the determined thief, the cranberry usurper, and other work potlucks gone wrong

As Americans prepare for a ton of eating this week, here are 10 of my favorite stories you shared about potlucks and other food gatherings at work earlier this month.

1. The banana bread

“I managed a department of about 15 people. One lady was extremely proud (and vocal) regarding her banana bread (this was years before Covid and the national obsession of baking banana bread). Once, I joined the conversation and mentioned my mother also had a wonderful recipe my family loves. I will spare you the details, but within a day or so, I found myself embroiled in Bananagate as the Manager Who Cruelly Insisted Her Recipe Was Better. The only way to settle it was a bake-off, which I tried mightily to nix (my staff was an unhappy bunch, no need to poke a bear … or baker). My director saw an opportunity to bond, and said I needed to participate.

It was just the two of us, and no offense intended, even after all these years, but her bread was bad. Real bad. Black crust, liquid center (how is that even possible?). I will sheepishly admit I might have baked a half-dozen loaves, because the weight of my family’s place in banana bread history was riding on this. Of the six, I brought the best-lookin’ one to work. It was no contest, really – mine was judged superior. I was modest and humble and said next to nothing.

My fellow baker/staff member was incensed and being the most vocal member of the (union) department, called her rep to complain. The grounds? My “sway” with the staff (I had no sway, they hated me) gave me an unfair advantage, which was the only reason I won. The union, needing to do due diligence, phoned me for my ‘side.’ I had so many real issues to deal with, Bananagate needed to be put to rest quickly, so I told them to just have their baker/member bring in a loaf and then, call me. I heard later that she did provide a loaf to them … but they never called me again.”

2. The determined thief

“OldWork used to order tons of food for events so they could bring out the leftovers the next day. It was all food that would still be awesome the next day like Mexican, pasta, and BBQ. But then the leftovers were disappearing from the fridge overnight. I’m talking about dozens of catering trays of food were being taken by someone going into the office after hours.

It got so bad that they installed a lock on the catering fridge to prevent the theft of the food. The lock was broken off and the fridge damaged the first night it was installed. I guess if you’re going to all that trouble to steal food, you aren’t going to let a lock stand in your way.”

3. The missed point

“The most awkward company meeting I ever sat through was when the branch manager had to address our entire staff over the people who would blatantly pack up plates and plates of food for their families before anyone else got any food at any event. One staff member stood up and shouted, ‘So I can’t feed my kids??!!’ and the meeting devolved into arguments between food packers and party planners from there.”

4. The warm gooey

“This happened about a decade ago. Not exactly a potluck, we were having a special dinner for my team to celebrate successfully navigating the high profile opening of the theme park attraction we all worked at. A VP was putting it on (he was VERY senior to us, we were front line, just for context) and I ended up sitting next to him. There was a dessert on the menu that was called something like ‘Warm and Gooey Chocolate Cake,’ which I ordered. Once it arrived and I was digging in, the VP leaned over to me and breathily whispered right into my ear ‘…how’s that warm gooey?’ He was like 35 years my senior. I was so grossed out that I immediately lost my appetite and to this day my best friend (who was also on that team) and I will creepily ask each other ‘how’s that warm gooey’ at like … the grossest, most inopportune moments (like, we used to work at a theme park, and I might ask her this as she was cleaning up vomit). I don’t know what he was doing, I don’t know if he was hitting on me or being intentionally creepy OR thought he was just asking a normal question in a normal way? I don’t know. But the words ‘warm’ and ‘gooey’ used together in any context still skeeve me out.”

5. The stew

“Our department used to have a huge holiday potluck every year. One coworker would always bring the same thing every year, a certain stew. But it wasn’t enough that he brought it; he hyped it up. Like, he’d send emails beforehand to the whole department alerting everyone that he was bringing his stew! On the morning of the potluck, he’d let everyone know what time the stew would be arriving! And send a special email thanking everyone that helped him do his job, and the stew was his repayment. It was like he believed the entire potluck revolved around his stew. (It didn’t.)

Thing is, I don’t think anyone actually liked the stew. I think the only people who tried it were new people to the department that hadn’t tried it before.”

6. The gravy

“Some years ago I was working at a nonprofit that held an annual Thanksgiving potluck. It was great – the company provided the turkey and we all brought in sides and desserts, and there was always a ton of delicious food. Well, one year I was in line behind a coworker, Jane, who was serving herself turkey and gravy when she lost her grip and somehow, I’m not sure how, caused a plume of gravy to rocket up to the ceiling and then arc inexorably down onto the president of the organization. It was probably his first week on the job, he was extremely cool about it. Jane nearly died of embarrassment, however.

There was still a gravy stain on that ceiling when the nonprofit relocated a few years later.”

7. The brisket

“The grossest work potluck story is from a potluck I was not invited to, but which became legendary. Backstory: When I worked the night shift at the IRS, we shared our desks with the workers on day shift. The desks were designed with 2 locking overhead shelves so that we could lock away our personal items and work materials at the end of our shift.

One night, my coworker complained that there was BLOOD dripping into his desk from his day shift desk mate’s locked shelf. Our manager was as upset as he was, but since no one had a key, we had to resign ourselves to sending a sternly worded email to the daytime manager to please look into what was going on, and coworker was allowed to move desks for the night.

It took a couple days, but gradually we found out the blood was from an uncooked brisket that the daytime worker had left locked in his desk shelf. Apparently, his team had a potluck scheduled the next day, so he decided to leave the meat (unrefrigerated!) overnight. The next morning, he showed up with a crockpot and proceeded to season and cook the brisket in the crockpot. In the meantime, the daytime manager came by to enquire about the emailed complaint that she’d received from the night manager, but daytime worker just shrugged and offered up no details. HE ENDED UP SERVING THE BRISKET TO HIS WHOLE TEAM!

Daytime manager ended up staying late to talk to nighttime manager when she came in, and that’s when the pieces were put together. Daytime worker was sternly lectured, but suffered no other consequences. I don’t know how many people at that potluck suffered gastrointestinal distress, but it makes me nauseated just thinking about it!”

8. The ziplocs

“Once upon a time I worked for a federal agency. Federal lifers are an eccentric lot, but this one guy was amazing when it came to potlucks. We got paid well, and he was in the higher salary bracket, so I’m not really sure why he needed to race in every potluck and overload his plates, then grab extras. If you weren’t fast enough, food would be all squirreled away at his desk. It never made sense because he’d eat out every day at the local spots so it wasn’t a money thing.

He was then moved to another office across the facility so suddenly everything went back to normal until he had to deliver something to our office. It was a potluck day, and there was a spaghetti feed going on. Since he could no longer pile up food at his old desk, he instead grabbed 3 gallon ziplock bags, and took. a pair of tongs and literally filled three gallons of spaghetti that other staff had made and brought.

Nobody dared say anything due to his position, while they watched in motion until the old admin that nobody crossed finally came in and told him to get out before he could get a 4th gallon of spaghetti.”

9. The cranberry usurper

“In the pre-Covid days we had a Thanksgiving potluck. I signed up to bring pumpkin pie bars.

Well, I was doing my potluck cooking while also doing my Friendsgiving cooking, making my pie and some cranberry sauce at the same time. In a moment where I forgot how measurements worked I ended up making an absurd amount of cranberry sauce – just over 2 gallons. Friendsgiving was small (6 people) and my family is small (5 people) so I figured I’d pack up half the sauce and bring it to the work potluck since I had it.

This was the wrong decision.

Our office manager had apparently signed up for cranberry sauce and HOW DARE I try to take over her item. She gave the expected greeting to the potluck lunch, burst into tears and then called me out for ‘being disrespectful’ and ‘humiliating her’ and asked me to please come up and throw away my ‘usurper cranberries.’

I did go put them at my desk because WTF but also people still talk about this.”

