the Thanksgiving tyrant, the very special salad, and other stories of potlucks at work

All this week to get us in the holiday spirit, I’m going to be featuring holiday stories readers have shared here in the past … and then updates season will start next week!

To kick us off, here are 12 of my favorite stories you shared about potlucks and other food gatherings at work earlier this month. (There were so many great stories from that post that I’m splitting this into two parts, with the second part coming tomorrow.)

1. The tyrant

“Currently employed at a very dysfunctional medical office (and seeking other employment), and this is just the cherry on top. The following is from an email about Thanksgiving potluck at the main office (our satellite office is an afterthought).

Greetings Staff,

Can you believe Thanksgiving is literally around the corner? In the past 3 years [COMPANY] has weathered all kinds of storms and with two years and ongoing with COVID we are extremely thankful and grateful. Please join [COMPANY] in our Thanksgiving Celebration family style luncheon this year at the office on November 18 from 12pm-2pm.

To be prepare for the luncheon, I need everyone to do the following:

1. RSVP no later than Wednesday, 11/9 at 12 noon.

2. Along with your RSVP, start thinking of a dish that you can prepare and share.

3. If you are not a good cook OR have cats or dogs that shed, please opt out of food preparation. I recommend you bring drinks, napkins or a purchased dessert.

4. Note on drinks- NO off brand sodas allowed. That is Food Lion, Walmart, store brand sodas, etc. We want the type you see in Soda Vending Machines.

5. Note on desserts. If you are not baking yourself, then do us the favor of NOT purchasing store brand cookies or cakes. Please go to a bakery. This is meant to be a special event.

6. Finally, I will have final say on if a dish is approved or not. Please don’t take offense, I just have a vision of the types of dishes I would prefer. Isn’t Thanksgiving all about good food and communion?

7. Just to remind you, [COMPANY] will provide all the meats – Honey baked Ham, and Turkey. We will need the following categories of food contributed by you:

We will have a limit on the number of dish categories so sign up fast with your favorite dish or contribution.”

2. The jazz casserole

“I worked with a very sweet older lady who always hyped up her special casserole for potlucks in this same way. She called it ‘Jazz!!’ casserole and always made jazz-hands when she said the name, which she pronounced with a drawn out A sound, like she was in the cast of Chicago doing a musical number. It was basically pasta and cream of mushroom soup, super boring and not jazzy at all. She was so sweet that everyone took a little bit to be mannerly and told her it was good, which meant that she kept on bringing it to every potluck until she retired.”

3. Magic

“I once worked at a small nonprofit with a lot of team spirit — people truly seemed to love staff gatherings, staff outings, etc. We voluntarily did all-staff potlucks 2 or 3 times per year, people often brought in treats for each other’s birthdays, etc. Except for a coworker who I will refer to ask Magic Mike. Magic Mike was an enthusiastic participant in all of these gatherings but insisted he didn’t know how to cook or bake at all. Instead of doing the logical thing and just bringing store-bought treats or beverages, on multiple occasions he brought … magic. To the potluck. As in, after everyone had their plates and was enjoying the food and socializing, he would call for everyone’s attention and perform magic tricks as his contribution. So all of us who had taken the time to buy groceries, cook something special, and shlep it into the office had to stop enjoying the party to watch Magic Mike perform.”

4. Pizza games

“We had Pizza Fridays over the summer. It started out fine, but after the first two weeks it became ‘The Hunger Games.’ The pies were put in a common area and you were to get a slice or two. Folks started pushing and shoving and grabbing whole pies. It even got to the point where folks would wait at the service elevator and grab pies off of the delivery guy’s cart.”

5. The shrimp

“At a former job, the division I worked in had an annual holiday potluck. One year a woman brought in shrimp dip for the potluck. Every single person who ate her dip wound up getting ill to some extent; one person got so sick he had to be hospitalized. We later learned she had taken the shrimp out the day before, left them in her sink all day and overnight to thaw, and mixed up the dip in the morning before she came to work. I still get nauseated even thinking about it.”

6. The ganache

“For my last job’s Holiday Potluck, I planned on bringing my favourite brownies to work, but wanted to make them extra special. I decided to add chocolate ganache to the top for some razzle dazzle, but was a procrastinator and did it 45 minutes before I needed to leave for work. I’d never made ganache before and did not make it correctly. It was still hot as I loaded it into my car, then spilled about 90% of the hot chocolate ganache directly onto my car seat. It looked like someone had the worst diarrhea of their life in my back seat for weeks until I got it professionally detailed.

Brownies were still delicious though.”

7. The inequity

“Early on in my career, I was on a team with three assistants and 6-7 middle managers. My team would do potluck holiday parties where they would decide on a theme that would dictate the menu. Unfortunately, they would create the menu and sign-up sheet during the managers’ meeting. So the managers who made 50-90% more than the assistants would sign up for plates, napkins, sparkling cider, etc.

The three assistants would be left to fill in the rest of the sheet which would include charcuterie boards, a gourmet hot chocolate bar, local pastries (from a specific store), and other more expensive options. Some of them really thought we all loved doing the more complicated stuff since one assistant liked cooking and I occasionally used Pinterest on my lunch breaks. It took some of those in middle management YEARS to realize how bad the optics were forcing the assistants to use their own money and personal time to make them charcuterie.”

8. The cook-off

“Our office had a chili cook-off once. The morning of the potluck, it was announced that due to inclement winter weather and some people not being able to make it into the office, the potluck was canceled. Most people took this news with a normal level of disappointment. A colleague of mine, Barb, had a crockpot of chili cooking at the office. Chaos erupted when Barb read the cancellation email. Yelling, punching things at her desk, crying, screaming, etc. She called HR (who had decided to cancel the potluck, the perpetrator in Barb’s mind) and chewed them out abusively over the phone, and then called her husband to blow off steam, and a handful of others. She yelled and cried at the office for 3 or 4 hours. (It was awful and I complained to her boss.) She ended up demanding that HR reimburse her for the chili ingredients, and they did.

At future potlucks, Barb proudly announced to anyone nearby on potluck day that she didn’t bring anything to the potluck. According to her, she had special permission from HR to attend potlucks without contributing to food (as was the office etiquette) as retribution for how they ‘screwed her over.’ We never had a chili cook-off again.”

9. The sliders

“A coworker went to the trouble of getting ~40 McDonald’s dollar-menu hamburgers, unwrapping them all, and trying to pass them off as freshly homemade sliders.”

10. The salad

“Our universally hated lab tech was mulling out loud what he should bring to a company-wide winter holiday potluck. He did not know how to cook, so we offered up many ‘safe’ suggestions (sodas, crackers and cheese, chips, etc.), all of which he nixed. He figured it wouldn’t be too hard to make a tossed salad.

He proceeds to ask everyone in the lab what ingredients everyone would like in this salad he would make for us. Suggestions are made for things like romaine lettuce, iceberg lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, red onions, mushrooms, croutons, avocados … wait. Avocados? Well, all right, he’ll get an avocado for the salad. Just for us.

Next day is the potluck. Lab tech comes in with a huge metal bowl, filled to the brim. He removes many of the refrigerated potluck items from the lunchroom refrigerator to accommodate this bowl. Someone discovers this and manages to return everything to the refrigerator, wedging dishes in around this bowl.

Then lab tech starts the day by complaining about this salad.

First, it’s, ‘Okay everyone, I brought a bunch of salad and I expect everyone to eat it. All right? I got most everything you wanted.’

Then he starts grousing about the cost of the ingredients. The mushrooms were omitted because of cost. He almost used CANNED tomatoes instead of fresh because canned was cheaper. Who even thinks of using canned tomatoes in a tossed salad?

Finally, he says he’s very tired, having stayed up ‘all night’ to cut up the salad components. ‘Especially that avocado,’ he griped. ‘That skin was murder to cut up. Almost lost a finger!’

A voice from the next bench asks, ‘You do know that the skin is inedible, right?’

‘Oh, of course, everyone knows that!’

Later that morning someone rushes into the lab to alert everyone to come to the lunchroom.

‘You gotta see this!’

Our lab tech has dumped the entire contents of his salad bowl all over the lunchroom table. Yes, the table from one end to the other is covered in greens. He’s fingering every piece, searching for the avocado, which had been cut into odd-shaped bits smaller than an orange seed. Then trimming off any hint of skin from each itty-bitty piece and returning it to the bowl. He’s so intent on this he doesn’t see the half-dozen faces watching this from the doorway.

We pass the word: Do NOT eat the tossed salad.

So potluck time comes, and no one is touching the salad. A few reach for the tongs, but are stopped and ushered along to the next food items. Later we explain why.

Next day, lab tech chews us out for the expense incurred on this salad. Says we should all reimburse him for what he spent on ‘your salad.'”

11. The bourbon balls

“Many years ago, I worked at the corporate office of a regional retailer. I worked closely with the senior VP, and while he could be a pill at times, I genuinely liked the guy.

One year, I found a recipe for bourbon balls that I decided to make up for the holidays. Knowing that the SVP had a giant sweet tooth and also that he was very fond of bourbon, I brought him a container of several dozen bourbon balls, thinking (foolishly) that he’d enjoy them over the course of several days.

He did not spread them out over several days. He chomped through the entire container in a single afternoon, ingesting a significant amount of bourbon and a whole lot of chocolate in the process.

As it happened, that day turned out to be the day the boss was going through the list of employees to decide how much each of us would get for a year-end bonus. And everyone was quite astounded that year at his unaccustomed generosity in deciding the bonus amounts.

For some reason, every year after that, multiple co-workers would pull me aside in early December to urge me to make up another batch of bourbon balls for the SVP the week before Christmas.”

12. The cake

“We have occasional student externs spend a few weeks’ rotation with us. We usually get a cake or something for everybody on their last day and everybody signs a card.

One student gushed, ‘Oh, wow, you guys! Thank you so much!’ and picked up the entire cake and walked out with it. We all just stood there with our mouths hanging open.

I mean … it’s not like we spelled out that this was a going-away party and these were refreshments to share with everybody, but really. Years later, the only thing anybody remembered about this student was that she was the one that walked out with the cake.”

{ 612 comments… read them below }

    1. That'sNotMyName*

      Same. Makes me think of my friend’s mom who made bourbon balls so potent that just one was enough for the night.

      1. A CAD Monkey*

        Made them one year for my bosses at my college job. 1/4 cup of bourbon in the entire recipe making about 50-60 balls total. by the time they got them a couple of days latter, you could not take the lid off the container without EVERYONE in the general vicinity knowing. they became VERY potent, as in, contact buzz potent. the bosses loved them.

        1. Happy*

          I don’t understand…you’d have to eat at least 15 balls to equate to one shot of bourbon. How can you consider that so potent?

          1. Nobby Nobbs*

            Placebo effect maybe? I’ve had rum balls that have about that much alcohol content, but the rum flavor gets crazy strong after a few days.

          2. Cthulhu's Librarian*

            I’ll point out that the potency of bourbon can vary greatly on the alcohol content – I think it’s generally minimum 40% ABV, but some of the stuff can end up above 60%, which is more ABV than tequila.

            I’ve absolutely encountered folks who get notably affected (ie, reduced inhibitions/impaired judgement) by that quantity of alcohol, especially if consumed on an empty stomach – I could see it happening with bourbon balls as well, especially if you ate a whole batch of them and they’d been made with a strong bourbon.

            1. Grace*

              Yeah, I’ve gotten noticeable buzz off tiramisu before when I was eating it on an empty stomach. Some of us are just lightweights.

        2. NeedRain47*

          Is there some alchemy going on here that I don’t know about? Bc 1/4 cup of bourbon is about two shots worth. Unless a single person ate all of these in a very short period of time, they’d not be drunk at all. They *taste* strong but have very, very little alcohol per ball. (I’ve made rum balls, not bourbon, but same thing.)

          1. Water Snake*

            With regard to the contact buzz, that’s most probably the alcohol evaporating and building up a partial pressure. I don’t know what quantity of inhaled alcohol it takes to hit a buzz, so I’m going to reserve judgement on that part.

            1/4 cup divided by 50 or 60 is like 1/5 teaspoon. Perhaps there was more than 1/4 cup.

              1. Happy Baker*

                I always bake rum balls. Mine are basically cake pops that are then soaked in alcohol over night. They are super potent since the alcohol doesn’t cook of

        3. yala*

          That’s the way mine are. They’re not going to actually get you drunk, but they smell like a small whiskey fire has happened nearby.

          1. pagooey*

            Same. I use my grandma’s rum/bourbon balls recipe–basically the same nilla wafers concoction described elsewhere–and it’s only 1/4 cup of alcohol in the whole thing, but GAH, the smell. After rolling up several dozen of the little bastards by hand, I can’t even look at them, and don’t eat them myself! It’s gotta be the placebo effect…with the added twist of people thinking this particular placebo is permission to act absolutely hammered.

      2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        Reminds me of the year that learned about Rum Balls……and why my Granny wasn’t allowed to make them anymore. She almost blew up the house because she used and entire fifth of Rum (the recipie only called for a cup of Rum). She did blow up the oven and burn down her kitchen table and chairs.

        It was apparently the only time in 52 years that Granny and her husband didn’t sleep in the same bed (he was pissed that she put herself and the neighbors in danger).

      3. WhiskyTangoFoxtrot*

        My mom makes some killer rum balls. One year, when I was very young (maybe five-six?) I brought in a cookie plate for the class holiday party and a plate of rum balls for the teacher. Only I got them mixed up, gave the cookie plate to my teacher, and distributed some very boozy treats to my fellow first graders. My mother was horrified when she learned of my mistake. Sorry, Mom!

        1. Maglev to Crazytown*

          When I was in elementary school, my dad went on a business trip to Germany, and brought home LOTS of awesome chocolate. This led to my first ever alcohol buzz when I got into the VERY potent chocolates (and loving the heck out of the taste!!!), not realizing what they were.

      4. Environmental Compliance*

        I have a cousin that once made a chocolate trifle thing that I think may have called for 1/2c of vodka….. I’m pretty sure she put in half a bottle if not the entire bottle. Then didn’t label it as alcoholic, so it ended up on the Normal Dessert Table and not the Adult Only Table, and the kiddos almost got into it before someone caught them scooping up an entire bowlful to eat and got a whiff. I ate a scoopful and was a bit tipsy. It was strong even for a Wisconsinite. Tasty? Yes. Dangerous? Also yes.

