weirdest office food stories: potluck mishaps and other times food at work went wrong

With the season of office potlucks and other food events approaching, I want to hear about your weirdest office food experiences.

Was there a scandal over a store-bought entry in the office bake-off? Did a coworker angrily eat seven ice cream bars in 30 minutes to make sure he got his “fair share”? Did your coworker steal your spicy food, get sick from it, and then blame you? Share in the comments.

{ 1,532 comments… read them below }

  1. BadPlanning*

    They just posted a bake off contest at work and one of the rules was handmade — can’t be from the store. Maybe the planner reads this blog…

    1. BlueWolf*

      Haha, we’re having a bake sale for charity at work. I think it specified “homemade”, but as it’s not a contest I’m sure it doesn’t matter whose home it was made in.

    2. Anon Good Nurse*

      I was once made (i.e., it was mandatory) to participate in a handmade bake off when I was 34 weeks pregnant with twins and on partial bed rest. I did not put in a strong effort and was not surprised when I didn’t win.

      I was strongly tempted to refuse, but they had recently fired a woman on FMLA who was getting chemotherapy (because she wasn’t the same person as she was before she got cancer). I decided not to push my luck although I understand she got a nice settlement from the company.

      1. LKW*

        Mandatory baking events? Please tell me this was for a company specializing in recipe development because I don’t cook and can’t imagine being required to do so.

        1. Retail Lifer*

          I would have walked in there with something unrecognizable and burnt to a crisp. I don’t bake and you will not make me put in an effort.

          1. Gabriela*

            I really dislike mandatory potlucks. I’m a fully mediocre cook and I ALWAYS end up taking home whatever I made (as do 75% of my coworkers, because EVERYONE making a dish for 40 people is TOO MUCH FOOD) and wasting food, money and time.

            1. Life is Good*

              I never eat anything leftover from food I have to make for work! Ewwww, all those people with their hands all over it. In the garbage it goes. I’m not a clean freak, but food safety is up there on my list of stuff to be careful with.

            2. WillowSunstar*

              I buy cut veggies and dip from the store for potlucks. They’re healthy, and most people on diets/and or with food allergies can at least eat the veggies without the dip. Offices never realize how many people on diets or with food allergies there really are, who can’t eat their co-worker’s hot dish for whatever reason.

              1. Dick Butt*

                I hate eating healthy, but I am all over veggies and dip. So satisfying crunch crunch crunch. So, thank you.

                1. Alexandra Duane*

                  I forego the dip in any group event – too many double-dippers. Most people spoon a dollop of dip onto their plate, but I always see one or two clueless ones dipping their veggies or chips directly into the dip – and double-dipping, of course.

          2. Snark*

            I can do it if I have to, but I hate it. I’m a living example of the adage that there are cooks and there are bakers, but there are very few cooks who are also bakers.

            1. Trig*

              I wasn’t aware of this adage, but it is SO ACCURATE for me and my partner! I love baking, but am not much of a cook. He much prefers cooking, and claims baking is magic where making one tiny mistake makes it blow up in your face. He once took an hour to make pancake batter. An hour! Meanwhile I stand paralyzed not knowing how much of a spice to put in the stir fry, because if I use too much its going to be inedible but if I use not enough it’s going to be bland and WHO KNOWS where on the spectrum the recipe writer’s tastes fall.

              (I’m getting better about experimenting with cooking, but after the pancake incident, he’s sworn off baking forever.)

              1. Snark*

                My mantra when cooking is: worst case scenario, you order a pizza. And I love pizza. Pizza is great. So if I really botch it, my punishment is cheesy carbs with pasta in it. OH NO BRER FOX! It got me over the risk-taking hump pretty well.

              2. Bryce*

                Yeah, I can follow a baking recipe great, but my cooking skills pretty much amount to pasta and “put meat in oven, wait until done, take out of oven. If feeling fancy add potatoes in there too.”

            2. Adlib*

              +100! Yes, two very different things. Are you a baker? That seems like it would be right up your alley as you’re a scientist (although an environmental one).

              1. Snark*

                Nope, I’m a cook! I hated lab work and – being an ecologist – I’m all about process and observation.

            3. Liane*

              College Daughter, told me that one of her (guy) friends said most of the girls he knew could bake but not cook, and she agrees she is one of them.

            4. Annie Moose*

              Oooh, this is me! I don’t know that I’m a great cook, but I enjoy it and I can make food I’m willing to serve to other people, but when it comes to baking, things just rarely turn out right for me, unless I make it from a box!

            5. Free Meerkats*

              I’ll blow my own horn here, but I’m both.

              Though I do enjoy the baking more than cooking, it’s Science where cooking is Art. I even made a successful angel food cake last week on a day with 80% humidity. I had a dozen egg whites I needed to use leftover from making a batch of eggnog to age for Christmastime.

              1. Julia*

                Same here. I’m a passable cook (I always like what I make, but my repertoire isn’t huge and mostly improvised), and I like to bake. Unfortunately, our apartment here in Japan doesn’t have an oven. :(

              1. Chocolate Teapot*

                Baker implies using a (baking) oven, and cook would mean using a hob/stove/other source of heat. Also, when you bake something, it means putting it in an over and leaving it, whereas cooking often means stirring something together over heat.

          3. MashaKasha*

            I bake occasionally, but a mandatory work bake event where there is a possibility of losing my job for not participating, would’ve sounded like a perfect occasion for the cheapest bake mix I could find in a discount store.

        2. Magenta Sky*

          Last place I lived, I didn’t have kitchen privileges.

          In any event, if it’s a mandatory part of the job, it’s on the clock. And not paying required overtime in this state is pretty seriously illegal.

            1. ggg*

              Never underestimate the power of a storebought cookie! Someone once brought a beautifully decorated, delicious, homemade cake to a bakeoff, and it lost to one of those desserts that are a mix of crumbled-up storebought products in a baking pan. (Which, to be fair, was pretty good.)

              There was no prize. But to this day we grumble about the injustice.

              1. Louise*

                This happened to me! After winning with a bourbon cheesecake the year before, I spent probably $40 on a recipe for a boozy chocolate cake (the alcohol baked out, but the flavor remained). It was beautiful and delicious and the frosting was to die for. And it lost to “dirty pie” aka cool whip and oreos layered in a pyrex. And I never baked for work again.

        1. Annie Moose*

          This is what you do: Get a bag of pretzels. Get a bag of Rolos. Get a bag of M&Ms.

          Lay the pretzels out on a pan and place one Rolo on each. Put them in a 350F oven for a couple of minutes until the Rolos get a little soft. Take them out and gently press an M&M into the top of each. (you can use pecans or something to make them a little more grown-up, but who doesn’t love M&Ms?)

          BAM. They take ten minutes. They’re delicious. They’re a hit at parties.

          1. paul*

            I just put the pretzels on wax paper, and sprinkle with chocolate chips and caramel until it gets all melty then pull it out.

            God I’m on an eternal conference call (AT&T broke our telephone software) and reading this thread while eating a protein bar. So very hungry

          2. Jenna*

            I’d need to check to make sure that the Rollos are gluten free, but, if I used the gluten free pretzels from TJ’s?

          3. Tongue Cluckin' Grammarian*

            Window pane pretzels, and candy melts (Walmart has ’em in the party section).

            Lay out the pretzels on a cookie sheet and set a candy melt on each one. Bake in a super low-heat oven until the candy melts are a bit melty (and thus stick to the pretzels). Done!
            Ridiculously huge hit at the office.

          4. Caitlin*

            My mom doesn’t bake. She’s more of a cook. But when she had to make treats for my/my brother’s elementary school/scout events, she did seven layer bars: graham cracker crumbs, condensed milk, shredded coconut, chocolate chips, butterscotch chips and walnuts. Alternate each layer with condensed milk, throw the whole thing in the oven and done. All that said, while I love baking, I wouldn’t like the idea of being forced to do it.

      2. clow*

        can they even legally do that? how do they get away with it? The longer I am in the workforce, the more I think employees have no rights

        1. Anna*

          Technically, not they cannot and if they made it obvious that’s why they let them go…Well, I think a call to the state labor department might not be a waste of time.

        2. Jaintenn*

          No, they can’t legally do either of those things. My state doesn’t have a family leave regulation, but does have pregnancy discrimination regulations. As I understand it, they were quite open about their reasons.

          They get away with it because people don’t know their rights and/or don’t exercise them.

          The new contract has very strict attendance rules, and employees have been told no PTO will be approved until X date d/t contractually required staffing levels. I guess that is being interpreted as a higher priority that the employees’ federal rights.

          There is another pregnant employee, who decided to hide her condition for the interview. I wonder what the reaction will be when she calls to say “I need to take the next several weeks off, as I have just given birth.”

        3. clow*

          Seems like these sorts of things are no win, if you hide the pregnancy and get hired, you will have a hard time taking time off, if you dont hide it, you wont be hired at all.
          As far as calling the labor department, i wonder honestly, how useful that is. I had a friend who contacted them because her boss didnt pay his employees for a month and she never got a response. I don’t really know how effective they are at actually enforcing laws.

          1. zapateria la bailarina*

            i would imagine it’s more effective to go to an employment lawyer and have them write a letter to the employer

          2. whingedrinking*

            Sometimes the threat is adequate. I once got fired from a job without cause, and just by going to the employer and saying “either I get my severance or I get labour involved” was enough for him to cough it up. The amount of of money probably wouldn’t have been enough to make the whole process worthwhile for me – but it definitely wouldn’t have been for him.

      3. It happens all the time...*

        I was fired during cancer treatment for “not being in the office enough.” The days I missed? Every other Friday I was in the hospital for chemo. I was at work every other day, feeling pretty poorly, but working nonetheless. Aside from the boss telling me he wouldn’t track my sick days and wouldn’t “penalize me for being sick,” I don’t think I even HAD used up all of my PTO yet when he fired me.

        No settlement — too small a business for federal law, and boss surprise-fired me over the phone on a weekend to ensure I couldn’t take any documentation with me, so no lawyer wanted to touch a state-law case.

      4. Changed*

        If that had happened at my work, I’d have gone for making a point. Think pulling a single lumpy pancake wrapped in torn kitchen roll out of my pocket and tossing it on the table while staring the organizer straight in the eye. “Made that myself”.

      1. Jeff*

        That is like I used to say, “It’s all homegrown! The only difference is who’s home it was grown at.”

      2. Red 5*

        I used to work in a bakery inside a grocery store. Once in a while a customer would figure out a lot of our stuff comes in frozen and is baked in store and would have a FIT that it wasn’t “homemade.”

        I always had to bite my tongue to keep from asking who they thought lived in the grocery store.

        (Seriously though, all the dough and stuff that came in was good stuff, and the company didn’t truck it from very far, but nobody has any idea what it would take to mix bread and cakes and muffins from scratch in store and bake them there to also sell them there. The machinery alone would double the size of the bakery, and we already had walk-in ovens).

        1. Em*

          I’m a pastry chef that took a job in a grocery store bakery not knowing what I was getting into. (I had just moved to a new town and it was a block away–just convenient income while I found a real bakery job.) I transferred to the barista counter because I kept getting sick from practically living inside the walk-in freezer. There wasn’t even a small mixer in our department just one proofer and one walk-in oven.

    3. TootsNYC*

      well, for a contest, I’d hope so!

      I organized a cookie swap for Christmas at one of my jobs once, and the rule was, “If you’re going to bring something, it has to be food.” We specifically encouraged people to bring anything–chips, pretzels, store-bought, homemade.”

      We didn’t even say, “you can’t eat if you don’t bring.”

      it was much more a cookie party than anything.

    4. CmdrShepard4ever*

      Did it say Handmade and not from a store, or just handmade? To really get what you want I think you need to say “Bake off contest: it needs to be handmade by the person entering the contest”
      To me Handmade means not mass produced by machines, some store bakery departments make their stuff by hand, or go to a local bake shop and buy it.

      Homemade means it can’t be bought but I could have my friend who is a professional baker come to my house and make it.

      1. LtBroccoli*

        Or you could have your spouse make it, which is far more common but equally unfair if it’s meant to be a contest between coworkers.

    5. Mrs. Fenris*

      I’m a very good baker, and I enjoy it, but only if I have time and the muse is on me. If I’m busy, like during the work week, or if it’s been so nice outside I’d rather be hiking, nope, you’re getting storebought stuff.

    6. WaywardManager*

      In one of my last jobs, our party planning committee, used to do company-wide catering for most major holidays. I swear, every single time we did a breakfast one and included bacon, we always had to have a member of the committee stand watch as the “bacon monitor” and count how many pieces of bacon each person had. Apparently, a few years before I started, some people would pile a plate full of nothing but bacon, and no one else would get any.

      We also used to have a “Pie Day”, where we’d get in an assortment of pies from Village Inn. This needed to be changed to “Slice O’ Pie Day”, since some employees would take an entire pie with them back to their desks!

  2. Reinhardt*

    No stories to share (I always avoid my office potlucks) but looking forward to what people post here!
    *grabs popcorn*

        1. Mallory Janis Ian*

          This isn’t office- (or even human-) related, but your comment reminded me of a litter of kittens we had:

          We would feed them dry cat food in a pie tin, and one of the kittens would hide a pile of food under his belly. Then when all the food was “gone”, he would eat the food that he had hidden underneath himself.

          Then we gave them a bit of milk in the pie tin, and the one little greedy kitten spent the whole time scrabbling with his little paws to scoop the milk under his belly. Meanwhile the other kittens were drinking all the milk. The little greedy one couldn’t figure out how to get the milk to stay stashed up in his area of the dish, so he laid his belly down in the dish.

          1. JaneB*

            We had a guinea-pig like that when I was a kid – if you put a handful of vegetables in their pen, she would cram as many as possible under her belly, sometimes so many her back feet were in the air, and then eat between her front legs with breaks to growl at the others so no-one could get at her food…

          2. Alli525*

            That’s amazing and I’m so glad you shared it. Stories like yours make me sad my apartment doesn’t allow pets – their antics are just priceless.

          3. Aiani*

            Ha, that is great!

            Not as good but I used to have two cats and I had one of those pet feeding containers with two bowls that are separated down the middle. Well the greedy one would eat out of his bowl while stretching his paw across the other bowl so that only he could eat while the other one waited. I just bought separate feeding dishes after that.

          4. nonegiven*

            I have an old cat, when his litter was first getting into solid food, DH put out a freezer burned hamburger patty, on a plate, in the middle of 4 kittens. My kitty jumped in the middle of it with all 4 feet, started gnawing on the edges, and growling. He was already the biggest, fattest kitten, but from the way he acted, it was like he was starving.

        1. Archie Goodwin*

          I’ll bring the soda. Although as I plowed through most of the office twelve-pack of Diet Coke in about two-and-a-half days last week while on a training thing, perhaps I should bring extra.

          I’d be ashamed, but I have so few vices…

          1. Not Tom, just Petty*

            we have these closets next to each cube. Yup, a big black cubby. Mine holds my jacket, work bag, a crockpot, and two twelve packs. Right now Diet Cherry Coke and Diet Pepsi. Sale at Target.

          2. paul*

            I *always* bring my own two liter of diet coke or diet dr. pepper to potlucks. I get some weird looks but AM CAFFEINE.

          3. GotWings*

            I’m the office Red Bull fiend. A while ago a client gave someone in another department several crates of Red Bull as a gift. It lasted a couple of weeks, and every time someone wanted a can they would ask my permission.

            I can only assume I was appointed Red Bull Tsar but nobody remembered to notify me.

            1. Archie Goodwin*

              I had my fifteenth high school reunion last month, and a bunch of us organizers were tasked with bringing various beverages. I was asked to bring soft drinks…guess I really haven’t changed much in fifteen years.

        2. CM*

          Share? You’re not getting into the spirit of this.

          Mine isn’t that exciting, but I have worked at multiple (engineering) companies where people used a combination of webcams and custom-written software to detect and notify others when free food showed up. Depending on how generous these engineers are with the information, it’s either one guy who shows up and grabs all the food, or more often, it’s people descending en masse and decimating the free food.

          1. Ornery PR*

            I love this so much. It just goes to show how much ingenuity people have when they are passionate about something. Especially if that something is free food.

    1. LadyMountaineer*

      You avoid office potlucks! Office potlucks are where I’ve had the best Chinese (New Years Celebrations) and Filipino since it’s hard to find outside of the office and where I learned about secret menus. Even though I tote my Polish food and cheesy potatoes I love a good office potluck!

      1. Reinhardt*

        I’m glad you enjoy yours, mine are a bore. The ones at my office are all just awkward, forced social interaction best left to those who actually tolerate or enjoy such things. I don’t.

        And while I admit I don’t have the most sophisticated palet, none of the food people bring is particularly appetizing.

        1. Anonymoose*

          Amen. And it’s always the same thing every time. The same person always makes the same meatballs, the same pulled pork, the same bag of chips – oh wait, that last one is me. hehehe

      2. GotWings*

        Picky eater here – pot lucks don’t appeal at all. Being pressured to eat something I’m likely to find disgusting, when I could just go and buy something I like, is not a tempting offer.

      3. oranges & lemons*

        I don’t like potlucks because I don’t trust other people’s hygiene and they gross me out.

        1. Journalist Wife*

          Yep! I am normally that way so I was delighted that today’s office potluck (the first one we’ve had since I started here) was a soup-cookoff, which meant there were a million plugs for CrockPot along a row of tables and since we all set up when we got there in the morning, there was nothing that hadn’t been simmering at high heat all morning to make sure it was soft by lunchtime. Germ killing heat FTW!

      4. Free Meerkats*

        We almost held a wake the day the Filipina who brought her handmade lumpia to all the potlucks retired. You didn’t want to be between the table and the crowd when that hotel pan of steaming fried goodness arrived.

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

        *invents recipe for fish flavored microwave popcorn with extra burnt bits*

  3. Hlyssande*

    We no longer have potlucks or bake offs. I miss the days when that one guy brought in his amazing rum cake you could smell outside the room and my old boss brought venison summer sausage from deer he’d hunted. Moving into the same office with the division CEO, VPs, etc really put a damper on some things. On the other hand, I don’t miss being concerned about people’s kitchen cleanliness at home.

    I’ll probably bring in some sort of treat soon for my little group, though.

    1. AndersonDarling*

      I used to work at a company with a very, very diverse staff. Potlucks were like a food tour of the world! Flan, stir fry, bbq, enchiladas, french pastries… it was Glorious! It was a horrible company, but I really miss those potlucks!

      1. Amadeo*

        We had potlucks in the math department of a university I used to work for. It was similar there, except they were dishes from countries like India, Sri Lanka and so on. They didn’t always agree with my palate, but some of them were really good and it was neat to get home-cooked international dishes like that.

        1. Jane!Jane!*

          This reminds me of the potlucks at oldjob. Every department participated and it was fabulous! Whole smoked turkey and hams, shrimp platters, salads, every casserole known to man, and the desserts! I was so sorry to leave that job. For all its shortcomings, those folks knew how to put on a spread.

        2. Rusty Shackelford*

          When Mr. Shackelford was in graduate school, we went to a potluck. One of his classmates was from India and she’d made a traditional dish, but insisted that she made it less spicy so the Americans could handle it. It was still way too spicy for us, and the other Indian students wouldn’t eat it because it was too bland.

        3. Turtle Candle*

          Not a potluck thing, but a number of people in my office are from a culture where it’s expected that when you go on vacation, you bring back a treat from where you went to share with your office. We enjoyed it so much that other people spontaneously started doing it too, and since we have an office employing people form all over the world (and who also travel all over the world), the treats are really interesting and varied–seaweed snacks, sesame candies, pastries from Romania, maple things from Canada, and so on. I really like it.

          1. Julia*

            That was the one nice thing about my horrible former Japanese office job. (It wasn’t horrible because it was Japanese, although Japan may be even more behind on gender equality than Europe and it showed.)

          2. Midge*

            One of my favorite things about travelling is trying treats and snacks from other parts of the world. I would be thrilled if bringing back vacation treats was a more regular office thing. A coworker of mine just went home to South Asia and brought back this delicious cashew candy to share with us. It’s so so good!

        4. Clewgarnet*

          One of my coworkers occasionally brings in piping hot, homemade samosas. They’ve completely spoiled me for anything from a restaurant.

          And we have a vendor who’s based in Copenhagen. Whenever he comes in for a meeting (we’re in the UK), he brings Danish pastries that are basically a heart attack in pastry form, but totally worth it.

      2. MadMadAlwaysMad*

        I looove our department potlucks–they really are a world tour of food. We aren’t all great cooks in my department, but are all foodies. It is actually one of the things I mention when I’m interviewing candidates and the interviewee asks me to tell them about our group. Lately, I’ve been urging my manager to consider filling our next opening with someone with a Latin/Mexican cooking expertise since that is currently a gap in our pot lucks (only sort of kidding).

        1. JessaB*

          Yeh but what a cool way to try for a non homogeneous non discriminatory workplace. We want more foreign food in our potlucks, please apply if you can make kicking barbacoa. I mean in real life it doesn’t work like that but still you can wish.

        2. Tiny Soprano*

          One of our staff brought his homemade sambal to share at lunch a while back, and it was worth all the fiery pain in my weak-a*** white-girl palate. My office is super multi-cultural, so I’d love it if we did an office pot-luck!

        3. The Ginger Ninja*

          Our secretary retired recently and she was an amazing baker (we were her guinea pigs for new recipes). When we were interviewing for a new one, I asked if “do you like to bake” could be one of the interview questions :)

          We lucked out and hired someone who’s not only a really great secretary, but makes a killer apple crisp! (If you feed teachers, we will come. In droves.)

      3. Hlyssande*

        Oh, that’s awesome! I would miss those too. Most of the stuff was kind of meh, but one lady makes a killer pico de gallo, that dude had that rum cake, and there were a few other specialties as well. It always leaned heavily to the sweet side, though.

        These days there’s a quarterly birthday thing with a mix of healthy and unhealthy snacks from Costco. One of the managers took another job and we had the usual birthday stuff + cake to celebrate. Not quite as good as fresh venison summer sausage, but free snacks are free snacks!

    2. JKP*

      I worked somewhere once where we had food contests complete with trophies, but everything was provided by the company and you made it at work. For example, anyone who wanted to enter the crockpot contest would give the person running it a list of ingredients. Then the day of the contest, you would get to work and there would be all the crockpots and ingredients in the kitchen waiting. People would make their dish in the morning, then the office would close an hour early for a staff party where everyone would judge the entries. Since they did it every year, they just kept the equipment in storage, and the entries were somewhat limited by how many crockpots or blenders or whatever they had. Although, I think if one more person wanted to enter, they just bought another one.

      Anyway, that removed the burden/expense from the people cooking at home, and also no worries about the cleanliness of the kitchen. Accidental bonus: no chance of cheating.

    3. Meghan*

      My husband makes a chocolate velvet pie every year for his office for Pi Day (3/14). But he bikes in, so he has to bring all the ingredients to work and make it there. And it requires pre-baking the crust a day beforehand. So the day before pie day, he bakes a chocolate cookie crust in the toaster oven at work. The smell brings people looking for fresh cookies, and he has to shoo them away with a “come back tomorrow.” And then his tiny pie is one of many, but it gets demolished. Probably the best way to advertise the event.

      1. SeuciaV*

        OMG – Pi Day! On 3/14! I love this idea. And also love the fact that he bakes his own tiny pie in the toaster oven at work. That’s pretty boss.