10. Something nicer

“One of our coworkers was a daughter of a Laotian immigrant who taught traditional cooking classes at the local community center. Her spring rolls were legendary. The daughter would always bring a large tray – enough for at least 1 per person if not 2 – of them to the annual all-company holiday potluck (300 people). You could always tell when her dish arrived – first you would hear murmurs, then a dull roar, an email would go out, and then a stampede down stairwell. Even people who usually abstained from the potluck would go down and get at least one.

One year…she and the precious spring rolls weren’t there. We found out the mom was in a bad car accident a couple days prior and was not expected to make it so daughter was at her bedside. A collection was taken and PTO was donated (company matched all offerings) and mom sadly passed after a few more days (shortly before Christmas).

First day the company was open after New Year’s there is a commotion at the front door. This employee and her entire family came to the main entrance with THOUSANDS of these spring rolls for the employees as a thank you for donations and financial/PTO assistance. We feasted. I happened to work in the department next to hers and for several months following, whenever she was missing her mother she made those spring rolls and brought some in to share with our floor. I left there 2 years ago but timed my last day to coincide with the annual potluck so I would have one last chance at those spring rolls.”

{ 323 comments… read them below or add one }

      1. Plebeian Aristocracy*

        10/10 Had the same thought. But I also had it about the banana bread, which is admittedly far less extreme

        Reply
        1. Artemesia*

          Banana bread is so easy that it is hard to imagine someone making such bad banana bread that a union would accept that as an argument for not representing them LOL.

          Reply
      2. The Original K.*

        I was in the grocery store yesterday and saw those King’s Hawaiian rolls and *immediately* thought of that story.

        Reply
        1. MP*

          I don’t know this story about “cheap ass rolls”. But my whole family loves them. They love them so much that one year someone decided to bring the fancy rolls and everyone was, “where are the regular rolls we get?” Next year we went back to the cheap rolls.

          Reply
          1. SarahKay*

            Search for “coworkers say we shouldn’t attend a work party, I feel insulted by my new job, and more” together with “ask a manager” on google and with luck it will be the first result. It’s from 21st Nov 2019, and is the second question down.

            Reply
              1. JJ Bittenbinder*

                Doing the lord’s work here. Thank you.

                I love that Alison’s answer to that question is one sentence long. One pointed, accurate sentence.

                Reply
      3. JJ Bittenbinder*

        My husband bought the King’s Hawaiian rolls the other day and was talking about how much he likes them. I tried to explain the cheap ass rolls to him and my kids and…it lost something in the translation. But I cannot look at them without thinking of that.

        Reply
    1. Jls521*

      I’ve long wondered if cheap ass rolls lady still visits this blog. I’m debating whether the reaction to her story was a wake up call and she has grown up and become a normal adult. Or did she huff off swearing to never return, still convinced that she was right. Man, she goes down in AAM history for me. Right along both the budding corporate lawyer who refused to give up his/her seat on the train to an old man, then smudged bike grease on a woman’s coat with no apology. Turns out that the old man and the woman were the wife and FIL of the CEO. That intern thought it was the wife’s fault that he/she didn’t get hired permanently. Sure, had nothing to with refusing to be a decent person. Of course not. Those two were off the wall.

      Reply
      1. Meri*

        Ah, yes, and then he complained in the update that career services had mentioned being polite to the receptionist as an interviewing trick.

        Reply
    2. EchoGirl*

      I just don’t get people like that. I told a story in the original thread about how, due to a minor miscommunication, a coworker and I ended up bringing in identical cakes for another coworker’s birthday. At most, I was maybe a little annoyed at “aw, geez, if I’d known she was going to do it I wouldn’t have made the extra trip to get it/gone through the hassle of carrying a cake on the bus”; it never would have occurred to me to actually be offended or think that my coworker was somehow doing it AT me. Mostly I just found the whole thing funny for the sheer absurdity of both of us managing to get the exact same cake from two different store chains miles apart with absolutely zero intent.

      Reply
      1. Still breathing*

        I had a boss who was a fabulous baker and was famous throughout the building for a particular type of specialty cake. Let’s say German Chocolate. Whenever he would bring a cake in for a function he would bring enough to feed at least 40 or 60 people and it was the first thing gone.
        And then the next day, one normal sized German Chocolate cake would show up in the break room. They improved over time but still looked like they were assembled by small children. No one took credit (or blame) and only one piece was ever out of it each time. There was no evidence in the building of the missing slice. It was creepy.
        The boss switched it up one time and made a full sheet cake, yellow with chocolate icing on one side, chocolate with vanilla icing on the other. The next day found two cupcakes in that formation, each with a small sliver removed, on the table.
        A creepy lower level manager in a different department died suddenly the next week and an imitation cake never appeared again. The boss didn’t even know the guy. I’m still weirded out by it and I left there 7 years ago.

        Reply
        1. Princesss Sparklepony*

          OK, I was thinking that having the cake in the break room with a slice gone was done to encourage people to cut their own slices. Sometimes people don’t want to be the first to take a piece. But cupcakes with a slice out of them – that’s just super weird.

          Did the imitation cakes taste any good? Or was everyone too weirded out to try them? I could be someone trying to perfect his own recipe – or he was intent on poisoning you all – you never know….

          Reply
    1. ThatGirl*

      I’m getting a little emotional here over it! So sweet. I’ve had that style of spring roll – there was a Laotian family at my church when I was a kid who made them – and they are, indeed, extremely delicious.

      Reply
      1. Heffalump*

        Nice story indeed. I like spring rolls but have never had Laotian ones. Now I’m going to do an online search for Laotian restaurants in my city.

        It’s good that the mother’s spring roll recipe didn’t die with her.

        Reply
    2. Eden*

      I was really worried it would end more like “and then employees pestered them at the hospital” or something, based on the general themes of the other stories… Glad it did not go in that direction.

      Reply
      1. Kippy*

        Me too! I actually was prepared to cringe and marvel at the greed and tone deafness of some people. But! Then it was a heartwarming tale instead!

        Reply
      2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        I was dreading that we would hear that – and I’m so happy that the company as a whole went for “how can we make this time a little easier for you?”

        I’ve worked someplace that went the opposite way – in the end it was part of why I left.

        Reply
    1. Susie*

      I just picked up a pack of the not-cheap-ass rolls (Kings Hawaiian) for Thanksgiving, because of that story. I want to see if they are better than my usual cheap-ass rolls (Ingles brand). Will report back on the Dec. 3 open thread.

      Reply
        1. MBK*

          “This cranberry sauce is so good! What’s your secret?”
          “It takes time for the flavors to come together. You can’t just serve it right away. You have to let it linger.”

          Reply
    1. DrMrsC*

      My specialty clinic used to care for a lovely lady who’s family brought her to the US from Thailand for medical treatment. While we were taking care of her, family members would intermittently show up just before lunch with a roasting pan (like the size you would cook a Thanksgiving turkey in!) full of some amazing Thai dish. Even after she sadly passed, for about a year the family would still show up at least once a month to feed us as a thank you. The food was incredible, but the connection meant so much more to us. The spring roll story made my heart melt for that patient all over again (and obviously made me crave amazing, home cooked Thai food!)

      Reply
  1. Mary*

    The entitlement and delusion in all of these (except the last one, that was nice) is honestly breathtaking to me. I’m particularly struck by the well-off admin who hogged all the food, but I understand why he did it (which is not to say that I endorse or condone it). There’s really nothing like good home cooking when you’ve been eating at restaurants for a long time so I suspect that he didn’t cook much for himself and selfishly jumped on the chance to take more than his fair share of homemade food.

    Reply
    1. morethanbeingtired*

      This is what I assume about that guy, too! I know people who make good money, eat out all the time- but they can’t cook and go hog-wild for home cooked food.

      Reply
    2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      People like that make me wonder if they grew up food insecure or hungry. They never knew where or when the next meal would be, so they hoarded food.