    2. Slow Gin Lizz*

      Me too! And it’s reminding me that I want to try making bourbon balls this year for my boozy relatives. I suspect I’ll have one and that’ll be enough.

      1. SushiRoll*

        This thread immediately had me looking at bourbon ball recipes. They arent super popular here (surprisingly, because people drink bourbon here, you just don’t see them a ton), but I had some in KY last year and they are delicious. Found some that look pretty simple to make so it’s definitely happening!

        1. yala*

          There’s a semi-staple of Christmas for me, since they’re easy to make and yummy. Doesn’t just have to be bourbon. I’ve used whiskey or rum before. I think some folks use vodka, but I don’t much see the point.

          1. Slow Gin Lizz*

            I’ve made buttercream candies the last couple of years and they are fantastic. Super easy, though a bit time consuming. I imagine rum or bourbon balls are the same except you use booze instead of extract, but I will find a good recipe for them so I know for sure.

            1. yala*

              There may be some like that, but the recipe I’ve always used (if it can even be called that) is nilla wafers, pecans or walnuts, and cocoa powder ground up in a food processor, mixed with light karo syrup and booze-of-choice, then rolled in powdered sugar.

        2. Look out, there are llamas!*

          The recipe on the Garden & Gun magazine website is fantastic. The cookie crumb base is upgraded from nilla wafers to shortbread.

    3. inkheart*

      My colleague once brought in rum balls, and I had a few, then a few more – completely forgetting that they were not baked, therefore the rum was not just flavoring. I had quite the buzz all afternoon.

      1. On Fire*

        One of the teams in my workplace often receives special homemade treats around the holidays. One day a client brought in candies that his wife had made. Some sort of chocolate truffle-looking thing. One of my colleagues is the sweetest person in the world and a religious teetotaler. He enjoyed a few of these chocolate balls until another coworker said, “You do know these are bourbon balls, right? Made with bourbon?” He didn’t eat any more but admitted they were delicious. :-)

      2. SemiAnon*

        There was an incident when I was a teen with my parents’ rum balls, some visiting friends, and a five year old who, unnoticed by his elders, really liked the rum balls and kept returning to the cookie tray. His parents realized he was drunk after getting him home.

    4. RabbitRabbit*

      I have a coworker who used to make alcohol-infused cakes and bring them in for us; I swear some were so potent that you might be able to make them flame up just by lighting a match in the vicinity. I wonder if she’s ever made bourbon balls?

  1. Heffalump*

    “Finally, I will have final say on if a dish is approved or not. … Isn’t Thanksgiving all about good food and communion?”

    Cognitive dissonance alert!

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      I first read this as “communication” which is definitely not what Thanksgiving is about.

    2. ferrina*

      I’m just really glad I’m not related to this person. If this is how they are at the office, how tyranical would they be at home?!

      1. goddessoftransitory*

        You know they have like, six sets of “holiday” china in STRICT rotation for different special meals.

        1. NoIWontFixYourComputer*

          When I was a kid, my mother informed me and my two sisters that we would always volunteer to bring napkins.

          This was after she was signed up for something like 12 dozen cookies to be spread among three separate classrooms (not to mention a cub scout pack and a girl scout troop).

    3. goddessoftransitory*

      I love how that list starts out totally reasonable and descends into utter madness by point 4.

      1. Absurda*

        Yeah she had me at #’s 1 and 2, those were reasonable. #3 was a little odd but my shedding pet owning self thought “yeah! easy out to making something.” It all went downhill after that.

      2. Elenna*

        At the start of the list I thought it was a “how to do potlucks well” comment. Needless to say, I did not think that anymore by the end of it.

    4. Delta Delta*

      Everyone’s Thanksgiving is a little different. Suppose someone from a non-US background wanted to bring the special dish their family has every year; this coworker is going to ban it because it doesn’t pass her muster. Yikes.

      1. DataSci*

        My first thought was a Black person signing up to bring their traditional family Mac& cheese, and getting rejected by a white person who knows nothing about other Thanksgiving traditions.

        1. SunriseRuby*

          In the late 1980s, I left the midwest for a year to work in Washington, D. C. A few of my Black co-workers told me that macaroni and cheese was on their Thanksgiving menu. After I got my mind around that, I thought it was the best idea I’d ever heard of and don’t understand why it hasn’t caught on more widely.

          1. Chexwarrior*

            I didn’t even realize it was a Black thing when I encountered it. One of my friends from college always made a seriously awesome Mac&Cheese for Friendsgiving dinner. Granted, I don’t know about his extended family, but to my understanding his household growing up were all white bread Iowans.

        2. Random Biter*

          My old neighborhood was mostly Black and Latino (my own DNA is a world traveler). If you couldn’t bring the mac n cheese or arroz con gandules to any neighborhood function you were viewed with commiseration

          1. GlitterIsEverything*

            I read this and immediately thought of that post. I have to wonder if these two people are at least related, if not the same person. Who “approves” pot luck dishes????

    5. Molly*

      I was wondering when you are told whether your dish is acceptable—when you arrive at the potluck and it’s found to be substandard?

    6. Zoe Karvounopsina*

      Did anyone else read the reddit AITA post featuring a MIL who requires her female relatives to provide dessert samples for judging at Christmas?

        1. Zoe Karvounopsina*

          And the poster was a very good example of a boiled frog/someone who has been in a sick system for so long you think it’s normal, because he thought this was perfectly reasonable!

      1. Long Time Lurker, First Time Poster*

        YES! That was horrible and I felt so bad for the poster who never makes the cut.

      2. GlitterIsEverything*

        I read this and immediately thought of that post. I have to wonder if these two people are at least related, if not the same person. Who “approves” pot luck dishes????

    7. Teacher*

      #1 :
      Lol. What tyranny. I would either refuse to attend, bring napkins whether or not they were already accounted for, or bring my grocery store cookies — who cares if they lose their marbles.

      We had a schoolwide Sunshine Club that would put on events such as a Fall Chili Cook Off, which also had a potluck sign up for other dish categories. It was a lot of fun most years. Then one year one of our administrative assistants who was in charge of supplies and ordering became the head of the Sunshine Club. (This assistant could be difficult and hoarded supplies around the building that one of our principals discovered. His response was to lay them across the auditorium stage and declare them up for grabs. Among the piles? Old blank floppy disks.) Suddenly your supplies were held hostage until you committed to bring an item to the cook off. I witnessed one teacher in a stand off with the admin assistant — she literally dangled the chart paper the teacher had requested behind her desk until the teacher agreed to bring juice to the cook off.

    1. Despachito*

      Barb’s reaction was perhaps too strong but if she took the effort of buying all the ingredients and invested her work in preparing the meal only to learn it was canceled, I find it totally understandable she was pissed.

      1. WellRed*

        I don’t see what was stopping her from still sharing the chili, though. At any rate, four hours of this? Nah.

        1. Weaponized Pumpkin*

          That’s what confused me — the chili can still be eaten and shared. No one said it had to be thrown out! So, the problem was she was deprived of the opportunity to compete/win? Come on. She can be annoyed but there was no call for acting out.

          1. Chirpy*

            Right? And if she’s so dead set on it being a competition, she basically could have looked on the bright side and decided she won due to all other entries being withdrawn. I’m sure the other people in the office would have appreciated some chili (unless it was truly terrible).

            (I say this having lost the only chili contest I’ve ever entered. My coworkers just have lame taste in watery, barely spiced tomatoes and kidney beans, if they didn’t like my nice chili, that’s their problem, haha)

          1. Cyndi*

            Four hours of punching stuff is so much punching. I would run out of things to punch in about five minutes.

            1. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

              Anything is punchable if you just dream big and act with determination!

      2. ecnaseener*

        An hours-long tantrum with punching and screaming is “perhaps” too strong? When does it become definitely too strong?!

      3. Burger Bob*

        It was more than “perhaps” too strong. I’m shocked there was no discipline involved for her if she truly did spend 3 to 4 hours yelling and crying in the office. I can’t think of any occasion for which that would be considered appropriate.

    2. Absurda*

      Haven’t worked with a Barb but knew one in college. Here boyfriend said he’d pick her up after he got off of work. He was late doing so and by the time he’d gotten there she’d called/texted him about a dozen times, had a crying fit and gone on a walk to calm down. He was 20 minutes late.

      Life’s too short for that much drama!

    3. Defense of the Barbs*

      I worked with a Barbara who was one of the sweetest, thoughtful, most laid back people I’ve ever met. She did go by Barbara though, never Barb. Maybe that makes the difference!

      On the other hand, I also have an aunt-in-law named Barb. She’s difficult.

    4. Siege*

      The nightmare member of my org who is spoken of in the same tones you would speak of the devil is named Barb. Co-sign.

    5. Choggy*

      Never met a Karen I didn’t like but have met Barbs who were pretty awful. A silent cheer, that could be *heard* by all went up when it was announced the “worst Barb of all” was retiring. She came back for a visit and I spotted her while I was driving out the company lot for lunch and completely ignored her. Thankfully no one let her into the building, was dreading seeing her when I got back.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      There is something to the idea of potlucks triggering some primitive feast or famine cue in the brain.

      1. MigraineMonth*

        Experiments have also shown that humans’ usual value analysis breaks when things are free. It’s like a psychological division-by-zero error.

        Would I pay $0.05 for this unappetizing piece of pizza/cookie/donut? No.

        Would I eat a bunch of them if they were free? Yes.

        1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

          “It’s like a psychological division-by-zero error.”

          Thank you for this perfect explanation. Everything makes sense.

        2. JustaTech*

          I read about an experiment once where people were given free, stale popcorn at a movie theater (maybe the movie was free too?) and the buckets were weighed before and after. The popcorn was so stale that several people asked for refunds until they were reminded that it was free.
          The kicker?
          Most of the popcorn got eaten, even though it was terrible. Because that’s what you do at a movie theater, eat popcorn.

    2. Middle Aged Lady*

      That so many intelligent good hearted kind coworkers are ignorant of basic food safety is what scares me about potlucks. I still eat. The only food poisoning incident I had was from catered Chipotle at work. Apparently the rice was the culprit.

      1. That'sNotMyName*

        Keeping rice warm AND safe at the same time is tricky, especially if it spent a significant amount of time travelling or otherwise not in a warmer.

      2. Charlotte Lucas*

        Rice seems so innocuous, but in a group setting, when it’s left out, it’s surprisingly dangerous!

        1. ferrina*

          Also cooked potatoes and cut melons. If not kept at food-safe temps, that stuff can go bad really quickly.

      3. Artemesia*

        Rice always seems so safe. I used to order chicken rice when traveling in the far east because I am sensitive to quite a few ingredients and this seemed safe. Then when I was in Singapore there was a massive food poisoning event where a couple dozen people were hospitalized; the culprit was fried rice. Apparently the big pot of rice had been made and sat overnight before being cooked up with the added ingredients and cooked rice unrefrigerated is a notorious bacterial habitat.

          1. Philosophia*

            A vegetarian, I figure that if I turn a simmering pot off without removing the lid—a good tight lid, mind you—and let it cool overnight on the stove, that’s safe enough for me to eat. It always has been so far, and I’m not so laissez faire when I prepare food for others. But thanks for the warning, Artemesia.

            1. Water Snake*


              Your dry rice is probably very safe and probably not contaminated. If you keep a clean kitchen and wash your hands well, you are probably not adding any contaminants. Plus, you boil it for 20 min. But, when you let it cool overnight, you allow the rice to sit in the bacterial growth happy temperature zone, so any contaminant that was introduced gets to grow into a beautiful colony. People have died from not properly refrigerating cooked rice and pasta. I recommend that from now on, you refrigerate that rice after it cools a little.

            2. SarahKay*

              I used to do the same (with similar lack of problems) but apparently that’s not ideal for rice. Latest advice seems to be cool it as fast as you can and get it in the fridge as soon as you can without trashing the fridge temperature. I can’t say I follow it to the letter, but these days rice definitely gets treated with the same caution as chicken and pork.

              1. Not Your Admin Ass(t)*

                Yeah, all members of my household were raised on rice with every meal, and we know you don’t eff around with properly storing it! When I move it from the rice cooker to the storage container, I set a timer for 20-30 minutes to let it cool (lid open), then it goes straight into the fridge (lid closed) once the timer goes off.

          2. I need a new name...*

            It’s often the reheating of old rice that’s the issue, something about a two-stage spore process on the common bacteria.

            So the first, harmless, stage is triggered by first cooking, then if you leave it in a warm environment for a long period and follow it with a second cooking (say, the microwave) the second part of the process is triggered and that’s where you’re looking a food poisoning.

            Or, at least, that’s how the short documentary on microwaveable rice explained it.

            So if you can refrigerate very quickly, you reduce the risk of the second trigger but there’s still a risk

      4. Elenna*

        We had a potluck at work a few weeks ago. I did not get sick, and as far as I know there was no particularly ridiculous behavior. I did, however, get food poisoning from the company-sponsored BBQ a few months ago.
        So in case anyone is reading these and going “oh god I can never do a potluck again” – they can go well! (Then again, I enjoy potlucks in general, if you don’t, feel free to take these stories as another reason to avoid them.)

        1. JustaTech*

          All our potlucks and chili cook offs and bake sales have turned out fine.
          There was almost an incident with undercooked chicken at a cookout (it started raining so the griller just brought everything inside). Thankfully the chicken was caught before more than one person cut into it and then was microwaved into submission, so it turned out ok (and we never did bone-in chicken again).

      5. no longer working*

        I may be overly cautious but I was afraid to eat the food at our holiday potlucks. Food was kept in the fridge till party time, when it was heated up in sterno chafing dishes to a lukewarm temperature. I brought a sliced cheese platter and dinner rolls, and ate little cheese sandwiches, mostly.

      6. Ampersand*

        I’ve also never gotten sick from work potlucks, but I *have* gotten food poisoning from Chipotle. Good to know about rice!