        1. Cloud Nine Sandra*

          We have pie day at my office – we have a lot of food events. Tomorrow there’s a hot dog event one of the senior people puts on for the local “big game” in college football land. We were all told not to wear the color of the rival team the senior person supports, lol.

        2. Julia*

          In Japan (and Korea, I think), 3/14 is just White Day, where men have to give reciprocal gifts to women who had given them Valentine’s chocolates (which in Japan is solely from women to their romantic partners, colleagues, friends etc.). I should tell my husband to get me a fancy pie next year, he’s not a baker.

    4. Turquoisecow*

      There was a woman at my old job who brought in rum cake for occasions. She was well known to enjoy alcoholic beverages and her rum cake was exceptionally rum-filled because of this. She also added it in to the frosting. Many people joked (with some seriousness) that they couldn’t have too much or they’d not be able to drive home afterward.

      Sadly, she passed away. I’m not sure if she passed on the recipe to anyone before she died.

      1. B*

        Office party and a woman brought in rum balls that were so strong the boss declared if you were driving, you could only have two. He then moved the tray to where he could monitor it.

        1. Hlyssande*

          My dad used to be an IT manager for an insurance company, and he had an employee who brought in extremely powerful rum balls just like that. I’m sure they were wonderful, but too many would definitely give you trouble.

        2. PlainJane*

          True story. Chocolate rum balls were served at a wedding reception I attended. I don’t drink alcohol–like never in my life ever. But I adore chocolate. So I knocked back about 3 of them–then noticed I was light-headed, and formerly-stationary objects were no longer stationary. It’s the only time in my life I’ve ever been intoxicated.

      2. JessaB*

        We had one who made those powdered sugar rum balls? And man did she put the booze in em. We got all the jokes about “don’t drive home, let Jessa drive you she doesn’t drink.”

      3. Hlyssande*

        The rum cake I remember fondly was similar to that. It definitely burned a bit going down, but was so very delicious.

      4. Tiny Soprano*

        My old boss once brought in the most magnificent chocolate mousse I’ve ever had for someone’s birthday, and when we asked her what was in it she said: “I normally put brandy in it, but I’d run out, so I used scotch.”

      5. Cherith Ponsonby*

        The first time my mum and I made ice-cream Christmas pudding, it turned out like this – the recipe said to soak about 4 cups of dried fruit in 2tbsp brandy for up to 2 weeks, but that seemed insufficient, so we ended up using nearly a cup of brandy and leaving it for 6 weeks. It was lucky nobody had any plans to drive on Christmas afternoon!

    5. Han*

      This reminds me of “culture day” at my school when I was a kid. We were all supposed to bring in foods traditional to our cultures. It was… not a very diverse community, so most of the food was from various western European traditions. As the only Jewish kid, I brought in bagels. It was amazing how many kids hadn’t had one before!

      1. Rebecca in Dallas*

        We actually did that at work once! It was really fun, my Jewish coworker brought in potato latkes (but funnily enough, she later admitted that her Chinese husband had made them).

    6. Adlib*

      About 6 years ago, I worked at a job I hated, but one guy always brought in venison jerky from his hunting season. It was so good I emailed him this year to see if he was still doing it. He is, but he only gets enough for friends and family. I don’t qualify as a friend though, just former coworker.

      1. Hlyssande*

        Nice. I’m sad that you don’t get to have that deliciousness. I know the boss didn’t make the summer sausage himself, but whoever made it for him was top notch.

        1. the gold digger*

          That is my special hostess gift – venison summer sausage. The only way to get it where I live is to kill the deer yourself or to have a cousin who owns and runs a deer processing business and gives you venison summer sausage from her stash. It’s illegal to sell venison in this state. I have a very short list of people I will give it to, as it has to be given to me as a gift and I don’t want to be greedy.

        2. nonegiven*

          We can take venison to the meat packer. They do it all at once, I think. They’ll make sausage, Summer sausage, hamburger, steaks, etc. whatever you want.

          When we had more energy, he cut and I packed steaks and roasts ourselves using one of those vacuum bag sealers.

          We never made our own sausage but my cousin was trying jerky this year.

  4. Not So Super-visor*

    I have a hard time eating mayo anymore due to a coworker. She came in late due to a doctor’s appointment that she needed to fast prior to the appt for some blood work. She decided to treat herself to a sub sandwich with extra mayo from a local shop on her way back into work. She then proceeded to lean over the short cubicle wall and have a conversation with me while she ate it. Every time that mayo would squeeze out of the side or end of the sandwich, she would eagerly lick it off the bread and then continue on with the conversation.

        1. LiveAndLetDie*

          Okay I like mayo just fine but there is a line of acceptability and this has definitely crossed to the “that’s excessive” side. You are the Louis XIV of mayonnaise.

      1. JD*

        I do admit I would not be looking someone in the eye doing that. At home, probably. On a side note I am now desperately craving a giant sandwich.

      1. JD*

        I can tell if someone opens a jar of sweet pickles within a mile of me. My SO will be downstairs and I will call down “did you just open sweet pickles?” The smell makes me ill.

        1. Arya Snark*

          Me, too. Hubs LOVES them and eats them all the time. The worst is when he finishes a jar and dumps the brine in the sink. Retching for days!

          1. Alexandra Duane*

            He dumps the brine out? Tell him to cut up cauliflower, green beans, celery, cooked beans (kidney, pinto, garbanzo, whatever he likes) and put them in the brine. Just put in enough that the brine completely covers the veggies. Refrigerate overnight – pickled salad the next day!

        2. Cat*Lady*

          I am this way with greek yogurt. Regular yogurt, fine. The greek kind? *hurk* I can tell when people in the office are eating it :(

    1. LKW*

      I hate mayo, always have. When I went to Belgium for work the first thing I learned was to order sandwiches “Zonder Mayo” because they slather it on everything.

      1. Jen S. 2.0*

        Word. I have always hated mayonnaise. I do not understand the love for tasteless fatty white slime. Off topic: I once broke up with a boyfriend, and a friend was amused when I peevishly referred to him as “Mayonnaise Man.” See above description; I have no idea whether he liked mayonnaise as a food.

        (Oddly, I like chicken salad and potato salad just fine (although I don’t like cole slaw), as well as flavored mayonnaise, like pesto mayonnaise, horseradish mayonnaise, et cetera. Plain mayonnaise, though? Bleccccch.)

        1. LKW*

          I can deal with tuna salad and egg salad if they aren’t too mayo drenched but if you put mayo on a sandwich, I won’t eat it or will peel off all mayo’d layers.

      2. Azure Jane Lunatic*

        I believe that’s where one of my former co-workers was from. He caught some teasing from the rest of his team when we observed him cheerfully spreading mayo on his pizza crusts. (It didn’t gross any of us out that I’m aware, but we did think it was unusual.)

    2. Grad student*

      Oh no–I don’t like mayo but I do lick ketchup off the edge of my sandwiches (burgers, I guess) when it looks like it’s going to drip. I don’t even realize I’m doing it most of the time–I guess I should pay better attention if it might be grossing people out? :/ It’s very effective though!

      1. Sally Seattle*

        It’s very different in a restaurant where everyone’s eating then when you’re having a conversation with someone at their desk.

        1. No Green No Haze*

          I’m here to say I knew a guy who did this at a restaurant where everyone was eating and it absolutely was gross there.

          Not only would he lick oozing condiments off of his burger, he would, I am sorry, suck them off with slurping noises, turning the burger contemplatively to check the whole perimeter for leakage.

          Front of God and everybody. Horrible.

            1. Raine*

              I think biting that section off is what I do at least. You don’t have to take a full sized bite, just enough so it doesn’t drip everywhere.

              1. No Green No Haze*

                I would have been glad for him not to overload the burger with fluids to begin with, since this was all self-inflicted, but in some cases, of course, this has been done to you, not by you.

                I feel like Miss Manners would be fine with a discreet napkin wipe.

    3. Merci Dee*

      That almost made me gag right here at my desk.

      When I was a kid, I loved mayo. My favorite lunch before I started school was mayo sandwiches — mayo, bread, and more mayo. Then I went to kindergarten, and got a packet of mayo with my lunch one day that had gone bad. I got so sick, I can’t even tell you. I haven’t been able to deal with mayo since then. I’m fine if it’s mixed into stuff (pasta salad, tuna salad, chicken salad, etc.), but that’s about it. I’ll put a scant bit on a BLT to keep the bacon crumbles from falling out, but it’s barely enough to make the bread glisten.


      1. Artemesia*

        Our instincts are really strong here. We survived by developing a deep aversion to things that hurt us. Decades ago I had a great pork crockpot recipe with polenta — loved it. Got stick as a dog after eating it once (probably a bug and nothing to do with the food) All these years later, the thought of it still turns my stomach and I’ve never made it again.

      2. Alexandra Duane*

        A coworker and I were rummaging through the Condiment Packet Drawer at work a while back and found a ketchup packet inflated like a little ball, tight as a drum. We put it in a plastic bag and took it right out to the dumpster – we were afraid it might detonate in the wastebasket and release toxins. We thought about calling the Hazardous Materials team, but then we would have had to write incident reports, and we’ll do anything to avoid that.

    4. pumpkin spice.*

      I hate mayo more than any other food substance on the planet. I’d have barfed all over my desk Exorcist style.

      1. Dee-Nice*

        Hi. I’m Dee-Nice. I share your mayo aversion and even thinking about it right now is triggering my gag.

      2. Pomona Sprout*

        Add me to the list of mayo-aversives, please. I can’t even stand the smell of the stuff. Ugh!

          1. Kismet*

            Ha, I’m the exact opposite! Love mayo, can’t stand Miracle Whip, and yes, Grandma, I can tell the difference.

            1. nonegiven*

              I can stand a little Miracle whip in the chicken salad. The only sandwich I like it on is meatloaf. I’d rather have mustard on everything else.

    5. Mabel*

      I can relate! My dad eats peanut butter and mayonnaise sandwiches. And we used to get a dollop of mayo on our lettuce as “salad” for dinner most evenings. I don’t love mayo, so this was a bit much for me, but I will eat it in chicken or tuna salad, and other things like that.

      1. Fur Princess*

        As far as I’m concerned, mayonnaise is on the menu in Hell. It is so gross.

        Belgians aren’t the only ones who slather it indiscriminately: in some Japanese restaurants, they put it on fried things. yuckyuckyuck

      2. Stellaclair*

        Ah! I used to eat peanut butter and Miracle Whip sandwiches when I was a kid. My dad introduced me to that. I actually really dislike mayo for the most part.

        1. JessaB*

          I can’t have Miracle Whip, I’m allergic to mustard, I know friends that love it, but OMG people who say they’re putting mayo when it’s Miracle Whip are gonna be the end of me. Too many people I know call all white condiments mayo.

            1. Writebythelake*

              Well, not THAT different, but different enough. And I like both, for different reasons. Every once in awhile, I still crave a childhood favorite: Kraft American single with Miracle Whip on white bread.

              1. Elizabeth West*

                Bologna with Miracle Whip on a hamburger bun, with a single slice of American cheese. This is what they put in our lunch bags in primary school for Play Day. In the morning, we’d have a little track meet, and then in the afternoon they took us to the city park where we ate the cafeteria bag lunch and then had sack races, etc. and played on the swings. That sandwich will take me back immediately.

                Not all of my childhood was sucky. :)

      3. PhyllisB*

        YAY to another PB&M fan. I’ve eaten this all my life. It’s also good with bananas added. I LOOOOVE mayo, but not as much as my dad did. The man ate it on EVERYTHING but desserts. (Yes, I know about chocolate mayo cake, but that wasn’t a THING then.) When my children were young we went out to lunch after church, and took one of their friends with us. When our meal was served she started looking around the table in confusion. I asked her what she was looking for. She said, where is the mayonnaise? She wanted some for her black-eyed peas. (Yes, we do live in the South.) It brought back so many memories.

    6. Chaordic One*

      I’ve talked about my food allergies before, especially my allergy to soy. In almost all store-bought mayo one of the main ingredients is soybean oil and it does not agree with me.

      OTOH, if you’ve ever taken the time to make homemade mayo with canola or corn oil or even olive oil, it’s the best!

    7. Bye Academia*

      I used to love mayo. Until the time I had lice in elementary school. It was a stubborn case and just would not go away with any of the normal treatments. Desperate, my parents found a method online where you slather your scalp in mayo, put a shower cap on, and leave it overnight. The smells…oh god, the smells.

      It did finally kill the lice, though.

      I do still like mayo now, but it took YEARS for the smell not to make me nauseated and I definitely don’t love it at the same level as before.

    8. Bryce*

      I used to love mayo but it’s one of the things I cut out on a “how can I eat healthier without drastically altering my diet” whim (also included: burgers without cheese sometimes, one less patty than my hungry brain thinks I want, small combo instead of large, stuff like that), and I found I haven’t missed it. Dijon mustard on the other hand, a sandwich just doesn’t taste right without some of that.

    9. Merula*

      I don’t have any great stories, but I just heard one from a coworker on the topic of mayo: An ex-boss is a massive control freak and HATES mayo. So much so that when ordering sandwiches for group events, he refused to order actual sandwiches and would instead order cold cut trays and rolls, so he could be assured there was no mayo anywhere.

      He also doesn’t like toppings on pizza, and so will order all cheese pizzas for group events.

    10. HR Recruiter*

      I like mayo if I can’t see it. I know its weird but the site of it grosses me out. Gagging just reading these comments.

  5. k.k*

    I may have told this story here before, but my weirdest office food story is of a partially stolen lunch. I brought a sandwich to work and stored it in the fridge. It was very simple, couple slices of white bread, two slices of cheese, and some lunch meat in a Tupperware. When I went to get it, I found the lid slightly open, and one piece of cheese missing. Someone opened my sandwich, removed a single slice of cheese, reassembled it, and put it back. That night I went out and bought an insulated lunch bag and ice pack, and have not used the fridge since.

    1. ES*

      My husband had that happen! He worked in the ER and a coworker (or someone else who had access to their kitchen) stole the meat out of his sandwich!

        1. LizB*

          Really. “Surely my coworker will be grateful that I left them two slices of bread as sustenance! This generosity makes my transgression way less severe!”

      1. Liz in a Library*

        This happened at my old job too! Things are calming down in the library one evening, when suddenly there is a loud bellow from the hallway of a colleague shouting about someone stealing his meat out of a deli sandwich, then neatly wrapping the rest of the sandwich back up. Why?!

      1. Fur Princess*

        Oh, you worked with Carol too? She not only would steal part of your sandwich, but other parts of your lunch such as one slice of banana bread, part of your cut up fruit, etc. She worked at my first job 90 eleven years ago and I’ve had an insulated lunchbox and ice packs ever since.

    2. SusanIvanova*

      We do monthly birthday cakes. One time we opened up the cake, which had been stored in the common fridge, to see that someone had taken one of the strawberries off the top, leaving an obvious hole in the frosting. Like, just wait a few hours, there will be leftover cake!

      Then there was the time one of the custodians brought a box of strawberries for lunch and it got stolen (not in the same building, so probably not the same thief). While we had just laughed off our strawberry, this got massive outrage on the social chat board – yes, Silicon Valley has a rep for entitled jerks, but quite a lot of people were outraged that someone making so much less than us lost their lunch and didn’t have any way to make up for it.

      1. Minister of Snark*

        At my first job, the management bought cakes for birthdays, which was nice. One guy would get SO anxious that we would cut the cake without him and he would miss out. When I saw the Simpsons episode where Homer did the “But MARGE, CHIIIIIILLLIIIIIII!” dance, I practically spit out my drink, because that’s exactly what it looked like. One day he had am absolute meltdown because he was supposed to leave for a sales call on an afternoon when we were having birthday cake. He got quiet all of the sudden right after lunch, left for his sales call and when we opened the box for the cake, there was a piece cut out of it. He’d cut into this woman’s cake before she could even see it.

        and when we asked him about it later, i.e., “What in the hell, Homer?” He said, “But you were going to cut it when I wasn’t there! I might have missed out!” Cake FOMO. It’s real.

    3. Not My Monkeys*

      Your solution is why ‘lunch stealing’ letters make me roll my eyes. Stop putting the cookies RIGHT NEXT to the Cookie Monster and hoping he won’t gobble them down, AGAIN.

      1. Ego Chamber*

        Does this cynical view apply to any theft, or is it exclusive to lunches? I’m genuinely confused why you think it’s the victim’s fault someone else decided to take something that doesn’t belong to them just because it was left unattended for a few hours in a communal area.

        1. Victoria*

          I think NMM meant it in a “Why would you trust them with your food again when they’ve already proven they can’t be trusted” kind of way, not a blame the victim way.

          1. Shan*

            I think most people who blame the victim mean it that way, but they’re still blaming the victim.

  6. Wannabe Disney Princess*

    When I first started, there were 2 Queen Bees. And they had a list of people they liked. Since I was part of the admin staff, I was immediately on the list (even though it was perfectly obvious they couldn’t stand me). Except, I didn’t know this. ANYWAY. One day they ordered lunch for the office. Queen Bee 1 grabbed a few of the pizzas and reserved them for “her people” without telling me. I went into the lunchroom and grabbed a few slices as I was, unknowingly, “preapproved” to eat said free pizza. Someone came in behind me and saw the pizza on the table. He asked if it was up for grabs. As it was in the lunchroom without a name or a sign and nobody had told me otherwise….I said yes. At this point Queen Bee 2 came in and saw the unworthy gentleman eating the free pizza. When I got back to my desk, they both confronted me and informed me that I was not to give away the pizza (bought by the office that they had set aside) to other coworkers until, and I quote, “our people have been fed”. I was immediately kicked off their lunch privileges list.

    I still refer to it as Pizza-gate.

      1. Wannabe Disney Princess*

        When we had potlucks, my desserts would be “accidentally” hidden by other stuff. Or had other stuff on top of their container. Or moved and “forgotten” to be put back.

        I just started keeping them at my desk and offering whenever anyone walked by. Which people always did. And infuriated them (they sat across from me – the one would outright roll her eyes or glare).

        1. JD*

          I of course want people I work with to like me but if I worked with women like this I would just not give two cruds. Fine roll your eyes, what the heck ever. Only one miserable is them.

        2. Bagpuss*

          Weird. Were they wantin to reserve yours for themselves and their clique, or to make you feel bad that no-one ateyour contribution?

          1. Wannabe Disney Princess*

            The latter. I’m good at baking, so people would ask me what I made. Since I was their Enemy, they didn’t want anyone to like me or the stuff I brought in.

            I’m not the first one they did this to, the woman I replaced quit because of their behavior. I was just the first one to not care and persevere anyway.

    1. Michelle*

      We have a department manager similar. If have any food leftover from say a client event and the caterer leave it for the staff, this manager goes around telling all her staff about the food and making sure they get their stuff first, then other staff would be told.

      I went once and all that was left was a couple of gross looking grapes and some hard bread-thing. After that I just never bother to go anymore. I like leftovers as much as the next person but picked over, practically nothing leftovers? Nah, I’ll pass.

    2. Imaginary Number*

      So let me get this straight. This pizza was bought for everyone in the office, but these two people decided on their own that only certain people would get to eat it?

        1. Adam V*

          And no manager spoke up and said “no, this pizza’s for everyone; if I catch you policing who’s ‘allowed’ to eat it again, we’re going to have a serious conversation” ?

    3. Beancounter Eric*

      I worked for a law firm which had a written policy regarding the conduct of firm pizza lunches.

      As in participants were allowed on their first pass through the line to get two slices, and were prohibited from returning to the line for additional until it could be verified all participants has gone through. I believe there was a paragraph regarding types/quantity of pizza to be ordered (at least one was to be vegetable), distribution of leftover food, etc.

      1. TheCupcakeCounter*

        Seems like common sense to me. Pretty terrible that we have to write up common sense items into a freaking policy

        1. Beancounter Eric*

          Speaking of common sense – was chatting with one of the lawyers there in the coffee room and he was commenting on a safety label on something there….I mentioned to him a knife I had given my wife which included a note on the package that it was sharp and to exercise caution with it.

          I loved the response from the attorney – “damm lawyers!!”

        2. Minister of Snark*

          But I think that’s what office bullies thrive on, “Well, there’s no RULE against it, so what are you going to do?”

        1. Beancounter Eric*

          On the one hand, I get it. I never heard an official reason so I’m guessing some time in the past they had someone not get pizza because some others weren’t considerate and grabbed slices to excess.

          On the other hand, they could have done very well with a simple “be considerate of others”….

          1. OhNo*

            Could also have been a situation like my sister-in-law had at her old job. She works in a school, and the administration had ordered pizzas for everyone for lunch during an inservice day. One of the first guys in line walked off with a whole pizza, box and all, brought it back to his table, and went to town. He wasn’t sharing with anyone; it was just for him. Apparently no one confronted him in the moment, but a policy about shared food was put in place shortly afterward.

            1. Former Hoosier*

              One time I had picked up pizza orders for several in our office. The pizza place you could buy by the slice so I would get one cheese, someone else would get two pepperoni, etc. I had offered to pick it up that day and so came back with a box with maybe 8 slices that a few of us had individually ordered and paid for. My boss made me give mine to an intern who was really crappy at her job. I was so pissed.

      2. SusanIvanova*

        I brought in an assortment of nice cupcakes once to thank my team for doing code reviews (I generated rather more than the rest of them just due to the nature of what I did – lots of smallish changes across a wide area, where the others were more specialized). Our team treat table was out of the way so nobody could just happen across it, I sent the mail to just our team, and it was obvious from the cupcake count alone that this wasn’t for just anyone.

        I saw Coworker Coffeecup walking past with someone from another team, shortly after the email – long before it could be assumed that anyone who wanted one had got one. Both of them had cupcakes and the other person was saying “thanks for the cupcake”. Grr.

    4. babblemouth*

      Simple rule in my office: food left unattended on the kitchen counter is up for grabs unless explicitly marked otherwise. Anything left at the end of the day is thrown away. We have a big enough office that there is actually someone whose job it is to keep the various kitchens tidy though, so maybe it’s easier for us.

  7. Corky's wife Bonnie*

    A former VP would ALWAYS take home all the leftovers from luncheons, whether it would be food the company bought or leftovers from potlucks. I once heard him exclaim, “well, I’M a VP, who’s going to tell me I cant???” After we were bought out by another outfit (we all kept our positions) he only lasted a few months (he was very much a chauvinist and his new boss was a woman, but that’s a story for another thread). It’s been nice since he’s been gone, we all get to partake in the leftovers the next day!

    1. Malibu Stacey*

      I’ve seen the same thing happen at two places, people bringing home leftovers that were meant to be put out for everyone the next day. And like your old VP, doubling down when confronted instead of being mortified about overstepping.

      1. Artemesia*

        We had a manager who hid leftover drinks in his own desk which were intended to be available to staff after meetings. The boss considered staff getting a crack at meeting leftovers a perk, but this guy was offended and glommed onto them.

    2. Kristine*

      Wow, and I’ll bet he was one of those, “Women should choose between a career and kids” and “Look at me, kids don’t interfere with MY work” while mooching all the leftovers so he didn’t have to cook or wash his dishes. I hope you share the story of his departure sometime!

      1. Decima*

        At one lunch meeting at the investment firm, one of the board members was nonchalantly eating the egg salad with what was meant to be the serving spoon. They replaced the spoon after he left, but still.