      Reply
      1. My heart is a fish*

        I battled an eating disorder for several years that prominently featured food hoarding as one of my most ingrained disordered behaviors. I thought of that time while reading about him, but I think it doesn’t necessarily imply. Many people are simply selfish! What’s the saying — there are some people who take one slice of pizza because there may not be enough for everyone, and some people who take three slices because there may not be enough for everyone.

        Reply
      2. Elizabeth West*

        I do this sometimes because when I moved away for a while after college, I had no money and literally had next to nothing to eat for a while. Now I’m like a cat who freaks out when they see the bottom of the bowl—if there’s any space in the cabinet, I get anxious.

        But I don’t make a hog of myself at the potluck. If there are leftovers and nobody wants them, THEN I’ll take as much as you want to give me.

        Reply
        1. Kat in Boots*

          Elizabeth, it sounds like you’re more sensitive to and aware of social conventions and others’ feelings than some of the people who develop problems with food. So you (rightly, appropriately) recognize that a you need to have a handle on this in public spaces like the work place.
          I believe lack of social awareness is a big reason why we end up seeing such bizarre food-related behaviour at work; some people are simply clueless about how much they are deviating from social norms (or they believe the norms don’t apply to them for some reason, which is more of a jerk move).

          Reply
    1. y*

      I had not refreshed my screen so I did not see the other comments, but nice to know so many of us are on the same page so to speak.

      Reply
        1. Rob aka Mediancat*

          With our tongs, and our sauce,
          And our sauce, and our spoons,
          On that plate, with that can, you’re inciting . . .

          Reply
      1. Not Your Sweetheart*

        I read that as “applesauce” (it’s early) and wondered if you were being cute, or suggesting another side dish.

        Reply
    1. allathian*

      Love the lyrics! Especially because my son’s class performed Zombie at school last year. Their teacher shot it on video and shared it in the parents’ WhatsApp group when there was no end of the school year event, because Covid.

      Reply
  2. phlask*

    Oh, thank you for the spring roll story! I mean, the other stories are hilarious but I really needed to hear something as lovely as #10 today

    Reply
  3. CalypsoSummer*

    #10 – spring rolls

    I quite understand the employees’ enthusiasm for the spring rolls! I used to live in a place that had a large Filipino population, and we LOVED potlucks! All the nice Filipino ladies who worked there would bring lumpia, and while no one actually mugged them as they were carrying in those huge trays, we would appear out of the woodwork as they arrived, and absolutely stuff ourselves while making loud appreciative noises. Ahhhh, the good ole days . . .

    Reply
    1. anonymous73*

      I have a few Filipino friends and one of them makes THE best lumpia! But if you call them egg rolls or spring rolls, you’ll get the death stare LOL

      Reply
      1. LikesToSwear*

        One of the very few things I miss since moving to the East Coast (from Southern California) is easily available frozen lumpia at the grocery store.

        And now if I do manage to find it, I can’t introduce my husband to the amazingness of lumpia because he’s got Celiac.

        Reply
    2. LunaLena*

      Oh my gosh YES. I used to work at a place that had a large group of Cambodian employees, and whenever there was a celebration to be had, the older ladies in the group would bring in a veritable feast of spring rolls, noodle dishes, and other amazing foods. I gave one lady a coconut one day because I had mentioned I didn’t know what to do with it and she said to give it to her, and the next day she came back with a delicious coconut and sticky rice treat. They were amazingly generous folks.

      Reply
    3. jiggle mouse*

      Just commented downthread about missing the AMAZING heaps of pancit & lumpia my Filipino coworkers would bring in for parties. My best high school friend is Filipina and her mom made the best food ever. Even most normal family dinners the dining table looked like a party buffet….

      Reply
    4. Elizabeth West*

      We had a Filipino coworker at OldExjob and she would bring lumpia in for potlucks sometimes. You had to hustle if you wanted any because they’d vanish in a twinkling.

      Reply
  4. WantonSeedStitch*

    #7 makes me want to HURL. #1 makes me wonder how bad a manager this person was that their entire staff hated them so.

    Reply
    1. Stella70*

      I am that manager, that was my story.
      The department had a long history of the staff being miserable. They didn’t really like each other, didn’t like the work (sterilizing OR equipment and stocking the inventory), didn’t like the location (in the basement, next to the morgue), etc. However, they were the only union department whose hours were stable – no layoffs, cutbacks, unexpected call-ins to cover shifts, and the least number of weekends worked per year. So, instead of looking at the totality of their work, they focused like lasers on the negative — and no matter how hard I and the previous managers tried, it was nearly impossible to break that “woe is us” mentality.

      Reply
      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        Ahh yes – the department where the whole department goes woe is me – despite the good things they do have.

        Reply
      2. Dr. Rebecca*

        *raises hand* I would LOVE to sterilize OR equipment/stock inventory next to the morgue. The type of job you must do well but could also do proficiently after a bit of training, plus the quietest of all departments next door? Sign me up!

        Reply
        1. bkanon*

          Yes please! Stocking inventory is one of my favorite things, only surpassed by counting inventory and then recording it on an inventory sheet!

          Reply
    2. Sparkles McFadden*

      Observation from my experience: When half the people in the department hate the manager, it is a manager problem. When EVERYONE in the department hates the manager, it’s the workplace and its culture that’s the problem, not the manager.

      Reply
    3. Observer*

      Given what the person went to the union about, it’s hard to say that the manager was the problem.

      Something very wrong there, but it seems like a broader problem.

      Reply
    4. GammaGirl1908*

      This entire story reminds me of the episode of Sports Night (Thespis?) where Dana is thawing a turkey in the light grid to see how long it will take. The turkey starts dripping onto the anchor desk during the broadcast, and eventually slides out of the grid and lands on the desk with a very wet thud.

      If you never watched Sports Night, the premise was the behind-the-scenes of a SportsCenter type highlight show. Picture a raw turkey suddenly landing on the news desk during a broadcast.

      Reply
  5. Phony Genius*

    I’m wondering about the union rep in #1. Let’s say, for the sake of argument, you had improperly influenced the outcome of the bake-off. Is that somehow an actionable union violation? If not, why would they do due diligence to see if a nonexistent rule was violated?

    Reply
    1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

      I was thinking a few things. 1) They have to investigate every complaint. 2) They want to investigate to see if this is the tip of the iceberg and maybe being used as a cry for help. 3) This person was a serial complainer who made the rep’s (or previous rep’s) life difficult with monthly stuff, but it was easier to respond to it than to shut her down. 4) The rep thought hey, free banana bread. :)

      Reply
        1. CalypsoSummer*

          I think the union rep should have asked OP for a loaf of his/her banana bread, for comparison purposes. Plus, I mean, THAT banana bread won the competition, right? Who wouldn’t want a slice of that?

          Reply
    2. EPLawyer*

      To shut up the complaining union member. Yes dues paying member we are looking into how you so unfairly lost the bake off you demanded. Go back to work and we will let you know the outcome.

      Reply
    3. Stella70*

      I am the manager in that story. The union actually worked collaboratively with me, there was no hostility. I had a challenging staff and the more we worked together, the faster the frivolous complaints could be shut down. For my part, I encouraged them to talk to their reps (why not? They pay dues!) and for them, they investigated nearly everything, so staff would feel “heard”. I was a bit surprised when she “grieved” the baking contest results, but no harm really came from it for either of us.

      Reply
        1. Stella70*

          I was never offered any prior to the Bake-Off, nor did I ever see any. From her actions that day, it seemed like she was as proud of it as she ever was, so I think it was typical. I have seen really “wet” banana bread, that some people love, so maybe it was just an extreme version of that? Perhaps that is all she ever knew? Still a mystery…..

          Reply
          1. CalypsoSummer*

            I’ve made banana bread for decades, and I have NEVER had a runny or liquid center to any of the loaves I’ve made. I’m trying to figure out what the heck she did to cause that, and I’m not coming up with anything reasonable. Maybe . . . she froze the bananas in a solid mass, mixed the rest of the ingredients together, and poured them over the frozen banana chunk? And then put the whole mess into the oven?