        1. Galadriel's Garden*

          Same, but the food poisoning was from Panera. And here I was, trying to be healthy and eat a salad – lesson learned!

      7. Burger Bob*

        Indeed! These potluck poisoning stories always make me feel so amazed that nothing of the kind ever happened at any of the many, many church potlucks I went to growing up.

    3. Berkeleyfarm*

      Used to run coffee hour and special food events for my former church … agreed.

      Cake, especially, seemed to REALLY bring it out the inner whiny five year old in a lot of people.

  2. I Herd the Cats*

    The Magic Mike story reminds me of that epic tale (I think via Carolyn Hax) of the blind date who did magic tricks and then moped at the piano while the letter-writer slowly got sauced with the date’s coworkers at an event.

      1. Laure001*

        And there was a Clint Barton/Phil Coulson fanfiction on Archive of your Own inspired by this story!

          1. Go read it*

            It’s called “You’re Where You Should Be All The Time” by Laura Kaye, and it’s fantastic. Absolutely delightful.

          2. Aw, coffee, no*

            Go! Go read it now. And then the rest of her Clint/Phil fanfiction. I spent most of my free time this January burning through the lot as the perfect tonic to a rain-filled, covid-laced start to the year.

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

      It wasn’t a blind date and it was originally published here. I don’t know if it also made it’s way to Hax. Link in reply.

    2. HoHumDrum*

      I 100% unironically am on Magic Mike’s side. Bringing entertainment is of equal value as bringing food to a party. His magic show totally counts as a contribution and as a coworker I would be delighted.

        1. HoHumDrum*

          Honestly it works either way. If he’s good then you get a fun magic show, if he’s bad you get the delight of watching your coworker bomb at magic in front of everyone.

      1. yala*

        I dunno. I’d rather just talk to people or something? If someone’s performing then basically everyone has to hush and pay attention, and usually that happens just as conversations were getting interesting.

        1. Czhorat*

          Yeah. I mean, I can perform various types of juggling with varying levels of proficiency, I can’t imagine bringing *talent* rather than food to a potluck event. People can’t eat a show.

          I could imagine doing both, but only if I honestly thought my coworkers would appreciate it.

        2. HoHumDrum*

          I think my attraction to Magic Mike’s whole deal is that I am terribly awkward and highly socially anxious but also still mostly an extrovert, so like I want to attend the office party and look forward to it but at the same time once I get there I am terrified of talking to anyone outside my direct team and then will spend the rest of the night obsessively running over everything I said and berating myself for it, so Magic Mike gives me some peace from that where I can just breathe and zone out lol

      2. Prefer my pets*

        Gah. No! “Entertainment” along these lines is absolutely excruciating for lots of us to sit through.
        I’ve learned the hard way to always be positioned for a quick escape from office gatherings that have a potential for becoming a captive audience.

      3. NeopolitanDynamite*

        Haha okay so the Magic Mike story was mine and I realize it probably came off as a little uh…unappreciative of the arts. He was perfectly fine but they were definitely kids’ party tricks (he moonlighted as a magician at children’s parties) like stuff with ropes & knots, connected metal rings, etc. He did them well but they weren’t amazing tricks. This guy was just also a lot in general. He once made the case that he didn’t know how to help keep the office kitchen clean because he was an only child (??) — this guy was at least 25 at the time.

        Oh, and I may have left off the part that would really get readers on my side here: one time instead of magic he brought puns. Like, literally a list of food-related puns that he got everyone’s attention to read out. And I love puns (more than magic tricks, probably) but I would never silence a room of happy eating people to make them listen to my puns because I understand the limits of human decency!

        1. Vio*

          What kind of logic is THAT? Surely an only child would have even less excuse since there’s nobody to share the chores with? I hope his puns were better than his excuses!

    3. Librarian of SHIELD*

      It is now my head canon that this is the same guy. He had the awkward date at the Christmas party, and then after he quit that job he started working with OP where his magic could be “appreciated” at the office potlucks.

    4. Banana*

      I did have a coworker whose contribution was playing holiday music on a keyboard (sounded like piano) for us while everyone ate, but he was VERY good at it and it was much appreciated.

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        But music is very different from a magic trick. Magic has to be watched, music can be enjoyed in the background while you still chat with the folks at your table.

    1. That'sNotMyName*

      She has blackmail materials? She’s the only one who knows how some piece of legacy software works and has never “gotten around to” writing documentation? No idea.

      1. Ampersand*

        It’s funny that the only person I’ve ever worked with named Barb was in charge of legacy software that no one else knew how to use. Sounds plausible!

    2. MsM*

      It sounds like she terrified HR into just maintaining a minimum distance of 100 feet from her at all times.

      1. MigraineMonth*

        They also made the extremely reasonable restriction that she never again never bring food to potlucks. The fact that Barb thinks that’s a prize doesn’t change the fact that it avoids future drama (about potlucks, at least).

        1. Eh, Steve!*

          I also was thinking “blackmail?” but I hadn’t thought this part through. I think you’ve hit it. I think HR said “Barb, we think it’s best you don’t participate in future since you feel this strongly about it,” and Barb heard something slightly different.

          Still can’t believe they reimbursed her for ingredients though.

          1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

            I can – they probably saw it as the best way to make this all go away as fast and quietly as possible.

        2. Beth*

          If they actually did. Barb could have been lying.

          It pisses me off that she was rewarded instead of being fired.

    3. Fluffy Fish*

      So there’s this thing where people pull a Barb and it seems to cause others become stunned and unsure how to act because its just so far outside the realm of normal behavior.

  3. Ben*

    The post has me adding “no potlucks” to my mental list of permanent telework benefits, with a bullet.

    1. Admiral Thrawn Is Always Blue*

      I do NOT eat homecooked food at a potluck. Only that which I know was commercially prepared. I just don’t trust people’s kitchens or cooking habits – shrimp story, I am looking at you right now.

      1. Ann Ominous*

        I shuddered at that shrimp story. My husband has had food poisoning enough times that he has almost zero risk tolerance – he scrupulously avoids all but the safest potluck foods. I’ve always been more ‘eh, whatever’ and eaten anything that looked or sounded good. This story has changed my mind.

        1. JustaTech*

          Here’s a funny shrimp story that might make you feel better.
          When my husband was just out of college he and his roommate decided to have a house warming party (they’d just moved to a house big enough for parties). My husband decides to make his grandmother’s famous shrimp dip, which is delightfully midwestern and calls for Miracle Whip.
          Sadly, neither my husband nor his roommate are from the midwest, so they bought Cool-whip.
          Thankfully they tasted the dip, realized their mistake, dumped the whole thing in a colander and washed off the cool-whip and re-made it with mayo.

          (The whole reason this shrimp thing is so popular is that you can make it with still-frozen itty-bitty shrimp and they will have thawed by the time you get to the party.)

      2. Ellen Ripley*

        I don’t mean to add to your worry, but based on the experience of several friends, many commercial kitchens aren’t really that clean or careful either…

        1. MigraineMonth*

          Yeah, I’m not sure I’d eat anything from the pizza place unless I’d prepared it myself. It was a family-owned business, which apparently meant all the family members, and their friends, and anyone who had ever worked there, felt free to wander into the kitchen to make something. The bakers didn’t label that their chocolate chip cookies might contain nuts, even when they contained whole peanuts. Also, the owners were so cheap they wouldn’t buy large-sized food handling gloves, so one employee just never wore gloves.

          1. Pointy's in the North Tower*

            Just want to point out that gloves aren’t a fail-safe. Most people don’t use food handling gloves correctly. They’re intended to be used and immediately discarded, not used repeatedly.

            Bare-handed food handling is perfectly safe, as long as proper handwashing and food handling technique is followed. (BIL is a chef and is a stickler about proper food handling.)

            1. JustaTech*

              When I volunteered at a soup kitchen/food pantry the whole glove thing was one of the hardest things to get volunteers to understand.

              One day we had a group from a big company come, and their organizer wanted to take pictures. So he sticks his raw-chicken-covered glove in his pocket, pulls out his phone, takes a bunch of pictures and is about to go back to touching the raw chicken when I stopped him.
              “Hey, you just got raw chicken on your phone, and you’re about to get phone germs on the chicken. You need to change your gloves and wash your hands.”
              “Don’t touch your phone with your gloves, you got raw chicken germs on it.”
              “Oh. Oh! Eww!”

              (I work in a lab with human samples, I’ve got gloves down, but I know most people don’t.)

      3. Liane*

        I used to work as a microbiology tech at an internship and then a few different jobs. The women microbiologists I knew were adamant that you should avoid any homemade potato, pasta, chicken or similar type salads served at buffets, potlucks, and picnics — but not because of the mayonnaise as you might assume.** They told me the danger was that these salads were warm when made and then often stored overnight in the refrigerator in crowd size containers. But the food in the middle never got cold, and in fact was the right temperature for the pathogens that cause food poisoning to grow. I still avoid those dishes and when I make potato salad at home, I either make a smaller batch or divide it into smaller containers before immediately putting it in the fridge.

        **it’s acidic and if store bought tends to have preservatives so unlikely to spoil according to these scientists

        1. Nyltiack*

          Yes, the problem is much less the mayo, and much more what people do with it. In addition to not properly cooling the chicken/pasta/potatoes, whenever you have something like ____ salad, there’s a lot of mixing and agitating of the ingredients without cooking afterwards, which is just that many more chances for bacterial contamination in a nice place for bacteria to thrive.

      4. Shillik*

        100% same. My job involves going into people’s houses, and I’ve seen plenty of horrific hygiene sights. People who look otherwise well-presented can have grime on every surface. Once I saw an expensively-dressed guy having a lasagna for lunch that had clearly been sitting on the counter for days. He was carefully eating around the mold on one end, and said he ‘didn’t like to waste food’. I just figure, if that’s what some people are happy eating themselves, what on earth do they feed to others??

    2. Elenna*

      I still enjoy potlucks, but that’s because a) food is something I really enjoy and I have a lot of fun trying things others have made that I might never make myself, b) I’m pretty hard to gross out and admittedly probably don’t have the best food hygiene when cooking just for myself either (although I do my best to keep things clean when cooking for others) and c) I don’t have any allergies and have a pretty strong stomach. None of which are necessarily applicable to others. (Oh, and d) the work potluck a few weeks ago went fine, so I know my coworkers can be sane when confronted with free food.)
      (Also I did get mild food poisoning from the company-sponsered BBQ a few months back, so it’s not just potlucks…)

    3. Powerpants*

      I wonder. Was there any sort of lawsuit for the person who had to go to the hospital? There should have been some sort of consequence for the harm this person did.

    1. Silly Janet*

      Nice. I was just at the grocery store looking for Hawaiian rolls and singing about cheap ass rolls.

      1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        I deliberately tried them when I was stateside earlier this year, and was … underwhelmed. After the LW’s reaction I was sure they were going to be spectacular, a whole level above cheap-ass rolls. Er, no.

    2. Cait*

      Came here to say this! Did Cheap-Ass Rolls Lady get a new job and is now in charge of all potlucks? Let’s hope not.

    1. No Tribble At All*

      I can 100% see how someone with no cooking experience would think you could substitute canned tomatoes for fresh. I’d feel a little bad for Lab Tech if he hadn’t turned down people’s suggestions!

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

        Well, I mean, he didn’t know that you don’t eat the skin of an avocado and he apparently spent all night making a salad. So I guess, he has probably NOT ever eaten or seen a salad since landing on Earth.

      2. Clorinda*

        Lab tech who can’t google a simple recipe and is unaware of basic food safety is a cause for concern.

        1. amoeba*

          Ha, indeed. We always joke about chemists pretending they “don’t know how to bake” – well, if you cannot follow a simple experimental procedure, maybe you’re in the wrong field?

        2. JustaTech*

          Oh ho, so you’ve worked with my former colleague then?
          He would microwave his lunch (rice and cooked vegetables, in a glass container) for 7 minutes (7 minutes!) and then let it sit to cool down for at least 20 minutes. Longer if he got distracted. And then eat it, and complain about an upset stomach.
          He also said he drank 7-Up to “exercise his pancreas” so he wouldn’t get diabetes.

          This man had a PhD in biology.

    2. YA Author*

      I am a flawed person who genuinely prefers canned tomatoes—even in salads. Fortunately, I only inflict these salads upon myself, and occasionally my very unlucky spouse. (But I usually chop up a tomato for him and add my tinned tomatoes to my plate. The kids won’t touch any tomato outside of sauce-form.)

      1. Presea*

        There’s a huge difference between having an unusual preference and… whatever it was this tech did.

      2. linger*

        Can recommend: take a can of tomatoes, slop the contents into a pan seasoned with a little olive oil, fry until the liquid evaporates off, and use the resulting “sun-dried tomatoes” in the salad.

    3. Presea*

      As is slicing avocado up into such tiny pieces. I cannot fathom how a salad could go that level of wrong. It’s as though the tech has never eaten a salad or an avocado, or even seen someone else eat one… or maybe his family of origin had some weird ideas about salad or… something. Actually, the family of origin idea might explain why he thought it was okay to dump the salad out, go through it with his hands, and put it back and serve it…

      1. Elenna*

        To be fair, my family (including me) would have done that (with washed hands) and not thought anything of it if it was being served just to family. I would have known not to do it for a potluck though…

        1. Elenna*

          By which I mean the “touching/tossing salad with your hands” part. We would not have cut avocado into tiny skin-on pieces, because we have in fact eaten avocado before. (Also, if it was so hard to cut I really wonder if it was even ripe… where I live they are usually sold unripe at grocery stores, since they continue to ripen after being picked.)

          1. ZugTheMegasaurus*

            For a couple years, I worked at a coffee shop located inside a grocery store; we were right next to the produce department. At one point, they put up an absolutely massive display of avocados, all of which had bold “RIPE!” stickers on them. My coworker and I were chatting and she said, “I wonder how they know that all of them are ripe before they put the stickers on?” She walked over to the display and brought back an avocado, at which point we realized the full text of the sticker was “RIPE!” in giant yellow letters, and then in teeny-tiny little gray print underneath, “when soft.”