    3. Sunshine on a cloudy day*

      Ah – hahaha – we had a C-level exec (and partner in the firm – so he made bank) who ran to the kitchen anytime there was free food. Literally ran.

      We had lunch provided for us every Friday (rotated among restaurants) and there was one dish from one particular restaurant that he and I both loved. I helped set up the food for lunch, so I always made sure to take a generous portion of that dish while still setting up b/c I knew if I didn’t he would most likely clear the pan.

      1. SaraV*

        ESPN is fairly well known for their “wacky” commercials/promos. One from several years ago showed one of the anchors in his cubicle, and all these people are running past it. People in various athletic uniforms, marching band, college mascots, cheerleaders doing backflips past him. He finally turns to his computer to open an email that reads “Free bagels in the breakroom.” It ends with him leaping up and also tearing out of his cubicle.

      2. 2 Cents*

        You can see one of our higher-ups running from her office to the break room whenever free food is on offer. And it’s not like she takes one portion. Oh no, she takes a portion for now, wraps up some for tonight’s dinner and *sometimes* wraps up more for tomorrow’s lunch.

        1. Former Hoosier*

          I worked with a person like that. If we ordered out for lunch and the company paid for it, she would always try to order two meals. One time I traveled with her to a conference and she took everyone’s leftovers back to her hotel room. We didn’t really know the people we were eating with. She and I and another co worker were at the table but everyone else were others from the conference. It was weird.

    4. A Bag of Jedi Mind Tricks*

      @ Corky’s Wife Bonnie. OMG, I had a manager like that. We would have a catered lunch for the floor at Christmas time and he would bring in his Tupperware and fill ‘er up and proclaim that he now had his meals for the upcoming week.

      1. OtterB*

        Yeah, at our office first call on catered lunch leftovers goes to interns, part-timers who are also grad students, and new hires just out of college. Except for birthday cupcakes – first call on leftovers from that goes to people whose birthday is in that month. Neither of these are exactly formal policies, but as far as I can tell we don’t have any jerks on staff.

    5. Corky's wife Bonnie*

      The funniest part was that if there were no leftovers or just a serving or two left, he would get seriously irritated and make comments like, “boy, people sure were piggies today!” Even if it was from a meeting or function he didn’t even attend.

    6. Q*

      Yaaassssss I worked at a place like this. The head of another division would put all the leftovers in his car and then leave stale potatoe chips and crumbs for the other departments. He was overall despised, someone actually left foul graffiti on the women’s restroom wall about him. What a winner.

    7. a*

      Kind of a reverse example: Back when I worked at Huge Global Corp, there was an infamous story of a woman who got into an elevator carrying a huge armful of sodas. The older gentleman in the elevator next to her asked curiously “Oh, what’s with all the sodas?” The woman blithely responded that her department had just had a meeting and that she always made sure to immediately grab all the sodas (provided by the company!) and take them home.

      The older gentleman? Was the CEO. Soda Woman was fired on the spot.

    8. Hlyssande*

      The office manager my old department had a long time ago would always order a much bigger cake than necessary during monthly birthday things and take the excess home.

    9. SeuciaV*

      I used to work for a partner in a big international firm who made (as you might imagine) an insane amount of money. The firm was really large – we had our own little restaurant for staff downstairs and they did a lot of their own catering in-house – so big client meetings were often extravagantly catered. After a meeting was over, if there was food left (and there almost always was) they would put it out in the kitchen of the floor the meeting had taken place on and send out a message to everyone who worked on that floor. As soon as those messages would hit our inboxes, this partner would literally drop whatever they were doing to run into the kitchen and wrap up as much of those leftovers as they could manage. Then they’d squirrel them away in the office fridge. They rarely ate them and when the fridge would get cleaned out once every couple of weeks, the bulk of the stuff thrown away was the leftovers they’d “claimed.” It was infuriating and SO WASTEFUL – particularly when there were other staff that were a little more strapped for cash and would have been very grateful for some of that food. It used to infuriate me to no end!

    10. Agatha_31*

      “he was very much a chauvinist and his new boss was a woman, but that’s a story for another thread”


    11. Coldbrewinacup*

      I had a coworker who would bring in Tupperware whenever we had potlucks and he would fill them up. Without asking anyone. And he was one of those whose only contribution to said potluck was 2 liters of soda or iced tea he made with tea bags he swiped from our office supply.

  8. Master Bean Counter*

    At a former work place there was a going away party for some one. A few people brought in home made treats. Two days later a work-place wide email went out that said anybody who ate the no-bake cookies might have been exposed to hepatitis A, and should probably visit the county health department for a free screening.
    The person who brought in the cookies in question was banned from ever bringing in food again.

    1. Traveling Teacher*

      OMG, you have encapsulated all of my worst fears about potlucks right here. How in the world did they find out?! But thankfully they found out and let everyone know…but still!

      1. Master Bean Counter*

        It’s a mandatory reporting kind of situation. Either the employee could do it voluntarily and provide proof, or the Health Department would issue a wider warning.

        1. Traveling Teacher*

          Oh yeah, of course. I think my brain went into shock when I saw Hep A and potluck in the same sentence!

          1. Artemesia*

            Anyone who ever eats in restaurants should have Hep A vaccination and certainly anyone who travels. It is endemic in much of the world and among the populations most likely to be restaurant workers. Anyone can pick it up and potlucks are a great way to spread it; but so is a restaurant kitchen.

      1. Caitlin*

        I remember that! The cake from the Halloween party and everyone had a piece. Then the baker of the cake calls the office (on speaker) and says, “Here’s the thing about the cake…”

    2. Amber T*

      This actually happened a pretty popular restaurant in my area. I’d been there once and found it too pricy/too hipster (deconstructed food is a sin), but it was always packed, especially on the weekends. I think the owner was on Chopped once too. One morning I wake up to a dozen friends posting about this restaurant and Hep A exposure. The city ended up doing a massive free clinic in a public building near a friend’s office, and she said there was a massive line around a few blocks, blocking traffic, making parking a nightmare.

      1. Jesmlet*

        Hoping this is Bartaco since if it’s not, it’s happened in multiple places. This happened at a local restaurant and apparently one of those people also spread it to another country club. Seriously one of my worst nightmares. I know people who ate there during the window of time and were freaking out.

    3. clow*

      this is why i never eat food that comes from randos at work, ever. I only ever eat what I bring in or food from select people that I know very well. I am too paranoid about the state of health and cleanliness in other people’s homes.

    4. ggg*

      There was once a curry incident. It was really, really delicious. Almost worth the mild case of food poisoning. But others were hit harder.

  9. Midge*

    A couple of my coworkers were going out for lunch and I was staying in the office. They asked if I wanted anything, and I told them I was good. When they got back, one of them told me they brought me leftovers. She put a small silver foil packet on my desk. When I unwrapped it, it was literally the little end bit of a wrap or pita that she hadn’t finished. She was so nice and thoughtful otherwise, so I found this totally baffling.

    1. Midge*

      Oh! I also remembered that at same Old Job, there was a cafe onsite and one department sponsored free donuts from the cafe for everyone in the building one day a month. It was great! You were just supposed to show your ID (though this wasn’t always enforced) and check your name off the list. One of the high up admin assistants had to send SEVERAL scolding emails telling people they were only allowed one donut, and please don’t come back and pretend to be someone else(!!!) to get more donuts. The kicker is these donuts cost $1 normally. Just buy your own donuts, people.

      1. Midge*

        I wish I could remember! I don’t think there were bite marks in it. But I was so stunned, I think I immediately wrapped it back up and waited for an opportunity to throw it out.

    2. Rebecca in Dallas*

      LOL! One of my friends has a story about how on her first day at a new job, she and some of her new coworkers went out for lunch at a Mexican food restaurant. She ordered enchiladas and ate about half of the serving, and she eats her enchiladas across, so like half of each of the three enchiladas were remaining. (Hope that makes sense, all three enchiladas had bites out of them.) The waiter was clearing their plates and he asked my friend if she wanted a to-go box. She said no thank you, then one of her new coworkers said, “I’ll take hers.” So she took home a virtual stranger’s half-eaten leftovers. SO WEIRD!

    3. Alienor*

      Yuck! I have a work friend who will eat what I didn’t finish when we go out for lunch, but a.) we’ve been friends so long we’re not that worried about each other’s germs/he knows I don’t have hepatitis, and b.) he actually says “I’ll take the rest of [food item] if you’re done,” I don’t bring a little package of it back to the office and leave it on his desk like a cat presenting a headless mouse.

      1. Artemesia*

        Hep A is an acute infectious disease not a chronic one, so the fact that someone didn’t have it last week doesn’t mean they won’t have it today — and once they are well, they are no longer likely to be infectious. It is not chronic like Hep B or C which are transmitted sexually or through blood. Hep A is hand to mouth and spread through typical poor hygiene.

        1. nonegiven*

          When I was a kid, the neighbors were quarantined for Hep A. The girl said they thought it was from raw milk.

  10. AnnaleighUK*

    My flatmate has a near-fatal nut allergy and one time at her office, there was a bakeoff and she was one of the judges. Literally everyone baked something that had nuts in. Worst bake off ever or what?!

    At my oldwork, we once had a scone baking competition (I won actually) but so many people cheated and bought them from the bakery over the road. Like guys, we all go there for our sandwiches, we know those scones by sight. Nice try!

    1. Corky's wife Bonnie*

      My cousin is a hair stylist and her clients always bring her stuff at Christmas. She has that nut allergy too, and one client brought in fudge and she specifically asked if it had nuts because she was allergic and they said no. She ate a little bit and spit it out because she tasted peanut butter. And they just said, oh, I didn’t think of that. Well, she should have rinsed her mouth out because she landed in the ER in less than an hour. She no longer keeps anything clients give her.

      1. AnnaleighUK*

        Nut allergies are the worst and flatmate is really careful, but I’ve had to administer her Epipen more than once because someone’s said ‘there’s no nuts in that’ and it turns out there’s almond flour or pine kernels (which are technically a seed but she’s still allergic) in it and she’s reacted. She’s only been hospitalised once and we have a total ban on nut products in our flat. People have told her she’s just being fussy though – um, no? Allergies are Serious Business, people!

        1. Book Lover*

          That’s interesting! Pine nuts are actually really far removed from regular tree nuts. My daughter is allergic to tree nuts but adores pesto. There is a theoretical risk of reaction but I hadn’t known of anyone with issues before. I would be so sad if we couldn’t have pesto.

          1. LSP*

            I have a friend who is allergic to several kinds of tree nuts, but had always been fine with pistachios, until one day, he wasn’t. He was around 35 years old, eating some pistachios, and suddenly his tongue starts getting itchy. Then it starts to swell. Luckily, his wife was home and stabbed him with his Epipen.

          2. CookingGeek*

            You can always make pesto with pumpkin seeds or sunflower seeds if someone is allergic to pine nuts. You don’t need the cheese, either, if someone is allergic to dairy (it’s called “poor man’s pesto”).

          3. Lady Jay*

            With pine nuts, one has to be cautious about “Pine Mouth”, in which the pine nuts (about 48 hours after consumption) cause one’s mouth to taste like metal. This happened to me about 4-5 years ago. I sprinkled some pine nuts on a salad, got pine mouth two days later (figured it out through, of all things, an internet forum I was part of at the time), and dealt with metal mouth for 3-4 days together. The only things that cut the taste were cinnamon gum and strong, black coffee. Citrus was totally out.

            I think I’ve had pesto once in the years since then, and generally avoid it like the plague.

            I’ll put a link to an article on pine mouth in the comments.

              1. JB (not in Houston)*

                As one of those articles says, some suspect it’s the (cheaper, I think?) species of pine nut that comes from China that is the culprit. But this article says it’s not yet clear. Just the same, I avoid the ones from China for now.

                1. Bryce*

                  It’s something I heard about growing up, and we lived in pine/pinon country so people got theirs fresh.

                2. another Liz*

                  After the melamine in dog and cat food several years ago, I eat nothing from China if I can help it. Scary thing is, it’s so hard to know.

            1. Julia*

              I once ate a persimmon that wasn’t ripe enough, and went into a frantic panic when my mouth went numb. I lived alone at that time and wasn’t sure if this was an allergic reaction, so I googled it and reassured myself. But boy was I scared at first.

        2. whatshername*

          As someone with a family history of severe food allergies, and being allergic to nuts and dairy and all sorts of crap myself, this. People can be so rudely skeptical. It’s like, if you’d like me to go into anaphylactic shock to prove I’m allergic to this food, okay, but I hope you’re prepared to pay all my hospital bills when it turns out I am actually allergic to this thing.

          1. Samata*

            Right?!? Is it really “all in my head” when my lips are triple there size and my face is purple because I can’t actually breathe? And does lying about it make the allergy go away?

            1. LittleLove*

              I have a friend with shellfish allergies. Someone once didn’t believe he was allergic and told him the salad had no shellfish. Just clam juice. Ambulance ended up interrupting the party. Delightful. Another friend has nut allergies, as does a niece, and they have to carry those ridiculously expensive EpiPens because some people just don’t get it.

            2. LSP*

              I actually have met people who lied about having allergies, simply because they were averse to saying they just didn’t like something. These people are the reason those people who DO have allergies have to struggle with people not believing them.

              Dude, it’s okay to not like coconut. I don’t like coconut (unless it’s toasted and covered in chocolate), but that doesn’t make you allergic. You’re not going to break out in hives, or stop breathing if you eat coconut.

              1. TootsNYC*

                except…why do we care? Just believe him, and tell him the truth about coconut. Does it hurt you any? Just believe him.

                Do you really want to force people to eat substances they don’t like?

                And, we all need to think about what that is, that he feels he has to lie about not liking something in order to get people to take him seriously.

                1. msmorlowe*

                  It depends: if you’re in food prep, protocol for “don’t like” vs “allergic” is really different and time consuming. Obviously, you don’t mind the extra cleaning, care, and time if someone is allergic but it is really annoying to needlessly go to all that effort.

                2. TootsNYC*

                  and if you’re close enough to someone to cook food for them, try to be the sort of person that will make them comfortable enough to say, “I just really don’t like it,” without having to worry about pushback.

                3. Rana*

                  My MIL’s husband hates fish, and claims he’s allergic as a way of getting people to not offer him any. If he just did that, it’d be mildly annoying for those of us who know, but not a big deal.

                  But he also boasts about how clever he is to have come up with this solution, and refuses to see it as anything problematic. That’s the part that makes me growl to myself.

              2. Trig*

                I have the weirdest, stupidest combo allergy, and I’m always so worried people are going to think I’m just being picky. I’m not! I *love* carrots and apples and celery! My guts just think they’re birch pollen!

              3. The Other Katie*

                As someone with a life-threatening allergy who’s been “surprised” by people previously, it’s not really people who lie about allergies that are the problem – it’s people who refuse to believe you when you say you have allergies. Sometimes, these people don’t even think allergies exist, or that “no one’s allergic to chocolate”, or whatever. While it’s not great that people sometimes lie about allergies, why does it matter in the first place? People who are communicating “I really, really don’t want to eat that” should be respected, no matter what the reason is.

                1. Specialk9*

                  I’ve read several people online post that their kid’s grandmother deliberately gave an allergic kid that allergen, to prove they’re not really allergic. (Cue ER and loss of grandchild access)

                2. The Other Katie*

                  Specialk9, that’s more common than you might think :( The reddit community justnomil is full of said stories. It happens to adults too, though at least we can excommunicate people who do it on our own.

              4. stephanie*

                Weirdly enough, I do the opposite. I have a mild allergy to pineapple, so I don’t eat it, but I’m not going to die from it, just get an annoying rash. I tell people I don’t like it, because trace amounts won’t make me sick and I don’t want people fussing over cleaning tools and such when it’s not necessary.

            3. Evan Þ*

              Well, uh, your lips and your face are part of your head?

              (But a lot of your respiratory tract isn’t, so…)

          2. CM*

            I think I’m going to say this the next time someone is blase about ingredients that I tell them my kid’s allergic to — “OK, but if this gives him an anaphylactic reaction, you’re paying the hospital bills.”

        3. MsChanandlerBong*

          Some people are just clueless about allergies. My friend’s ex believes allergies are made up. Their son has a grass allergy, and he has to take medication for it. The ex is always trying to stop the kid’s medication and tell him that grass allergies aren’t real.

          1. Specialk9*

            Oh yeah the most disturbed kid I know has a neglectful dad who seems to only pay attention long enough to pull him off his meds and run down therapists and western medicine. It’s heartbreaking.

      2. anon for this one*

        My mother in law is also a hair stylist whose clients bring her gifts of food. Someone brought her a piece of cake and, as she was eating it, she noticed something crunchy. She asked what was in the cake and it turned out one of the ingredients was pecans. “Well, you know, I’m allergic to pecans,” she said (this was someone she’d known for years). “Oh, I know,” said the client. “So I cut the amount of pecans in half.”

        (Her allergies aren’t anaphylaxis level – not yet, anyway – so she’s not as careful as she should be!)

      3. Becca*

        But peanuts aren’t nuts… I can see how someone wouldn’t have thought to mention peanuts since they’re beans. Still very terrifying, though! (My husband has a tree nut allergy, but he’s fine with peanuts—the first time we put chopped peanuts into stir-fry, he had a little freak-out with every bite even though he’s the one who made it!)

        1. LBK*

          While not scientifically accurate, I think most people would understand that in common parlance, peanuts are included in the “nuts” category…if I had a peanut allergy I would never describe myself as having a legume allergy. If anything that’s what would make it more likely that you’d unintentionally get something with peanuts because most people think of peanuts as a nut.

          1. Violet*

            A *lot* of people know peanuta are not exactly nuts but are legumes. Most people on my social circles know peanut allergies are a thing and nut allergies are a thing but they’re different things. If someone said “are there nuts in this?” And it only had peanut something I’d probably know to say, “no, but it has peanuts”… But I wouldn’t just say yes. People without experience with a close friend or family member needing to avoid certain ingredients can clearly be so very bad at realizing what is in the food they consume though.

            1. nonegiven*

              Sometimes the peanut package says processed in a facility that also processes nuts. So the peanuts could be cross contaminated.

          2. MrsMac*

            I have a friend whose child has a legume allergy. When she tells people, my friend describes it as a peanut, soy and legume allergy because while people do sometimes get that peanuts are legumes, they often forget that soy is in almost everything, and is a legume.

            1. Not a Morning Person*

              Yes, my MIL has this allergy, among many. And it’s very difficult because so many processed foods contain soy, which is a bean, and when people are told she’s allergic to beans, they typically do not think of soy. She has to be vigilant.

        2. Bryce*

          They aren’t, but cross-contamination between the two is so common that many folks who are allergic to one avoid the other like the plague.

      4. Zirco*

        Our allergy doc says that grandma’s are the number one cause of anaphylactic shock.

        My daughter has an extremely severe peanut allergy, so my mother-in-law bought creamy peanut butter for her, rather than chunky. (Thankfully, it got nowhere near my daughter.)

        1. Not that Kat*

          Over on the non-cesspit part of Reddit in the JustnoMIL subreddit, grandmothers refusing to believe that their grandchildren could ever be allergic to anything ever is one of the most common themes, too. Although for a lot of them, it’s not carelessness or ignorance. They just refused to believe their grandchild could have “a defect” like an allergy.

          1. Rusty Shackelford*

            And on motherinlawstories dot com, stories about MILs who give their allergic DILs or grandchildren allergens to prove they’re lying are pretty common.

          2. Me2*

            OMG, obsessed with that subreddit. I spend way too much time on there. I’m learning how to be a justyesMIL, hopefully.

          3. Hlyssande*

            It’s so heartbreaking to read those stories even as I live for the drama. That one MIL who would put a cookie in her purse ahead of every visit…banana, wasn’t it? That poor family.

            1. Turtledove*

              Peanut butter banana, yes. I was about to mention that particular story, if no one else had by the time I got to the end of this comment thread; the part that threw me the most about the whole thing was that this particular MIL was making whole *batches* of these cookies and freezing them! Just so that she could always have a cookie to put in her purse, in the hopes of finding a chance to slip it to the granddaughter.

              At least the police were getting involved with that one, because the hospital called them after it became clear that the MIL had done this completely on purpose to try and “prove” that grandkid wasn’t really allergic to peanuts and bananas and eggs – and nearly killed the grandkid in the process.

        2. Say what, now?*

          My son isn’t allergic to dairy but he has a sensitivity that results in pretty bad diarrhea when he eats it. So we avoid dairy as much as possible. It’s possible that he’ll outgrow his sensitivity but I wish I’d never passed that on to my dad because now every time we see him he always asks “is he past it yet?” The kid is 2!!! He’s only been eating solid food for about a year and some change so how about we just give it some time here? Also, I worry that my dad will try and test the theory when I’m not around and leave me to deal with it later. Grandparents are two parts blessing, one part ulcer.

          1. Artemesia*

            My granddaughter grew out of an egg allergy she had as a toddler; she is now 7. Hope that happens for your son.

          2. Wanna-Alp*

            One possibility is to lie and say that your doctor has said he’ll grow out of it at puberty, but we need to be really careful about it until then. See if that convinces him (you are absolutely right about being worried that he might try and test it when you’re not around).

            By the time puberty arrives, your child will be able to police his own food.

      5. Interested Bystander*

        Corky’s wife Bonnie,
        As someone with severe food allergies, rinsing out the mouth won’t do a thing. My face has blown up like a balloon from being in the same room as the fruits that I am allergic to. Best thing to do on contact like that is take 4 benedryll and then be less than 100% productivity for the rest of the day.

    2. Colette*

      I find it really odd that someone with a nut allergy would be expected to judge baking. That’s such an easy thing to mess up when you’re not used to dealing with it.

      1. Vegan Atheist Weirdo*

        That’s my reaction as well. Even if this person happened to have some special credentials that made her the “best” person to judge, I’d have recommended against it. Nuts are so very common a part of baking ingredients. What a silly arrangement!

      2. AnnaleighUK*

        She actually thought they did it on purpose because nobody in her department took her allergy seriously. You’ll be pleased to hear HR and the Health and Safety guy at her place came down on everyone like a ton of bricks after the Bake Off and there was a ban on nuts in the office that will stand until she leaves. She did think it was mildly amusing but wasn’t impressed because she loves baking – thats why she was asked to judge, because her bakes for people’s birthdays and office parties were legendary.

        1. Alli525*

          So… they made her a judge because they didn’t want her to win? Because that’s what it sounds like!

          1. Trig*

            Probably more like “to give everyone else a chance”. Which may not be fair, but there are probably people who would have heard she was participating and said “oh, I won’t bother entering then.”

            1. nonegiven*

              Oh there was a trap shoot like that. DH’s coworker won so many shotguns they decided to make a rule that instead of winning your division bumped you to the next, only winning a shotgun bumped you up.
              The divisions were novice, winner and pro. DH won novice, once, after many years of competition. His coworker came in second in the winner’s division 3 or 4 years in a row. At least twice it came down to a shoot off between her and a young guy. She joked, at least he has to tell people he beat a grandma.

              Then they made the rule and DH came in third and got bumped to pro. They were shooting ~90% in his division. The pros can shoot all day waiting for somebody to miss.