            But — who the heck would do THAT?

            Reply
            1. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

              too hot oven and trying to finish the baking too quickly, I would assume — it gets overdone quickly on the outside while the middle stays raw. I usually bake my quick breads with tinfoil over the edges of the pan for the last 20ish minutes so that it doesn’t get blackened/hard while the center continues to cook.

              Reply
              1. Nessun*

                Sounds right to me – I’m a horrible baker and I’ve done both (black and runny!!). But of course I’m not about to say I’m any good at banana bread, nor would I encourage anyone to put their family recipe against mine…I’d lose, and no one should eat this stuff I made!

                Reply
            2. Uranus Wars*

              I have had this happen – on accident. But honestly, I don’t know what I did! It looked sooooo beautiful. And then I sliced it and banana pudding came oozing out.

              Reply
            3. dePizan*

              I had something kind of like that happen to me with pumpkin bread before. My sister came in mid-stream to try to help me and we were doubling the recipe. I had already put in the pumpkin, which she didn’t realize as it wasn’t mixed yet and was kind of hiding underneath some other ingredients; so she added in even more before I realized what she was doing. The outside of the loaf cooked perfectly. The inside wasn’t exactly runny, but it was very….warm and gooey.
              And yet my family, the ravenous wolves that they are, ate all of it anyway.

              Reply
            4. whingedrinking*

              There are people who legitimately have no idea how a dish is supposed to turn out and are pleased with their results, so they assume everyone else will be too. Often, though not always, as a result of growing up in a house with a parent who’s a terrible cook/baker. (“Just like Mom used to make” is not always a good thing.) Or they’re trying to make something they’re not familiar with at all. I went to a dinner party one time where the hostess had made Yorkshire puddings, and they were like hockey pucks. She was, however, very proud of herself for trying a new recipe and said she was going to make them again. I didn’t say anything about it because I didn’t want to be rude and hey, she seemed to genuinely like them, so chacun a son gout. But I think she’s in for a shock if she’s ever served Yorkshire pudding somewhere else.

              Reply
              1. Alice*

                “Just like Mom used to make”…

                Ah. My partner is an excellent cook and after I started dating him I have realised that my mum does not cook very well. The main problem is her recipes are very bland. But I still love my mum’s cooking! I’ve eaten it for decades and I’m so used to it that sometimes I complain that normal food is too salty or too seasoned because it’s not what I’m used to.

                So I have no problems believing that Banana Bread Lady thought her recipe was good (although the loaf described seems horrible, but if that’s what she was used to, why not?)

                Reply
                1. Princesss Sparklepony*

                  This makes me laugh because my ex’s mother was a bad cook. (My mom is a good cook if you like country Italian with the fat content halved.) So my ex MIL was a stereotypical English cook that they make jokes about. She could bake something from scratch and it would taste like it came out of a box with the cardboard still in it.

                  So one night going home from a dinner, we asked each other in unison What did you think? He answered bad, I answered fine. Follow up question Why? In unison we both answered Because it was tasteless. I felt that was a step up from her usual inedible fare. You could eat it without making a face and trying to swallow it whole like a pill… She did make very good Yorkshire Pudding though, but the roast was usually cooked to a uniform grey. :(

              2. Kristi*

                Hah – I am this story. My mom used to make Yorkshire pudding which I loved – it was dense, moist and doughy, somewhere between an actual pudding and a bread. I’ve lost her recipe and can’t duplicate it, and the light and fluffy Yorkshire “pudding” I’ve had at restaurants just tastes like sadness and disappointment.

                Her secret ingredient might have been the baking powder she used – after she died I noticed the can was some 20 / 30 years old.

                Reply
                1. Thegreatprevaricator*

                  The secret was probably using baking powder at all – trad Yorkshire puddings get the rise from cold batter hitting hot fat (and not opening the oven door too early!)

            5. Elenna*

              Yeah, I was also figuring extra-hot oven plus a very short bake time, so the outside is overcooked while the heat hasn’t penetrated to the inside enough to cook it. Plus, as quill said, maybe a lack of flour.

              I guess she just thinks that’s how banana bread is supposed to be??

              Reply
      1. Empress Matilda*

        Hold on, you’re #7 and also #1? That’s impressive! I don’t know whether to hope that was two different dysfunctional workplaces, or one *really* dysfunctional workplace. Either way, I hope you’re out of there and working for normal people who do potlucks in normal ways!

        Reply
  6. Bernice Clifton*

    Oof, I was afraid #10 was going to a place where someone got upset when there were no rolls at the potluck.

    Reply
    1. GammaGirl1908*

      Right? I was anticipating another story like others here where some horrible human stampedes into a funeral to make inappropriate work-related requests of grieving family members.

      Reply
    1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

      “we’re just gonna move you over here, umkay? And leave that for the day team, umkay.”
      Seriously? The cabinet is bleeding and you think, not my circus, not my monkey carcass?
      Break the damn door.

      Reply
      1. Jamie Starr*

        Based on my experience, if they did that, they’d probably get in trouble for damaging federal property. (I once forgot to return a key to a supply closet on a Friday night, called security later that night to apologize and tell the I had it, and would bring it back Monday; and I got written up for taking Federal property.

        Reply
        1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          When blood is oozing out of somewhere, might it not be a matter for another federal agency starring in numerous gruesome series?

          Reply
      2. Vienna Waits for You*

        Yeah – speaking from experience working for a federal office – nope, the lock remains unbroken and email gets sent to the Day Shift lead.

        (Though something similar happened in our office and at least a spare set of keys for all office cubbies was made so that “incidents and smells” could be investigated by shift management.)

        Reply
      3. quill*

        Oh, touching blood by breaking the door is the LAST thing I would do. EHS would be in my cube like flies on that brisket.

        Reply
    2. PeanutButter*

      Considering the materials were locked up in an IRS office I assume there were some Important Legal Reasons(TM) that breaking into the cabinet wasn’t done.

      Reply
    3. boop the first*

      Ha! Maybe I am too disturbed/cynical, but my first guess may not have been raw meat or this apparent (huh, guess it’s nothing, I’ll just move though) non-guess in the story, but full-blown holy crap, someone murdered up in here!

      Reply
  7. A*

    Genuine question – are union reps required to investigate every call/request/complaint? #1 just seems like such an absurd thing to escalate, let alone have the rep take on to the point of researching etc.

    Reply
    1. Librarian of SHIELD*

      I have this question too. I’ve always thought unions were specifically meant to prevent exploitation and abuse of staff. “I think my boss cheated at the banana bread bake-off” feels like it would be outside their purview.

      Reply
      1. Hapless Bureaucrat*

        My guess would be the complaint came in worded more like “my boss violated respectful workplace policy and created a hostile environment by coercing my coworkers into taking her side against mine because she was trying to undermine me… over banana bread.” And union reps have probably heard of legitimate power plays over dumber things, so they had to at least put in a call.
        They get a fair number of “dysfunctional workplace the union probably can’t do much about” calls that they have to triage in case there’s actually something there. This one just happened to be literally bananas as well as figuratively.

        Reply
      2. Stella70*

        I am the manager in this story. I answered this more completely above, but in brief, the union felt it was best to investigate nearly everything that was reported, so their dues-paying members would feel “heard”. I had no issue with that; we worked collaboratively. I believe the complaint she filed was related to me creating tension within the group (kind of “divide and conquer”).

        Reply
        1. Sparkles McFadden*

          Yep, that’s how it works. It’s easier to look into everything because you don;t want people thinking no one is listening to them at all. (Also, cynically, union reps are elected so they don’t want people to be upset with them.)

          I was on a grievance committee for a few years and a lot of what was brought to us was ridiculous. At one point, the committee chairperson said “The best we can do is help you negotiate a severance package. I recommend you opt for that because I have worked with you and you are terrible at your job. Had your manager been any good, you’d have been fired by now.”