          2. Snell*

            …I kind of feel that dumping the salad out directly onto a public space table is much worse than touching salad with bare hands. Would you and your family do that? Presumably, even then, you’d clean the surface before working on it, but I think that’s a bit much to expect from this guy. Like, if he didn’t even know about the avocado skin, I would not be surprised if he didn’t have a chopping board and used a plate instead.

        1. As Per Elaine*

          I could believe this except:
          1) I doubt he has a food processor.
          2) If he *does* have access to a food processor, I doubt he could successfully use one to get an avocado into small pieces that are not total paste.

          1. Snell*

            With the description of how he trimmed the avocado skin off each individual piece, combined with his general culinary ignorance, I sort of suspect the avocado wasn’t even ripe, which a food processor could plausibly chop neatly enough. No one would know, of course, since nobody actually ate it, as it so happened.

            But I, too, doubt he has a food processor, for the same reasons as you.

    4. goddessoftransitory*

      That one reminded me that there is no foodstuff, however basic-seeming or simple, that cannot be utterly destroyed if the right person gets a hold of it.

      1. JustaTech*

        Years ago I watched a show on TLC about families eating habits (in retrospect it was super exploitative and unkind), where a dietician would come and introduce a family to a whole new way of eating.
        In one episode the mom packed the kids veggie sandwiches for school lunch, and somehow cut all the way through an avocado, skin, meat and *pit* and put it on the sandwich. The other children at the table were shocked and amazed that anyone could do that.

  4. Juicebox Hero*

    I missed #5 (Magic Mike) somehow. Gotta love someone who’s a legend in his own mind.

    It also makes me think of the letter from the young woman who went with a friend to his holiday work party and he tried to woo her with magic tricks and getting her the wrong drinks, then played moody breakup songs on the piano at her when she didn’t go for it.

    I think the hated lab tech and his salad is my favorite. I still wonder if he chopped up the avocado pit and all, along with the skin.

    1. Lance*

      I hope he didn’t chop up the pit with it all, but if he did, I’d be really curious how on Earth he managed it.

  5. Skyblue*

    I believe Barb was told not to bring stuff to future potlucks. But I doubt is was done to make up for the way she was wronged by HR – more likely it was a condition of her continuing employment! Good grief, sit it out of you’re going to act like that.

    1. Uranus Wars*

      That was exactly my thought! OK, Barb, we’ll reimburse you and let you keep your job if you never participate in a potluck again.

  6. Lynn*

    #7 makes me so mad. I would boycott, either by planning to be out of office that day or by “getting sick” that morning and unable to bring my planned contribution. Better if you can make it a mini mutiny with the other admins.

    1. ferrina*

      Or fail to understand the assignment.

      “You mean pigs in a blanket aren’t a type of charceutarie?”

      1. Safety First*

        I was thinking 3 lunchables. Don’t even take them out of the little trays.

        Side note: I read tweet that said the following and felt personally attacked.

        “Some one just said millennials love charcuterie boards and mimosas ‘cause we grew up on Lunchables and Sunny D”

        1. Pointy's in the North Tower*

          I too feel attacked.

          Charcuterie and mimosas are delicious! Lunchables and Sunny D are…not. Even as a kid I thought they were gross.

    2. Artemesia*

      I can’t believe there was not rebellion the first time this occurred. Half a dozen people should have marched together into the bosses offices and announced that they could not afford to buy fancy charcuterie, pastries from Chez Pastry etc and would not be participating in the party. This is just so abusive.

      1. A. Tiskit & A. Taskit LLC*

        There was no rebellion because the hapless assistants stuck with bringing the most expensive food depended upon the managers for their livelihoods, now and in the future. Those managers who blithely snapped up the cheapest and easiest contributions would determine the assistants’ continued employment, promotions, bonuses, and future letters of reference. That’s why no assistant challenged this incredibly selfish and oblivious behavior! Had they done so, they might – to quote Scrooge – “keep your Christmas by losing your situation (job).”

          1. Nowwhat465*

            I was the OP on #7. One of them knew what they were doing by picking up the cheapest things on the list; that manager I would refuse to work with to this day. The other 6 had no clue. This was a nonprofit, where there are usually two different backgrounds at play: those who grew up middle to lower income and like the institution and the mission, and those who grew up wealthy and were encouraged to work in philanthropy if they were not going to become doctors or lawyers.

            The latter group never even considered what we made and how much of our weekly pay would go towards these parties because money was not a consideration for most of them. It was only until a new manager came in, pointed it out, that they realized how bad this actually was.

    3. WellRed*

      Who the eff came up with the idea of a gourmet hot chocolate bar? You’ll get Swiss Miss and like it!

  7. Specialkalifragilous*

    My office used to have mandatory fun Holiday parties that we all grew to dread more and more with each passing year. The big boss ordered the main food, and we would bring in sides and desserts. There was no getting out of it and one year I got so fed up with the whole thing I brought a dish from my family’s homeland of Sweden out of spite: Jansson’s Temptation (
    I hate fish and didn’t eat any of it.

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

      Agree with Clorinda, that it sounds good, but anchovies don’t taste like fish to me, just salt — so much salt.

    2. Silly Janet*

      I found this recipe in a cookbook and made it. It was delicious, but so rich (it used a quart of heavy cream) that we were physically sick afterwards.

      1. Chocolate Teapot*

        Nigella Lawson has a recipe for it in her last book, and apparently, it isn’t anchovies but sprats, which might be difficult to get hold of.

        1. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

          Try a Russian/Eastern European market; there’s one in Brookline that has sprats at $4/jar right now (Bazaar, on Beacon Street). Yes, this was our happy discovery of the month, and we put them on the shopping list as soon as we finished the first package.

          I was all set to make the Jansson’s Temptation, until I saw how much heavy cream it has–I love the stuff, but live with people who it disagrees with.

        2. Oooooooh*

          Costco has bottles of sprats near the refrigerator section where they usually have hummus, dips etc..

          1. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

            This is probably regional: I don’t think I’ve ever seen sprats at my local Costco, but it does carry ghee and, sometimes, frozen halal goat meat cubes. (I miss the Russian deli from my old neighborhood. I can get really good food from a lot of different places where I live now, but I don’t think we have any specialty-European places at all. Even the local “French” bakery is actually an Asian bakery chain. I miss tarragon soda most of all, but that’s probably not being imported right now anyway.)

            1. Seeking Second Childhood*

              I found recipes online for mixing it up as simple syrup with seltzer. I think this might ill happen.

        1. allathian*

          Surströmming is lethal. The smell is indescribably awful, a mix of brine, propane, and cow manure.

          Lutefisk doesn’t really smell, at least not after it’s been soaked in water to make it edible again, but the sauce you eat with it does. Lutefisk is one of the few foods that I don’t eat.

    3. allathian*

      Jansson’s Temptation is delicious. If you don’t want to eat fish, you can substitute strips of ham, or ground beef that’s been fried and split into small pieces on the frying pan, or even vegetable protein like fried tofu cubes. With vegan heavy cream and vegan cheese you can make a vegan version.

  8. Mensa CW*

    My mom attended a breakfast potluck and someone brought an egg, blue cheese and fennel casserole. She was a very polite person but she couldn’t make herself try it. Nobody else could either. Is that an actual dish that people consume? It sounds heinous.

    1. OyHiOh*

      I’d try it. I like fennel. I like blue cheese. I’m curious how those flavors would marry. However, egg as the base is a bit curious to me – I generally find that blue cheese is too strong of a flavor for eggs. But I’d try to see how it worked.

      1. Prefer my pets*

        yeah. The egg thing is the part I find baffling.

        One of my very, very favorite restaurants had this amazing mussels dish where the mussels were steamed with fennel (along with garlic, white wine, etc) then the giant bowl of the briny shelled goodness was sprinkled with crumbled blue cheese and crispy bits of bacon as it was served to you. The fennel & blue cheese really worked in that bowl of delicious!

      2. Snoozing not schmoozing*

        I’ve had yummy quiches with blue cheese, and I’m a fennel fanatic, so I would LOVE to try this.

    2. Juicebox Hero*

      No kidding. I hate stinky cheeses and anything licorice flavored. A potluck is NOT the time for exotic ingredients that people don’t like or aren’t familiar with. It’s meant to be a dish that most everyone will enjoy. I’ve seen breakfast casseroles and quiche at buffets, but they stick to cheddar or Swiss cheese, and things like spinach, peppers, tomatoes that most people are happy with if they don’t use meat.

      1. Roland*

        Blue cheese and fennel aren’t “exotic” ingredients… And if they were, so what?

        > . A potluck is NOT the time for exotic ingredients that people don’t like or aren’t familiar with. It’s meant to be a dish that most everyone will enjoy.

        Wow, could not disagree more. The joy of potlucks for me is seeing the diversity of dishes that people come up with. I think you’re citing a personal preference as an etiquette rule.

        Fwiw I would totally try the blue cheese fennel dish. I don’t see the big deal.

        1. Snoozing not schmoozing*

          Totally agree. Our best work potluck was when we were encouraged to bring in dishes from various parts of the world, if we wanted to. So much deliciousness, much of it new to me!

        2. Hrodvitnir*

          100% with you over here. You don’t want everything to be niche flavours, but that doesn’t sound super weird and I’m actually keen on it in theory.

        3. Happy*

          Agreed! It’s a pot luck – not everyone has to try every dish! I think it’s a great opportunity to share something people are likely not to have seen before.

        4. NotAnotherManager!*

          Same. None of that strikes me as exotic, and I’m by no means a foodie. At minimim, many people have at least heard of these things from the plethora of cooking shows available now.

          Eggs are the thing in that dish I like the least, but I’d give it a shot. Much preferable to yet another protein/starch + cream of something soup topped with cheese and breadcrumbs (which I do enjoy but not en masse).

      2. BlondeSpiders*

        This thought process makes me sad. I for one, do not want a table filled with 12 versions of Hotdish. Bring your weird stuff, show your personality! Just make sure it’s very clearly labeled.

        1. Chirpy*

          Yes, label things clearly and let everyone decide if they want to try it or not, I like seeing what people bring.

          *my coworkers unfortunately aren’t super creative, but I’ve been to one medieval themed potluck where many people actually researched historical recipes and labeled everything, and it was really neat

      3. Chirpy*

        Disagree, potlucks are for finding interesting recipes (that you know will work, granted) because otherwise you end up with 5 kinds of potato salad and a lot of chips.

      4. Snell*

        …Fennel may taste “like” licorice, but you’d never mistake it for licorice. It’s a vegetable, and tastes about as strongly as a green vegetable can, which isn’t very much in comparison to the concentrated extract from licorice root. Aniseseed tastes more strongly. Heck, fennel seeds are also licorice adjacent, and they’re a very common addition to pork sausage, which nobody ever complains about tasting like licorice.

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        This. It sounds interesting (maybe more of a dip than a casserole) but I’d want to know the people who prepared it had some…skill? Any idea what they were doing? Otherwise a little scary.

    3. Loredena*

      When I was in a CSA we got fennel bulbs. The recipe we had was an egg and cheese savory pie with the fennel bulb. It was amazing! Fennel bulb doesn’t have as strong a flavor I don’t like blue cheese so can’t speak to that though

      1. Artemesia*

        When I got fennel in my farm boxes I used it in salmon in paper — thin sliced under the salmon, it works perfectly.

    4. Not A Manager*

      I’m… intrigued. Was it an egg custard base? So basically a quiche filling or a timbale made with fennel and bleu cheese? Or was it something like chopped hard-boiled eggs, so you have a very unique egg salad?

      I’m not sure I’d be brave enough to try it at a pot luck, but I’d definitely taste it if it came as a side dish in a fancy restaurant.

    5. L.H. Puttgrass*

      That sounds pretty tasty to me, actually. It would be easy to overpower the eggs with the blue cheese and fennel, but in the blue cheese could add a bit of tang and pungency to the eggs and the fennel could lend a bit of sausage-y flavor. Without other major ingredients I’d think of it more as a frittata than a casserole, it would depend on having a certain kind of blue cheese, and having the correct proportions would be critical to keep the fennel or blue cheese from overwhelming the dish. But I could see it working out really well.

      …and now I’m going to have to try making a blue cheese fennel frittata or omelet.

      1. Sorrischian*

        I’ve never tried it with blue cheese, but I made a fennel, sweet corn, and cheese (I think I used an aged goat cheese I got at the local farmers’ market, but don’t remember what particular style) strata just this past summer and it was indeed delicious

      2. Bagpuss*

        Yes. I don’t like fennel as I dislike aniseed, so I probably wouldn’t enjoy it, but that’s a personal preference, I don’t think any of the ingredients are exotic and the flavour combination could work.

    6. JustSomeone*

      I would absolutely eat that! I could picture myself bringing something like that to a potluck at a prior workplace that loved doing potlucks, but only because my coworkers were avowed foodies who would be interested in trying something new. I would go for a much safer choice at my current workplace.

    7. goddessoftransitory*

      It’s like when kids play “cooking” and mix up all their favorite drinks with chocolate syrup in one glass.

    8. The OG Sleepless*

      It sounds tasty to me, but I wouldn’t make it for a potluck. That’s a know-your-audience thing.

    9. Calliope*

      A lot of egg casseroles have toasted bread as a base (google “strata” which is the Italian word) which would moderate the stronger flavors. I think that would be pretty good with fennel and blue cheese.

      1. Cthulhu's Librarian*

        Bread – or potatoes. You can do a pretty awesome egg casserole/quiche/strata by including cubed potatoes.

      2. Sorrischian*

        I replied further up thread before I saw this comment – I have in fact made a strata with fennel, sweet corn, and cheese (although not blue cheese specifically), and it was delicious!

    10. bishbah*

      Make it goat cheese instead of blue and I’m on board. Or add day-old brioche and some milk and work it up into a savory bread pudding…

    11. MsSolo UK*

      This is where I struggle with the US definition of casserole, which is much broader than the UK one, but also I’m just looking at those ingredients and thinking “salad?” Chuck some rocket (arugula?) and croutons in and serve it in small portions.

    12. Gray Lady*

      That sounds worth a try to me. Not that different from a savory egg casserole I make. You can put any type of cheese in, and sometimes I use a Swiss/Gruyere blend. Bleu would be just a little bit stronger, and the fennel doesn’t seem that far off, either.

