measure it’s height and growing bud, watched as it bloomed and the florets developed into seeds, and anticipated the harvest of the seeds to complete the life-cycle. And then…the night janitor picked every last seed off and ate them in one night. He wasn’t fired.

    1. buttercup*

      Wu-wha??? Who even eats sunflowers in the first place? Was there security footage of this? I have a lot of questions.

      1. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain*

        Sunflower seeds are commonly eaten as a snack food. I didn’t mean to imply that he ate the flower itself. No need for security footage — he readily admitted it was him and was dumbfounded by the reaction of the teacher.

        1. Onnellinen*

          This is akin to eating the macaroni from arts and crafts- even though sunflower seeds are a common snack food, these particular ones were not grown for the janitor’s enjoyment!

          1. EddieSherbert*

            *imagining the janitor walking down the hall plucking the dry noodles off the kids’ macaroni art that’s proudly displayed on the walls*


        2. buttercup*

          Ack sorry I missed that part! Then this story is slightly less weird, but still weird and that guy is an asshole.

        3. SusanIvanova*

          We put up a webcam to find out why our team stash of snacks was shrinking overnight – turned out it was one of the security guys!

          1. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain*

            They’re usually dried first and naturally fall off the flower as it dies. I don’t think roasting is necessary except for flavor…like being salted is usual, but not required.

            The teacher went all the way to the school district offices to try to get him fired, but he kept his job.

            1. Tuesday Next*

              Yeah, he shouldn’t have done that, but firing him seems excessive to me. I’m guessing he didn’t gleefully rub his hands together after eating them, thrilled that the children were going to be devastated. He probably thought, oh yum, I like these. And ate them.

              1. Jenna*

                It’s theft. So what if it’s a bunch of seeds with no price tag, it’s still not his stuff to take!

                It was a class project that he destroyed.

                I. Just.

                Some people don’t understand boundaries.

              2. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain*

                I think, in addition to being theft…while petty…it’s also that he picked them off the plant. They weren’t just sitting in a bowl on a table. This was both theft and destruction…and spectacularly bad judgement for an adult. A child might not have basic self control to pass up a minor temptation without thinking through the consequences, but an adult?

                I think for that he should have been fired.

    2. Ulf*


      Related, but not intentional. I worked at a small elementary school. There was a kitchen with a refrigerator where teachers stored their lunches and occasionally ingredients for a cooking project they were going to do with kids. One teacher was a little frustrated one day when she tried to find space in there for a couple heads of lettuce to feed the class pets. There was a very large pot in the bottom shelf, which, upon inspection, proved to contain about two inches of clear liquid at the bottom. Hmm, said the teacher, no reason why a pot of water needs to be here; and she put it in the sink. Later that afternoon the person in charge of cleaning the kitchen that day apparently washed and dried the pot and hung it back up.

      The next day, at the beginning of the faculty meeting, another teacher spoke up. Her class had been tapping maple trees for the sap, she explained, and had steadily been boiling the sap down into syrup in a big pot, which had been in the refrigerator, only it had disappeared…

      Yup. Not water but two weeks worth of collected sap on its way to being maple syrup. Terrible way to end a class project!

        1. Tuesday Next*

          Or in dire need of someone to think, why would someone put something pointless in the fridge? Perhaps it’s not pointless?

  12. EmKay*

    The surly coworker in #4 is my hero. I wish I had that kind of chutzpah.

    As an admin assistant, I’ve organized tons of work lunches, often with very little resources. I’ll do the setup ahead of time and then come in later with everyone else. Last time I was following a guy in, and he audible sighed “Ugh, pizza again.”

    Now what I wanted to say was “This is an optional meeting and the food is provided for free. You don’t like it? THERE’S THE DOOR.”

    What I actually said was nothing. I snorted and glared at him.