          Reply
        2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          I had a relative who was a union rep who went with the mantra “investigate almost everything” so the only things he mentioned not investigating were things that made him think they were petty revenge “I think so and so is stealing my pens because they have the same pens as me” (there was a central supply cabinet for the office); “so and so is copying my look” (for safety reasons that department had work provided uniforms); etc.

          Reply
          1. Kat in Boots*

            OMG. “so and so is copying my look” when everyone wears provided uniforms? This is next-level out of touch with reality stuff…

            Reply
      3. JB*

        My mother is a union rep (school secretaries’ union). It’s often just more expedient to ‘investigate’ a complaint like this – usually the person just wants to ‘feel heard’ and they could continue causing problems if they then feel like the union rep is ignoring their ‘complaint’.

        Basically, the union rep saying ‘okay, I’ll look into it’ calms the person down and hopefully prevents any further ruckus. By the time they come back with ‘well, this is what so-and-so said, so this doesn’t seem like something the union can address’ the person has calmed down and is happy to accept that.

        Reply
    2. Barbara Eyiuche*

      BTW, the banana bread was black on the outside and liquid inside because the baker used butter to butter the pans, then baked the bread at too high a temperature. Butter burns at a fairly low temperature, so baked goods will be burned before the inside is cooked. Recipes tell you to butter the pan, but don’t. Use anything else to grease the pan – one of those sprays, Crisco, oil, whatever. Even ghee will work because the milk solids have been removed.

      Reply
      1. ThatGirl*

        It should be something solid at room temp or made for baking, though – shortening or baking spray is best. But I do butter my pans successfully a lot of the time! Never had my banana bread be blackened liquid.

        Reply
        1. Hapless Bureaucrat*

          I’m guessing the liquids to solids ratio was off, too. If you’re using overripe bananas you don’t need a lot of liquid. Then she probably upped the baking time to try and compensate.

          Reply
          1. ThatGirl*

            You *can* use oil (canola, olive) but in my experience it doesn’t stick as well to the sides and tends to pool. Definitely don’t use standard cooking spray; that causes gunky buildup. Baking spray has flour in it and is formulated differently.

            Reply
            1. After 33 years ...*

              For our diabetic household, I use light olive oil in place of butter throughout, in the bread as well as on the pan. It’s worked for me!

              Reply
        2. Lacey*

          Yeah, I used to always use butter and I’ve never run into this problem.
          It was just cooked too quickly at too high of a temperature.

          Reply
          1. Princesss Sparklepony*

            I’m a terrible cook/bake and even I love parchment paper. Especially for brownies. Just lift them right out of the pan and start cutting them up! I resisted it for years as being too fancy for my lousy cooking and one day I had some and started using it and then I got some on sale so started using it for more things… It’s a wonder product. Don’t know why I held out for so long.

            Reply
      2. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

        Yeah, the too high temperature is the key on this one — I bet the internal thermostat of her oven is off and or she needs a better oven thermometer. She could also have saved the crust by putting tinfoil over the edges to let the center cook while protecting the outer crust — but some people like a “caramelized” crust on quick breads. I, myself, prefer slightly overdone white toast to underdone any day — hand me your blackened toast! but not your blackened banana bread.

        Reply
        1. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

          I once lived in an apartment where, after much empirical testing and many disappointing results, we concluded that the oven had two settings: “on” and “off”. It could acceptably cook a pizza, but anything that needed some nuance in the amount of heat applied was a disaster. It took a while for me to realize it was the oven rather than just that I was somehow much worse at cooking than I’d previously thought I was, and I certainly turned out some disappointing messes in the process. (This was the first place away from home/dorms I’d lived full time as an adult. I certainly knew how to cook, and had done quite a bit of the family cooking while growing up since my mom worked and I’d get home from school before she got home from work, but this was the first time that planning and cooking most/all the meals was part of my actual responsibilities. I’d figure it out much more quickly now!)

          I don’t miss that apartment a bit.

          Reply
          1. CalypsoSummer*

            I had a stove like that, years and years ago. It was good for boiling water, but if you wanted to simmer anything, you were SOL.

            What was sourly amusing is that it was billed as being an energy-saver. And it saved energy, all right — anything other than “high” meant that no energy whatsoever was being consumed

            Reply
      3. quill*

        I have buttered but I use glass pans, not metal. The time and temperature I use doesn’t burn at sea level, but I’ll have to watch out for it at higher altitudes.

        Reply
    3. Kippy*

      I used to work as support staff in the legal department of a union and while they didn’t have to investigate every complaint they did have to log every complaint and then explain why any complaints were not investigated. So it was almost worth it to investigate every complaint anyway.

      Reply
  8. Lizzo*

    I’m having all the feels about #10! Food + community = one of the most beautiful things, and one of the most dearly missed things during this pandemic.

    I’m gonna go make my pumpkin pie now and hopefully not cry tears of joy into it.

    Reply
  9. Mimi*

    I don’t know why, but I find the Stew Guy weirdly endearing.

    A former co-worker used to bring lumpia (essentially Filipino spring rolls) to every gathering, and when she left this spring we all bemoaned the fact that we’d never taste them again, so she made a huge batch and packed some in individual tupperware for every employee to take home. She was the best.

    Reply
    1. ThatGirl*

      I’ve had Laotian spring rolls, and they are very similar to lumpia (at least, if my memory is correct) and yes, both tend to be wildly popular at potlucks. I could really go for some of either right now…

      Reply
    2. anonymous73*

      I think the difference here is that he bragged about it so much. It’s one thing to make yummy food and have your co-workers get excited when they know you’re bringing food in to work (I was the baker and everyone would run to the table when I brought stuff in), but I never went around talking about how delicious my cakes were all the time.

      Reply
      1. PeanutButter*

        Yup. I was famous for my bagels at a previous workplace. I loved bringing them in at random, and unannounced, because seeing everyone’s face light up when they saw the basket of bagels in the breakroom where they had been expecting only very old coffee was THE BEST.

        Reply
      2. londonedit*

        Yeah it sounds like he thought his stew was ‘a thing’ when it really wasn’t. I’ve worked places where there was ‘a thing’ about a certain food that someone would bring in – one colleague’s mum would make the most amazing mince pies every December, for instance, and there would definitely be a point every year where she’d come into work and say ‘Guess what! My mum’s making the mince pies this weekend! I’ll bring them in on Monday!’ and everyone would ooh and aah and then there’d be a stampede on Monday morning. Sounds like this guy thought his stew was on that sort of level and that people would be champing at the bit – but he was sadly mistaken!

        Reply
  10. Warm Gooey Cheap Ass Roll*

    At an old job the potluck person coordinating person was WAY into the whole thing. She’d send out a shared doc to the whole department with everyone’s name and a slot for their contribution. I’d always jump in right after I got the message and put stuff like hyena burgers and orca stew in for co-workers I was friends with.

    Reply
    1. Indigo a la mode*

      I laughed out loud at this. And that was before I noticed the username.

      You better not be bringing the cheap ass hyena burgers.

      Reply
      1. KoiFeeder*

        I have a really fun fact about hyenas- they’re one of the few mammals that don’t experience ill effects from eating anthrax. That being said, if you eat a hyena that’s been exposed to anthrax (which is most of them in the wild, unfortunately), you will get anthrax and you as a human (presumably) are not immune to anthrax.

        Reply
        1. starsaphire*

          …you waited until 4 days before the end of NaNoWriMo to tell us this?!?!

          (Seriously, though – cool fact, thank you! May end up in a novel next year…)

          Reply
          1. KoiFeeder*

            My birthday present to myself is tormenting nanowrimo participants with fascinating plots at the last week of november.

            Reply
              1. KoiFeeder*

                Okay everyone, I am no longer allowed to tell hyena facts to the commentariat until a november where quill is confirmed to be doing non.