    3. rosiebyanyothername*

      Ah, allergies at the office. I have a lot of stories. Mostly about people whining that I’m “ruining their fun” by having a dairy allergy? People get worked up as hell when I turn down mysterious unlabeled baked goods.

      1. ByLetters*

        I hate that attitude, but what I hate even more is people pretending that they have an allergy to get out of eating something — because THAT is why others are cavalier about those of us who actually have allergies. I had a coworker, when ordering pizza for our workplace, stress to the pizza place that she was ALLERGIC to broccoli.

        She wasn’t. She and I had literally just had a conversation about how much she hated the taste.

        With her standing in front of me, I dialed the pizza place back after she’d hung up and told them — while staring at her — that there were no allergies but that the person who ordered just did not like broccoli. Then told her flatly that stunts like that were why people made light of real allergies, resulting in (as others have noted above) real physical harm. In our industry, there are even stories of deaths from those who have served guests but thought that their allergies weren’t “real” or weren’t “serious.”

        Honestly surprised she still talked to me after that, but we had a pretty frank relationship with each other.

        1. Natalie*

          because THAT is why others are cavalier about those of us who actually have allergies.

          Eh, I’m inclined to think the primary cause of other people being cavalier is because they are jerks.

          1. GotWings*

            Yep. And if a certain food makes you sick, and claiming an allergy is the only way to make sure you don’t get it, I completely understand why someone makes that claim.

            If eateries could be relied upon to get the order right, there would be no need to claim allergies.

            I’m always amazed watching cookery shows that judges seem willing and able to taste and eat everything offered. If I accidentally take a bite of something I strongly dislike, either I’m spitting it out or I’m going to vomit. The visceral reaction will be that strong.

            1. a*


              My aunt was born with a congenital health condition that totally screwed up her digestive tract. The list of things that would make her sick was long and unpredictable. And even SHE didn’t always know what was going to give her problems. So she tended to play it very, very, very safe and avoid certain foods.

              Was she ALLERGIC? No. She wouldn’t go into anaphylaxis. But she would be in hell a few hours after dinner. Just because someone isn’t reacting before your very eyes doesn’t mean they are whiners or fakers.

              The thing is, my aunt was kind of a meek lady (because, in her case, years of being shamed and disbelieved about her condition had basically beaten down her spirit) and it was very easy to just not take her seriously or think she was being “histrionic” or whatever. The more people dismissed her, the worse that got. Feedback loop ensued.

              Just take people seriously. Your inconvenience does not trump someone’s health.

            2. Jen S. 2.0*

              I think I don’t draw much of a distinction between “allergic” and “makes me sick.” I read somewhere that a food making you sick is the body’s way of letting you know that your body DOES NOT LIKE that food, which eventually could become an anaphylaxis-level allergy. There’s something of a spectrum for allergies. If anaphylaxis is a 9 out of 10, makes you sick is more like a 2 or 3.

              Note: Although there are a lot of foods I do not like, I’m very lucky to have no allergies, yay! But the smell of raw pumpkin guts makes me throw up. After a couple of “Mommy, I don’t feel so good”s in the pumpkin patch as a kid, we all decided that we could live without carved pumpkins in the household. So while I doubt pumpkin bread would kill me, and I’m not officially allergic to pumpkin, I don’t feel obligated to seek out pumpkin-y things. Why chance it, if pumpkin makes me sick?

              1. Samata*

                This is pretty much where I land. Dairy doesn’t send me into anaphylaxis, but it makes my calves and feet swell up so badly sometimes I can’t wear my dress shoes….so while not allergic I definitely have a intolerance. To me anything that causes any type of adverse reaction (puking, swelling, cramping, etc.) is OK to be classified as an allergy.

              2. Anon today...and tomorrow*

                Potatoes are my makes me sick food. I can literally only eat them in shoestring french fry style…and only if cooked to a near crisp. People go on and on about mashed potatoes, especially this time of year, but the smell alone is enough to send me running for the bathroom. I will pick potatoes out of all stews and soups and leave them in a little pile on the side of the plate. I have a very clear memory of doing this once as a child and my aunt getting upset with me about not eating them and forcing me to do so. I warned her that they made me sick. She still insisted. I ate them and then got sick all over the kitchen table. Another time an uncle offered me $20 to eat a serving of mashed potatoes. I ate them, got my money and proceeded to get sick all over his shoes.

              3. Elizabeth West*

                I ended up with an intolerance to broccoli after a year-long regimen of warfarin. During the treatment, I had to avoid it and spinach because of the vitamin K (clotting), so when it ended, I was really excited to have those foods again.

                Spinach doesn’t bother me–luckily, since I adore spinach salad–but I can’t eat broccoli anymore without getting a monster stomachache afterward. I just have to avoid it. This makes me sad. I like broccoli. Why couldn’t this have happened with cauliflower, which I hate?!?!

            3. Artemesia*

              Onions make me sick; it is not an allergy and in restaurants I make clear that it is a sensitivity not an allergy so it is just a matter of not putting them on my salad or whatever but accidental cross contamination is not an issue. I like them; they just make me sick.

          2. JB (not in Houston)*

            Yeah, seeing family members and coworkers who aren’t responsible for making my food dismiss my food allergies tells me that it’s not just people lying to wait staff. It doesn’t help the problem, sure, but that’s not the sole cause.

        2. MustNotBeNamed*

          I don’t know, this doesn’t bother me as much as I know it does other people. I know plenty of people who have asked for their meal without some ingredient because they don’t like it, and have been ignored. So they say “allergy” to make sure their preferences are respected. In an ideal world, this wouldn’t be necessary, but I can’t really be mad at people who do this to make sure they don’t eat something they can’t stand.

            1. Specialk9*

              It’s an ignorant thing to do – ignorant in the sense of ‘deeply rude’ though hopefully also ‘lacking knowledge’ – because it forces a restaurant kitchen to kick into allergy protocol, which is extensive and timely and delays everyone’s food. Not cool – you’re not the center of the universe, say you can’t eat a food and stress that it makes you sick so please be super careful, but it’s not an allergy. Allergies kill people. Don’t make people doubt allergies.

          1. Stone Satellite*

            If I ask for a meal without an ingredient I don’t like, and it comes with the ingredient I don’t like, I send it back. I’m not sure why that’s not the right answer in nearly every case where you are provided food by an establishment.

            1. GotWings*

              Because it either means you have to eat after your dining companions or everyone has to sit and wait for you, and either eat cold food or get the kitchens to remake every meal.

        3. Beatrice*

          My sister in law once claimed, to a family member who had known her all her life, that she was allergic to tomatoes, to get out of eating something with stewed tomatoes in it. She eats tomatoes regularly. At the time, we had a joint family garden on her parents’ farm, where we grew tomatoes. We canned tomatoes, tomato sauce, and salsa every year. The food that was offered did not look appetizing at all and I don’t blame her for not wanting any – I politely declined it myself – but lying about being allergic to tomatoes of all things, to someone who knows her well, was dumb and annoying. I was too stunned to even say anything. (We no longer garden together, in part because she also exaggerates illnesses and injuries to get out of doing her fair share of the work….she’s in her 40s and is incapable of just saying no without some kind of lie to lubricate it.)

        4. Kelsi*

          While I understand where you’re coming from, I find it very frustrating that people’s takeaway from that is “allergies aren’t real/serious” vs. “if someone asks me to make sure there is not [ingredient X] in their food, it doesn’t matter why, it’s my job to make sure it is not there in any capacity.”

          Like…why can’t we just take people at their word when they say “this is how I need my food to be”? Whether that’s “it cannot have any nuts or nut-derived products or be made on the same equipment as anything with nuts” or “it cannot have any broccoli, no really, don’t just assume it won’t actually ask please.”

          1. GotWings*

            Exactly. It is entirely reasonable that adults should not be forced to eat what they don’t like, that restaurants should prepare food as ordered, and that not liking someone’s food isn’t considered a personal insult.

            Unfortunately, none of those things are reliably true.

          2. Magenta Sky*

            There are a lot of restaurants run by people who genuinely believe they know how you like your food better than you do. (I don’t eat at places like that. not because I have any allergies, but because I don’t like places with crappy service.)

            And there are a lot of people who are so terrified of any form of confrontation that they are unable to just say “You know, I don’t like xxx in my food, so please leave that out,” so they come up with a lie that makes it “not my fault.” (I do not have any problem with confrontation.)

            And thus, we live in the world we live in.

          3. Rusty Shackelford*

            As someone pointed out upthread, from the food preparer’s standpoint, an allergy is a LOT more work than a preference. So we’re forcing Food Prep Person #2 to go through allergy protocol because, at one time, Food Prep Person #1 at a different restaurant ignored a customer’s preference. It sucks for everybody except Food Prep Person #1.

            1. paul*

              and not even all allergies are equal.

              if you crush some peanuts with a knife, and use it tcut my steak, I’m fine. Someone else may not be.

              1. TL -*

                Yup. I don’t tell restaurants about my nuts or corn allergies because they’re easy to avoid (I pick “boring” food) and I don’t have a problem with cross contamination. I tell them about my gluten (technically wheat but easier to shorthand gluten) allergy because, while it’s also mild, I’m super sensitive to cross contamination and I do need them to go through allergy prep or the rest of my day is going to be pretty crappy.

            2. Turtle Candle*

              There’s also the fact that in some cases, if you claim an allergy, the restaurant may refuse to serve you if they don’t believe they’re set up to avoid cross-contamination effectively. A friend of mine was incensed when she said she had an allergy to an ingredient (she did not, she just didn’t like it) and the chef said, basically, that he could not accommodate her because he could not guarantee a lack of cross-contamination, and he was not going to take that risk with a customer’s health. “I’m not actually VERY allergic,” she said, but he was adamant. She was angry, but I kind of understood his point: he didn’t want to be in the position of determining exactly how much of Ingredient X might send her to the hospital, or to try to explain on Yelp “she said it was okay!”

              1. TL -*

                Yes! I can eat in places with peanut shells everywhere and be just fine but I do. not. tell them about my peanut allergy because it’s not going to do anything but worry them; I just order food that is obviously peanut free (steak, green beans, baked potato. Yum.)

              2. ..Kat..*

                As someone with food intolerances, I would rather a chef be honest and tell me this than risk being exposed to something that makes me sick. I accept that not every restaurant can accommodate my dietary needs.

              3. Specialk9*

                It makes me really happy that the chef burned someone who was exaggerating or lying about allergies. My family member can die from trace cross contamination so my tolerance of people who lie about allergies is very low.

              4. Glad She's Out of the Restaurant Business*

                Back when I managed a restaurant, we would do something similar. The preparation protocols varies greatly for (1) customer doesn’t like a food; (2) customer has a mild allergy, but is fine with potential cross-contamination; and (3) customer has a serious allergy and cross-contamination is a concern.

                I never minded working with customers with actual allergies to make sure that we could serve them something safe and delicious. But some guests did seem to be faking allergies when what they actually meant was they preferred not to eat a certain food. Once you’ve told me that you have a severe allergy and cross-contamination is a concern, I am not going to serve you something that could be problematic. I’m worried about your health and safety and my own liability.

                Sadly, our kitchen was so small that we only had a single fryer and therefore were not able to have a gluten-free or shell-fish free. If you tell me that you are deathly allergic to shellfish, you cannot have any fried foods, because the fryer oil will cause cross-contamination. It’s amazing how many people would get furious when I would explain that since they told me that they have a severe shellfish allergy, I am unable to serve them deep-fried chicken fingers, but would be happy to have the chef do a pan-fried version.

                People can just be odd about their food. Back in my serving days, I had someone curse me out and threaten to call the cops on me because they were a vegetarian and I had served them meat. They never told me they were a vegetarian and they ordered the “Prosciutto Salad.” Apparently they didn’t know what prosciutto was and instead of asking they just expected me to magically know that they were vegetarian and stop them from ordering something with meat in it.

          4. Cass in Canada*

            As some with moderate food allergies, it makes me angry when people claim to have an allergy when it’s really a preference. I used to work in a kitchen and our allergy protocol was way more intensive than if it was a preference. I once was at a lunch where a gluten free meal had been ordered for me ahead of time because of a wheat allergy. My coworker stole my lunch claiming she was also gluten free, but then ate a bunch of wheat cookies in front of me while I was trying to figure out what I could eat. I wasn’t happy at all. Luckily the caterer felt terrible and got someone to bring a second lunch.

            1. Artemesia*

              Any time special meals are ordered they need to be named. I can’t count the number of times, the meat eaters have snarfed up all the vegetarian options because they ‘wanted to give it a try’ or ‘taste that’ or ‘I’ve never had tofu before.’

              1. Cat*

                I have sadly had to take vegetarian meals sometimes because everything is pork??? (I do not eat pork). I feel very bad but I also cannot eat anything else.

                That said, I get real annoyed when there is only one cheese pizza and the pepperoni eaters are eating it too…

                1. WellRed*

                  But the vegetarians don’t eat pork either. Honestly, I am surprised that serving pork, which I also don’t eat, is a thing when the event organizers could serve banquet chicken ; )

              2. Turtle Candle*

                One of the first things I learned when working a conference is that if you have something laid out buffet-style, and there are, say, one fish entree, one beef/chicken/pork entree, and one vegetarian/vegan entree, that people will assume that they can have some of all three if they want. So you either need enough of the vegetarian/vegan entree for the vegetarians/vegans to have enough even if all the omnivores grab a helping too, or you need special plates. There’s simply no way to train enough people to leave the vegetarian option alone unless they need it.

        5. Magenta Sky*

          Who the hell puts broccoli on pizza? What pizza place does that so routinely that you have to tell them not to?


            1. Magenta Sky*

              I guess I shouldn’t criticize. I like Hawaiian pizza. Some people believe that pineapple on pizza is a war crime.

              But I just don’t get broccoli on pizza. I’d rather just eat it by itself, with some lemon juice.

        6. TootsNYC*

          But wait–why do you care? Do you want to force her to eat broccoli?
          And maybe she lies about it being an allergy because of people like you–people who insist she can pick off the broccoli, or refuse to take her dislikes seriously.

          Frankly, we should all just believe people when they say they’re allergic, even if it’s just that they don’t like it.

          1. LavaLamp*

            Because it probably stops the kitchen while they clean everything and make the persons food special. There is a lot that goes into cross contamination prevention for allergies, kosher kitchens etc.

          2. Pinky Pie Chart*

            It’s not just keeping the ingredient out of the food served. It’s cleaning the knives and the counters and the grills and everything else that might come in contact with that ingredient. If eating the ingredient causes you extreme distress (sensitivities can be just as bad as allergies in their own way), saying your allergic is good shorthand.

          3. Specialk9*

            She called the restaurant to clarify that, while there should be no broccoli, they didn’t have to follow full allergy protocol. It was a dick maneuver to falsely claim allergy instead of preference or sensitivity. The good prep protocol is very different.

      2. Interested Bystander*

        Or when I tell them that they can’t have their banana bread or peach cobbler in the break room next to my office. (Someone really should have thought about this before putting the employee with anaphylaxis next door to the break room.)

          1. Interested Bystander*

            I think it was lack of planning. As in they didn’t even think until I had to go home with a puffed up face.

    4. Science!*

      So many people don’t understand nut allergies, and often don’t realize how often they use nut based items in their cooking.

      My mom is allergic to tree nuts (walnuts, almonds, pistachios but weirdly not chestnuts) but she’s not allergic to peanuts (legumes!). But when she tells people she’s allergic to tree nuts but not peanuts it just confuses them. For my wedding I told my caterer that my mom was highly allergic to tree nuts but not peanuts and make sure the menu was tree nut free. The initial menu had an item made with pistachios so I reminded him of the allergy. The next menu had something with almonds. I wasn’t sure if he was not paying attention or if the peanut part of my request was confusing him so the next time I said NO NUTS at all and it worked. I still insisted my mom carry an epipen to the wedding just in case.

      1. Rainy*

        We’re doing wedding planning and I just flatly said “we’re going to have nothing I’m allergic to at my wedding, just in case”. Too bad, people who like chicken, shrimp, turkey, beans, brassicas, brazil nuts, tuna, tofu, and bananas. No shrimp cocktails, no gross chicken breasts swimming in subpar sauces, no brussels sprouts, no dreadful massaged kale salads or whatever horrid manifestation of kale is popular next year. You’ll eat what’s safe for me and like it, guests. :P

        1. Hillary*

          We recently went to a wedding where the bride was vegetarian – it was fantastic. First time in my life I could eat an entire buffet.

          I felt bad for the guy at our table allergic to mushrooms though. I suspect he snuck out for a burger.

          1. Z*

            I went to a wedding where the entire buffet was gluten free.

            I believe there are delicious gluten-free foods out there.

            But none of them were on the buffet line.

            1. Artemesia*

              This was our experience at a vegan wedding. I know there are good vegan foods; I have eaten with vegan friends at a pretty good vegan restaurant in Chicago. But most of the time, my experience has been grim — or else they are full of onions to give flavor and I can’t eat that.

        2. Science!*

          When I was planning my wedding everyone told me that the Wedding Couple Never Eat at the Wedding! I guess cause we are so busy talking to everyone? I said “No thank you! I will eat because I will be quite cranky if I don’t.” So we have one server at the wedding whose job was to check in on us once and a while and make sure we had food. She escorted us to the table once to make sure we sat and ate and took a short break. Best server ever!

          1. Rainy*

            My bff got a special dedicated server for her and her husband when they got married, and it was the only reason they got any food at all. I’m inclined to copy her, because it seems like the only other way to make sure you get something to eat is a sweetheart table and I don’t want one.

            Also I plan on drinking a LOT of champagne, so food would probably be a good idea.

            1. Specialk9*

              You might reconsider the ‘drinking LOTS of champagne’ at your wedding plan. You really *won’t* eat much, you’ll be stressed and jittery and have fractured attention, and so the likelihood is high that you’ll accidentally get super trashed and be the subject of family gossip forever, or end up on YouTube. I recommend you put aside bottles of champagne for after – your honeymoon or whenever – and get as blotto as you want when you can relax utterly.

          2. chocolate lover*

            My now mother-in-law said something similar when my husband and I were planning. We were having a n informal, backyard event with a Justice of the Peace and catered BBQ. My husband said as far as we were concerned, this was a party that happened to have a marriage ceremony at the beginning, and we were going to eat what and when we wanted, and the mingling would work around it. I silently cheered because I wasn’t the one who had to say it.

            I definitely didn’t eat as much as I expected, due to nerves, but I ate when I wanted to.

          3. Not a Morning Person*

            2 examples; 1) At my wedding, a dear friend followed me around with a plate and a glass and whenever there was the slightest break between people wishing us well, she offered the food and the drink so I was not dehydrated or starved. Best friend forever.
            2) I attended a wedding this past weekend and the father of the groom told us that the reception venue had a small private room where after all the guests had left, they served the two sets of parents and the bride and groom. It was an opportunity for them to visit and eat and have a small, quiet, after party and get to enjoy something to eat and drink. He said it was very nice and is something they are known for.

            1. Rainy*

              Yeah, I also have a brideswoman who intends to staff me at the wedding, so that will probably help a lot as well. I’m also going to make sure there’s a “snickers pocket” in my and my brideswomen’s faux fur stoles so that we can all stash some calories.

          4. Rana*

            Yup. My husband and I asked a friend to make sure that we actually ate at our wedding. It was hard, even with the help!

          1. Rainy*

            Cruciferous vegetables, including brussels sprouts, kale, cabbage, radishes, cauliflower, broccoli, romanesco, all that stuff. Mustard doesn’t seem to bother me fortunately, but I can’t eat the other stuff except sometimes a little sauerkraut (I think the fermentation helps).

      2. Rusty Shackelford*

        I wonder if people just don’t understand that almonds and pistachios also grow on trees. Maybe he thought you meant only pecans and walnuts, since those were the nut trees he was aware of.

        1. 2 Cents*

          Honestly, I don’t know what nuts grow on trees and which don’t. I know peanuts don’t fall into that category, but I’d be hard-pressed to name how others in the nut family grow.

          1. Elsajeni*

            Yeah, my impression is that “tree nut allergy” ESSENTIALLY means “I’m allergic to everything you’d call ‘a nut’ that isn’t a peanut,” but I actually have no idea if that’s including some other not-technically-nuts or, scarier, if I might be missing something that technically IS a nut but doesn’t register as one. (It seems like a common enough allergy that I would expect a caterer to have a better grasp on it, though!)

            1. Azure Jane Lunatic*

              A caterer I was working with for a work function checked in about coconuts when there was a nut allergy. Possibly because there was “nut” in the name. I appreciated the diligence.

        2. whingedrinking*

          If we’re getting all hair-splitty about peanuts not being nuts, technically almonds aren’t either. (They’re more closely related to peaches and plums.) In the culinary sense, though, if someone says “no nuts” without any qualifiers, I just go ahead and eliminate anything that has a shell.

        3. Specialk9*

          I have very hazy understanding of nut cultivation. I am pretty sure peanuts grow in the dirt, but that blew my mind when I learned it. Other than that, I dunno, trees like apples? Bushes like raspberries?

          1. Rainy*

            Peanuts are geocarpic members of the Fabaceae family, meaning that the fertilized ovary that will become the peanut hull and seeds grows into the ground after the flower is pollinated and develops there. It’s weird and pretty rare.

    5. Bryce*

      That’s why in the rules you specify that killing a judge is an instant DQ and frame the necessary ingredients to avoid as a competition challenge.

  11. Cinnamonroll*

    My building was the site of the company training rooms – so there is usually someone holding a training on any given day. Because many of those are for offsite employees, lunch is provided and set up on tables in the halls outside of the training rooms. One of our employees is famous for showing up at end of day to load up FedEx envelopes with remaining food. Pizza, sloppy joe sandwiches, tossed salad. She never brings in plastic bags or tupperware, just fills up those cardboard envelopes and takes them back to her desk.

    1. EddieSherbert*

      That’s very strange…. hahaha.

      (eco-friendly? But why not bring in some reusable tupperware-type thing then?)

      1. SignalLost*

        Not even a little. Presumably the company has to replace the envelopes, and someone somewhere is paying for that as well as contributing to deforestation.

        I think people think they can pretend they’re not doing Weird Thing A by doing Weird thing B and hoping people will focus on B.

      2. Emilitron*

        I’m imagining the through process: “I can’t bring in tupperware, that would make it look like I was planning my meals around these leftovers, or relying on it to feed my children and that would look weird. I’ll just casually take some extra if it happens to be there when I happen to walk by at the end of the day. And I’ll put it in the cardboard container that just happens to be in the mailroom. It’s all a big coincidence.”

      3. the gold digger*

        Our friends T&K host a big Thanksgiving. The year the Weird People were no longer invited back was the year they

        1. Brought their own Tupperware (which is not so weird) and
        2. Filled their Tupperware with food on their FIRST PASS AT THE BUFFET.

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

          What! The first pass??

          I once went to a Thanksgiving party where the hosts said in advance that they didn’t want to have any leftovers, so one of my contributions to the meal was a pack of cheap plastic containers and some zip lock bags. But. They were used after the host begged us to fill them up.

  12. Anony Today*

    There was a problem with evening-shift employees stealing food from the catering fridge. This was a special fridge that held stuff for events that needed to be stored ahead of time like items for the cheese/sandwich trays and drinks. After many warnings and threats, the company installed a lock on the fridge instead of disciplining the culprits.
    The fridge was broken into the first night and the lock destroyed.