    1. AudreyParker*

      Being the budget food-orderer is a thankless task and fostered no end of fury in me when I had to do it regularly. I also had to order food for the snack drawer, which eventually was treated like the lunch drawer – I did not respond in an adult fashion to complaints about that! Never complain about the state of free food…

    2. Tuesday Next*

      “The budget for these meetings is 0.85c a head. If you have any ideas that aren’t pizza, I’d love to hear them!” *big smile*

      People often don’t realise how little money and how much effort goes into these things.

  13. no one, who are you?*

    I work in a tiny office run by a tyrant who has completely forgotten how to be nice to their employees. We very occasionally order pizza for staff meetings. There was one a few months ago that the boss couldn’t attend, but we had to order their favorite (horrible) pizza toppings anyway so they could take home the leftovers. The boss is independently wealthy and has a salary more than double anybody else’s.

    I’m so glad I’m on the shortlist for an agency with an HR department.

      1. Alli525*

        I don’t want to ENTIRELY blame it on the patriarchy… but, the patriarchy. So many guys get jobs and promotions through the good-old-boy network and not on merit, so they have no sense of how to actually behave like a decent human being.

        I think that every single person in a corporate setting should have to start their career with at least 3 years of grunt admin work, so they stop taking admins and support teams for granted.

        1. Cassandra*

          The organizational-behavior-research phrase is “glass escalator,” for those who might wish to look it up.

    1. Snark*

      Has anybody told this weirdo he can just….like….order his own pizza? And someone will actually deliver it to their front door?

  14. DecorativeCacti*

    Block of cheese person reminds me of the time someone signed up for a “half-eaten bag of chips” for a potluck. We all thought that was pretty funny until a literal half-eaten bag of chips got put on the table.

    1. Cute Li'l UFO*

      That’s something I would joke about bringing (former coworkers and I always joked about terrible potluck items) but certainly never would have the gumption to do.

      What brand/flavor were they? Was it a little snack size bag?

      1. DecorativeCacti*

        No, it was Tostitos or something. A normal, full size bag. Just… Half eaten.

        No one knew who brought it so we threw it away. I’ve seen how my coworkers wash their hands. I’m not eating poop hand chips.

    2. OverboilingTeapot*

      I’m kind of impressed. If it was a mandatory or mandatory-ish potluck, I appreciate the gumption.

    3. Millie M*

      I just took a bite of rice pudding, and this made me laugh so hard, I almost choked. I might borrow this for the next potluck. Half-eaten bags of chips. 1/4 of a cake. 2/3 of an apple pie. (I really did once go to regular potlucks where one of the other people would bring half-eaten cakes and pizzas that were leftover from parties, so they were all dried out and sad. Or she would make a family-size batch of chili and bring half of it and feed the other half to her family.)

      1. Tuesday Next*

        “…bring half of it and feed the other half to her family” – I’m wondering how people would know that (and what’s actually wrong with doing that – she should cook two separate meals?).

        Dried out, half eaten cake is another story altogether.

    4. Miss Pantalones en Fuego (formerly Floundering Mander)*

      Now see, I would totally have brought in the half eaten bag just to be funny. But because I’m not so enamored with my own jokes that I would consider that sufficient, I also would have brought some new, unopened chips.

  15. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain*

    The best part of block of cheese person is the plastic fork…like how is that helpful? Were people supposed to just pick it up by the “handle” and nibble off a bite?

    1. Snark*

      I mean, ain’t gonna lie, I’ve chomped right off a block of cheese a few times in my life, and I’m not proud of that but here we are. I’m not sure how the plastic fork makes that any more civilized, but I guess I understand adopting the fig leaf of, like, maybe this is less barbaric if I include a utensil?

      1. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain*

        Right. It’s like they started with the thought, “I don’t want people grabbing the cheese with their gross poop hands…” and then, “oh look, bananas”

    2. paul*

      someone brought a big block of brie to our office pot luck last week.

      No knife, no fork.

      One of many times I was glad to have my pocket knife (don’t worry, I washed it first!)