                Reply
    2. Warm Gooey*

      Oh my god, your username hahaha. I am the Warm Gooey OP and very honored that you would pair me with official Ask a Manager lore like that :D

      Orca stew, hahahaha

      Reply
      1. Warm Gooey Cheap Ass Roll*

        I was inspired by your story. So much so that I’m going to whisper “how’s that warm gooey” into the ear of everyone at my family Thanksgiving tomorrow.

        Reply
      2. thatjillgirl*

        Warm Gooey is one of my favorite AAM stories. I sent it to several friends and read it to my husband while crying laughing. You told it so well!

        Reply
    3. Jean (just Jean)*

      What, no buzzard fricassee? or vulture au vin?
      (‘scuse me while I crawl into a corner and lay there being queasy for a long long time.)

      Reply
  11. FisherCat*

    If this were Reddit, I would want my flair to be “usurper cranberries”. The whole thing is bananacrackers but I so hope the offending cranberry-provider used those exact words.

    Reply
  12. MB*

    One place I used to work at had so many issues surrounding food, I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. I like baking, and I had to start bringing in baked goods already cut (like brownies) or pre-sliced (cake or pie) to prevent people from taking ridiculous amounts of food. That didn’t work so I then started to bring in exactly as many pieces as there were people in the office so everyone just got one. I eventually just stopped bringing in anything. The straw that broke the camel’s back was that when one of our interns was leaving, she was asked what she wanted, and she insisted she wanted a certain special type of brownie I made. I was asked to make said brownies. I was annoyed that someone would ask this, but I did it, and brought in the extras to gift her. She came to me in the late afternoon after the party was over and said the extra package of brownies I had given her was now empty (food had to be kept in the lunch room). Two employees eventually confessed to taking them. They went into the lunch room when it was empty, took them out of the container, wrapped them in napkins, and put them in their lunch bags to bring home. The whole situation – the sheer audacity of someone requesting to have me make them brownies and then becoming mad that other people stole them, and the people who stole them knowing they were meant for the departing intern, still makes me so angry to this day. Side story – I once baked a Boston Cream Pie and a coworker took it home for themselves before anyone got any of it. We found out what happened when he brought the container back a few days later. So yeah, I have lots of feelings about food at work.

    Reply
    1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

      I can see the intern thinking that this was normal. She was asked, after all, what she wanted. She’d seen people bring in homemade stuff and thought that’s what was done.
      30 years of working informs my phrasing: “Hey, we are going to buy a cake to honor you. What flavor? If you really don’t like cake, we can get something else, like a pie or brownies.”
      Well, I do love MB’s brownies!
      You’d still be put on the spot by intern, but hopefully the initial asker would take back the reins, “oh, we all would, but I can’t ask on person to do that.”
      But apparently you work in Crazytown and I am still floored that any of that happened.

      Reply
      1. MB*

        Absolutely. When the department head of this intern came to me and asked me to make the brownies, my first response was something like, “Why is this being considered an option?!” I fully would have expected the request to be redirected, but again, this place had the weirdest stuff going on with food that I have ever seen.

        Reply
      2. Pikachu*

        That’s definitely a manager fail. Interns are there to learn office norms as well as skills. Problem is, I suppose the company has to have office norms first.

        Reply
    2. Jess*

      Wow, that’s absolutely bonkers behavior! Did it show up in other ways at work or were people just rude and entitled about food? It’s just so outside the norms of how you’d expect adults to operate.

      Reply
    3. anonymous73*

      The intern asking for your brownies is not that out of the ordinary…you could have said no if it was that much of an imposition. And why would you leave something that was made specifically for the intern to take home in a public place that everyone had access to?

      I was the office baker (when I worked in the office) and I had to create boundaries. I laid down the law about how often I would bake and stuck to it. It’s not worth getting so upset over.

      Reply
      1. Lance*

        ‘The intern asking for your brownies is not that out of the ordinary…you could have said no if it was that much of an imposition.’

        I could be wrong, of course, but it reads to me as the request coming from the same higher-up that had asked the intern what they wanted. At that point, it makes it more difficult to say ‘no’, especially if said higher-up already said ‘yes’ to the intern’s request (which they shouldn’t, but well, some people just don’t think about these things).

        Reply
        1. MB*

          Yes! That is exactly what happened, as I mentioned in another comment above. The head of the department the intern worked in asked me to make them. I had no ties to the intern in any way, except she liked the brownies I made once.

          To the previous commenter: boundaries were created, and then ignored. All of the staff knew the rest of the brownies were for the intern as I gave them to her at the party. They were in a separate container and labeled. Also, we weren’t allowed to put food anywhere outside the lunch room due to the nature of our jobs. I suppose I could have given them to her and made her take them to her car immediately…or people could have just been adults and not taken them after already getting to eat one. You’re right that it wasn’t worth the annoyance, which is why I said I stopped bringing things in.

          Reply
    4. pancakes*

      I cannot believe someone who had the audacity to take a whole pie brought the dish back. I mean, I can, because people are ridiculous, but that is really something!

      Reply
      1. MB*

        This was my first real career job, and I was just so confused about what was happening. I guess yay that he brought back my dish? He actually was fired a few months later. There was A LOT of stuff going on with this person.

        Reply
    5. CommanderBanana*

      I was a prolific baker – worked in a bakery during school – and liked baking more than I liked eating the results, so I would bring in cupcakes and other sweets pretty regularly.
      Until every single time there was anything to celebrate, I would get asked to make the cake or cupcakes. No one else ever offered, and I was the lowest paid person in the office, and no one ever thought to contribute $ when they were essentially ordering food from me.
      Once I switched jobs, I stopped baking and bringing in treats completely unless it was specifically for an event that everyone was contributing to.

      Reply
    6. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      At the risk of being branded a terrible cynic, I have to admit that the bit where I went “wait what?” was “when he brought the container back a few days later”. You don’t blink at stealing something that was baked for everyone, but then you feel like you ought to give the container back? I mean, as far as I’m concerned, tupperware is like books, nobody ever returns them. I even collect the tubs that order-in food comes in, in order to give people leftovers without losing any of my good tubs.

      Reply
    7. Jinni*

      I have to laugh because I’ve only worked in offices in Los Angeles. So food is never an issue as in no one eats anything with any kind of calories so we have the exact opposite problem. As dysfunctional as my workplaces were, getting people to *actually* eat food was an uphill battle. It meant that managers couldn’t reward with food though that’s the only thing they could think of. (Better pay was off the table – though it was well known pay was below market).

      Reply
  13. Cold Fish*

    My old boss used to love to tell of the time she brought in muffins for the company (about 25 people) in a beautiful lacquered bread bowl (like actual furniture lacquer to preserve it). Put it in the breakroom, went to work. Returned during morning break for a muffin to find not only had all muffins been eaten, so had her bread bowl!

    Reply
    1. anonymous73*

      I used to bake cakes for my team because I HATE typical grocery store cake and that’s generally what would be bought to celebrate birthdays and things. When I had leftovers, I would put in on a nearby table and send out an email for others to finish the cake. One day I was leaving and there was still cake left, so I left it on the table. When I came in the next day, the cake and the pan were gone. It was my grandmother’s pan – not valuable, but sentimental. I figured nobody would steal a cake pan. I was wrong.

      Reply
      1. American Job Venter*

        A college friend of mine (a pastry herself: very sweet, very rich, very flaky) once effectively did that to another friend. He made cheesecake for our hallway and left it on the base to his springform pan. She took the last slice and threw away the springform pan base, thinking it was trash. Those pans are not cheap and it was his pride and joy. I felt so bad to have to tell her about it but I couldn’t afford to buy him another pan (if I at all could have I would have).

        That said, college is for learning, so one would think grown people would do better.

        Reply
      2. Susan Ivanova*

        I lost the bottom part of my grandmother’s springform pan that way. There was one slice of cheesecake left, when I checked back it was gone and so was the base. I have no idea if someone just thought it was a cheap aluminum plate and tossed it in the recycling – I checked, but it wasn’t there or in the trash – or took it home.