      I don’t know, maybe the actual result is bad, but in theory it sounds like it could work.

  9. Allison*

    I’m so glad no company I’ve ever worked for has had an office potluck! I did attend a department potluck, at the CPO’s condo, and it was an Italian-themed dinner. I don’t recall any major issues there.

  10. Skyblue*

    People like the one who wrote the email in #1… ugh. Sounds just like my sister: “We are going to have a wonderful holiday. You just need to do things exactly the way I want you to!”

    1. Elle Woods*

      It reminds me of a post I saw recently in the AITA subreddit. MIL asked all the women in the family to submit samples of the dessert they were thinking of bringing to the family Christmas dinner. MIL would then decide whose dessert was good enough to make the menu.

      So glad I’m not in that family.

      1. Gan Ainm*

        Ohhh I’d immediately pass that right along to my spouse, “you’re their child, you deal with it. Unsubscribe me from whatever this is.”

        1. NotAnotherManager!*

          We have a well-established your-parents-your-circus rule in our house that has served us well for over a decade.

          My husband is also a better cook than I am, so he can compete, should he so choose.

      2. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        The part you missed out is that the person writing was the son, thinking his wife was unreasonable to be upset that MIL rejected her desserts year after year; and that in the update he revealed that both his wife and his brother’s wife (who had similar treatment from their shared MIL) were both boycotting Thanksgiving this year as a result.

        My corner of Twitter was firmly Team Wife, I can tell you.

      3. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

        So…was the MIL going to taste all of the samples? Because this seems like the perfect time to play “what’s the weirdest-tasting safe-to-eat thing I could plausibly claim was a ‘dessert’ when the yearly sampling time comes around?”

        I mean, logically, if Salted Caramel is a tasty food trend, and fish sauce is also quite salty, Fish Sauce Caramel would be an exciting new twist!

        1. Snell*

          A bit more investigation into the situation kind of makes it look like MIL is just cutting anything from people who married into the family, and favoring her biological relatives. A way to say “You don’t /really/ belong in this family,” unfortunately. So I wouldn’t be surprised if MIL isn’t tasting anything at all, either from her favorites or un-favorites.

        2. metadata minion*

          Huh. Done properly I think I would actually like fish sauce caramels. I may need to experiment.

    2. TransmascJourno*

      I read that post by way of the AITA Twitter account and immediately replied “Emily Gilmore, but make it Satan.”

    3. JustaTech*

      Or my MIL, who doesn’t cook, doesn’t have any decent kitchen tools (like, the stove and oven are lovely, but the knives are dull and the cutting boards are warped and half the measuring cups/spoons are missing), but wants me to cook Thanksgiving dinner.

      Her idea of Thanksgiving dinner, not mine. Last time it was a pre-cooked turkey she wanted me to re-heat in the deep fryer and then cover in a brown-sugar pecan glaze. I managed to get out of the deep fryer because it really wouldn’t work, but we had to pour the sugar sauce all over the entire, sliced turkey.
      (I have a deal with a friend where I text him to complain so I don’t explode at my MIL, and he laughs his tail off at my tales of woe.)

    4. AcademiaCat*

      The urge to offer to bring “sodas” and show up with a 24-pack of Moxie is so very strong for #1.

      For those who don’t know, Moxie is a local New England soda that is . . . uniquely flavored. Imagine carbonated cough syrup with a bitter aftertaste. Apparently if you like cherry root beer you might enjoy it?

    1. Jennifer Strange*

      Honestly, I have no issue with that one (trying to pass them off as homemade is weird, but either way it’s perfectly fine food).

    2. Mallory Janis Ian*

      One of my bosses had about 50 orders of large McDonald’s fries delivered to a potluck, and people snapped them up.

        1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

          Only if they’re piping hot, though. As soon as they were laid out on a buffet table they’d be inedible.

          1. Cohort 1*

            That’s exactly what I thought when a certain ex-president invited some winning sports team to the WH for lunch and had huge piles of fast food hamburgers and fries laid out on the table for them. There’s no way any of that was still warm, much less hot. 1) yucky, cold, cheap-ass “food” and 2) pro athletes aren’t real likely to care so little for their health that they would have chosen that repast.

  11. CommanderBanana*

    re: the shrimp, shrimp thaws SO QUICKLY. Like run it under warm water quickly. Why on earth would you leave out for over 24 hours?!?

    1. former cook*

      Please run it under cold water not warm, but yes, extremely quickly.

      (Source: culinary school, food safety training certification)

    2. LunaLena*

      I want to know how the heck she didn’t smell that it was rancid. I’ve left shrimp in the fridge to defrost for too long before, and knew it was bad as soon as I opened the package. D:

      1. ScruffyInternHerder*

        Thought on this?

        I’m allergic to shellfish (including shrimp). It stinks like hot vomit to me no matter what.

        Of course, I also don’t even attempt to prepare it anymore as I’ve given myself hives from draining frozen shrimp and the water drained onto my hand…

        1. Unkempt Flatware*

          Oh my. I wonder if cold vomit smells better or worse. The things I think when reading AAM…

          1. NoIWontFixYourComputer*

            Depends on how long it’s been sitting. I speak from experience.

            Had someone get sick in my car the night before I was leaving for a business trip. Let’s just say that the shampoo and detailing was about $300 … in 1990 dollars.

    3. Elle Woods*

      I contributed that story. The coworker in question was known for being kind of an airhead. What makes the story even more irritating is that the dip was made using super tiny shrimp (popcorn size), so it wasn’t like it would’ve taken more than a few minutes to defrost them.

      1. Artemesia*

        I can’t believe she admitted that that is how she thawed them. If most had poisoned the office, I would think they would have lied and said they must have been bad, I didn’t know.

        1. fhqwhgads*

          I’m picturing someone dumb enough about food safety that she might have admitted what she did while attempting to defend herself. Something like “but I did it this way! the totally normal way!” and everyone else being like, um, you poisoned us.

    4. marvin*

      The shrimp is the reason why I try to avoid potlucks at all costs. I just know that in every office there is at least one person who knows absolutely nothing about food safety and/or basic hygiene, and it’s just a roll of the dice to try to figure out who it is.

    5. bratschegirl*

      Shrimp is so often the culprit! I unwisely ate a shrimp dish at a potluck birthday party for a friend that took place in the several-hour interval between a dress rehearsal and a concert. This was a poor choice. I knew I was seriously unwell after about an hour, but – how shall I say this? – nothing overt had happened, and the show must go on, right? so I dragged myself back to the hall. People I knew in the audience told me that I was white as a sheet sitting onstage. I just kept telling myself that the performance adrenaline would kick in and it would all be ok… but it wasn’t and I had to literally run off the stage right before the conductor walked out. At least I’m legendary for something!

      1. Mercurial*

        I’m just glad you were only sitting on the stage, you were an h away from whatever is the quantum level above legendary…

        (and sorry that happened to you!)

    6. Gray Lady*

      Right? Whenever I use frozen shrimp, I put it in a colander in a Tupperware in the fridge 30-36 hours in advance, and it’s thawed enough that a couple of minutes running it under water finishes the job at worst.

      1. I like shrimp*

        But a couple of minutes under water always is enough. More than a day in the fridge ahead of time is very unnecessary. Unless you meant minutes?

    1. triss merigold*

      12 happened to me once! I made a cake for my lead’s last week. Normally stuff like that sits on the break room table and everyone can have a piece during their breaks once the recipient has cut in, but she just…took it home.

      She did however wash and return the pan by her last day, so…fair enough I guess.

      1. Anon for this*

        A little while ago I got a minor promotion and my immediate co-workers ordered a cake which they intended to serve at a departmental get-together. However, the format of the get-together meant they never had a moment to serve it and offer it around – and there was lots of food anyway. So they told me about it at the end and insisted I take it home with me.

        It felt very awkward – but my children were delighted.

    2. no longer working*

      Let’s not be so hard on an innocent intern. If they had never been at a work party, they would not know the cake was not a gift to be taken home. How would they know, if no one told them and they had never experienced this norm of the workplace?

      1. Boof*

        I feel like that was something i might have done in my late teens-early twenties, just didn’t have the opportunity. I certainly did a handful of other similarly cringe things.

    1. Siege*

      I read that one today. I don’t think my jaw is off the floor yet. How could you POSSIBLY think you’re not the AH in that situation?

      1. Liane*

        Isn’t that lack of awareness part of the definition of one? “Has no clue that they are an AH and their picture is at the top of Wikipedia’s AH page.”

  12. Irish Teacher*

    Oh, I have another one, though the problem wasn’t the food or the event, but more the atmosphere in the school itself. This was just a symptom and none of the regular staff seemed to even noticed. Then again, I guess nobody would have realised I did either.

    Anyway, I was subbing in this school where the student teachers had their own office and generally did not come into the staffroom (there was an expectation that they wouldn’t). Anyway, somebody brought in one of those boxes of different types of chocolates, like Roses, that sort of thing and as usual, there were a couple that nobody liked that were left at the end and one of the teachers asked, “does anybody want any of these? OK, I’ll bring them up to the student teachers upstairs, so.”

    Like I said, the actual event was no big deal, but the way it was said, like “oh, they can have what nobody else wants,” combined with the expectation that they would not come into the staffroom struck me as…unwelcoming. And it was a bit awkward to be partaking as a short term substitute, when people who were working, unpaid, in the school for a year, were merely given the leftovers.

    1. goddessoftransitory*

      “Here’s the quince log!” Geez, it’s like when people ask me to round up their $43.25 order to $44.00. At that point it’s less tip than insult.

  13. Polly*

    #11… as a big fan of bourbon balls, the whole recipe only uses about 2 shots’ worth of bourbon, which largely burns off, so I’m not sure that’s to credit for his generosity.

    1. Juicebox Hero*

      A gal I went to college with once made rum brownies. The recipe called for a tablespoon of rum but she figured the more booze the better so she put in a cup. After over an hour in the oven the stuff was still basically batter. She and her friends ate the brown goo anyway.

      1. Bee*

        I probably would too, tbh – that’s basically just warm, safe brownie batter, right? Sounds delicious!

        1. Water Snake*

          Depends if there were eggs. Sounds like the right conditions to grow a salmonella culture, but salmonella is much rarer than reading these stories would lead you to beleive.

            1. Water Snake*

              Just looked it up, and salmonella is killed at temps above 150 F. So, it depends whether the interior temp of the brownies reached 150 F or not. After an hour, I guess it’s possible.

              1. ceiswyn*

                But if the oven wouldn’t kill it when making goo, surely it wouldn’t kill it when making actual brownies either?

              1. Water Snake*

                Well, remember that the internal temperature of what you are baking/roasting is much lower than the temperature of the oven. So the question is, did the brownies reach an internal temperature high enough to kill salmonella? Or did they reach an internal temperature warm enough to grow a nice culture?

                Since Juicebox Hero did not report widespread food poisoning, we can assume in this case, everything was fine. Whether that’s bc the temp was high enough or bc the eggs weren’t contaminated with salmonella in the first place, we’ll never know.

                1. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

                  Brownies are pretty flat compared to, say, a turkey, so I’d expect the internal temp to have gotten fairly high after an hour in the oven since they’d have a good surface area to volume ratio in their favor. Admittedly, I don’t think I’ve ever stuck a meat thermometer in a baked good rather than using the toothpick method or eyeballing it (depending on the baked good and how often I bake that particular thing in that particular oven), so I guess I have no idea what internal temperature my baked goods actually reach.

            2. The Editor in Chief*

              Yes, but it doesn’t do anything to resolve the toxic bacterial leftovers.

              Bacteria in food reproduce, making spores, which can be very heat-tolerant. They can also leave toxins, for example botulism. Aflatoxins can survive temperatures of almost 600F. Mycotoxins survive 350F.

              So yes…you’ll kill off the salmonella, but not the clostridium, staph, botulinum, and mold.

              1. Nesprin*

                I’m with you on if the material started contaminated, probably don’t eat it no matter how it was cooked but you’ve got your microbio a little backwards.

                I’m not going to argue that if someone is sloppy enough to have contaminated food that they should be trusted to inactivate things properly, but spores break down at 250f or higher. Things that have been cooked to an internal temperature of 250f for 20 min are essentially sterile.

                Staphylococcus and salmonella cannot form spores, and botulinum absolutely only grows anaerobically so any sort of exposure to air will destroy the pathogen. Its toxin is also inactivated with couple min heating at 120C (as are cholera toxins).

                If your foods are contaminated with molds producing either aflatoxins or mycotoxins, they should not have entered the food supply.

              2. DyneinWalking*

                Nesprin’s wrote an awesome comment response, but I’d like to another point:
                Your comment makes it sound like the ingredients that goes into cooking/baking should be expected to be horribly contaminated. But these days, if you store your food properly, wash your produce and abide best-before dates, the contamination – with both pathogens and their toxins – should be very low. Apart from meat and eggs, the ingredients that I use are mostly ok to be eaten raw (if I ever felt like eating stuff like flour raw…).

                I’m pretty sure that the biggest sources of of food-borne illness from bacteria/mold-produced toxins are meat (from any animal, including sea food) that was left un-refrigerated for too long, and food that was cooked and then was cooked again. Cooking/baking makes food much more digestible because it breaks down larger molecules and also, incidentally, breaks down the cellular structures that would otherwise make it harder to access the nutrients (the latter is the reason why raw meat and mushrooms generally spoil faster than raw plants – plants have cell walls, animals and fungi don’t).

                But if you start with new and properly-stored ingredients? Come on. This discussion started out with brownies that were still gooey after an hour of baking. The amount of “clostridium, staph, botulinum, and mold” and their toxins wouldn’t have been dangerous to begin with, and one hour of baking wouldn’t have changed it to dangerous levels…

                1. Water Snake*

                  Apart from meat and eggs, the ingredients that I use are mostly ok to be eaten raw (if I ever felt like eating stuff like flour raw…)

                  And some brownie recipes contain eggs. However, as I noted, contamination with salmonella is not actually all that common.

                  As to the eating flour raw part … CDC recommends that people not do that. Raw flour is just like any other raw vegetable, and outbreaks of food borne illness do to raw vegetables (in general and raw flour specifically) have been known to happen.