      1. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain*

        You can’t expect to wield supreme executive power just ’cause some dairy maid threw a fork at you!

  16. Sopranistin*

    My husband’s family is Hungarian, land of paprika. A plate of peppers is totally normal and expected at any gathering, even breakfast.

    1. Woah*

      Haha, I was going to say something similar. Yum! I also bring Israeli salad, which is cut up tomatoes, onions, I add peppers, cilantro, and oil for breakfast though, which apparently grosses everyone else out…

      1. Specialk9*

        And cucumbers and carrots? I’ve actually not had onions in Israeli salad, just cukes-carrots-tomatoes.

      2. Anonymouse*

        Israeli breakfasts are the best :) eggs, cheeses, yoghurts, sliced fruit and vegetables, cooked veggie dips and spreads… Mmmmm…

    2. Bea*

      I’ve seen many people snack on slices of bell peppers, so I don’t find it weird at all. It’s as normal as any other veggie tray.

  17. MCL*

    These are all amazing, but the one that actually made me gasp was the one where the pre-school cut the benefits of their underpaid teachers, threw them a catered lunch as an apology, and the catered lunch was literally a stack of donations from the food pantry. I would have quit on the spot.

    1. buttercup*

      I’m really surprised that one didn’t make it! I guess b/c the story is more about the general asshole-ness of the administration than the actual food.

  18. TiffIf*

    All I can think of with this one is “Big Block of Cheese Day” on The West Wing,/i>

    Andrew Jackson, in the main foyer of his White House had a big block of

    1. NorCalPM*

      Yeah, but everyone carried Bowie knives back then. So no problemo, right? Until the drinking and fighting started, anyway. I’ve read that wasn’t done a second time because the guests wrecked the furniture. Good times!

    1. Snark*

      One time I asked a waiter if he recommended the tiramisu. He said, “it’s so good I wanna smear it on my chest.”

      I ordered it.

      I wanted to smear it on my chest, so I guess that checked out.

  19. Bad Candidate*

    I used to work at a company that offered free lunch. It was also customary for managers to take their employees out for a holiday lunch. The higher up the manager, the nicer the lunch was expected to be. One year I worked for a C suite guy who was new to the company. He took us to lunch in the company cafeteria where we could all eat for free. Thanks, boss.

  20. Nana*

    We had all staff (100+) at school for all-day meetings before the kids (800) arrived. In charge of lunches several days, I ordered a variety of foods. One person complained about one day’s offerings (3 types of salad; 3 types of pizza), so I told him he could take the responsibility next year. Shut him up right quick

  21. Be the Change*

    Ha, I missed contributing the first time around. This isn’t my story, but a family member. I had a FM who worked for a missionary organization. They wanted to have a Christmas party for all of their local workers, say about 20 people. Well, the culture in that area was that if you’re invited to a party, you invite your entire family and extended family, and all of their family and friends, and you also take a lot of food home for anyone who couldn’t come — because food and money are scarce. A feast is a time to fill up. (This is partly how weddings get so out of control there.) So a party for 20 ended up to have about 500 people at it.


    I was unkind enough to think that this was hilarious and did the missionaries the hell right for being more concerned about witnessing than understanding and loving the actual people. Talk about lack of clarity on mission and vision…

    1. Borne*

      Even if they might have known about their culture it is probably likely that the missionary organization would not have been able to afford to provide a feast for 500 people anyway. They are often on a shoestring budget, relying on donations.

      1. Be the Change*

        It was the fact that they were surprised that was the issue. Next year, no, it didn’t fit the budget. (I know all about missionary budgets…especially compared to locals’ budgets, so my sympathy there is limited.)

      2. OlympiasEpiriot*

        Listening to some outsider talk about god on an empty stomach seems counter productive. Every group I’ve been around feeds ppl first.