      1. Anony Today*

        That’s the most frustrating part, they had cameras and you need a security badge to get into the area with the fridge. They knew exactly who had been stealing but no one wanted to address the problem directly. It goes to show ya, if you ignore a problem long enough then you’ll end up with a broken refrigerator.

      2. Lady Phoenix*

        Security camera, antalk with night shift supervisors, and discipline.

        Also, firing for damage to the lock

      1. Alli525*

        A coworker did this to my gum stash once (I bought it for my team, but they were not permitted to break into my desk to get it when their addictions got out of hand), and I immediately stopped the gum supply. My other teammates knew I still had some if they asked nicely, but the one bad apple really did spoil the bunch.

        1. AMT*

          Good God, I read that as “gun stash.” My brain was somehow prepared to accept that bringing your gun collection to work is occasionally necessary and appropriate.

          1. Alli525*

            LOL. Nope, I live & work in NYC, so the need or possibility for me to have a gun (let alone a stash) is basically nil.

            1. Cat*Lady*

              Wayne Campbell: “I don’t even own *a* gun, let alone many guns that would necessitate an entire rack.”

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

      Wow. That’s pretty…um…well someone had a pretty significant sense of entitlement didn’t they. That’s way beyond a hungry person with low self control snagging something that’s easily available. Did they get fired after that?

  13. Not Tom, just Petty*

    quick happy office food story:
    My department (forty people) ran a chili cookoff a few years. It was fun. About ten people participated, everyone tasted them and the top three won prizes. We had a cheesecake cook off as well. Only like 5 people participated, but everyone got to eat. It was cool because the higher ups decided that everyone who entered would get a prize.

    1. MechanicalPencil*

      A cheesecake cookoff would be my dream cookoff to judge. That sounds glorious all the way around.

      1. LavaLamp*

        Many years ago; my work would do a chili cook off. The judges were impartial as we invited local marines to come and judge, while they dropped off the toys for tots boxes. I kind of miss that particular tradition.

    2. Annie Moose*

      OldJob did a chili cookoff for Thanksgiving once! It was so good. We had some killer entries, ranging from quite tame to so spicy I could only eat a bite or two.

  14. Teena*

    I have a coworker who calls herself “almost vegetarian”, as the only meat she eats is fish (pescetarian). Years ago there was another coworker (gone now) who seemed offended by this and would badger her all the time to eat other meats. We had a potluck and the badgering coworker brought a big bowl with a label on it reading “tuna salad”. The pescetarian tried some with prompting from the badger, whereupon the badger gleefully announced it was actually chicken salad, not tuna! The pescetarian immediately ran to the bathroom to throw up as the rest of the room started yelling at the badger, who gave an Oscar-winning performance of I Don’t Understand What I Did Wrong. Sheesh.

    1. selina kyle*

      Oh, I have about the same diet habits and would be enraged! What a disgusting trick for that guy to pull – and he gets nothing out of it. I will never understand people like that.

      1. SLR*

        This would have made me rage so hard! I also don’t eat meat, but do eat seafood. Since I haven’t had meat in so long I KNOW when stuff’s made with things like chicken stock or whatever because there is IMMEDIATE gastrointestinal distress! What a jerk that guy was!

        1. selina kyle*

          People can be SO weird about vegetarians. It is frustrating. It’s like – I don’t care what you’re eating, I just don’t want to eat meat.

        2. TheCupcakeCounter*

          My soon-to-be sister-in-law is the same. Went pescatarian for a combo of health and personal reasons many years ago and a friend tried so hard and made her a nice soup and within 15 minutes she knew something was wrong. Poor friend used one of those chicken bouillon cubes without thinking and was absolutely crushed and apologized profusely. Then they had grilled cheese.

        3. the gold digger*

          I had a vegetarian boyfriend. A month before I took him to my mom’s for a visit, she was calling me almost every day to ask what he could eat and what should she make. (Like – can he eat pie crust with lard in it?)

          She now caters to Primo, who has no moral/physical problems with anything, but does not like food that ends in “-erry” or that has “that orange flavor.” Or beans. Except black beans.

    2. JD*

      I will never comprehend why anyone cares if someone else doesn’t eat something. I taught my old boss my favorite trick. I despise coconut and pineapple. Someone ALWAYS will tell you, “no no THIS is the best pineapple you’ll love it!” I have tried it many times, I just don’t like it, whatever. I told my old boss I would tell people I was allergic. No one ever bothers you about it after that. She took that idea herself and thanked me for the tip.

      But really, why the obsession over what other people eat? If someone doesn’t chose to eat something, regardless of the reason, who the heck cares.

      1. Bagpuss*

        I wouldn’t do this, or encourage others to, as it can contribute to genuine allergies not being taken seriously.

        (Also, can result in huge amounts of extra work for anyone who does believe you and takes it seriously, although that’s probably more of an issue in restaurants etc)

        1. SignalLost*

          Generally, in restaurants, you don’t have to tell them you’re allergic to something when you’re not. You just don’t order it or you ask if it can be removed. I don’t, for example, order Chicken Parmesan at Italian restaurants because I hate it. I don’t need to claim an allergy to explain why I’m not eating it.

          1. Squeeble*

            I think Bagpuss is referring to specific ingredients that may or may not be in a dish, not the entire dish itself.

            I hate tomatoes, so I might order a burger and specify that I don’t want the tomato slice. But I’m not going to say I’m allergic to tomatoes, because they might go to the trouble of using a different cutting board, knife, etc. to put my meal together when it’s not necessary.

            1. SignalLost*

              Right. And I specify that I’m not allergic when I say I don’t want the avocado. It’s very different to deal with a restaurant than it is to deal with a social group about food, is the point I was making. Whether it creates unhealthy assumptions for people to harm others with, the fact that we have so eroded the idea of respecting others’ choices about their food is the main problem. I commend people for solving that problem in the way that works, and wish it were different at the same time. But restaurants are much more pick n’ mix than the person who says “yeah, well, try THIS fish, I guarantee you’ll like it!”

        2. CM*

          Agreed, as the parent of an allergic kid, please don’t pretend to have allergies! Then when you eat the thing and don’t die, people are like, See, I knew that allergies were fake. Or more realistically, restaurants that are not so aware will say, “Jane and Wakeen told me they had nut allergies. They were fine when I took their pre-prepped salad with nuts and just picked off the nuts and threw them away. And nobody complained when I used the same serving spoon for the food with nuts to serve them. So that’s an appropriate way to handle allergies.” But this can be dangerous for people with actual allergies.

          1. Natalie*

            It seems like the exact same thought process will happen when anyone doesn’t *seem* to have a reaction, no matter why that is. Not everyone is calling the restaurant to tell them they had cross contamination (my celiac friend never tells restaurants they glutened her; she doesn’t see the point). Or has a delayed reaction. Or has a mild reaction that isn’t obvious to an observer.

            1. Rainy*

              I have a bunch of allergies that cause either migraines or violent diarrhea, but never sooner than 1 hour after exposure, and sometimes up to 4 hours, depending on how much of the allergen was in it, and I’ve had people say triumphantly “I put chicken stock in that sauce last time and you were fine!” and I’m like “yeah, I looked fine for an hour and then I went home and had explosive diarrhea all night, cheers for that”.

              1. Alexandra Lynch*

                I have a similar delayed reaction to brassicas and many beans. Oh, I’ll be fine for about an hour and a half, and then I will be spending the next three days close to the bathroom while my gut rages about what I sent down and then refuses to work and then finally settles down to a normal median operational mode.

                I don’t care how nice you do broccoli, nothing in the world is worth going through that.

            2. JB (not in Houston)*

              Yep, I have downed benadryl at a restaurant rather than report that they accidentally gave me an allergic reaction (the only times I’ve had to use an epi pen, i did it to myself). I don’t know why, but I can never bring myself to tell them.

            3. BananaRama*

              My food allergy is a delayed reaction; sometimes as swift as 30 minutes, sometimes hours later. I hate the idea that a person would think I don’t have a food allergy because I’m not having an anaphylactic reaction immediately.

        3. JD*

          Never said I do it at restaurants because waiters don’t force you to try something. I said to people I KNOW who are assuring me I will like this specific pineapple.

          1. Candi*

            …you’re not familiar with Not Always Working.

            Current crown jewel of stories on this theme: submitter had ER levels of allergy to consuming tomatoes in any form and tiny amounts. There was a restaurant in her town that was gold medal awesome at accommodations for both personal desires and medical needs. You ask, if it’s in their power, they do.

            New server at breakfast visit. Server asks if submitter want some ketchup for eggs, hash browns, etc. Submitter politely declines, citing her allergy. Server argues NO ONE is allergic to ketchup, then flounces off.

            Order comes, there’s ketchup on the underside of everything. The server had put on the food order the submitter wanted it that way!

            Submitter’s friend gets the manager/owner, who knows the group as regulars and rightfully blows a professional fuse. The server tries the ‘no one is allergic/she’s just being picky’ argument, but is bounced out the door trampoline style. Meal is comped and replaced.

            (And it’s people’s right to be picky when they’re paying. Polite is what’s essential.)

      2. hypernatural*

        I lie about a nut allergy to avoid “no, no, you just need to try THESE cashews and you will change your mind!” I am annoyed that I have to resort to it, but it does make life easier.

      3. Magenta Sky*

        I’ve had that experience with alcohol. Can’t stand the taste of the alcohol itself. I can’t count how many times friends have told me “You just haven’t tried the good stuff.” Yes, I have. If it is alcoholic enough to legally qualify as an alcoholic drink, I can taste it, and I’d rather drink used motor oil.

        “You know, it doesn’t matter if the moose is wearing a chef’s hat or not. Moose pee still comes out of the same end of the moose.”

        1. Peep*

          OH MY GOD ME TOO. I’ve found certain specific things I enjoy or tolerate, but for the love of god, nobody believes me when I say I don’t want the alcohol taste of alcohol. “I’ll make you a drink you’ll like, you won’t be able to taste it!” Liars. They always use orange juice, which compounds the problem — I hate orange juice. :P Trust me, you can’t hide it well enough that I won’t find it.

        2. PlainJane*

          I’m a lifelong teetotaler. I got a little of this flack when I was in college, but generally I just say, “I don’t drink alcohol,” and that takes care of it. I’m sure there are people who think I’m a recovering alcoholic, but who cares? Mature, decent people don’t badger other people about their food and drink choices.

          1. Not a Morning Person*

            So true, “Mature, decent people don’t badger other people about their food and drink choices.”

      4. TootsNYC*

        My daughter will sometimes claim to be vegetarian for the same reason. She’s willing to eat meat, she just doesn’t like the texture. She’s OK w/ salami, and I think she’ll eat burgers and maybe chicken nuggets.

        With people she’ll see again, she goes to the trouble of explaining things.
        But other people, she just says she’s a vegetarian.

        I encouraged her to switch to, “I’m cutting back on how much meat I eat,” in case she ends up w/ someone seeing her have salami and getting mad that they went to “so much trouble” over her supposed vegetarianism.

      5. Specialk9*

        Just a heads up, those of us who love someone who will die from a real allergy will hate your guts if you tell that story. Sorry if telling the truth is a little uncomfortable or inconvenient for you – you should try being an intubated toddler or the parents of that toddler. Don’t lie about allergies.

    3. Science!*

      Oh man, I had something like that happen at a party once. My husband and I make this really tasty bean dish that has bacon and ground beef in it, but a lot of beans so you can’t really see the bacon and beef right away. It’s a great potluck dish because it’s super easy to make ahead of time and reheat in a microwave. We brought it a party and I asked where to set it down, someone poined to a table with other side dishes. There were about 5 or so people around the table so when I set it down I told them all that this dish contained meat, NOT vegetarian friendly. A few minutes late I came back and mentioned to a couple other people, hoping the word would spread (I didn’t think to bring a note to mark it).

      A half hour later I came back and there was someone new at the table (sitting next to one of the other people I had already told) and I said again that it had meat. She made a face and said “Yeah, I know that now…” I apologized and the man next to her gave this giant grin. I pretty sure he deliberatly didn’t tell her, and what was worse is he’s her husband! So he knew she didn’t eat meat and didn’t tell her anyways.

    4. Kat from NJ via CA*

      That is so awful! I’m a pescetarian, too, and it’s super common for people to get all judgemental over it (or vegetarianism when I was vegetarian). It’s like, I’m not being a pescestarian AT anyone, it’s just a personal choice I’ve made. I’m not tacitly judging people who eat meat, but many meat eaters seem to think I am and react accordingly. Jerks. Insecure jerks.

      1. PlainJane*

        Too many people take offense at anyone who makes a different choice than they did, like it’s a commentary on their choices. You see this with dietary choices, getting married, having children, you name it. Insecure people apparently need their choices validated all the time.

        1. Rana*

          Yep. It’s really tiring. I always end up thinking “Can you please just work out your issues somewhere else? I’m not doing X AT you…”

    5. Chriama*

      I will say I’m mentally a snob about vegetarians and vegans. But I respect people’s right to make food choices for themselves. I don’t understand how anyone can be so invested in what other people eat that they think it’s ok to lie and trick them into eating it? No one is being a vegetarian *at* you. I think people like that are pretty far right on the “probably a sociopath” continuum.

      1. paul*


        Like, I’ll mentally roll my eyes if someone says they don’t like [insert long list of foods here] but that doesn’t mean I’m going to badger them to try it. Why would I?

        1. paul*

          I should clarify ambiguity: I mean if someone rattles off a long list of things they don’t like (as opposed to allergies) I’ll kind of roll my eyes intenrally. My BIL is like that it’s annoying, and has actually resulted in health problems for him.

          I’m still not tricking him into eating vegetables tho

          1. Candi*

            That reminds me of an article I read yeeeeaaars ago about “your kids not eating enough veggies? Here’s how to hide ground up veggies in their favorite foods!”

            My first thought was that if you have to disguise vegetables to get your kids to eat them, you’re parenting wrong. Either get the kid to a doctor to see if there’s a sensitivity/allergy issue, or if it’s just them being bratty, PARENT!

    6. Alienor*

      Gah! I’m a vegetarian who doesn’t eat fish either, so I’m hard to trick, but I’ve had plenty of people outright badger and harass me to eat meat, including holding a fork with a piece of sausage on it up to my mouth. I’ve been vegetarian for 20+ years and have never understood why it bothers people so much–I honestly don’t give a crap if they want to eat bacon and steak all day long, so what does it matter to them if I don’t? People are weird.

        1. Alienor*

          Yes, I know, but a lot of people don’t define it that way for some reason. I spend a lot of time explaining that I don’t eat meat–no, not even chicken, no, not even fish.

      1. RestlessRenegade*

        Same here. I’ve been a vegetarian for 5.5 years, and the way people react to it tells me so much about them.
        If someone “snuck” meat into my food intentionally like the people in this thread, I would never eat around that person again, let alone eat something they gave me.

  15. AlexandrinaVictoria*

    A new site for our company decided to be nice and provide the turkey for a Thanksgiving potluck. It was pink. They all ate it anyway. Soon every bathroom stall was full and they had to shut down for two days while everyone got over food poisoning.

    1. Health Insurance Nerd*

      Oh wow. I am pretty liberal when it comes to questionable foods (I’m all about raw beef and fish) but I draw the line at pink poultry!

    2. Traveling Teacher*

      This is horrifying. I cannot imagine having food poisoning at work…can’t decide if it’s better or worse that everyone had it together…

    3. MilkMoon (UK)*

      Honestly what kind of imbecile eats pink poultry?! It’s literally THE kind of meat that needs to be fully cooked, surely that’s not hard to remember??

      1. hypernatural*

        I could certainly imagine a situation where I’d question it somewhat, see that others are eating it, and not want to be “that guy”. And I would rationalize that decision as “surely the company would ensure the food is thoroughly cooked and not risk giving their employees food poisoning!”

      2. RVA Cat*

        This reminds of where someone proudly tweated their “medium rare chicken” to Gordon Ramsey. His response – “See a doctor quick!”

      3. a1*

        I know I wouldn’t eat it, and I eat food that falls on the floor (ala the “5 second rule” and not just some random food that had fallen on the floor at some point that I happened upon).

      4. Ramona Flowers*

        Hey, not everyone grows up eating or cooking meat. I was raised veggie, I eat meat now but am still learning how to cook it and could make this mistake if everyone else was eating it.

      5. Mamunia*

        You would be shocked at the amount of posts/photos I’ve seen on the web of people showing off their rare chicken like it’s a delicacy. *shudders*

      6. copy run start*

        I ate pink chicken once at the college cafeteria. Somehow they’d managed to burn the outside to a crisp, so I wasn’t anticipating pink chicken inside, and wasn’t really paying attention for the first few bites. After that horrid weekend, I stuck to pizza, fries and other harder-to-screw-up foods.

    4. JustaTech*

      We had a BBQ at work once where it started to rain before all the chicken legs were cooked, so the two guys who were cooking just brought them in (rather than stand in the rain). Thankfully one of my coworkers saw the chicken was still pink and dragged all of it off to be microwaved done before she would let them serve it.

      After that those two people were relegated to grilling the pre-cooked hot dogs.

    5. Delta Delta*

      For me, the least fun part of thanksgiving dinner is the turkey. I’m all about the side dishes (where I interpret “side dishes” as “pie”), and for years I’ve opted NOT to eat the turkey so I can eat all the other tasty stuff. Sounds like my love of sides would have kept me off the barf train at this office!

    6. Adlib*

      As a side note, fresh (not frozen) turkeys still have a pink tint to the meat when fully cooked, but this sounds like it was full on raw in the middle.

      1. Annie Moose*

        Smoked turkey can also still be slightly pink. Always use your meat thermometers, don’t just rely on color!

    7. Liz in a Library*

      Ugh! I can’t even stand to eat my sister-in-law’s turkey which just looks pink. (She wraps it in bacon, but clearly does something wrong, because the bacon doesn’t crisp and it adds nothing to the taste of the turkey, but does impart a gross pink hue.)

  16. Stone Cold Bitch*

    We have company cars that are used for driving between our various locations. Last summer someone had a shrimp sandwich for lunch and left the wrapper in the door of the car, with leftover mayo and bits of seafood.

    The wrapper was dicovered after a few days in the sun and the entire car smelled like sour mayo and bad seafood for a month. The car has been called “shrimp sandwich” ever since.

    1. Alli525*

      LOL. My family has a Legendary Story of a cross-country roadtrip, where Grandpa insisted that Grandma make egg salad sandwiches as the family’s main sustenance (we’re cheap)… but decided that a cooler wasn’t necessary. So everyone in that big brown station wagon had to suffer the smell of slowly-rotting egg salad.

    2. Lison*

      A slightly nicer story but only tangentially related to work I’m a near Christmas baby and my dad worked at the hospital where I was born so Christmas day he went to dinner at my Mums parents house (just down the road from the hospital) and drove plates of each course up to Mum in the hospital so she wouldn’t miss out. It all went fine until dessert when the brandy butter for the Christmas pudding fell off the plate and melted into the passenger seat. That car smelled like brandy for ages! Thankfully not of rancid butter.

      1. Hlyssande*

        Oooh, brandy butter. That sounds lovely!

        One year I helped a friend transcribe family recipes, and one of them for a Christmas pudding ends with “add rum to taste desired. Amen.”

        1. Former Hoosier*

          I used to make my great-aunt’s mincemeat recipe. It called for one bottle of brandy but the side note on the recipe says that she always adds an extra!

      2. Rana*

        Heh. Once I was traveling for the Christmas holidays and had brought a bunch of hot buttered rum coffee beans for a gift. The only transportation I had available dropped me off at the airport four hours early, and they wouldn’t let me check in until two hours before the flight. So I sat, trapped by my bags, smelling hot buttered rum coffee for two hours. I still can’t stand the smell.

    3. Been there*

      My work had something similar The office manager drove one of our work trucks to get big pans of meat for a lunch we were having and the beef pan tipped while she was driving and beef juice spilled into the seat (and down the crack between the seat and the back). She tried everything to get it cleaned but that truck smelled like beef gone bad for years.

      Luckily it was a spare truck, so only people who were having maintenance on their assigned trucks had to drive it. Although it made for a good threat for people to take care of their trucks and to avoid accidents. else they be relegated to the “Beef Truck”

  17. kas*

    No stories to share other than the typical greedy coworkers. One of my old jobs had shifts and they would sometimes order food but you were only supposed to get it on your lunch (they ordered a few times throughout the day to accomodate everyone). Well apparently some people had 3+ lunches because they kept getting food leaving barely any for people that were actually on their lunch. It was usually pizza and I only ever went if it was just delievered or I would open a fresh box because people had a habit of touching other slices to get their own. Please use napkins if you must touch the other slices, I don’t want your hands on my pizza.

  18. Snarkus Aurelius*

    We had an Office Mom who did a lot of unnecessary emotional labor. She was big on birthdays, Secret Santa, etc. to the point she was insistent that we HAD to do it.

    One of the lower level employees had a birthday coming up, and Office Mom INSISTED that we had to have a homemade German chocolate cake with frosting for him because that was his favorite. She was close with him. I mentioned something about doing Betty Crocker, and Office Mom would not have it. I wasn’t volunteering, but she asked her BFF in the office to do it instead. The BFF stayed up til 2 AM on a weeknight making this three layer gourmet cake. I have to admit it turned out well. There was an office party and card and gift card.

    But that’s not why I’m telling this story.

    Another woman in the office had a birthday three days later, and no one did anything for her. Why? Office Mom didn’t care for her. It was never malicious though. Office Mom just forgot about other people who didn’t jive with her. When I reminded her, Office Mom wanted to bring in some donuts. Yeah…store-bought donuts after the actual birthday. That’s it.

    And that, ladies and gentleman, is why I don’t think personal milestones should be celebrated in the office.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      There’s someone walking around out there who thinks I’m a horrible jerk because when she asked me if she could start coordinating birthday cards for everyone in the office, I told her no — and it was exactly because of this. She just saw a fun project of buying and circulating cards, and I knew that I’d have to put all kinds of rules on it that she wasn’t going to like (what’s your plan for making sure new employees are added to your list? what’s your plan for making sure someone isn’t left out if their birthday falls on a week you’re on vacation? etc.).

        1. Anon anon anon*

          And making sure you don’t choose cards that offend people. And what about people who don’t celebrate birthdays. And does it matter if they don’t celebrate because of their religion or because it’s their personal preference. And what if someone doesn’t respect that person’s wishes. Yeah. It’s one of those things that sounds simple but isn’t.

          1. WellRed*

            My b-day is Christmas eve. Boss’s b-day is New Years eve. One year, my coworkers just signed a leftover Christmas card for my birthday. I mean, i had to hand sign 400 of those suckers the year before to our vendors! Boss, who is really more like a coworker, got an actual chosen card.

            1. Anon this time*

              Fist bump of Christmas Eve birthday solidarity, yo.

              I quit trying to have big birthday celebrations as a teenager, following a year when we were visiting my grandparents and I was salty that I wasn’t even in town to celebrate my birthday with my own friends…so my grandparents rounded up all the neighborhood kids (NONE of whom I knew) and threw me a birthday party. It was sweet but made it actually worse, somehow.

              I’ve done a couple of December 23 “oh look, it’s midnight so now it’s my birthday!” pub crawls, and a couple all-night boardgaming parties, but these days my happy place is at home in comfy clothes doing my annual Cowboy Bebop marathon. My parents are hinting darkly about Serious Plans for my 50th birthday (which is several years away yet) and I’ve already told them I plan to be in an undisclosed location completely off the grid that year, so I hope they have a good time at my party.