                  AAM … come for the management advice, stay for the rum ball recipes and food safety discussions.

                2. JustaTech*

                  Bad news: E. coli is now regularly found in wheat flour (it was first identified when there was an outbreak caused by pre-made cookie dough where the eggs were pasteurized but the flour wasn’t and people ate it raw and got sick).

                  So if you’re making one of those safe-for-eating-raw cookie doughs, you need to toast or microwave the flour (just in case). And if you’re immunocompromised you need to not nibble the raw dough, even if it doesn’t have eggs, and wash your hands and the counter well.

                  Yes, it’s really irritating, and pretty new (since the mid-2000’s).

      2. Kelly L.*

        Long ago I decided to make Paula Deen’s pecan pie recipe, which involves some bourbon. I was making two pies, so I doubled the recipe. Then when it came time to pour the filling into the crusts, I first filled one, then the other.

        Because of the different densities of the ingredients, one of the pies got all of the pecans and egg and most of the corn syrup, and set up into a tooth-breaking cement.

        The other was basically just booze soup.

        The next year I poured a little into one crust, then a little into the other, repeat ad infinitum.

          1. Water Snake*

            Alternating is a good practice, but it’s important to make sure the mixture is well-mixed before pouring.

      3. CommanderBanana*

        I make a bourbon vanilla cake whose recipe calls for soaking the cake in bourbon sugar syrup, a half cup of bourbon in the cake batter and bourbon in the frosting. I don’t know that the cake could get you drunk, but it’s definitely bourbon-forward!

        If anyone wants the recipe, it’s from the amazing Sprinklebakes blog.

        1. Bunny Girl*

          Oh that sounds good. I make cupcakes that are a chocolate stout cake (baked off) with a whiskey chocolate filling and a Bailey’s frosting. There is definitely a taste in those. LOL

        2. The Editor in Chief*

          My mom found a recipe for a cake that called for (IIRC) Grand Marnier and Cointreau.
          She went to my grandparents’ house across the street and put far more than enough of each one into separate Solo cups, then brought them home and put them on the counter with the recipe.
          She had to go to the store, and told my father “The booze on the counter is for the cake, and I’ve measured it,” meaning “I know how much is in each cup and I’ll know if you drink some.”
          My father took it to mean “I measured it for the cake (and since I’m busy you should bake it),” so he made the cake using all of it – something like three times as much as it called for. He’s a cook, not a baker, and so was not super concerned about how wet it was.

          He got their teetotaling friends pretty sloshed that night on cake.

      4. Juicebox Hero*

        Ironically, the goo-maker was a biology major (just not a great cook!) and the eaters were fellow biology and medical technology majors. Everyone was perfectly fine, if maybe a bit tipsy, after eating it.

        But if you’re planning to make your own boozy brownie goo, I’d recommend a pasteurized egg product like Egg Beaters to be on the safe side.

    2. That'sNotMyName*

      It depends on your recipe. My friend’s mom used to make bourbon balls that would easily knock you on your butt if you weren’t careful. There was no cooking to burn the alcohol off* and she stored them in a container that had a bourbon soaked towel in it, to really give it a kick.

      *Unless you’re boiling something fairly steadily for at least an hour (eg stew) or literally set it on fire, you’re going to retain about 50% of the original alcohol content. It doesn’t burn off as much as people assume.

      1. LizW*

        Same or similar recipe…my grandmother sent a batch to my brother when he was stationed in Germany-soo much bourbon. He and his roommate about fell over from the fumes when he opened the tin.

        Her fruitcake will make your eyes water.

        She is a 96 year-old teetotaler who sent my grandpa or uncle to the ABC/Package store every year because she was too embarrassed to buy the booze herself!

        1. Look out, there are llamas!*

          One side of my family are teetotalers and would send a farm hand to the package store before Christmas to buy a half pint of bourbon, which was then taped up in brown paper and referred to as “flavoring”. As in, “Would you like some flavoring for your eggnog?”

      2. peanuts*

        uh oh. I did not know that and just made a rum cake with rum glaze. My 11 year old daughter loves it…speaking of which…I was busy prepping and getting ready to put the cake in the oven and I look over and see said daughter licking the spoon and bowl and loving it… I yelled at her to stop but had a good laugh.

        1. LadyVet*

          I signed up for Soldiers’ Angels during both of my deployments, and during the second one, a woman who had become a bit of a pen pal asked me if there was a way she could send some whiskey to another of her soldiers for his 21st birthday. I told her it wouldn’t be a good idea to send it in a bottle, because it might get inspected, but remembering the fruit cake that had gotten one of our lieutenants drunk, I said maybe she could back something.

          To thank me for giving her the idea, she sent me some rum cupcakes and a separate jar of rum icing. The cupcakes were moist enough to not need the glaze, so I kept the jar in a secret spot and would offer a spoonful to my officemates if we were celebrating or commiserating over something.

    3. MissMeghan*

      I just pictured the sometimes grumpy boss happily indulging on sweets and thinking about how much he likes his employees. Yum yum yum, bonuses all around!

      1. ThisIsNotADuplicateComment*

        I agree. It’s hard to not be happy when you’re eating a box of your favourite treats – especially when they’re a thoughtful gift!

      2. goddessoftransitory*

        If only Bob Cratchit had thought of this–might not have had to rely on the ghostly world to get that raise!

    4. Water Snake*

      True that there is only a 1/2 c or so in a recipe, but most recipes are not cooked. If the guy ate enough, and it says he ate a lot, then he might have had enough bourbon to be cheerful.

    5. No Tribble At All*

      Unless they’re the kind where you make the cookies, then soak them in bourbon! One can easily get sloshed on those!

    6. Loredena*

      My rum ball recipe is no cook and it’s easy to end up really strong. If anything they seemed to get stronger over a few days

    7. old curmudgeon*

      These were no-bake bourbon balls, and the recipe called for them to spend a few days in a sealed container with a towel soaked in more bourbon, so they were very definitely still alcoholic. So much so, in fact, that when he opened the container and got a good whiff, his face got the most beatific expression I had ever seen.

      He was a very happy SVP that day. And the rest of us were very happy employees on payday the following week.

        1. old curmudgeon*

          It is an embarassingly simple one, but if you like boozy treats, it is SOOOO good.

          Bonus-Time Bourbon Balls

          1 (12-oz.) box vanilla wafers
          1 cup powdered sugar, sifted
          1 cup pecans, chopped fine (“cookie pieces” work well)
          ½ cup cocoa powder, sifted
          3 jiggers bourbon
          3 Tbsp. dark corn syrup
          Additional powdered sugar for coating
          Additional bourbon for infusing

          Crush the vanilla wafers very fine. A food processor works well, or just put them in a zip-lock bag and smash them up with a rolling pin.

          Combine the crushed wafers, powdered sugar, pecans and cocoa in a medium bowl and whisk to combine well. Mix the whiskey and corn syrup together in a separate container, then pour over the dry ingredients. Blend well – should be very hard.

          Pour the extra powdered sugar into a rimmed sheet pan. Roll the chocolate-bourbon stuff into small balls about one inch in diameter. You will want to spray your hands with pan spray; the chocolate mixture is very sticky. Roll the balls in the powdered sugar to coat thickly.

          Soak a clean kitchen towel in bourbon. Place the soaked towel in a small bowl, then place the bowl in a larger container that seals. Stack up the bourbon balls around the bowl with the saturated towel and seal the container. Leave it in a dark, cool place for at least three days. Toss with additional powdered sugar if they get too sticky.

          Deliver to the SVP on the day he is deciding holiday bonuses, and enjoy the results!

          1. Cthulhu's Librarian*

            I feel like some day there needs to be an AskAManager cookbook, with stories/recipes like this…

    8. SpaceySteph*

      It’s a misconception that most alcohol burns off in the cooking process. About 40% of the initial alcohol is still left in baked goods after cooking, and even more in flambé or other stovetop methods. If you’re putting in a half cup of bourbon and I’m eating a whole batch, that’d be plenty to get me tipsy.

    9. Nannerdoodle*

      It depends on how you make them. The very first time I made them (with a recipe I found online), the balls were crushed graham crackers, powdered sugar, and bourbon. It was A LOT of alcohol per ball. I switched to a much better recipe after that.

    10. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

      When I was in college I decided to make tiramisu, only I didn’t have any rum or instant espresso. What did I have? Homemade coffee vodka (courtesy of my aunt trying to relive her college glory days). I soaked the lady fingers in the vodka instead of coffee, and poured even more vodka over the top in place of rum. Even for a broke 21 year old it was inedible!

    11. Mockingjay*

      I have a recipe for a rum pound cake that has so much alcohol, it won’t freeze. And my bestie’s mom growing up was FAMOUS for her oozing rum balls. (Contraband in the high school cafeteria! Of course, we only had one or two each when bestie passed them out. But, oh, the illicit teen thrill of being “bad!”)

  14. That'sNotMyName*

    Yeah, I was definitely in a cooking club with the Tyrant. She chased people away, caused drama, and eventually tanked the whole thing which was otherwise a lot of fun.

  15. This series is off to a rockin' start*

    My read on these is people are too damn nice, like in #3 and #7. No, you don’t have to give narcissists attention – let Magic Mike perform to his mirror. No, you don’t have to continue to do potluck holiday parties with such glaring and deliberate inequity.

    And #10. No one able is able to call out a universally hated lab tech on being both an ass and an idiot?

    #12 – I gotta laugh at you. An entire office of professionals unable to even squeak out a “HOLD UP.”

    1. Goldenrod*

      To be fair, sometimes people are too shocked to react!

      I agree, though, about #7. No way I’m bringing in charcuterie for people who make way more than me!!

      1. Emotional support capybara (he/him)*

        Oh, I’d absolutely volunteer to bring in Spite Charcuterie for the dignitaries. One word: Lunchables.

    2. T*

      I’m guessing you’re the kind of person who has to spell out the punchline whenever you tell a joke, eh?

      I’ll walk you through it: in most of these cases, people probably did say something to the people involved. It wasn’t included in the story…because that’s not the funny part of the story.

      As for #12, why on earth would you stop her walking out with the cake? It’d ultimately only serve to embarrass her, and you would no longer have a hilarious story, because then you’d have to admit at the end that you humiliated a confusef college student just so you wouldn’t have to miss out on your company-designated square of grocery store sheet cake.

      1. Koifeeder*

        Yeah, I’m in agreement with you on #12. It’s genuinely not worth making her feel stupid over cake.

        1. Cyndi*

          Thirded–I’ve seen a few stories like that around here, I think, and of course it’s awkward! But I think it’s almost always a case of genuine misunderstanding rather than people being jerks–it even said they hadn’t told her it was a party! It seemed a little out of joint from the other stories in the post, to me.

          Also, there’s a stereotype about college/grad students swarming free food for a reason, so I’m especially okay with letting her have her free cake.

    3. Malarkey01*

      Or just polite and not interested in causing a scene in the office for the annual Christmas party?

      With the exception of #7 which could be someone speaking up that maybe the admins can’t financially handle this, not every day needs to end in righteousness.

    4. The OG Sleepless*

      I’m the LW of #12 (and I can die happy now; I never EVER expected to be in a AAM roundup). There are lots of reasons:

      Because we were all so surprised, and we’ve never exactly practiced drills on “what to do when a student makes a faux pas”

      Because we’re in the South, and correcting a guest is just not something we were raised to do (think of Calpurnia telling Scout in “To Kill A Mockingbird,” “He is your COMPANY! If he wants to eat up that tablecloth you do NOT say anything!”

      Because sure! If we had, you all wouldn’t be laughing at a funny story right now, I would be quietly dying and remembering the time an end-of-rotation party turned awkward and serious.

      1. Absurda*

        Imagine, some day in the future when AAM is doing another round up of “tell me about something stupid you did while a young worker” this former intern could write in about the time she took the whole cake from a good bye party but everyone was too gracious to humiliate her over it.

        1. Ann Ominous*

          I hope she is an AAM reader and writes in after reading this today. We love you, awkward college intern, and so many of us can relate!

      2. Gan Ainm*

        Agree, between being caught off guard and the second hand embarrassment I would not have said a word. The student was cheerful and appreciative, strikes me as polite but clueless. I’m sure anywhere from 10 minutes to 10 years later the student realized and now gets overtaken but waves of embarrassment out of the blue remembering.

    5. Nesprin*

      “No one able is able to call out a universally hated lab tech on being both an ass and an idiot?”

      In my experience, if the lab tech is the sole person who knows how to turn on the MacGuffin, then yes, no one will call out said lab tech for being an ass and an idiot.

      1. I&I*

        Besides, if the guy could be that offended over a salad, ‘calling him out’ is not going to help. He isn’t going to think, ‘Oh my, time to rethink me life choices!’, he’s just going to be nastier than ever, and you still have to work with him. Telling people what’s what might temporarily relieve your feelings, but it’s not a magic spell that turns them into someone different.

    6. Nick*

      I kinda feel bad for the lab tech tbh. Like sure there are probably reasons why he’s “universally hated” but what I hear in this story is someone who is socially awkward, probably in their own head about what is an “acceptable” item to bring to a potluck, and coming to the conclusion that they need to spend time and money to create a salad, even going to the length to ask everyone what they want in it in an effort to make it something everyone will enjoy.

      And if you don’t grow up eating avocados or otherwise preparing them for food, I don’t think it’s a universally understood thing that only the center is edible. Especially for someone who doesn’t know how to cook.

      Of course the grousing about how much everything cost when you’re the one who decided to make the damn salad is a bit much, but otherwise I feel bad for the dude. He was clearly ostracized (for right or wrong) as evidenced by the LW and coworkers rushing to the lunchroom to gawk at him like a circus freak while he’s probably in a panic trying to fix the situation, albeit incompetently.

  16. Goldenrod*

    These are all amazing. I CANNOT WAIT to read more.

    I really wish I worked in the Tyrant’s office, so that I could purposely bring the wrong thing. I would totally bring off-brand soda and store-bought cookies (even though I enjoy cooking), just to drive her crazy.

    1. Juicebox Hero*

      Store brand soda in the 3-liter bottles, so it’s totally flat by the time you get to the bottom of the bottle.