    2. Pats*

      Wow – flashback! I was once in a relationship with a person of a culture very unfamiliar to me. I knew her dad lived locally and I asked her to invite him to dinner. At the time I lived in a small apartment with a dining table that seated four, a small living room with a seating for about 4, and just six place settings of flatware: six knives, six forks, six tablespoons, six teaspoons. I decided to make chicken picatta, a side of pasta, and garlic bread. She seemed a bit uncomfortable at the request and a couple of times demurred, but I insisted. So she invited her father. She then told me he would have to bring someone to drive him since he didn’t drive. Sure, no problem. So that evening I began preparing dinner for 4, with generous portions. Then there was the phone call that something’s up with the ride and she needs to come get her father. Okay, I’ll adjust the timing. See you soon sweetie! She leaves and about an hour later the front door opens and she comes in looking really sheepish … as she is followed by her father, his friend, her aunt, her uncle, her male cousin, her female cousin and her two kids, and a neighbor. …. I almost fainted. … and then my survival mechanism kicked in and I frantically began buttering bread and dousing it with McCormick’s Salad Supreme, boiling all the pasta I had, and sauteeing everything I had in the kitchen including a can of asparagus. Thankfully I had a good supply of beer and wine. In two seatings (due to only having six forks) I managed to feed everyone even though some had to eat off of plates while seated in chairs in the living room. I was having fits, but she told me later the dinner was considered a great success by her father and his entourage – which really made my day.

      1. Tuesday Next*

        That must have been pretty disconcerting! But you handled it gracefully.

        In cultures where people show up en masse, people do not expect fancy food, matching crockery, etc, nor do they mind eating in shifts (in my experience). The focus is on the people and the hospitality. I once attended a wedding where the ceremony took an hour and was followed by a very simple meal, served at long tables. As you finished eating, you got up to make a place for someone else. One of the best weddings I’ve ever been to!

  22. Pumpkins*

    Where I used to work, there was a woman who used to lick the remains out of all the serving plates and bowls after office potlucks. She also used to ask to smell my food, regularly.

  23. binkle*

    “Excalibur” made my day, my week, my month.

    Saving this for the next office party. “Dude, don’t Excalibur the cheddar.”

  24. Woah*

    Once had a catered lunch for a training. The manager had said we were getting Chain A, think like Chipotle pre scandal. We arrived and were told they had gotten Chain B, think…McDonalds, because Chain A was too expensive. They also didn’t get any dessert, even the only decent thing Chain B was known for was its cookies.

    Apparently the only feedback they got was “lunch sucked” and “don’t promise if you won’t follow through” and there were a ton of leftovers that got trashed. Note, it was also a nonprofit focused on health so bringing Chain B was like a giant eff you to all the work we all did every day and all the bullshit about healthy living.

    After that, meetings were potluck, which didn’t work because everyone was so burned from the last bullshit, so we just all brought our own stuff.

      1. Woah*

        It has been a staple of my nonprofit career. Every. Single. Quarter. At least once per. Sometimes we’d have it as a team, then a unit, then a whole center. It was awful.

        I have food allergies so I began bowing out since I’m not going to eat other people’s gross food…if people can’t throw away their leftovers in a communal fridge, why would I ever assume they do that at home?

  25. AKchic*

    Okay. So… I currently work in a male-heavy maintenance shop. We’re gov’t contracted union folk. Only 4 women total. Three of us are administrative.
    One of the women… well, she’s “special”. We’re not sure how she still has her job, but we’re pretty sure that the only reason is because she has something on the company (she’s an actual company employee, the rest of us are union contractors).
    We are no longer allowed to have potlucks for employee morale because of her. Why? Two words. Mashed potatoes.
    About a year ago, we had a big holiday potluck and mashed potatoes were brought in. This woman is a barely functioning alcoholic. She regularly mentions taking pills, frequently comes to work smelling of cheap vodka and wearing sunglasses “because of my migraines” (yeah… you aren’t fooling anyone, sweetie). She HAS to be the center of attention at every meeting.
    Anyhow, one of the techs spills mashed potatoes from his plate. He’d been talking to my officemate (aka: my mom, we’re not going there) and generally ignoring the other co-worker. She takes her finger, swipes the spilled mashed potatoes off of his leg, sucks it off of her finger and tries to seductively say “I love mashed potatoes” while licking her finger and staring this guy down like a hungry wolf as he’s trying not to choke on his food and vomit back onto his plate. The rest of us are just flabbergasted at her brazen antics for attention. And completely put off our lunches.
    Lunch broke up immediately. She was left holding a pan of mashed potatoes in the middle of the meeting area while we all waited for her to leave.