        Reply
    2. VegetarianRaccoon*

      Do you mean ‘bread bowl’ as in made out of bread (and laquer) or ‘bread bowl’ as in for serving bread?

      Reply
  14. raktajino*

    I had a coworker who loved to make all sorts of soup. She’d bring in a crockpot full for any cold weather potluck, announce it ahead of time, do the whole thing similar to stew guy. I found most of her soups unbearably salty but the rest of the office claimed to like it. At least both she and stew guy are easy to ignore.

    Reply
    1. pinyata*

      same, I can’t stop laughing! I made my husband read it and now we’re just sitting here whispering “how’s that warm gooey” back and forth to each other.

      Reply
  15. anonymous73*

    Takeaway…if people brag incessantly about their delicious food item, said item will NOT be tasty as promised.

    That last story is so sweet. I was expecting it to take a turn at the end, but was happy that it didn’t.

    Reply
    1. whingedrinking*

      Right? If there’s any situation where something speaks for itself, it’s food. Folks will know something is delicious when they put it in their mouths. I’ve even gotten embarrassed when someone gushes over something I’ve made and is like, “Bob! You HAVE to try this, it’s sooooo good!” when I’m like, “…Bob really doesn’t have to try it and it’s okay if he doesn’t like it. Really.”

      Reply
    1. Green Tea For Me*

      I love this.

      I always refer to myself as an ‘exceptionally mediocre housekeeper’ or an ‘amazingly average cook’. I like to have people keep their expectations realistic.

      Reply
  16. CBB*

    #7 reminds me why I don’t eat homemade potluck food.

    Even if it hasn’t been left in someone’s locker, there’s a good chance your potluck includes food that has not been properly cooled, transported, stored, and reheated.

    Reply
    1. OyHiOh*

      One of my previous jobs was managing a dinner theater kitchen; I took SafeServ food managers training as part of my employment. I’ve also read enough stories here and other places about bad potluck food handling that I’m being slightly over the top in regards to contributing pies to Thanksgiving festivities at a friend’s house tomorrow.

      Baked them last weekend because that’s when I had time and energy. Cooled, unwrapped, in the fridge until cold all the way through (checked with a thermometer – hot temps can lurk in the center of a container that feels cold to touch). Then double wrapped and frozen. Tonight, I’ll let them start defrosting in the back of the fridge, they’ll travel in an insulated bag tomorrow, and they’ll be baked until hot through before serving. It’s not difficult but it does take time and thought.

      Reply
  17. Cold Fish*

    There was a lady here who would always bring in a chocolate pizza around Christmas. She would go down to a local pizza place that would give her some to-go pizza boxes. For toppings it had those dried green and red cherries like you’d find in fruitcake and flaked coconut for cheese. There was always about a quarter of the pizza “cheese-less” for those of us who don’t like coconut :P Even after she retired she would bring in the pizza. Always a highlight of the season :)

    I tried making it one year for the family… it just wasn’t the same. I do not have the candy touch in the kitchen.

    Reply
    1. CalypsoSummer*

      That is just too cute! I would never have thought of doing anything of the sort.

      Would she use pie crust for the pizza dough?

      Reply
  18. logicbutton*

    I really appreciate that none of these are about people being unhygienic with already prepared food; I like my appetite how it is, thanks. (Those of you who do like stories like that should check out the submissions post.)

    Reply
    1. Blinded By the Gaslight*

      Your story made me laugh so much. Kudos on turning it into a perfect in-joke! The worse the origin story, the better the joke!

      Reply
        1. Princesss Sparklepony*

          I don’t think enough time has passed for me. I read it 20 minutes ago and I’m still skeeved out. That was so creepy. Below serial killer creepy but pretty high up on the creep-ometer.

          Reply
  19. Where’s the Orchestra?*

    Have to say I am loving all the stories, something fun to read between cat naps as I sleep off feeling sick.

    Reply
  20. Funbud*

    For the usurper cranberry sauce story, I keep picturing the office manager being played by the lady who played Mrs. Olsen on “Little House On the Prairie”. Remove your usurper cranberry sauce NOW!

    Reply
  21. IRSer*

    I’ve been an IRS employee for 13 years (which makes me a relative newbie, gotta love the government) and I tell you, #7 is such an IRS story. Like everything about it tracks perfectly. I love it. I really want to know where this happened. (I presume a campus? Trying to think about who has night shift.)

    Reply
    1. Cat Tree*

      I’m really curious why there are different shifts. I’m assuming it’s computer-based work so it’s not a matter of using the same equipment. Is it a customer facing position which requires timely response to phone calls or emails? Or is there something else I’m not thinking of?

      Reply
      1. IRSer*

        There’s a lot that happens at IRS, and a lot that isn’t computer-based! A key example is processing paper tax returns—open the envelopes, take out any payment, stamp the document with a locator number, and transcribe the data into a computer. There’s only so much space available for all of that, so there are multiple shifts of people doing that work.

        Reply
    2. irsanon*

      I’ve worked at IRS 2oish years, I’m also dying to know where and when this happened. It could be anywhere in the US. Most jobs have day shift (early morning-early afternoon) and swing shift (afternoon-midnight or 1am), and the assistant(secretary) who has copies of all the keys usually doesn’t work on swing, so it makes sense they couldn’t get into the overhead. This probably didn’t happen recently because they still have most of us working from home, and only a few in the office.

      Reply
  22. Tammy (but no T Rex)*

    Aside from being unsanitary, crockpot started in the morning and served for lunch the same day? That doesn’t seem like enough time to properly cook a brisket in a crockpot.

    Reply
  23. OhNo*

    Banana bread makes me laugh so much. Just the thought of her bringing in this bread to prove how she should’ve won? Hilarious.

    Reply
  24. Apricot*

    #10 – I’m not crying, you’re crying! What a beautiful story.

    Pre-Covid I was doing a coding boot camp downtown in a major US city. The classroom was inside of a coworking building with access to one shared refrigerator, so a lot of the time when they held events (speakers, alumni festivities, etc.) there was no room to store leftovers. Now this being a big city and parking being typical of a big city, I would usually park on the outskirts and walk 18 blocks each way, and in those 18 blocks I would pass quite a few unhoused people. I started asking if I could take the leftovers. I’d leave with my arms piled high with boxes of pizza, pastry, fruit, pasta salad, whatever they had that wouldn’t fit in the fridge and by the time I reached my car it would all be gone. My classmates and teachers must’ve thought I was the hungriest person on the planet, or maybe that I had ten roommates, but no one ever gave me a hard time and no food went to waste!

    Reply
  25. jiggle mouse*

    I still weep in remembrance of potluck pancit and lumpia at multiple Old Jobs when I worked in a much more diverse town than currently. Heaping hot trays, ferried in by coworkers’ kids or spouse, right at the start of festivities….

    Reply
  26. Anonny*

    #7 Stories like that always sound like demonic influence, what with the blood dripping out of cupboards and such, and it’s always something far more horrific than demonic influence, like dodgy municipal pipework or storing raw, unrefridgerated meat in a ****ing locker.

    Reply
  27. Old Mountain Lady*

    Once upon a time, there was a large federal agency (that shall remain nameless here) whose Washington HQ employees were frequently sent out to regional offices to provide training. One such employee, Fergus, was sent to a midwestern training facility for a short visit, Monday through Friday. Fergus learned that the facility director’s birthday was on Friday and that there was to be a party, with cake! Unfortunately, Fergus’ plane was scheduled to leave before the party. Undaunted, Fergus asked facility personnel to cut the cake early so that he could have a slice before leaving. They declined. So Fergus took it upon himself to cut the cake and take a slice. The ensuing uproar was memorable. Fergus’ grandboss was required to fly out to personally apologize to the facility director, and Fergus was banned from the training facility, and from further travel outside DC.