    2. Sheworkshardforthemoney*

      Bring some cheap-ass rolls. Our local dollar store sells rolls, I’d buy those and leave them in the original bag with the attached price tag.

    3. Charlotte Lucas*

      Weirdly, this made me miss the store-brand soda from a now-defunct grocery store in the Chicagoland area.

      1. NotAnotherManager!*

        Our local store when I was a kid had a store brand pineapple soda that was amazing. And they had a vending machine of it out front (a quarter a can, half the price of a Coke at the time), so I guess it’d have technically been okay for the potluck snob.

    4. Be Gneiss*

      A dozen different varieties of off-brand Dr. Pepper. Dr. Zip, Dr. Skipper, Dr. Pop, Dr. Bob, Dr. Shasta, Dr. Perky, Dr. Pete….

  17. River*

    #2. Oh god. I can’t stand when people do jazz hands. It’s so awkward and unnecessary filler for any situation.
    #4. If the pizza slices are legit the size of a pie slice, then I can see why people would go crazy over them. But at work, it’s not worth tainting your integrity and reputation for free food. I personally never do. I just will never understand how people treat food at work like an idol. Yes it’s nice to have a free snack or food but don’t throw out civility for some cheese, tomato sauce, and bread.

    I also won’t forget the story of the one employee that got seriously ill from eating someone else’s very spicy lunch. You would think after the first bite, you would stay away. But then the sick employee tried to sue the person that brought in that lunch. Some people can be quite unique.

    1. Zephy*

      Did you see the update to the spicy lunch thief story? Turns out the thief was boinking HR and they both got canned.

    2. Pam Adams*

      My least favorite public television cooking show is The Jazzy Vegetarian. The recipes are okay, but she sings!

      1. Ginger Bread*

        The singing is so awkward I cringed every time, but I stopped watching after she had a guest who said you can leave vegan food out because animal products spoil. Vegan food spoils too!!! Rice and pasta can be deadly if left out!

        1. JustaTech*

          OMG! That is *such* bad advice!

          Fun fact: liquid soap can grow bacteria if you leave it sitting around long enough. (I have done this repeatedly with “fancy” soap I didn’t open.) The way you tell is if there is a perfect sphere of cloudiness in the middle of your clear soap. That’s a bacterial colony (or maybe a yeast or fungus) – throw it out. (You can also get them in sugar syrups, even if you boiled them hard and keep them in the fridge.)

          1. Ginger Bread*

            This is great information, thank you! Really a good reminder that anytime you see Things where there were previously not Things is a sign something has gone wrong.

            Food and other products (hello, cosmetics!) don’t spoil because animals are involved, they spoil because of improper handling/storage and the inevitable passage of time. The “danger zone” doesn’t stop being dangerous because the cheese is “cheeze” or whatever, and non-edible products can and do go bad (and they don’t always smell or taste off!)

    3. marvin*

      I’m very charmed by the jazz hands and “All That Jazz” vocal intonation, possibly even more so because it’s all in service of the most boring dish ever. JAZZ CASSEROLE. I love it.

    4. Kettle Belle*

      Hi River. I’m the LW of #4. Pizza Fridays made animals of these folks. Honestly, I was stunned. and to think, it started out civil. Then after the first two weeks, it turned into survival of the fittest. I’m a big pizza lover, but knowing what was going to happen on Pizza Fridays, I just started getting something else for lunch.

  18. Chirpy*

    I have a feeling I’m going to be stuck with a really awful potluck meal on Friday due to management’s love of a particular fast food restaurant’s catering, a coordinator who is not good at ordering the other food, and the fact that the sign up sheets just went up today…and I have coworkers who are a mixed bag of cooking and some with questionable hygiene…

    1. Ann Ominous*

      Eat a hearty breakfast that morning and a good mid morning snack so you won’t be disappointed.

      Or, bring something awesome in a slow cooker, like the cheesy spicy shredded chicken dip and tortilla chips that one of my coworkers rocks my world with!

      1. Chirpy*

        That does sound good, but I don’t have a slow cooker. The point of the store providing food on Black Friday is supposed to be so nobody has to leave for food though. I really wish we’d go back to fully catered (even if just pizza or pre-wrapped subs) because while Covid may have been the the official reason we stopped having potlucks, this place just generally is bad at them.

      2. GammaGirl1908*

        Agree. This is the way to deal with questionable potluck situations: eat well enough so you aren’t starving and can just nibble, and bring your own contribution that you are happy to eat.

        1. Chirpy*

          We also have a coworker who had to be taught not to eat things out of the trash or take things from bowls without utensils, and it’s a pretty physical job that I can’t eat well enough in the morning to make it on light snacks for 9+ hours, so it’s hit or miss either way.

  19. Falling Diphthong*

    I really like the Jazz Casserole. Bringing people together even if the food at the center of it is technically cream of mushroom soup. This office achieved what manager 1 is going to utterly fail to bring about.

  20. Kevin Malone*

    ‘Isn’t Thanksgiving all about good food and communion?’ This cracks me up at the end of that.

    1. Bernice Clifton*

      I liked the, “This is supposed to be a special event”. It’s a potluck in the break room, Karen. You need to adjust your expectations.

      1. goddessoftransitory*

        It’s like when the decorating committee for the homecoming dance gets WAY too into trying to disguise the gym. It’s the gym, we know it, it’s okay.

      2. Bunny Girl*

        This reminds me of when I went to my high school counselor to see if I could graduate as a junior. She said “Well you can, but you’ll miss the senior dinner.” I asked what that was and she said “Oh we cater in Applebee’s to the cafeteria!” You want me to stay here another year so I can get some lukewarm Applebee’s in the school cafeteria? How special.

        1. GammaGirl1908*

          Ha, I have passed by a meme several times about how teachers hype up the end-of-the-year pizza party, and it’s … a half-slice of thin pizza and a cup of soda. The biggest meh to ever meh.

  21. HugsAreNotTolerated*

    Unpopular opinion I’m sure, but on #1, I actually congratulate ‘they tyrant’ on the request that if you have pets you not bring a food item. Way too many people let their animals crawl all over their kitchens and then prepare food there. Just because *you* don’t see an issue with your cat walking on your countertops and are willing to eat dog hair infested food, doesn’t mean *I* want to. I’ve literally had to leave dinner parties after seeing the host hand feed something to their dog in the kitchen and then go back to chopping without washing their hands. It’s almost as bad as the woman who makes “Kitchen sink mac & cheese”.

    1. SpaceySteph*

      Ok but this person is unreasonable to then also demand store-bought items be brand name, bakery treats, etc.

      Honestly, all potlucks are probably a bad idea except around a close family or friend group because you never know what you’re getting.

    2. Pool Lounger*

      To be fair, it’s not only people with dogs and cats who can be dirty in the kitchen. I have cats, but I wash my counters before cooking and of course always wash my hands. I have friends who have no pets, but have children and not much time to clean, and after seeing their kitchen and cooking methods I don’t eat there. I tend to go by what I’ve seen of the cook’s general cleanliness and hand washing (Amazing the number of coworkers who use public bathrooms and let colleagues see thrm leave without washing up).

      1. Juicebox Hero*

        Same here. I have cats, but I’m very careful about food safety. I wipe down my kitchen counters with disinfecting wipes before I cook and use cutting boards, utensils etc. that can get thoroughly cleaned. Plus the rest of the house gets vacuumed and dusted so there’s not clouds of hair floating around. Just because they’re my cats doesn’t mean I want to be eating cat hair and food that kitty litter paws have touched, either.

    3. Amcb13*

      As a pet owner I endorse this as well. There is never not cat hair around, even after cleaning (it goes airborne.) But by god I would bring in store brand everything.

    4. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      1) most of us who have pets, or had in the past, also have common sense, and know to keep them away during shared food prep. When my son’s cats lived with me and I had to make a potluck dish, I’d send them to “kitty jail”, which was my bedroom with the door closed. Then I’d clean and sanitize all surfaces, put on a pair of vinyl gloves, and get to cooking.

      2) most people do have pets, so #1 might as well have just told everyone to bring napkins and cutlery. (Since no one is going to make the drive to a bakery, in holiday traffic, for those perfect bakery cookies.) My first thought when I read it was that there was going to be a lot of napkins at that lunch and not a lot of anything else.

      Is the commenter who submitted it here today? I’m DYING to know how the lunch turned out! (Though I’m now seeing it on second read that OP’s satellite office was not included.)

      1. NeedRain47*

        One of my coworkers had a platter that she brought to potlucks that said “Everything tastes better covered in cat hair”. I LOL’d b/c it was someone I trusted to have good kitchen hygiene even tho I know she has pets.

      2. Dust Bunny*

        Yeah, my cats are not allowed on the counter. But I also bleach the counter regularly because trust, but verify.

        1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

          Similar here. Cat (who is currently sitting on me doing a motorcycle impression) is not allowed on the counters, but if I’m cooking or baking for people who don’t live with him I clean the kitchen BEFOREHAND as well as afterwards, and wash dishes JUST BEFORE I use them.

        2. Bagpuss*

          Same. My cats are not allowed on the kitchen counter or the dining table.
          They know this.
          I have never *seen* Large Cat on the counters*

          I clean the counters, my hands, and anything else that hasn’t been in a firmly closed cupboard or drawer before doing any food prep, because I am not willing to assume that they never go up there when I am not looking.

          (*Small Ninja Cat is still learning)

          1. JustaTech*

            Not only is my cat not allowed on the kitchen counter (or dining table, or leather couch), but at her very advanced age she couldn’t get up there if she wanted to, and if the counter doesn’t have cheese powder on it, well why bother? (My cat loves powdered cheese. Real cheese is meh, but the bottom of a bag of Pirate Booty? Heck yes!)

            But if I’m cooking for other people I put extra effort into the sanitary food prep (beyond what I do for myself).

    5. ferrina*

      Nah, it’s not the pets that are the problem- it’s the people. Allowing pets around food prep is just one more way to be gross. Pets themselves aren’t inherently problematic. One of my relatives helps write food safety codes for the state, and she has two cats and doesn’t have problem doing potluck food. (She’s way more worried about foods reaching unsafe temperatures during commuting)

    6. Dust Bunny*

      I mean, the same could be said for small children. I don’t know anyone who gets sick more than little kids. Are you sure you cleaned that spatula well enough after your maybe-has-a-cold kindergartner licked it?

      And “kitchen sink” usually means it has all the good stuff in it–everything but the kitchen sink. Like a loaded mashed potato. I’ve never heard it used to mean that it was literally made in a sink.

      1. Bunny Girl*

        Yes. We had a neighbor down the street who brought us Christmas cookies every year proudly saying her kids helped with them. I’d never seen her two kids without their hands in the mouths, in their diapers, all up on their dogs and I knew they were not washing them well/regularly. We never ate those cookies.

        1. HugsAreNotTolerated*

          I fully agree on the kid thing. I love the idea of people letting their kids help in the kitchen so that they learn how to cook and have good kitchen safety skills early on. That does not mean I want to eat the food that their 2 year old helped prepare.

      2. HugsAreNotTolerated*

        Yeah, but when this woman brought in her “Kitchen sink mac & cheese” and it was just pasta and cheese? Someone asked her what made it Kitchen sink and she responded that that’s because it’s made in the Kitchen Sink so that you’d have enough for everyone. Needless to say, I backed away very quickly.

    1. I should be working*

      The funny thing is at least some of the people would love the burgers with the wrappers left on them.

      1. Budgie Buddy*

        I know right?? Sometimes I am just in the mood for McDonald’s so I would snag one as an appetizer

      2. Dust Bunny*

        We know a guy who always brings Popeye’s chicken and biscuits to church potlucks and you better believe they’re the first things to go.

    2. goddessoftransitory*

      It reminds me of an old Garfield cartoon where Jon says “His lying to me isn’t half as insulting as the credit he’s giving my intelligence.”

  22. Sal*

    Omg, #1 is so timely in light of the “cookie sample” mother-in-law who was posted about on Twitter from the AITA reddit last week!!

  23. SpaceySteph*

    Oy #7.
    I was once on a party planning committee and we set it up that each of the 4 teams would host a potluck in a rotating fashion (once per quarter) for all 4 teams (so one team brought food for all 4). When it came time for my team to provide the food we picked nacho bar and the 3 managers on the team all signed up for chips and not any of the higher ticket items, despite making a lot more than most members of the team.
    Honestly this kind of stuff is why I don’t sign up for party planning committees anymore.

  24. Dragon_Dreamer*

    Ohman, I forgot to post! I once brought in an apple pie for my coworkers. One of them was not allowed to have sugar by his wife. Guess who ate the entire pie?

    At least it was appreciated!

    1. Ann Ominous*

      The one whose wife decided she was the arbiter of his diet, ate your whole pie while the wife wasn’t there to guilt trip?

        1. Berkeleyfarm*

          I had a co-worker once who was like that with all the treats people brought into the office. His wife was puzzled why he wasn’ t losing weight.

          1. JustaTech*

            Yeah, I had a coworker with the same thing. If my officemate or I brought in brownies he would take a quarter of the pan (9×13!) as his “piece” at 9am, before anyone else had even gotten into the office.

  25. Sheworkshardforthemoney*

    “Finally, I will have final say on if a dish is approved or not. Please don’t take offense, I just have a vision of the types of dishes I would prefer. Isn’t Thanksgiving all about good food and communion?”

    Clearly this person didn’t see the irony in this statement.

    1. Juicebox Hero*

      I’d sign up to bring napkins, then to go the dollar store for junky ones with obnoxious cartoon characters on them.

    2. goddessoftransitory*

      Okayyyyyy, Karen.

      Love how that list started out totally fine and normal, then gets a little quirky with the pet thing, then becomes the declaration of The All Powerful Office Manager by the end.

    3. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

      I think they certainly needed to edit their message, but I’ve been to FriendsGiving pot lucks where one dude showed up with a bag of jelly beans, and another one, someone brought a 6-pack of beer to “share” with 20 people. Some pot lucks do need to spell it out a bit what’s acceptable to bring or have someone coordinating the sign up so that there aren’t 5 green bean casseroles and no rolls. She would have been better to list what types of dishes and accessories are expected and let folks sign up for something on the list rather than make folks guess and then pass/fail.