    The kicker? She wasn’t even invited to the lunch. It was union employees only, hosted by the union reps. She crashed our lunch.

  26. Kyubey*

    I don’t have a story but I have a coworker who chews food very loudly and makes a lot of smacking noises while she eats every day. It’s disgusting but she doesn’t seem to care even when people make comments.

    1. nep*

      That would put me over the edge. (Even when people say something, she doesn’t quiet it down a bit? !!!)

    2. Alexandra Lynch*

      I always feel a little weird about eating around others because I have TMJ, and my jaw clicks every time I chew.

  27. SeluciaMD*

    I can’t imagine anything worse than #1. That is just…..EEEWWWWWWWWWWWW. No. Just… Makes me appreciate my relatively normal coworkers that much more.

    #4 is one of those times where you think, “I’ve put up with your cranky ass for five years and this moment right here? Just made it aaaaallllll worth it.”

    I agree with whoever suggested that in a perfect world, a slow clap would have followed the banana admonition.

  28. OverboilingTeapot*

    I’ve worked places where every potluck was mandatory. Mandatory attendance, mandatory participation. You either brought a dish (to be openly judged by coworkers) or signed up to contribute $10 to the drinks/plates/condiments the organizers brought from Costco. And you were totally judged for that (unless you were male, in which case it was completely understandable, haha boys can’t cook). I would have LOVED to bring a bunch of unsliced peppers or a single block of cheese.

  29. ARN*

    My first office job (northern big city) had a baking competition as a team builder. I made a bunch of creme puffs from my Italian grandmother’s recipe. A lady in the office who knew I was from the southern us watched me spoon the cream into the puffs before judging (doing it ahead of time makes them soggy) asked if this was some kind of southern dessert with gravy. Eww??

  30. Leenie*

    Sometimes I feel like I’m an alien visiting a planet inhabited by beings with superpower level politeness. Like how do you all refrain from screaming in horror at the guy who sticks his hands in the pasta?

    1. Borne*

      Reminds me of an article about bad blind dates. One of the worst was a guy in his forties who licked his plate ‘clean’ once he had eaten all the food on his plate.

      Should one tell the guy why his request for a second date is declined? Is it his mother’s fault? What’s cute when he is 4 is not cute when he is 44.

      1. Leenie*

        It’s amazing that the guy never noticed throughout his adulthood that no one else ever licks their plate (at least not in front of people). I think I’d rather go on a (first and only) date with the plate licker than attend a potluck with the handsy food guy. Ew.

    2. Leenie*

      So I saw in reading the comments that people did sometimes react to the handsy food guy. It wasn’t just the polite pretend it isn’t happening thing. I’m still guessing no one ever totally lost their shit on him. I think it would be hard to continue a behavior after being subjected to a proper public freak out, no matter how arrogant one is. It sounds like he was pretty high up, but I’m stunned that no one above him ever told him to cut it out and not allow him to laugh it off. It’s just so incredibly disrespectful to his coworkers.

  31. Kismet*

    I am so skeeved out by #5 and I can’t even pin down why, but I have a lot of issues with the weird noises people make in general so it’s probably tied to that. (I swear, someday I’m going to murder my lip-smacking coworker, and I’m still half-convinced no jury will convict me. Why is it so damn hard to just … not make weird noises?)