    Reply
    1. Batgirl*

      Wow. I feel like a story involving cake from Fergus’ childhood would be told next in a therapist’s office, if this were a movie. But this being real life, he’s probably just never learned any manners or boundaries. As a gluten free person though, I can tell you there is something special about an occasion cake that everyone shares. Single serve or separate cup cakes just aren’t the same. I’ve got to say though he’s taking the devotion a little far.

      Reply
    2. Liz*

      All for a piece of cake! Must have been some kind of really fancy amazing cake too! It never ceases to amaze me the entitlement of people.

      Reply
  28. Aphra*

    No 10 warmed the cockles of my flinty old heart here in the North East of England and I admit I shed a tear or two. What wonderful colleagues and what a testament to the late, wonderful mother who raised a wonderful daughter. Anyone would want to work with or be a family member of the people in this post.

    Reply
  29. Cat*

    These are all absolutely crazy, but I want to say: how did you never catch the thief on #2.

    If it happens every single time after the second or third time all that needs to happen is one manager sits up with the food and when the thief arrives then you know exactly who it is.

    Or if this was more recent you could set a hidden camera – which are pretty cheap by now – and check it in the morning. And then you have video evidence.

    How did this go on for so long? I personally would have been happy to do it if I was a manager there.

    Reply
  30. CommanderBanana*

    Is it possible the Determined Thief was, in fact, an actual bear?

    The spring roll story was very heartwarming.

    Reply
  31. Someone please feed the librarians*

    #3 sounds like a public library to me. It’s like we’ve never been fed a day in our lives, the way most library staff act. I could serve up rusty nails and they’d be gone by the end of the day. Well, except for salad– no one eats that.

    Reply
    1. Jean (just Jean)*

      No kidding. I once described my library coworkers as people who “will eat anything that’s not moving.” My conversation partner at the time was seriously grossed out.

      Reply
  32. Chashka*

    I now need to find some spring rolls and/or lumpia. I live in a diverse metropolitan area, so there just HAS to be someplace that has them not far from me.

    Reply
  33. Paul Pearson*

    Banana bread! The last office “bake off” we had had 6 loaves of Banana Bread… what is this obsession with the stuff (it’d help if my colleagues made GOOD Banana Bread)

    Reply
  34. Jeff*

    On #4 (Warm Gooey) – Firstly, regardless of the VP’s intent, the LW’s revulsion is absolutely valid either way. I don’t want to diminish that at all as I muse on what might be going on with that one.

    Given the LW’s own uncertainty of the intent of the VP too, it’s definitely hard to tell what he was actually up to. ‘Cause, like, we all know plenty of examples of creepy old dudes who would creep on people 35 years their junior in just-ambiguous-enough ways to flex their status like that.

    But, like, I’m pretty sure we also know plenty of well-meaning, but hopelessly, utterly clueless dolts who would say something like that and have no clue just how horrifically creepy they came off, then toddle off, content as can be. [Or possible, realize too late what they’ve said, suffer from massive internal cringe, and decide to just walk off instead of acknowledging and prolonging the awkwardness in any way – When apologizing really would be the best move].

    Still, getting a solid in-joke/meme between you and your friends from the incident sure is one way to react to the ludicrousness of the whole situation, for sure.

    Reply
    1. Warm Gooey*

      So, funnily, I shared this post with a good friend of mine who still works for this company, and works fairly closely with Mr. Warm Gooey- her thoughts were that he probably had no intention of being creepy, but has like zero idea that the weird stuff he spouts out all the time is super horrible and inappropriate. SO your musings are pretty spot on! (Still wigs me out, though hahaha)

      Reply
  35. Who Plays Backgammon?*

    LW1–I’ll settle this. My Mother’s Banana Bread. She did horrible things to unsuspecting food, but her banana bread was the Best. Ever. :)

    Any good banana bread is good!

    Reply
  36. Who Plays Backgammon?*

    LW 9 – Suddenly I am thinking of the not-terribly-long-ag0 potluck letter about the Cheap-Ass Rolls vs. the King’s Hawaiian Rolls. I am uninspired at best in the kitchen so I usually bring a veggie tray to potlucks. Somebody else can take them so darn seriously. :)

    Reply
  37. ellex42*

    If anyone goes overboard this year: Cranberry relish freezes really well. In past years I’ve added not just the usual oranges to the cranberries, but thrown blueberries and pomegranate arils into the food processor as well. If you take it out in the heat of summer and let it defrost just enough that’s it’s icy and slushy, it tastes fantastic.

    Reply
    1. Who Plays Backgammon?*

      A new ice cream flavor here maybe? Happy Christmas to me–saw in all the ads somewhere a one-pint ice cream maker. Yum.

      Reply
  38. DTIBA*

    That first story is terrifying. I don’t enjoy banana bread, but I do enjoy bread in other forms, and often helped my grandmother with her homemade bread as a child. Unless there’s an aspect of banana bread that deviates wildly from other bread, I cannot think of ANYTHING that would result in bread having a liquiid center.

    On the other hand, that last story is beautiful. Allison, excellent choice to end on that one.

    Reply
  39. B Wayne*

    Number 10 was the capper. Heartwarming and I had to catch myself as for a minute or so a wave of sadness came over me for that woman and her family.

    Reply
  40. Anony4839*

    #4 – Am I the only one who doesn’t see anything wrong with the VP asking the OP how the warm and gooey cake was? I mean, it is the name of the cake after all and if it was so provacative, then the name of it wouldn’t have been on the menu. Can’t always assume everyone is hitting on you all the time.

    Reply
    1. CalypsoSummer*

      An older guy murmuring that into a young woman’s ear? Nice try at deflection! Next time, try harder — or, better yet, don’t try at all.

      Reply
    2. Warm Gooey*

      I mean. Maybe you had to be there. But he didn’t openly and brightly ask me “Hey, how’s that warm and gooey cake?”. He leaned in and murmured “How’s that warm gooey” which is EXCEPTIONALLY weirder than “Warm AND gooey”, and did is so breathily and close to my ear that A) My ear was bathed in his warm breath in a way that I can’t shake to this day and B) literally no one else could have heard him say that, which made it very awkwardly intimate. I didn’t know him. He wasn’t someone I personally worked with, he was essentially a stranger who was about 5 places above me in our work hierarchy. It was a super weird thing to do, socially. And I specifically said I had no idea what his intentions with that actually were. But it was a weird and uncomfortable moment, and I have a hard time believing you wouldn’t have found it weird and uncomfortable if you were in my shoes.

      Reply
    3. Anonymous Hippo*

      I can only assume we are missing tone here. Because I could totally see doing this with a work friend because frankly ooey gooey is a goofy set of words and it sounds funny to say. But if she was skeeved, there must have been tone.

      Reply
  41. curtangel*

    I’m kind of obsessed with story 2 – so after the fridge lock was broken off they just shrugged their shoulders or what?
    I’d think that would be the point things would go from annoyance to someone is getting fired.

    Reply
  42. Rachael*

    I guess from the comments, I am an outsider in my opinion of cranberry-gate, but I do think it’s rude to bring something that you know someone else has been tasked to bring to a potluck. However, I do think it’s strange to get so emotional that crying is involved. I would just shake my fist at them and declare “Vandetta!” from across the room. I might also talk about how someone is trying to usurp my cranberry crown. No tears. Just revenge. Bwahahaha!

    Reply
  43. boop the first*

    The word usage in this post is just tickling my psyche in a way I cant explain!
    “Certain Stew”
    “A spaghetti feed was going on”
    What is this, literary ASMR?

    Reply
  44. sigh*

    I have (possibly wrongly) intuited a lot about my coworkers over the years based on their potluck habits, like which ones have cooking/food as a love language, which ones require acknowledgement of their cooking efforts as affirmation of their own shaky sense of self-worth, and who grew up in households that were abusive or fostered a sense of scarcity that cause them to steal or openly take and hoard food from office potlucks.

    Reply

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