      1. SignalLost*

        Ha, the admin at my last office job was in charge of this. She didn’t forget my birthday the first year, but the second year something happened and I didn’t get a card. She called me on my lunch when she realized and was very apologetic, but never got the card, either. Since I know her well, I believe it wasn’t malicious, but it was still surprisingly hurtful.

        1. paul*

          I’ve been in a similar boat and yeah, it was kind of surprising how it stung a bit. I’d like to pretend something like that wouldn’t bother me but it kind of did even though I know it’s dumb to get worked up over.

          I hate my hind brain sometimes

        2. Cat*Lady*

          My card got forgotten one year (I’ve been here a long time, so I don’t really know what the excuse was) and yeah, it did sting and I’ve never forgotten it. It got circulated the next month when the next department birthday came around and whoever was in charge probably saw they missed my name. But by then I was like “oh, here’s my afterthought card.”

      2. CleverGirl*

        I started working at OldJob 3 months or so before my birthday, which happened to fall on a holiday. Another team member had a birthday a week or 2 after mine, and we went to lunch as a team for his birthday, and we all chipped in to cover his lunch. I was a bit annoyed but thought it was a one-off thing. Nope. We went to lunch for every person’s birthday over the course of that year, and everyone chipped in to cover the birthday person’s lunch, so I basically paid for everyone else’s lunches and never got one of my own. (I know this sounds petty but I was also on a tight budget and always ordered something super cheap because I couldn’t really afford eating out.) My resentment grew over the course of that year about the fact that everyone’s birthday was celebrated except mine which was ignored. The next year we ended up going out to a joint birthday lunch for me and the other guy whose birthday was close to mine, between our birthdays, so I guess someone realized I also had a birthday. I ended up leaving that job a few months later and I don’t have the most fond feelings toward it.

        I do think it’s fun to celebrate birthdays at work, but it should be an all-or-nothing thing, and it might be better to just do a monthly “birthday” thing with cupcakes for everyone who has a birthday that month. Or invite everyone who wants to to participate, and have them send their birthdate so they don’t get missed.

        1. Agatha_31*

          It’s not even remotely petty to feel annoyed when you are forced to chip in for other people’s lunches even IF people do it for you. There’s way too many ways for that to go wrong, one of which is the way it went wrong for you.

      3. Lance*

        Yup. If you’re going to do this sort of thing at all, it has to be equal for everyone, or not at all, or people will notice, and morale will be affected.

      4. True Story*

        Our solution for this is to announce everyone’s birthday on the first Monday of the month and have a Birthday Breakfast at the morning meeting (provided by the event team and reimbursed by the partners). Everyone looks forward to getting food, nobody gets forgotten, and – perhaps most importantly – nobody has to sit there awkwardly as people sing Happy Birthday to them.

        1. LKW*

          At one job we had cake each month, usually 2 or 3 small sheet cakes. The HR person would identify all of the people who had a birthday that month before cake was purchased. When one of the birthday folks had a known preference for cake – chocolate, vanilla, whatever, would be purchased as one of the cakes.

        2. Pickles*

          If, and only if, they want their birthday celebrated. I had three separate people in my office send follow up emails asking where my birthday information was – nearly a year into working there, suddenly it was an urgent issue. I told all of them that I was hatched.

        3. Turquoisecow*

          My old company did this – or something similar. We had a monthly birthday party in which each of the birthday people was congratulated and pointed out in the party. It started with the managers bringing in pizza, but later morphed into a potluck dessert (so people weren’t obligated to spend their lunch with coworkers, and could go out). Three people were randomly selected to bring in a dessert. At first it was all homemade gifts but then people got lazy or busy and just picked up a box of cookies.

          Anyway, I felt like it was a good way to acknowledge everyone in the department.

        4. Fur Princess*

          I have one related to birthdays. I was the self-designated baker for our team and would make large cakes to share with our team on all our birthdays. The cakes served enough so that if other co-workers in the immediate area wanted a piece, they could partake too. However, there was one admin, who worked for the most stuck up piece of work in the office (he would not condescend to consort with us little people) that would insist she “take a piece for Mr. Stuck Up”. I always declined, but she would take a piece from the serving table that I knew she carried back to Mr. Stuck Up. One day, she asked for the piece for Mr. Stuck Up and I said loudly “if Mr. Stuck Up wants a piece, he can come get it himself” . Coulda heard a pin drop. She never asked again.

        5. Fiennes*

          We had a monthly “celebrations” gathering with cake/ice cream/soft drinks. It was for birthdays & other bits of good news like engagements, etc. Attendance was not compulsory, though most people came. So everyone got an equal amount of attention–no hurt feelings. Plus they put in a standing order for the monthly cake, so it required next to no planning after that.

          1. Emma*

            That’s what my office does. Easy to skip if you don’t like celebrations, cake, whatever the reason. If you like the acknowledgement and eating cake, you go. Easy solution.

        6. 2 Cents*

          When I interned at a magazine, the office would sponsor a 1st-of-the-month (or close enough) birthday celebration. I remember the treats being really good: cupcakes from Magnolia Bakery, Cold Stone Creamery (they sent a cart to the office to make creations!), cookies & brownies from another nearby bakery.

        7. Adhyanon*

          At an old job we did a monthly birthday cake for everyone with a birthday in the month. The actual day was a little bit random. I’d worked there for 2 months when the department admin called to invite me downstairs for cake since she wasn’t sure if I was on the Dept disto yet. Got there just as everyone sang happy birthday to four other people. It happened to be my actual birthday. I was mostly amused – didn’t mention it to anyone until a couple of years later after the admin had retired.

      5. Bagpuss*

        The way we do it is that people bring cakes or other treats on their own birthdays, to share. If you don’t want to participate, you don’t have to. (And there are one or two people who don’t bring treats on their birthdays and that’s fine as well.
        It means everyone can spend whatever (time or money) they chose.

        Sometimes people will bring in treats for other celebrations – for instance, our receptionist became a grandmother (her daughter had also worked for us in the past) and she brought cake (and cute baby pics!) and another coworker brought donuts to celebrate becoming a Black Belt.

        There is sometimes a card and small celebration for special milestones – for instance, when one staff member turned 21 we chipped in for some gifts and had extra snacks, and another turned 65 and got a card and small gift.

        And then we as bosses sometimes buy treats just because.

        1. JustaTech*

          I once brought in cupcakes to celebrate paying off (one of) my student loans.

          That’s how my group (and the company in general) has always done it: if you want to celebrate a thing, you bring the food. That way no one forgets and no one is forced to celebrate if they don’t want to.

        2. Mandy*

          In my office there is a master list of all the birthdays in the department, new employees get asked their birthday on their first or second day. You can completely opt out if you like. The department budget covers a treat for the entire department for each person’s birthday. You can select your own treat within reason–we’ve had Einstein Bros bagels and shmear, donuts, chips and salsa, Little Caesar’s cheesy bread, ice cream, fruit and veggie platters, etc. We do sing happy birthday unless someone in an office nearby is on a call.
          Overall it is pretty fun–everyone is included and everyone gets occasional treats. I believe we have only ever had one person (possibly two) decline to add their birthday to the list and have it celebrated.

          1. Rebecca in Dallas*

            That’s how we do it, we have “birthday buddies” so the person I’m paired up with makes sure that my treat gets ordered and vice versa. We have had a few people opt out of birthday celebrations (Jehovah’s Witness or they just don’t like to celebrate their birthday). Your birthday buddy also gets you a card and circulates it (the company also pays for the card).

        3. the gold digger*

          My Lithuanian co-worker eloped. She arranged with another co-worker, who is in my office, to buy a cake. She called a teleconference with our small team, announced she had gotten married, showed photos, and then had In Office Co-worker pull the cake out of the bag.

          It was really sweet!

          (Which reminds me – I need to send her a baby present. But she is on a one-year maternity leave.)

      6. Magenta Sky*

        We do birthday cards for everyone in the company. It’s handled by HR, who print mailing labels from the master employee list, so no one ever gets left out, and they arrive in the mail early in the month, not on the exact day.

        It’s a monthly ritual for everyone in the office to sign them, by hand (several dozen a month). It was proposed once, that we could all sign a sheet of paper and have the signatures pre-printed on the cards so we wouldn’t have to go through the hassle. Sigh. (I asked if they really thought that no employees would be comparing cards looking for *exactly* that, and the idea has never come up since. You can’t automate giving a damn about your employees.)

        1. Saturnalia*

          We had this ritual, set up the same way. I had the bad manager who sat on the card (some of them had gift cards for work anniversaries, others were just birthday wishes) for months, so you thought they forgot about you entirely. I got a stack of my old cards from him when I moved to a different department.

          There is always a way to ruin a nice idea. It would have taken HR following up to ensure all cards got delivered in a timely manner. That was not going to happen.

          1. Magenta Sky*

            Yeah, that’s why, as I said, this is actually handled *by* HR (who are very competent), and they are mailed, not hand delivered. The store level people don’t have the time, even if they tried, to keep track of it all.

      7. Chriama*

        We do monthly birthday cake at the office and just send an email out asking whose birthday is this month and announce it before cutting the cake, but it’s poorly organized (announcements sent the day-of, often on Fridays when most people work from home, etc) and sometimes if no one with a company credit card has a birthday that month (or no one who is close enough friends with someone with a credit card to say something) it gets forgotten. At least with monthly cakes hopefully no one feels personally slighted. Stuff like this probably needs to be managed by hr/admins or not at all in order to be successful long term.

      8. Anonymous Lawya*

        When I was an associate attorney I shared an admin with a senior associate and a partner. All the attorneys’ birthdays got celebrated with cake and a little 10-minute gathering organized by their admin. (We all took our admins out to lunch for their birthdays as well.) The two years I worked there, the partner I shared an admin with got an elaborate homemade version of his favorite cake, the senior associate got a very plain store bought sheet cake, and my birthday was skipped. I was the only attorney whose birthday did not get celebrated. My admin disliked me for some reason (I was always super nice to her, and gave her less work than the other two) but dang that’s cold.

    2. Malibu Stacey*

      Something similar happened at a previous workplace of mine. It was a huge dept and for baby showers the expectant parent’s closest friend or supervisor would organize a potluck. We had a new manager who was a pain in a lot of ways but when we had a potluck baby shower for someone in her group, another employee signed up to bring brownies and the manager told her they had to be homemade or if she used a mix it had to be Ghirardelli’s.

      1. LKW*

        I’d want someone to claim to use fancy brownie mix and use store brand. Really, who the hell is such a brownie connoisseur?

        1. AnonAndOn*

          Your comment reminded me of this experiment: Cakes of Deception

          People were given samples of a cake with a high price tag and a low price tag and thought the “cheap” cake tasted dry while the “expensive” cake was moist and delicious…just to find out that they were tasting the exact same cake.

          1. The Ginger Ninja*

            That reminds me of the Netflix documentary Sour Grapes. This guy sold “rare” bottles of wine at auctions for tens of thousands of dollars. In reality, they were cheap bottles of average California cab with different labels. He suckered loads of rich people who thought they were buying wine that was hundreds of years old.

            I have never felt guilty about drinking cheap wine since I watched it.

      2. Rusty Shackelford*

        Ghirardelli brownie mix is like three bucks at Walmart. Did she think she was being fancy?

        1. Turtledove*

          Ghiarardelli’s got a rep for being Good Chocolate, in line with Godiva and other such brands. So – yes, she likely did!

    3. Lia*

      My belief on birthdays is if YOU want to celebrate your birthday, YOU bring in the treats. Don’t assign it as a rotation or anything, because invariably someone gets slighted or left out and feelings get hurt.

      I do not celebrate mine, so I don’t bring in stuff, and birthday celebrations, to me, are more of a childhood thing anyways.

      1. AMT27*

        Thats how my office does birthdays. We have 50+ people. You bring in a treat for everyone else on your birthday (donuts are easiest, sometimes its bagels – expensive!, or homemade treats or chips & salsa, or whatever).

    4. Talia*

      My office does birthdays very simply: there are monthly staff meetings. At every staff meeting there is a cake for this month’s birthdays. They never have the staff meetings at times when I can attend them (I am part-time), so I don’t know if this is accompanied by a reading of a list of the month’s birthdays, though it seems likely.

      If someone is having an “0” birthday (30, 40, 50) it gets celebrated more, with a card and a collection, organized by the building’s EA who also handles the fund for sending people flowers after they have surgery. That seems more likely to eventually end poorly, though I know if anyone got forgotten everyone would be mortified.

      1. Hlyssande*

        Our birthday thing used to be monthly but now it’s quarterly. And not always cake either, but usually cookies/fruit/cheese and crackers/salsa sort of stuff.

    5. OtterB*

      I still like the policy at OldJob where, if you wanted a celebration for your milestone (birthday or whatever), then it was on you to bring something in. Most people brought bagels on their birthday, but nobody monitored things closely enough to notice if you chose not to bring anything.

    6. NotABirthday*

      Happened to me. Boss’s favorite had a little birthday party held for him (cake, snacks, bubbly) and someone asked he whether he shared his birthday with anyone famous, which he did – and so did I! Yep. Boss’s favorite and I shared the same birthday. He got a party for his and mine was ignored.

  19. Me2*

    This one is not funny but I brought in some little raspberry filled chocolate balls and had them sitting on my desk in my candy dish. One of my bosses grabbed a few then came back furious because apparently they were a raspberry liqueur not just a jelly. He was a recovering alcoholic and told me I was to blame if he relapsed. I was mortified and would never jeopardize someone’s recovery (nor would I bring alcohol into the office). I even checked with where I purchased them to find out that they were indeed alcoholic, they just hadn’t marked the display as such. Luckily nothing ever came of it, the boss was fine.

    1. SignalLost*

      Dude. If that can drive you to a relapse, you’re not recovering. I’m a smoker who’s quit several times, and never, ever have I gone back because I inhaled someone else’s smoke at a bus stop.

      1. Squirrel Tooth Alice*

        Just want to mention that it’s not so simple for everyone. My dad was recovering, and he didn’t even want to taste wine in his food, knowing the alcohol was cooked out. Triggers are different for everyone, and it’s kind of cruel to pooh-pooh someone’s addiction recovery for being different from yours.

    2. Gwen Soul*

      Reminds me of a story my husband told on an intern who brought in bourbon balls to work…. at a recovery center, where many of the staff were former addicts. Notmalicious, just new to the workforce. She ended up being a great employee after that.

    3. AK*

      I understand how that could blindside your boss (as it obviously did you), but for him to pre-blame you for a relapse after eating a few candies seems extreme. I hope there was some sort of “sorry, I was just freaked out” explanation or calm discussion with you after?

      1. Amber T*

        I was having dinner with a bunch of friends at a hibachi place. The table next to us was comprised of half kids, half adults, and the chef was having a great time entertaining the kids. He pulled out one bottle to squirt liquid into their mouths (definitely water for the kid) and they had a blast. He started getting the adults involved, and I guess no one realized he switched bottles to the adult stuff – when he squirted the liquid (assuming it was sake) into the first guy’s mouth, he immediately jumped up, spit it on the ground, looked like he was going to have a panic attack, started cursing, and fled. One of the women chased after him while the other adults stayed behind and watched the kids. The chef very solemnly finished cooking.

        The guy came back in a little while later and asked to speak with the chef and he apologized. I didn’t hear the full conversation, but something about “recovering alcoholic” and that it was unexpected. The two of them were so apologetic to each other.

        I’ve never been addicted to something or have gone through withdrawal, but I have to imagine any threat to recovery can be very frightening. I guess I understand his panic in the moment, but I agree with AK – I hope he apologized later.

        1. Amber T*

          And to add to my comment – you are in no way responsible, even if he did relapse. It was an honest mistake and he should have checked the labels.

        2. OhNo*

          I think the momentary panic can be forgiven, but I hope he apologized for it later. I’ve never suffered from addiction, but my dad still tells stories about when he quit smoking – he says he’d wake up in a cold sweat, thinking he’d given in for just one last cigarette, even a decade or more after he finally kicked the habit. I can only imagine how much worse it must be for someone with an alcohol addiction, when you can break your sobriety by accident if you’re not careful.

    4. Alton*

      I think it was unfair of him to hold you accountable. You didn’t intentionally give him alcohol or pressure him to consume it, and dealing with incidental exposure to stuff like alcohol is something addicts have to be prepared for. It’s nice to be considerate about that if you know someone is an alcoholic, and you probably don’t want to being chocolate liquors to the office intentionally, but you’re not single-handedly responsible for someone accidentally being exposed.

    5. anon druggie*

      I’ve been in recovery 26 years, and that is not A Thing. It is his responsibility to be careful about what he eats. Especially things like that, and most especially around the holidays. What an entitled jerk.

    6. AMPG*

      Once I made meatballs in tomato sauce for a potluck – my meatball recipe is sort of “throw whatever seems good into some meat and go from there,” so this batch ended up with some leftover red wine in it. A Muslim co-worker asked me before helping herself if they were all-beef or a beef-pork mix, and I assured her there was no pork, completely forgetting to mention the wine. Later on someone else asked for the recipe and I explained that there really wasn’t one, and listed what I could remember putting in. She was standing nearby and when I got to “red wine” I saw her eyes get big and I realized what I had done. Now, the meatballs simmered in the sauce for a good long while, so there was almost certainly no actual alcohol left in them, and I explained that, but I knew it didn’t really matter, so all I could do was apologize profusely.

          1. AMPG*

            It was an organization where cultural competency was an essential part of the job, plus we had worked together for years and I knew she was Muslim. Even though it was an honest mistake, I definitely looked like an idiot.

          2. AMPG*

            It was an organization where cultural competency was an essential part of the job. Plus we had worked together for years and I knew she was Muslim. It was clearly an honest mistake, but I definitely looked like an idiot.

            1. Angie*

              Was the beef slaughtered in a halal fashion? If you can’t answer that then the boiled down wine isn’t of consequence. Everyone can make their own decisions.

              1. AMPG*

                There are a lot of ways to follow Islamic dietary restrictions (again, this was part of my job for a number of years). I definitely should have thought to mention it, so she had all the information she needed.

    7. CoffeeLover*

      A lot of chocolates contain liquor for flavouring, but aren’t actually alcoholic. You can’t actually get drunk from them. The alcoholic content is usually removed during processing, although you can still taste it. That’s why you never see liquor flavoured chocolate boxes with an alcoholic content label (I’m pretty sure you’re required to have it by law). And why people feed their kids these chocolates.

      I worked in a chocolate shop. I’ve sold liquor flavoured chocolates to recovering alcoholics. They asked me if it was alcoholic. I said no, but it does contain liquor for flavouring so you can taste it (ie rum). They were fine with it. Your boss was a nut.

      1. Chriama*

        If you’re an addict though, the taste could be enough to trigger you. Not OP’s fault for sure but I don’t think someone is being too cautious if they stay away from liqueur candies.

      2. my two cents*

        There are plenty of manufacturers that DO have alcohol in their filled chocolates, though. You can usually spot them at just about any Duty Free shop at an airport.

      3. Adhyanon*

        In some, but certainly not all states chocolate can be filled with alcohol and sold. California is one of them. They have a %on the box and check ID when you buy it. I know I’ve bought the little chocolate bottles filled with actual booze at Costco and Trader Joe’s out here. Never saw them on the East Coast though.

        1. T3k*

          On the east coast here, and I’ve seen some in World Market stores, have their own little stand in the store with big “Must be 21+” signs on it.

      4. Stephenie S Labovitz*

        Even vanilla extract contains alcohol, and most desserts have that in them. Even basic fudge recipes.

        McCormick Pure Vanilla Extract: Ingredients
        Vanilla bean extractives in water,
        alcohol (35%),
        and corn syrup.

  20. Emily*

    We had someone try to make a vegan peach pie to accommodate a new vegan employee. No one is sure what ingredients were in that pie (it looked and smelled ok) but oh man, every single person who had a piece was sick with vomiting and/or diarrhea within 15 minutes of eating it. The vegan whom it was made for sent around an email asking us to never accommodate her again and she would just eat chips & salsa at potlucks going forward. It’s been about 8 years and that story is still circulated when potlucks are brought up.

    We also had a potluck with a lot of young employees who did not cook and we ended up with 1 casserole and 8 identical boxes of chocolate chip cookies from Safeway. :p

    1. Dr Wizard, PhD*

      I really don’t get that. Even if you don’t cook, it can’t be that hard to buy a prepared meal you can put in an office microwave, like a shepherd’s pie or something.

    2. JokeyJules*

      vegan brownies is my go-to. Almond milk and egg substitute. If you’re not an experienced vegan cook, just keep it simple!

      1. anon for brownie story*

        My vegetarian (sometimes vegan) friend made vegan brownies for a charity bake sale at our office!

        They sold out pretty quickly, but not as quickly as the brownies made by Most Annoying Employee, who labelled hers “[MAE]’s Famous Brownies.” She CONSTANTLY brags about how great a baker she is, so they sold like, well, brownies; Friend joked that she should have labelled hers “[Friend]’s Famous Vegan Brownies” to sell out faster.

        I’ve had MAE’s baking before. It’s fine. I’ve had Friend’s baking before, vegan and non. It’s much better. (I missed both sets of brownies, though :( )

    3. Ramona Flowers*

      That’s weird, given food poisoning is not generally that quick. Are you sure it didn’t come from something the previous day?

      1. RabbitRabbit*

        Might have been some accidental contaminant (dish soap, some chemical, etc.) rather than food poisoning proper, though I know some staph strains can take a half hour or less.

      2. VermiciousKnit*

        Agreed. It couldn’t be pathogen-type food poisoning that fast, because there’s just not enough time for bacteria or viruses to replicate in 15 minutes. It would have to be some kind of ingredient-based-actual-poison-type poisoning for it to be that fast.

        1. the gold digger*

          I started throwing up about ten minutes after eating a tart at a restaurant in France. I hadn’t eaten anything else for hours. I think maybe it was the eggs, but I still am not sure.

          1. VermiciousKnit*

            Food poisoning typically takes several hours to a day or two to set in. It was probably something you ate well before that meal.

            1. Coldbrewinacup*

              Food poisoning can happen in a matter of a couple of hours. It’s usually staph when it’s that fast.

          2. Candi*

            Because food poisoning by the bacteria reproducing inside of you isn’t the only contaminate issue that’ll make you throw up.

            Making it with one or more spoiled ingredients can make you rapidly sick.

            A chemical contaminant will kick your digestive system into evac mode.

            Some microbial waste products are toxic in their own right. Enough of those in something you consume, and it doesn’t matter if the bacterial infection has reached a certain size.

            So it could have been the tart.

    4. JustaTech*

      I once busted my butt to help my husband make 5 pounds of fudge for his 5th anniversary at work. My regular fudge was easy (I made him do that) but finding a vegan fudge recipe was surprisingly hard (this was before coconut oil everything) but I managed it.
      And then the vegan guy didn’t have any until my husband pulled him aside and said “This was made just for you because I didn’t want to exclude anyone”. The vegan guy then tried and liked the fudge, but he had a default assumption that he couldn’t eat any food anyone brought in.

      So, if you are going to go out of your way accommodating food stuff, tell them!