    I mean, do people like that woman think it’s a compliment to the cook? Enticing? Showing their appreciation? Do they think they’re being cute?

    1. nep*

      Honestly. Most people can make less noise when they eat, no question. Noisy eating is beyond rude. Have some freaking consideration. You aren’t the only one in the room.

  32. MarciaX*

    I once worked part-time (weekends) in an office where the break-room refrigerator was always full of spoiled, half-spoiled and otherwise neglected food. One Saturday when I came in there was absolutely no room for my own lunch in the fridge (despite a note on the fridge door imploring everyone to take their uneaten food home each Friday) so I impulsively pulled out and threw away several items that were obviously WAY, WAY past their best-by date. One of these was a footlong sub sandwich that I recognized from the previous weekend — it had been sitting, unmoved, on the bottom shelf for at least seven full days. The thing was totally gross-looking, with a pool of black liquid underneath between it and the flimsy cellophane it was wrapped in. Naturally, I tossed it.

    Come Monday, I received an all-staff email from the office manager demanding to know “Who Stole the Sandwich?” Yes, that was the title! It said several food items were missing, specifying the vile sub, and insinuated that the weekend staff was most likely responsible. I did not respond to this absurd memo, either verbally or in writing, but have since regretted that. Probably I should have fessed up and made a point about the fridge always being filled with garbage, but as a part-timer I didn’t feel empowered to do that. It was still an unaddressed problem when I left.

  33. MarciaX*

    @6: Thanks for the pro tip! But you really should post a “Do Not Touch” sign near your oven, at least when you are expecting guests.

  34. AlWhoIsThatAl*

    Almost totally off-topic. The sword in the stone wasn’t called Excalibur, it was called Caledfwlch or Caliburn. Excalibur was given to Arthur by the Lady of the Lake. It’s a theme that is missed out of practically every Arthurian film – he has two swords…
    I’ll get me coat

  35. so_how_sick_do_you_get*

    #8 is laugh-out-loud funny. I am certain some of my coworkers would do the same. Not a foodie crowd.

    I’m so torn on #4! I love that there was someone with enough chutzpah to call out the bananatheif, but what if they were food insecure at home?

  36. Mimmy*

    #1 – Ewwwwwwww!!

    #4 – surly coworker is awesome

    #6 – Sorry, but I couldn’t help but laugh. Glad everyone is okay though

  37. Tuesday Next*

    “…bring half of it and feed the other half to her family” – I’m wondering how people would know that (and what’s actually wrong with doing that – she should cook two separate meals?).

    Dried out, half eaten cake is another story altogether.

  38. Victorya Chase*

    I had a boss that is the epitome of bad bosses (so, in good form she got promoted into a non-managerial position, but long after I had left the job. . and state. . .and country for a while Iw as so fed up). She took us all out to a buffet once. . . and had everyone put food in their purses and bags so she could take it home to her dogs. She had yelled at the server, first, when he told her she couldn’t get a doggie bag. She even took all the bread off the table.

    At another event, a catered buffet, when she saw the food wasn’t all eaten she screamed at the waitstaff to knock the price off the bill for the uneaten food. They tried to explain that that’s not the way it works, but she kept screaming until they gave in. Then, she asked what would happen to the leftover food and they said she would toss it. She told them she would take it since they were just going to throw it away, and to box it up for her. (I overheard later that someone else advised the waitstaff they pad the alcohol bill to make up for it).

    For our ‘holiday’ meal we would have to pay – and she often chose a place another city over so we’d have to pay for the train ride, and then the food ourselves. She thought it ‘fun’ – the one year I was there for it, I stayed in the office. Found out she fired someone during it for ‘challenging’ her – I think over a seat arrangement.

    These are just the food stories. There are also sexual harassment, retaliation, and just plan intimidation stories about her as well. Years later, I still have flashbacks.

  39. Grey*

    #4 (banana thief) made me kind of sad. I hope this was just a case of her being cheap rather than being broke and hungry.

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