      1. Horizons*

        Oh, I’m not sure about this. I have a co-worker with celiac. People kept making “special” GF dishes for him for the office potluck, so he felt like he had to try them. But often the food didn’t taste great, and twice he got very sick. He’s sure the co-workers meant well but cross contamination is difficult to prevent. He got so much pressure from people to try what they made, he now just skips potlucks.

        So my corrollary would be: if you make an accommodation, don’t pressure them to eat it. Just offer it as an option.

        1. TL -*

          Yeah, I really hate it when people try to accomodate me because I still have to quiz through the ingredients/read labels/reject the food half the time (especially with corn, which is very, very sneaky.)

          Or, worse, when they bring in a gluten and gluten free option and I have to start asking even more questions, like, which one did you make first? Did your kids help you? How did you store things/clean dishes?

    5. Lissa*

      I have to admit I feel super sorry for the pie baker here. I can see them trying their hardest to be accommodating and having it hugely backfire and everyone mad!

    6. Louise*

      This is crazy to me. It is super easy to make a pie vegan- just replace the butter in the crust with a different fat. Safflower oil is Martha Stewart’s recommendation and I’m not one to argue with Martha. I made a vegan pie for a coworker’s birthday specifically because it seemed like the hardest thing for me to screw up.

    7. Coldbrewinacup*

      Our potluck today: 4 pies, 3 containers of store bought cookies, a store bought container of fruit and dip, 5 bags of chips and assorted dips, hot dogs, buns, chili, apple salad, and another type of salad. One coworker and I chipped in to get chicken bites from Walmart. The chicken was eaten in less than an hour.

      That’s not a potluck. Granted, it is the day before Thanksgiving, but this is a typical potluck in this office. I am done with potlucks!

  21. BadPlanning*

    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.

      1. wayward*

        Quality cheese would be a good contribution to a potluck, though it’s probably not a bad idea to bring bread or crackers in case there aren’t any.

    1. KF*

      There were periodic potluck lunches at my last job and there was someone who always brought a can of beets which they opened and dumped in a bowl (and of course there were the inevitable 85,000 pasta salads).

    2. Natalie*

      I find the fork part more mystifying than the “here’s a block of cheese” part. I can’t really picture how one would use the fork without snapping the tines off.

      Unless they thought you were going to pick up the cheese and take a bite out of it, like a caramel apple?

    3. Pickles*

      Ooo, we had a guy bring a single prepackaged zebra cake once. (He forgot. And nearly ten years later, hasn’t lived it down.)

      1. Rebecca in Dallas*

        Hahaha, we had a girl who always had bananas at her desk, she’d eat one for a snack most days. Every time there was a potluck, she’d say “I’ll bring the bananas!” And at potluck time, she’d just bring however many bananas were on her desk. And no, nobody ever ate a banana at the potluck, so then they’d go back to her desk afterwards.

        1. Adlib*

          That would irritate me! The laziness, that is. I think it would be a little different if someone ate one, but since no one does, she’s not actually helping.

          1. WellRed*

            I am irritated just reading this. I think I’d eat the damn bananas just on principle. Seriously, why did mgt not nip this in the bud?

    4. JustaTech*

      We had a potluck where someone signed up for and brought “a plate of bacon”. That they cooked in the office microwave.

      It was very popular.

    5. OhNo*

      At one place I used to work, there was a guy who was well known for bringing a bucket of KFC to the holiday potluck every year. Nobody minded, although he’d get lightly teased about it on occasion. But my last year there, the KFC had changed it’s hours, so he could no longer swing by there at 10:30 in the morning to grab it for the 11:00 potluck start.

      His solution? Swing by McDonalds and get three orders of twenty-count chicken nuggets.

      I’m pretty sure he’s never going to live that one down.

    6. Not really a waitress*

      I used to live in a city out west. There was a bar and grill that had a huge hunk of cheese with a knife as the free appetizer (instead of pretzels or peanuts) One day in the middle of happy hour a homeless person walked in… picked up the whole hunk of cheese then walked out.

  22. JokeyJules*

    I worked somewhere with a moderately high turnover rate, and you could always tell how much someone was liked based on their going away party. One coworker, “Beyonce” announced her departure and got a party with homemade treats from various cultures, a cake, some snacks, and we all chipped in to order pizza for everyone to celebrate. It was really nice, and we all signed a nice going-away card.
    Another coworker, “Rihanna”, left a few months later, and her going away party had a card signed by some of us and some clearance storebought cookies.
    I truly don’t think it was intentional, there was just nobody there to ensure everyone had a well planned party. It was just sort of like “oh hey, it’s so-and-sos last day this day” and people would bring things in if they felt like it.

    You can imagine my relief to find I was liked at this job on my last day. Yay for cuban baked goods!

    1. Snark*

      ““Beyonce” announced her departure and got a party with homemade treats from various cultures, a cake, some snacks, and we all chipped in to order pizza for everyone to celebrate.”

      Any lemonade?

  23. selina kyle*

    My former boss was very into fitness (ran an Ironman for one!) and she usually ate really well in her office (I was also seated in her office). Her boss used to come in and tease her about eating salads. It was so irritating and he clearly thought he was so funny. It clearly made her uncomfortable, but he would come in at least once a week to say something.
    Eventually she got another (better!) job and left, so I guess there’s a happy ending to it at least.

  24. Quinalla*

    A place I interned at when I was in college had this unwritten rule that for lunch meetings, once the meeting group went through the line of the catered in lunch, the food was 100% up for grabs and it would disappear about 5 seconds after you shut your conference room door since the food was always set up outside. When my boss would run meetings, he’d bring the choicest foods into the conference room (cookies, etc.) so we’d be able to have seconds if we wanted. It was just so amusing how quickly the up-for-grabs food went there!

    And the last place I worked at, we had someone who was so uptight about the fridge (and really, I do get it as I’ve helped clean out office refrigerators and it can be nasty!) that I finally gave up and just brought in an insulated lunch bag when I wanted to have something in the office. My new office is much better, we have 2 fridges for 8 people (we are growing, but it is silly) so we have TONS of room, so we can all use the fridge as much as we need, even buying groceries and putting them in til after work sometimes. And the office is small enough that we don’t have food stealing problems.

    1. Silver*

      At my last job, the admin had to babysit the buffet and sent out emails reminding people NOT to eat the food if they weren’t in the meeting because it would disappear before the meeting was out and the people it was intended for wouldn’t get any.

      1. Diana*

        For the first meeting I had to arrange with food at my latest job I made the mistake of setting up the pizza table directly outside of the room (smaller room). I had employees trying to nab a slice of pizza before the actual group even got to get at it! I learned the hard way that food either goes directly in the conference room or I have to stand there until the meeting starts.

  25. Jaybeetee*

    This is a minor example but: Years ago at an old job someone brought in cupcakes, which we all enjoyed. At one point, as I was leaving the breakroom, I saw there was one cupcake left, and grabbed it. I had no idea that this last cupcake was being saved for one of our volunteers, an elderly man who was due to come in the next day (and had been told to expect a cupcake!)

    Poor guy came in looking for his cupcake, I had to tell him I ate the damn thing. He actually looked visibly disappointed. I went out and bought him two more cupcakes to make up for it.

    For the rest of my time at this job this tale went down in infamy, told to every new colleague that came on board. I was a manager, and one of my reports eventually commented that *every* time she asked me if she could grab the last of whatever food was brought in (people did this periodically), I’d tell her not to. I didn’t want to propagate stealing goodies from old men!

    1. Xarcady*

      Really, if the cupcake was saved for someone, it shouldn’t have been out in the breakroom. Or it should have been labeled. How else would anyone know not to eat the cupcake? The blame really lay on the person who promised to save the cupcake but did nothing to prevent others from eating the cupcake.

      1. Vegan Atheist Weirdo*

        Agree. This wasn’t really your fault, Jaybeetee. It should have been labeled in some way.

    2. HR Manager*

      Not Potluck related, but Food related. I’m department of one in a smallish company dominated by men. Small office. But anyway, somebody one day must have eaten something that upset one of the owners (who’s extremely moody and petty anyway) and he sent out an email saying we could no longer eat at our desks.

      Seems normal, except it was only sent to WOMEN. There are lots of men around here with desks who eat at said desks.

      So only women aren’t allowed to eat at their desks?

  26. Lillie Lane*

    At a previous workplace, we had a buddy birthday system where everyone was assigned to make/buy the birthday cake for a fellow employee. One of my coworkers absolutely REFUSED to be part of any of the celebrations. I learned that this was because our boss had pranked him years before by baking his cake and replacing the sugar with salt.
    He eventually explained to me that when he was younger, he was the victim of a particularly disgusting food adulteration incident, and the pranked birthday cake put him over the edge.

    1. Turtlewings*

      I guess that’s really a pretty harmless prank — assuming the boss didn’t know this guy’s feelings about messed-up food — but ONLY if he also brought a real cake. Also, “birthday buddy system” seems like a good idea! Spread out the labor. And you’re motivated to do a good job or else your “buddy” can get back at you on your turn. ;)

      1. Hope*

        Yeah, but do you get to pick your buddy or do you get assigned? What if you get assigned to a coworker you can’t stand (or whose hygiene you question)? What do you do about the new person who doesn’t have a buddy?

        This is why I almost always use PTO on my birthday.

        1. Rebecca in Dallas*

          We had the same set-up, you were assigned your buddy and you usually told your buddy what you wanted. I always suggested something from a bakery (ex: “I love the chocolate chip cookies from The Chocolate Chippery!” as opposed to just “chocolate chip cookies”), that way they didn’t feel like they had to slave away in the kitchen and it also avoided any questionable kitchen hygiene. Usually a new person was replacing someone who left, so they would just get the old person’s buddy, but we made sure they had a buddy one way or the other. If they wanted a buddy that is, we have a couple of people who don’t celebrate their birthdays so they are always welcome to opt out and not have a buddy.

      2. Observer*

        Actually, no it’s not. Have you ever tasted a cake that had the sugar replaced with salt? It’s pretty awful.

        Ok, it’s not on the same level of some of the crazier ones we’ve seen. But it is still definitely NOT ok, even without the history.

        1. Not Australian*

          “Have you ever tasted a cake that had the sugar replaced with salt? It’s pretty awful.”

          As well as a waste of good ingredients.

      3. Ramona Flowers*

        I wouldn’t find this harmless because people would be watching my reaction. That sounds pretty harmful and humiliating.

    2. Marillenbaum*

      I once had a cake with salt instead of sugar, but it was an accident! When I was 13, I asked my mom for a cheesecake instead of a layer cake for my birthday, so she bought one from the local grocery store. We had some people from church over for dinner, and brought out the cheesecake–and they had used salt instead of sugar. I felt so bad, mostly because one of the guests was from Mongolia and had never eaten (New York-style) cheesecake before, and I didn’t want that to be her first impression of my favorite food! It was a mess, but thankfully the grocery store was chill and replaced it with no bother.

    3. Chriama*

      What a waste of a cake. I don’t like deliberate food waste, it just seems unethical given how many people are food-insecure in the world :(

      1. Lissa*

        Same, I don’t understand going to all the trouble and effort to make a cake that nobody will want to eat….

    4. Nye*

      Unintentional, but in college, a friend made two pumpkin pies using canned filling. One was great, the other was…not.

      Moral of the story: cans of pumpkin pie filling and cans of unsweetened pumpkin puree look VERY similar and are usually shelved near each other.

      1. Mel*

        Funnily enough, I bought pumpkin pie filling by mistake for a Friendsgiving dinner last week. I like to use the puree so I can spice it the way I like. For Thanksgiving prep this week I made sure to carefully read the labels!

  27. Snark*

    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.

      1. Snark*

        I’m telling it like it’s funny, because the only casualties were my geraniums, but seriously, buddy could have had third degree burns.

    1. SL #2*

      And this is why Storytime with Snark is my favorite thing in the world.

      I’m glad no one was hurt! I could totally see myself being like “Hey, why aren’t you opening the oven door, wouldn’t it cool off faster that way?” at which point, I assume Snark would give me the same explanation he’s written above and I’d be like “cool, I learned something new today!” But I would most definitely not try to open this (presumably scalding hot???) oven door myself…

    2. NacSacJack*

      Glad I wasnt drinking coffee when I read that story. Laughing so hard my entire body is jiggling (As someone with first hand experience with gun powder and drunken relatives)

    3. Free Meerkats*

      I know this will only be read by a few, but one of my Duty assignments in the Navy was the base fire department. Literally the only live call I went on that year was for a storage building that was full of mattresses. We had to go in to put out the fire that had reached that point.

      Punched out the top of the door and got some reaction, so we breached the entire door. It was like getting hit by a truck. A truck on fire that’s trying to set you on fire. Three guys in full turnouts and SCBAs carrying a charged 2 1/2-inch firehose blown back about 20 feet.

      Those guys don’t get paid enough.

  28. saffytaffy*

    I like to bring weird jello molds to office potlucks. Chai tea, chocolate raspberry, fizzy gingerale… I’m never surprised when people love them, but it’s interesting that there have been people who have really been offended by my jello molds. “That’s not food,” a woman said once.

      1. Natalie*

        Or she is from Minnesota, and is horrified that it’s not red jello with mandarin oranges and canned pineapple in it.

        1. Marillenbaum*

          Or from Utah, and is deeply offended that it isn’t lime jello with shredded carrots (Oh, my people–I love you, but WHY?)

          1. Rusty Shackelford*

            My daughter was assigned to do a report about a state and bring a food related to that state. Her state was Utah, and we had a friend who had just moved from there, and she said “Bring Jello.” No shredded carrots, but the little cups of Jello were a big hit.

      1. saffytaffy*

        I use 1 packet of a flavored jello- raspberry or cranberry if i can find it- and then a half cup of boiling water and 1.5 cups of ginger ale.
        The thing is, i WOULD just use unflavored gelatin and up the ginger flavor, but actual ginger bits and even ginger tea will break down the gelatin protein and the jello never sets. So i recommend you go the flavored jello route to add some interest.
        If you use something other than gingerale, though, like champagne or coke or whatever, you can use some kind of intensely flavored liquid for the .5C or 1C of boiling liquid. I’d use grape juice with champagne and maybe cherry juice for coke.

    1. LKW*

      A friend of the family would do this for every potluck. Nothing fancy, just fruit in jello. Still, if she didn’t come (or didn’t make the jello) people would be very disappointed. Any time the group would do a little fun teasing – her teasing involved Jello jokes and jello themed jewelry such as boxes strung together in a necklace.

      1. einahpets*

        Yeah, my great grandma would always make a cranberry/apple jello mold for the holidays. To this day, it is my go-to meal to make for a holiday potluck. I know people who totally judge the jello, but it is always one of the plates that is finished at the end of the potluck…

    2. Damn it, Hardison!*

      This reminds me a of a potluck at my last workplace . The theme was retro foods, but not limited to any particular time period. My contribution was a jello “salad” (where I’m from all jello is salad, regardless of the amount of whipped cream involved). It involved strawberries (frozen, of course), strawberry jello, cream cheese, powdered sugar, whipped cream, and a crust made out of pretzels and melted butter. Once the initial skepticism to wore off it was a big hit.

      1. Rainy*

        A few years ago a Southern pal mentioned pineapple casserole to me as a holiday staple of her people, and I asked for the recipe, looked at the ingredient list, shrugged, and tried it at the next Thanksgiving. (I like to try a new dish at most holiday meals–it’s fun and if you don’t like it, there’s literally a groaning table full of other foods to eat, and the squirrels will be happy to eat failures.) It has become a holiday staple on my table now too. Sometimes weird stuff turns out to be weird DELICIOUS stuff. :)

        1. SignalLost*

          Is that the line jello one with cottage cheese? I’m almost more interested in the names for that than the dish, but it is a summer staple in my family.

          1. Rainy*

            Oh, no–this is crushed pineapple, drained, flour, sugar, cheddar cheese, a little salt, some of the pineapple juice added back in, and then a ritz cracker crumble topping, baked.

              1. Rainy*

                It’s so ducking good I can’t even. I made it that first year and was like “Welp, this is happening every year forever.”

              2. Rainy*

                It also turned out to be exactly what my post-holiday brunch dish was missing–I do this baked layered brunch thing the day after a holiday meal, in individual dishes, and it’s basically the whole meal, but layered and then baked in the oven, and the pineapple casserole lends a really welcome note of acidic sweetness that balances the earthy sweetness of the sweet potato casserole.

            1. paul*

              my MIL is from Ohio and makes something like that but calls it something something pineapple cake, I can’t remember the name.

              It has no calories so I can eat it forever…right?

            2. Adlib*

              That sounds a lot better than what my grandparents liked for holidays – crushed pineapple topped with shredded cheddar, and that was it.

              In my family, we do 5 Cup Salad – 1 cup each of pineapple, mandarin oranges, shredded coconut, miniature marshmallows, and sour cream. Stir.

              1. Elsajeni*

                Adlib! Are we cousins? I know the dish is just a variant of ambrosia salad, but I’ve never heard anyone outside my family call it 5-Cup Salad.

                1. Adlib*

                  Haha! Maybe! It’s really good, but I don’t really see it at potlucks much, just at family gatherings. That’s so cool though!

          2. Rana*

            Is that the line jello one with cottage cheese?

            Ah, “green stuff”! Cool Whip with Jello and cottage cheese? My godmother also made a “pink stuff” variant with strawberry Jello. I adored both as a kid. (Maybe I should try to make some…)

            1. accidental manager*

              When my mother was making food for a fancy ladies’ lunch (the bridge club or the church ladies), she would make a jello moulded salad with lime jello, cottage cheese, and a little bit of horseradish. I guess she knew better than to try making that one for the kids.

          1. Rainy*

            See above for the basic outline. I think the normal is one can crushed and one can chunk but I like all crushed, and then I use brown sugar instead of white, but a scant half as much as the recipe wants.

      2. Mary (in PA)*

        Jello pretzel salad! This is a big hit for potlucks and parties in the Pittsburgh area. A friend of mine loves it beyond all reason and has it at every one of her events…which, of course, I will never miss.

      3. Tish the tester*

        Someone brought this to a vegetarian potluck at our office. Big hit here too, it’s surprisingly tasty. Although I did find myself hoping the contributor knew to find a vegan version of jello…

        1. Miss Herring*

          There is one! It’s called “agar-agar” or sometimes just “agar.” It’s from algae, so it is perfectly safe for vegetarians (and vegans). I have not used it yet, but the proportions you need in recipes may be different than gelatin. Health and natural food stores sell it both plain and flavored.

      4. SpiderLadyCEO*

        This is a special favorite of mine, and I’m always surprised when friends from the same region I am don’t know what it is. I made some for a fourth party this summer, and happily ate it all myself.
        (This was after I failed to bring it to the party because I messed up the crust and it wasn’t pretty,haha.)

    3. Hlyssande*

      My bestie and I made two old fashioned jello molds for her grandma’s funeral luncheon. We couldn’t figure out how to get them out of the molds, but the church ladies took over from us.

      One was peaches and cream, two layered (one white, one peachy, with peach slices in the cream layer), and I think the other one was champagne-related. Both were delicious.

      Chai tea and fizzy ginger ale sound like they’d be amazing jello molds!

      1. Beaded Librarian*

        Lutheran Wedding Salad and Lutheran Funeral Salad both are red jello and have whipped topping but one involves bananas and I can never remember which is which.

        1. Marillenbaum*

          That’s amazing! I’m from Utah, and our big thing is Funeral Potatoes: hash browns, creamy canned soup, and ALL the cheese. It’s delicious.

      2. Gwenderful*

        My grandma used to teach 4H girls her Jello pineapple rings – pour the juice out of the can and refill with jello. Once it’s set you can slice the rings apart and they look all pretty spread on a plate. One of her former students, who became a church lady had fond memories of the recipe and made them for her funeral lunch.

  29. Temperance*

    At my last job, we had a cookie baking contest. For some reason, our receptionist, who was famous for not washing her hands after using the bathroom, decided to submit a few entries.

    It was painfully obvious that everyone was avoiding her stuff. I heard more than one person say, don’t eat those, Receptionist made them. My favorite reaction was when someone started eating one, someone else warned them, and the person ran to the trash and spit it out.

    1. LKW*

      At a cousin’s wedding, they had set out little gifts for the guests. A little box of chocolates that my aunt, who never cleaned her home (as in pet poop, garbage, hoarder level filth), had made in her kitchen. My dad bit into one and I just whispered ” made those in her kitchen.” He spit it out and took a swig of a drink.

      1. Temperance*

        GROSS! Oh I just tasted those cat-hair covered chocolates, in my head. At least he hopefully had something alcoholic nearby to sterilize his mouth ;)

  30. svedin*

    I will never forget the most gender defined potluck I’ve ever attended: the ladies made lovely intricate dishes, the gentlemen in relationships had their girlfriends/wives make passable dishes, the single men went to McDonald’s and served that as their contribution.

    That was the end of potlucks for that team.

      1. Natalie*

        Did they think we were born knowing how to cook?

        I mean, yes, a lot of them literally do. Gender essentialism, hurray!

      2. Snark*

        So, I took the culinary ball and ran with it, and I love to cook, but back when I was heading off to college, my parents made it very clear that having one’s s*** together as a human and a man included being able to a) make a few edible, decent dinners, b) make her breakfast the next morning and c) being able to put together a decent potluck dish without throwing a tantrum or bringing in fast food.

        1. Marillenbaum*

          Hell, my late paternal grandmother raised four sons in the 1950s, and still insisted that everyone be able to successfully cook spaghetti and meatloaf before leaving home. Her argument was “no one wants to marry a mess”.

        2. Mandy*

          My dad lived as a bachelor on his own for 15 years before marrying my mom, he likes to cook, will always bring his pineapple pie to a potluck and is generally a better cook than my mom.

      3. K.*

        My dad is a fantastic cook and he learned from his father. (Both his parents were good cooks. Everybody loved going to dinner at their house!) He taught me (a woman) how to cook when I was a kid and I’m really good at it as a result. (I also enjoy it – it’s a hobby.) And honestly, I’d be embarrassed to bring stuff from McDonald’s even if I couldn’t cook. They couldn’t get a veggie plate or something from the grocery store?

        1. OhNo*

          Right? I rarely cook for potlucks because I can’t afford to make the foods I know how to cook for that many people, but at least I’ve got the sense to pick up a veggie platter or cheese tray or some quality baked goods. It’s weird to me that some guys feel no shame about putting so little effort into potlucks that they can’t even be bothered to make a trip to the store.

    1. Maude*

      At old job, every time there was a potluck a male employee would bring a watermelon or other large fruit, bring it to my desk and tell me (a female) it needed to be cut up. I didn’t even work in his department – I was just a woman at a desk. I did it once, then just left it in the break room uncut until he got the message.

      1. Alli525*

        *blank look* “Uh, I mean, obviously the watermelon needs to be cut up, that’s what someone does to a watermelon when they bring it to the potluck. So… what are you going to do about that?”

        honestly, the nerve of some men.

    2. Temperance*

      I will very occasionally make chocolate chip cookies if Booth wants to take them in to work. I’m a very good baker and love it, though, but yeah, it is kind of gender essentialist and creepy.

      1. The Other Katie*

        The male of this household often takes what I bake to work, but that’s a defence mechanism, as I bake far more than is reasonable for us to eat. I think he’s only once asked me to make something, but that was because he genuinely did not have time, not because he didn’t know how. Occasional labour-sharing isn’t really a bad thing, as long as it doesn’t become a habit, right?

        1. Shiara*

          Husband and I have each made stuff for the other person to bring to work events before due to timing issues.

          And he’ll also bring stuff I bake in to work as a defense mechanism because I make too much and I don’t want to bring it in to my work because I want to dodge that reputation as the only woman on my team.

        2. The Ginger Ninja*

          One of my former colleagues used to bring in his wife’s baking, but she mostly baked when she was angry (usually at him)and needed stress relief. He’d bring us brownies or cookies and we’d be like “dude, what did you do this time?”

  31. Henrietta Gondorf*

    My old office (a government law office) used to do regular potlucks and responsibility for monitoring the sign up sheet rotated. On my turn, one of the men (an attorney) came into my office and asked about the sign up sheet and if drinks, paper products, and utensils were already covered. When I said yes, he looked absolutely stricken and said “But what will the men do!?” I said “Learn how to cook.”

    He sulked for the rest of the week and wound up bringing a small plain pizza from shop five minutes away and then whined about not even really liking pizza but being thwarted on bringing sodas.

  32. WG*

    At a nonprofit, we could not use organization funds for personal get-togethers (birthdays, farewells, etc.). I was relatively new to an office where someone else was leaving. The rest of us chose to organize a farewell. One staff member volunteered to do the shopping for food and paper goods and bake a cake. She made clear she wanted to be reimbursed for everything, including the ingredients to make the cake. She provided her receipts and a few of us chipped in to cover all of the cost (meaning the shopper/baker only contributed time, no money). After the event was over, she packaged everything up and took it back to her own office. When someone asked the next day if they could have some of the leftovers, she’d said she’d taken it all home at the end of the prior day.

    Not a bad deal to have all the leftover ingredients from baking the cake (which I’m sure didn’t use all 5 pounds of flour, the full dozen eggs, etc. she was reimbursed for) and all of the leftovers from the party.

    1. Jules the Third*

      meh – there’s a lot of labor involved, I would totally see the leftovers as reimbursing her for her *time*.

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        But the people who provided the ingredients hadn’t been made aware of that part of the deal.

      2. Chickasaurus*

        I disagree; everyone else contributed cash but her, so her time was her contribution (and she volunteered). I could MAYBE see giving her the leftover baking supplies, but the leftover food should have been shared among everyone.

    2. Alli525*

      This is a weird grey area. My office does monthly happy-hour potlucks, where we all throw in $25 (optional) at the beginning of the year and then rotate in teams as hosts and get reimbursed. After the party’s over, whatever’s not eaten usually gets taken home by the people who bought it, unless it’s super easy to eat at one’s desk (like chips/crisps).

      and Jules is right – your coworker may not have used all dozen eggs (although they do come in six-packs now too), but she invested a lot of time out of her evening too, so the leftovers are part of the reimbursement for that.

      1. Candi*

        The food preparer committed only time, but no money.

        The others contributed money, but no time.

        To balance things out, the leftovers at least should have ben portioned out between them all.

  33. Amber Rose*

    The ridiculous: Every so often someone brings in a box of donuts. Someone was using a knife to cut off part of a donut and eat that, and left the other 1/2 to 3/4 of the donut behind. One dude was so upset about this that he bought a box of donuts and cut them all to pieces first.

    The rude: my predecessor was lactose intolerant. They celebrated her last day here with an ice cream cake. Which she obviously ate none of. I thought that was a pretty nasty slap in the face. Yeah, I get that we usually just get ice cream cakes for every event, but it’s not like nobody knew she couldn’t have ice cream. Everyone knew.

    1. Snark*

      “Someone was using a knife to cut off part of a donut and eat that, and left the other 1/2 to 3/4 of the donut behind.”

      There was a person in my old office who would take half a muffin. The top half. I hated her so much.

      1. Health Insurance Nerd*

        Ok, I need to know- is cutting an office donut in half considered rude? We are major donut eaters in my department, and this does happen (and sometimes it’s me) is that bad?????

        1. Snark*

          I mean, I think half is okay, but if you’re cutting off bite-size pieces, just commit and take a walk later.

          But with muffins, you don’t just take the top and leave the bottom like some kind of fucking barbarian. That is just Not Done.

        2. Squeeble*

          I don’t think taking half a donut is a big deal. We have them here every Friday and people do that all the time. Some people are deeply against it, though, so YMMV. Now, the muffin thing…THAT would make me mad.

        3. Amber Rose*

          Eh, it doesn’t bother me. I think it’s just this one guy I work with, it bothers him.

          Don’t like, take a bite out of one, but cutting one with a clean knife is fine.

          1. Squeeble*

            Yeah, and also, cutting a doughnut in half is fine. Once it gets to thirds and quarters and eighths(!!), that’s just gross and unnecessary.

              1. Lissa*

                This is where I’m showing my Canadian pride – you mean Timbits! Like every potluck I’ve gone to has some timbits. This would probably not be true at classier ones but I have never been to one of those.

        4. Grad student*

          Sometimes I think “mmm, I kind of want a donut, but I don’t know if I want a whole donut” and then if I find half a donut in the box I’m delighted.

          1. anon for this one*

            And sometimes I think “I want a cinnamon donut, but I also want a blueberry donut” and I’m thrilled to find someone else had the same idea.

        5. SignalLost*

          I guess it depends on whether it’s motivated by genuine disinterest in the other half of the doughnut or by the belief that dessert is bad (whether displaying that one is counting calories (“I shouldn’t have this but I’ll do an extra half hour on the treadmill” rather than “I don’t want the other half for dietary reasons and feel no need to justify my choices at you”) or orthorexia or whatever). Personally, it drives me insane when people cut doughnuts in half, but that usually has a lot of performative guilt on their part associated with it. Just cut the doughnut in half, eat it, don’t talk about why you only want half, and don’t eat the other half later.

        6. Kris*

          We have donuts every few months in my office, and people regularly will cut donuts in half and take only half. No one in my office considers this rude, to my knowledge.

        7. karou*

          I don’t think so — people at my office cut donuts in half all the time if they only want a bit or to leave more for everyone (e.g. if there are a dozen donuts but more than 12 people on the team).

        8. Amber T*

          There’s someone in my office who cuts up an apple and leaves 3/4 behind. They cut it in half, the cut one half in half again, leaving the rest behind for everyone else. Every. Morning. I’ve yet to figure out who this is, BUT COME ON.

        9. KSM*

          There’s a ‘fancy’ donut shop in my city and from time to time someone brings in donuts from them. Since every donut is fancy and they’re all different flavours, people will take bite-sized pieces of each donut so everyone gets to sample any donut they want. I think that’s reasonable.

        10. Gelliebean*

          There are a bunch of us in my office who have, kind of unspokenly, decided to only cut a donut / bagel / etc. in half if there’s someone to take the other half. Like “Hey, I want a taste of this but I don’t want the whole thing, would you like to split it?” I don’t know if I’d call it rude to just leave half of something, but it seems to contribute to food waste around here because usually no one wants the bit that’s just sitting in the box.

        11. Chriama*

          I hate people who take half and leave the other half in the box. No one is going to take the thing you touched! (Even if you used cutlery and a napkin, psychologically you touched it). Either take it yourself and throw away the uneaten half, or find a buddy to split with ahead of time. Don’t leave it in the box to gross people (me) out.

        12. kc89*

          I wouldn’t say rude, but it can be annoying when everyone does it. It’s not appetizing to see a plate full of bits of donuts instead of actual donuts.

          If you don’t want the full thing I would just find someone to split it with

      2. Amber Rose*

        Whaaat. That’s the best part. That would be like cutting a donut in half sideways and just taking the bit with the icing.

      3. Mockingjay*

        I split donuts all the time with one of the directors. We pretend that the calories don’t count that way. Whoever sees it first slices and leaves half for the other.

        Current job is mellow about things like this. It’s a good place.

      4. MilkMoon (UK)*

        Man, I didn’t realise anyone would have the balls to do that, it is the best half. I’m simultaneously awed and horrified.

      5. Kvothe*

        We call this the half-life of the last piece in our office, it’s pretty much a running joke that you can’t take the last piece of cake/donut/whatever you need to just cut it half and so it continues until it’s literally too small to cut in half

    2. DCGirl*

      Someone at my current job would cut a 1/8 piece out of doughnuts whenever they’re brought in, so her minions have started doing it as well. You’ll approach the box in the kitchen and find five doughnuts with a small slice taken out of each. I don’t know why they can’t go together and, you know, share one god-damn doughnut between them.

    3. Arielle*

      We always bring in cakes for birthdays on our team (reimbursed by our team budget.) On my birthday, my coworker went out of her way to find something for me since she knew I was lactose intolerant and ended up bringing in a fruit tart…full of custard. I could pick some of the fruit off and eat it but that was about it.

      She felt HORRIBLE, she just hadn’t thought about what custard was made of. Ironically, I can eat cheap grocery store cake just fine since the frosting is usually just butter and sugar.

      1. TootsNYC*

        actually, it may be just Crisco and sugar.
        (does butter not have lactose? oh, I see–a Google search shows me it has very, very little)

      2. Azure Jane Lunatic*

        A teammate of mine once (absent-mindedly?) stuck a takeout bowl of soup from the cafeteria into one of her desk drawers. Unfortunately, she then fell very ill (for unrelated reasons) before she remembered to take it out and throw it away. So it was sealed in there for a month or two. She left the company without coming back. Since I was the department admin, it fell to me to sort through her cube to sort the company stuff from her stuff, and to box up her stuff to send to her. The manager was very apologetic. Fortunately, for all that it smelled gross, it was fully contained in the lidded bowl, and I had bags and gloves and a mask. There weren’t any other caches of gross stuff, it was just that one unfortunate bowl of soup.

        The team also had a tradition of a snack table. People brought stuff back from their trips, shared extra treats, or brought stuff for the team on purpose. This was fine until an unusually wet rainy season drove ants into the building from a nest just outside the door. There was a trail about four inches wide between the table and the door.

        It was a huge company, and not everybody had good boundaries about what was leftovers and what was set up for a specific meeting. I learned pretty quickly that I had to stand guard over any food that had to be set up outside a meeting room, and that whenever possible I should ask the catering team to set up inside the room, yes, even though there would be some distraction from the meeting. (Yes, I did work with Ivanova. Different building, though.)

        On a happier note, there was a company-wide opt-in mailing list, called (appropriately), where people would share information about leftovers up for grabs. A few of the lower level executives were on the list, and would sometimes inform us about a late meeting that had been over-catered. We appreciated that.

    4. Cath*

      The woman at my husband’s job who is responsible for getting cakes always gets what SHE wants, not the celebrant. Someone didn’t like chocolate cake, but she got it anyway. My husband can’t eat gluten…yet there was that same chocolate cake.

      1. Snark*

        My coworkers got me a carrot cake for my birthday one year, which was lovely of them, and someone we all barely knew who worked in a different department came in, rolled her eyes, said “I was going to ask for cake, but if it’s not chocolate, what’s even the point?” and flounced out.

        1. nonegiven*

          I hate chocolate cake. It’s like, you’re calling THAT chocolate? Really. I’ll have anything else over that.

    5. pumpkin spice.*

      At my office when we’d have fancy donuts, we’d all always cut 1/4 of whatever donut we wanted to try first. We’d get a box of 12 different flavors and it was considered rude if you took a whole or half of a good flavor like maple bacon, you had to just try a little and leave the rest for other people to try. We definitely were a culture of “cut it into 8ths so everyone gets a chance.” Funny to hear about how angry it makes other people, when that just seemed normal to us!

      1. Amber Rose*

        Oh, we don’t get fancy donuts. Just coffee shop ones with your standard white and chocolate, with and without sprinkles.

      2. Lissa*

        Just as long as somebody let new people know it’s considered rude to take a whole one! Otherwise I imagine some poor person deciding to take a whole doughnut because that’s normal to them and everyone giving them side eye.

    6. Stephenie S Labovitz*

      We had a similar incident. We had a big going-away potluck for a vegetarian gentleman that had worked on our team for several years. I had already seen at other holiday parties that the company-ordered meat entree (that they collected money from every team member to purchase) would be ham or pork ribs even though half of our team was muslim or jewish. So I made several main dish items for his going-away party that were vegetarian to make sure he would have enough to eat. Out of the entire potluck, my 3 dishes were the only thing the guest of honor could eat. Everything else had meat in it.

      As rude as I know it makes me, I was so mad about this insensitivity that after the meal (out of his hearing range) I went to each person who supplied food and pointedly asked them why they brought food that they knew he couldn’t eat for his party to make sure people realized what they’d done.

    7. Pineapple Incident*

      I used to work with very health-conscious nurses who ALWAYS did this when someone brought it donuts. I was one of maybe 4 people on a unit of 50 staff on various shifts who would take a whole donut out of the box and eat it in one go. Lots of people would return to the breakroom and cut off 1/4 of a donut at a time out of diet-shame and eat it in secret. I loved working with these people, but always thought that was bizarre.

  34. nisie*

    My story- we had moved into a new office building and been merged with another department. I put bottled water into the fridge in the Morning and it was gone. I made the label larger, and it was gone. I put tape over the top of the water bottle and it was gone.

    Until I was in the cafeteria and saw that a big wig was ignoring my stuff, and drinking it. I went up and smiled and informed her that was my water. She stated she thought it was free. I smiled again and knowing she was in charge of the budget, cheerfully said that it didn’t appear we spent money on water bottles.

    My crazy boss jumped me for that one and I escalated it to her boss (who was the same level as the thief). No water was ever taken. I also learned the thief stole her employees foods unless in a bag where she couldn’t see it.

    1. Turtlewings*

      From her own employees… I just… Food thieves make me so nuts. How can they just blatantly steal other people’s stuff?? How do they live with themselves? (I mean obviously they don’t have consciences but I just can’t understand the mindset.)

      1. nisie*

        This happened in July, I was out of there by end of November. The dysfunction that existed was massive- mostly around crazy boss. But yes, that was very typically for the manager.

    2. ggg*

      I was this bad person once. Our admin would sometimes bring water that was leftover from meetings, and leave it in our office fridge. So when I saw water in the fridge I would take one. After a month, I found out someone was actually bringing in their own personal water, and here I was totally drinking it right in front of him, but he was too nice to say anything about it.

      1. Monsters of Men*

        Seems like an honest mistake though! I doubt you’d continue if your coworker had labelled and taped it.

    3. Girl friday*

      Your boss jumped you? That might mean something different where I’m from…? The thief outranks your boss? So many questions.

  35. Commenter One*

    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 (11:30a) 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/ranting’s/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.

    1. Turtlewings*

      Oh my gosh, I would have climbed out a window if necessary. Lunch is about me and my food and my book.

      1. JustaTech*

        There was a company in Seattle that was profiled for having these “all company” lunches, except maybe they also cooked the lunch together too?
        The phrase “we’re like a family here” was used.

  36. TheBenefits Guy*

    I worked in a hotel for several years when I was young. One manager always made her carrot salad for every pot luck meal. I’m not a fan of carrot salad with raisins, so I would always pass. One year, a new employee mentioned that said salad had a few hairs in it, 2-4 inches each. Turns out the maker had long-hair Chihuahuas who had the run of her home. One of the women in the office ran for the ladies room upon hearing that, returning with a queasy look on her face a few moments later.

  37. Health Insurance Nerd*

    At a startup tech company that I worked for years ago, someone brought in cake to celebrate something (baby? wedding?). When they went to get they cake they discovered that someone had helped themselves to a piece. Terrible on its own, yes, but this person had taken a piece right out of the MIDDLE of the cake (and it literally looked like they had used their hand to do it). It was awful and came off as incredibly passive aggressive, and we never figured out who the culprit was.

  38. Grits McGee*

    I posted last year about a coworker who insisted on having gummie zombie body part candy as decoration for our holiday party, and literally burst into tears in a supervisor’s office because she was told no by the other party planners.

    Readers, she’s still got the same candy and wants us to have it at this year’s party.

    1. Magenta Sky*

      So, not only is it inappropriate to begin with, now it’s stale, too boot. There are few things worse than stale gumnie candy.

  39. not my usual name*

    I’m going to out myself with this one because it’s so specific. This isn’t quite a bad food story, but it goes with yesterday’s discussion of what constitutes an appropriate office prank.

    I used to work overseas in an office with almost all Americans (I am also American) and my boss loooooooooooved Starburst. Any time we went home we would all bring back treats for the others, and it was common knowledge that you should put a bag of Starburst for the office in your luggage (we all ate them, but it was definitely mostly for the boss). One person brought one of those 16oz bags back, and the boss was ecstatic. So when he was otherwise occupied, my coworkers and I hid all of the Starburst except the yellows (because really, who LOVES yellow Starburst?). His reaction was amazing, but I also learned that I cannot do office pranks because my face gave the plot away within seconds.

        1. Rainy*

          Orange starburst tastes exactly like orange chapstick, and has the same mouthfeel.

          (Don’t judge, I ate an orange chapstick one time. I was 3 and didn’t have a firm grasp on the difference between food and not-food–and if you’d ever eaten my mum’s cooking you’d understand why.)

    1. LadyKelvin*

      I just played a “prank” on my coworker with starbursts. I brought in some of our leftover halloween candy for the office candy dish and it was skittles and starbursts. She mentioned that she loved starbursts so before I put the candy out for the general population I pulled a handful of the 2 pack starburst candies out to give to her. She wasn’t at her desk when I got there so I stashed a few in places where it might take her a day or two to find, while leaving the rest on her desk. When she found the first one she told me, and I let her know how many I had hidden and that I had only put them in places that were readily available (so I didn’t go through any of her stuff). She thought it was the best thing ever.

    2. Amber T*

      I read this as Starbucks first and I was very, very confused. Also, yellows are my favorite and I think pink is the worst (apparently I’m a terrible human being).

      1. Rainy*

        You’re not a terrible human but you and I should be friends. You can have all my yellows and I will eat all the pink ones.

    3. JGRAY*

      Oh my gosh my type of thread. I worked at a company where the CEO hated orange starbursts so he would go through the candy dish on my desk (candy paid for by company) opening all of the fun size starburst eating a bunch & leaving the orange. I discovered he was doing this when I came in one morning to the garbage from the starburst he ate and a pile of orange ones. He came in right after me and sheepishly said sorry this is my garbage. Where the whole time I had been wondering where the random orange starburst were coming from.

  40. CR*

    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.

    1. Jules the Third*

      I would be all over them, personally. I love raw green bell peppers. One room mate mentioned he was looking at me funny because he’d ‘never seen someone eat a pepper like an apple before’.

      It’s my parents’ fault.

        1. Jules the Third*

          hahaha – no, they just always had a large garden, so my afternoon snack was usually walking into the back yard and picking something. I loved the fruit, but sometimes the choice was peppers or brussel sprouts.

      1. paul*

        We use them as a side dish at my house. Bonus points if the funny colored ones are on sale so you can make a festive fall spread with bell peppers of various colors and butternut squash (which was served with a green chile pork stew last night at our house)

  41. Hermione*

    Not THAT weird compared to other stories I’m sure will be shared, but a few years ago I had been running too late to make my lunch before work, so I grabbed the packs of deli meat and bread I had bought the night before and carried them with me to work in my lunch bag, which I then stored in the staff fridge.

    Well, sometime between 9 am and 12:30 pm, someone stole an entire week’s worth of deli meats from my labeled lunch bag. I was so angry. I had to pay something like $10 I didn’t really have to buy a salad nearby, and I had to figure out lunches for the rest of my week with money I hadn’t budgeted for. I never put food in that fridge again. The kicker? It was a slow period, and only a few people were around the office. Every single person who had access to that fridge that week made at least $70k more than me in salary.

    It made me ramp up my job search, to be honest. It feels petty to write out now, but who does that? Taking a few pieces for your own lunch? That’s gross, but fine, I guess I get it. But the entire thing? Screw you, you ham-stealing jerk.

    1. Turtlewings*

      I don’t think it’s petty at all. That shows you something really important about the people above you in the organization. :/

    2. CM*

      I’m generally opposed to the officewide shaming email, but in your case I think it would have been warranted.

    3. Rebecca in Dallas*

      Who does that?! And what did they do with an entire package of ham for the rest of the day? I hope they got trichinosis (or whatever you get from pork that’s gone bad).

      1. Candi*

        Trichinosis is a parasite, communicable to humans, so someone would have some ‘splainin’ to do.

        General food poisoning is a little mild for this kind of theft.

  42. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

    Back at OldJob, one of the managers would bring in boxes and boxes and boxes of these large chocolate Easter egg candies (not Cadbury) and set them out. During my last year there, we had a newbie who had some… hm. interesting ideas about cause and effect and also very little ability to modulate her tone or volume. We also had a long-time coworker with diabetes who liked to joke about how he was going to pig out on sugar and make sure he died on company time.

    End result? Newbie yelling for the entire floor to hear about how sugar was the worst drug and he was better off just shooting himself full of heroin, then grabbing a chocolate egg off his desk and cramming it in her mouth.

  43. LegalStaff*

    At OldJob, a couple of the secretaries went for fancy pizza at lunch. Two leftover pieces were stored in a box in the fridge to be taken home for dinner. At the end of the day, the leftover owner found the box, in the fridge, with two crusts inside. If you’re going to steal food, I don’t know why you wouldn’t throw the box away to hide the evidence. Why leave it in the fridge?

    1. skweeks50*

      I work on a team of about 14 people and one day we all decided to chip in and order pizza for lunch. We had enough leftovers to save for the next day so the woman that ordered the pizza marked the number of pieces left on each box, taped it closed, and put in in the fridge.
      The next day she pulled out the pizza for lunch and someone had opened each box and taken 2-3 pieces, taped it shut, and put it back in the fridge.
      We have a big food theft problem in our office so cameras were installed outside of the kitchen area earlier this year. They reviewed the footage and fired the person that walked out with random pizza.
      We also had someone steal 6 frozen pizzas and a box of garlic bread out of our freezer a few weeks ago. No word on if they are going to review the footage for that one.

  44. DCGirl*

    I worked for an employer where I was sometimes sent to a remote office in Saint Mary’s County, MD, at times. As a result, I was invited to their holiday party. Saint Mary’s County is firmly located in Southern Maryland, and there’s a local delicacy called stuffed ham that always has to make an appearance at any potluck there.

    The issue is that some of the worst outbreaks of food poisoning in Maryland have been caused by stuffed ham. Seriously, Google “stuffed ham food poisoning,” and look for the stories — the most well-known incident occurred from a church supper in 1997, when 700 people got sick, 100 went to the hospital, and 2 elderly folks died. Basically, the population of an entire small town was flat on their back for days from it.

    So, I was utterly terrified about trying it and got so much crap about it, it wasn’t funny. I was teased, cajoled, mocked…. you name it. I’ll normally try most anything at a potluck, but not that.

    1. Southern Maryland Ham, Oyster, and Crab Eater*

      I am from Saint Mary’s County! I love stuffed ham. There is an art to making it correctly. It is NOT a quick process and you need the proper kind of ham (brined).

      My favorite place to get a ham (if I don’t make one) is a store in the same town that the infamous 1977 church food poisoning event occurred in! It’s soooo good.

    2. JeanB in NC*

      I lived in St Mary’s County for about 7 years when I was young, and I never even heard of stuffed ham! I’ll have to ask some friends who still live there about it.