      1. Ev*

        Yeah, I always have a sneaking sympathy for people who send messages like this. Like, your ‘potluck vision’ is silly, certainly, but they often read to me like they’re written by a person who’s gotten blamed for one too many group projects that went awry because the other participants weren’t doing their part. The included message shouldn’t have been sent as-is but I definitely understand the urge to spell things out in exacting detail in hopes that this time it won’t go wrong.

      2. Berkeleyfarm*

        Yeah I had to do some spelling out at my old church. People would hand me frozen items/raw ingredients/uncut melons and expect me to prep them, then get annoyed when their stuff wasn’t out.

        One of the sweeter moments I had was when someone showed up five minutes before the service with a whole watermelon and I smiled and said – Platters and knives are here. Then I left the kitchen.

      3. ScruffyInternHerder*


        Half a bag of frozen green beans as contribution to a family potluck (so its a smaller group by comparison). Wouldn’t be bad if it had been a single person, but that was the contribution from a family of four.

        Since it was family, we know it was a case of “spoiled baby who ignored her home training because she was the baby and was permitted to get away with it”.

        1. DataSci*

          Not quite the same, but my brother (the youngest) once said he would bring potatoes to Thanksgiving – I enjoy hosting, so people were welcome to bring something if they wanted but I’m happy either way. He also asked for dinner to be ready at a specific time, because they had baby bedtime to contend with. Sure, no prob. They roll up 15 minutes before dinnertime with a BAG OF POTATOES and ask for a peeler.

          We did not meet their deadline. So they and the other parents of babies all had to run home without washing a single dish. That kid is eight now and I’m still shocked anyone thought that was okay.

    4. marvin*

      This is 100 percent the kind of person I would be if I were ever made to organize a potluck. I might force everyone to enroll in a food safety certification course before they sign up.

  26. DramaQ*

    The lab tech one had me in tears. I work in a lab environment and I know people EXACTLY like that. They are extremely brilliant people but you stop to wonder how they manage to get themselves dressed every morning.

    1. Cyndi*

      I once had a roommate who was a lab tech at a nearby hospital, and she had VERY loose standards for food safety; she used to leave the leftovers from her meat or fish dishes out on the counter overnight. Once she put a big stewpot full of frozen meat out on the back stairs, outside our kitchen door, to thaw–and then completely forgot about it. I have a terrible sense of smell and almost never used the back door, so I didn’t realize anything was wrong beyond “huh, wonder where that big pot went?” until the neighbors complained that the pot was attracting increasingly huge insects.

      1. bookworm*

        This reminds me of a roommate whose trip to the grocery store took longer than she anticipated, and so she just left the bags of food in the kitchen so she could go out on a date. There was meat and dairy and stuff in there! This is the same roommate who one time left a lit candle on a wooden bookshelf (not in glass, just wax right on wood) and then left the apartment for the evening. Luckily I got home just as the shelf started to catch and was the only person living in the house who knew where the fire extinguisher was…

          1. bookworm*

            Unfortunately, it wasn’t until a different roommate almost set the place on fire that I decided I’d had enough and moved out. Roommate #2 liked to smoke on a little wooden deck off their room and threw the butts into a plastic flowerpot they never cleaned out. You can see where this is going. Yet again, I was the one who got to use the fire extinguisher.

        1. Siege*

          Jeez, at least when my college roommate left her potpourri burner going and the water all boiled off (yes, my degree date DOES start with 199, why?) the top part just cracked in half when the candle overheated it, it didn’t set the place on fire.

          But she also is the person who made me realize that carrots can go bad enough you can tie them in knots. So, similarities!

          1. bookworm*

            That is both terrifying and impressive! Carrots stay good for a REALLY long time… or at least they do if kept relatively cool.

      2. Aw, coffee, no*

        Cyndi talking about smelling food reminds me of my childhood. We grew up with a coal-burning Aga cooker (hence it, and its ovens, were hot 24 hours a day), and the oven doors were very air-tight. As in, you couldn’t smell anything burning unless you happened to be outside and the wind was in the right direction.
        Mum baked her own bread, usually fine, but occasionally she wouldn’t hear the timer and then forget about the bread until it was too late which would create variations on over-cooked running from: a bit dry, to cut off the crusts and the inside is edible, to too burnt for even the birds to eat, even when cut/broken up for them. And then there was the memorable occasion when she opened the oven door and the sudden rush of oxygen caused the loaf to burst into flames.

    2. goddessoftransitory*

      Like the Far Side cartoon where the guy’s staring at the enormous sign pinned by the bed: “First Pants, THEN Your Shoes.”

    3. Brain the Brian*

      I’m glad I wasn’t the only one. I am dreadful at any kind of cooking that involves heating things, but a salad gone that wrong is quite the image.

    4. Berkeleyfarm*

      I called them Poor helpless Dears when I worked in biotech. And yes, I wondered the same thing.

  27. Blue*

    For number 12, obviously the extern in question was wacky as heck but….there’s being conflict avoidant, and then there is a whole group of people none of whom can manage to get out “that cake is for the party actually, please stay and enjoy a slice” with a pleasant smile.

    1. Koifeeder*

      Eh, I’m not sure it’d really be worth it to stop her. I mean, a leaving student intern? Sure, it’s not the most socially adept thing to do, but I don’t think I’d care enough about a square of sheet cake to chase her down and ask for it back, especially since student interns are not synonymous with food security.

      1. Bagpuss*

        Yes, I assume it was misunderstanding and possibly the intern later realised and was embarrasedthat she had not undrstood the expectation.

    2. Kermit's Bookkeepers*

      I’m nursing the pet theory that that extern knew exactly what she was doing and was enacting a petty vengeance for a job she hadn’t enjoyed.

  28. Madame X*

    LW 1: Maybe it’s weird, but in kind of like the rules set up for the potluck. It’s a bit strict but it might be the best way to avoid a coworker bringing cookies that are covered with dog hair and drool.

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        Maybe not drool but pet hair and unhygienic cooking conditions (like cats on the counter) yes, absolutely. I have a friend who is incredibly allergic to cats and she won’t touch potlucks.

      2. Sunshine*

        In my case, 100%. I do not eat food from people I don’t know well. You have no idea if they’ve cleaned their counters lately, if they wash their hands, or any number of gross health concerns! I limit myself to the clearly store-bought offerings at any potluck.

      3. Madame X*

        I can’t find the link to the original post but there was a previous entry in which a letter writer described a potluck in which a coworker brought cookies strung around her dog’s neck. The cookies visibly had dog hair stuck to them and drool and she was surprised that nobody wanted to eat the cookies.

      4. Siege*

        I still love the episode of Mythbusters where they were looking to see what impact double-dipping a chip had and they couldn’t use actual salsa because all the actual salsa had as much or more germs/bacteria/etc in it as the human mouth. They ended up having to use sterile jelly to test it.

        Some people have not seen this episode and believe that their food is sterile levels of clean.

        1. JustaTech*

          I have to give them major props for putting that much agar in their mouths. That stuff smells terrible, I can’t imagine what it tastes like!

    1. Pool Lounger*

      At that point, just don’t have a potluck. You have no idea how clean/dirty/safe about food anyone is. I’m way more worried about the over-thawed shrimp than a stray dog hair. People without pets can be super dirty, people with pets can know how to clean and keep them out of the kitchen.

      1. Skyblue*

        Exactly! If you’re that concerned about eating food someone else has prepared, don’t have a potluck. A snippy email insisting that people comply with your “vision” isn’t the way to go.

    2. BugSwallowersAnonymous*

      Yeah it was completely absurd that they laid out these rules in that email, obviously but at the same time I kiiiiind of agree with them? I mean in the loosest possible sense, as in, I would prefer to drink name brand Coke instead of generic Cola too, but you can’t SAY that!

    3. NotAnotherManager!*

      I’d go with good idea, poor implementation. Started reasonable and took a nose dive around #4ish.

      I want to know where all these pet owners who don’t care about serving people hair are. I have cats (who hate the kitchen because it too noisy and busy and devoid of fleece blankets) and *I* don’t want to eat their fur and I like them. I know there was the cookies on the dog lady, but that’s not normal or representative of regular people.

  29. TPS Reporter*

    Years ago we had an amazingly passive aggressive coworker who took it upon themselves to send a shared Google sign-up sheet for our holiday potluck. I put “steamed lobster” down next to my favorite coworkers, sent it and enjoyed the outcome.

  30. Chocoholic*

    I remember at an old job, management would bring in food for our direct care staff for the holiday. The Director of Nursing put pecan pie on the list of things to get for the party. I was at Costco picking things up, and the pecan pies were super expensive. So, I got something else. This was all coming out of our pockets and of course the Director of Nursing didn’t volunteer to bring the pecan pie.

    Surprisingly she wanted to know where was the pecan pie the day of the party.

  31. Aelswitha*

    I couldn’t even get past #1 before commenting.

    ” RSVP – not attending. Please don’t take offense, I just have a vision of the type of Thanksgiving celebration I would prefer, and this ain’t it.”

  32. Ann Ominous*

    „ 6. Finally, I will have final say on if a dish is approved or not. Please don’t take offense, I just have a vision of the types of dishes I would prefer. Isn’t Thanksgiving all about good food and communion?”

    Wow! Read: “Your taste in food is likely terrible to the point of embarrassing, and also your food prep hygiene is probably lacking, so how about we all agree I save you from yourselves? You’re welcome.”

    1. Charlotte Lucas*

      I was wondering when this approval happens. Is it at the sign up stage, or does she inspect each dish before you’re allowed to proceed to the buffet table?

      Such a detailed list, yet I have so many questions!

    2. Bagpuss*

      YEs, plus it’s only her preferneces and vision that are relevant – no matter what anyone else might like to eat or serve.

      I kind of wonder how she would respond if people brought stuff which was (say) traditional but slightly altered so it was vegetarian / vegan / gluten-free or if someone signed up for something delicious but not part of her traditional Thanksgivng vision, like pakoras or mochi.

  33. Beancounter Eric*

    #4 – I wish I still had my copy of Oldcompany’s pizza rules.

    Yes, old company had a written policy regarding the conduct of pizza events in the office.

    As I recall, there was to be a designated monitor at the serving table charged with enforcing pizza distribution rules. Individuals were allowed two slices of pizza, and were not allowed to circle back through until all planned participants had gone through the line, at which time they were allowed to return and select a third slice.

    1. Charlotte Lucas*

      Your company must have employed one of my former coworkers. It got so that the Director’s EA had to physically block him from walking off with the equivalent of 1 1/2 pizzas before anyone else got served.

  34. yala*

    #1 “Please don’t take offense, I just have a vision of the types of dishes I would prefer.”
    Oh lord, it sounds like something my mom would say shortly before deciding that, y’know what, she’s gonna also get the napkins and plates too, just to make sure no one messes up that either.

    #9 You mean he brought some fresh Steamed Hams?

    #11 I made rum balls my first year at my current job. They were a big hit, but someone suggested they were inappropriate, so I haven’t made them since. It would be pretty hard to get drunk on them though. There’s maybe a servicing rum/whiskey in the entire batch?

    #12 Well. That really takes the cake.

    1. NotAnotherManager!*

      I worked at a pretty uptight place straight after college, and one of the senior admins made a mean liquer-doused cake that that made an appearance around the holidays each year with the approval of the VPs. You could smell the booze on the thing, but it tasted amazing, which surprised me as I don’t normally care for alcoholics baked goods.

      My great aunt also used to bourbon the shit out of her fruitcakes. Wouldn’t touch alcohol 360-ish days a year, but her fruitcakes (and egg nog) were flammable.

      1. SarahKay*

        I have a bottle of brandy which only ever gets used for Christmas cooking – the cake, lighting the pudding on fire, and making brandy butter.
        Mind you, it’s only the brandy I don’t drink the rest of the year; give me a nice gin and I’m there!

  35. Frankie Bergstein*

    This is why I do not want people’s whole selves at work! A persona is just fine, thank you!

    1. Koifeeder*

      Honestly, for several of these, if that is their full self I don’t want them anywhere near me, please and thank you.

      1. The Prettiest Curse*

        Yeah, frankly a quarter of some of these peoples’ selves would be too much. That means you, Barb.

  36. Scarletb*

    Oh wow, that first one. I started reading and it didn’t seem so draconian, just specific, and point 3 could be read as giving the non-cooks an opt-out option, which I’d sure be keen on… and then at bullet point 4 it took a hard turn and kept going XD

    1. I need a new name...*

      Yeah, I think there’s some reasonable things in #1 but its expressed badly to begin with and then just veers wildly off course.

  37. Serenity Now; Firefly Class*

    The thought of every piece of a salad being fondled is worse than canned tomatoes on that salad.

    What makes these stories so awesome is that they are not made-up.

    1. Gan Ainm*

      Fondled! Oh that made me actually truly laugh. A+
      And I agree, canned tomatoes in salad is weird but at least hygienic.

  38. Colorado*

    I live on a farm and aside from the outside animals, also have 4 dogs and 3 cats that all my coworkers hear about. I would definitely make something at home and make sure the pets were involved in the process :D

  39. So they all cheap ass rolled over and one fell out*

    “A slice or two” of pizza per person is not lunch for a lot of people. Not that that excuses the coworkers’ bad behavior. But I have one coworker who legit eats half a pizza by himself (just an active dude and/or high metabolism).

    1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      I think that’s a fair point.

      A slice or two is a reasonable amount to give out for $0, but it doesn’t feel like a lunch big enough to be celebratory. You’d need a lot of sides to make a party.

    2. o_gal*

      Many decades ago, the company I was working for did big hiring push of college grads. I was in the first year of 3 that they did this. At the end they decided to have a pizza party to celebrate all of the college hires.

      They decided to order from a local place that does the little squares instead of full slices, and the person who picked the place didn’t know that. She asked how many slices were in a large or extra large and probably confused them. So she ended up ordering something like 4 pizzas. For 80 people. We all got one or two little squares, then all went out for lunch after our “lunch”.

    3. JustaTech*

      When we get pizza at work we order from a place that’s also famous for their salad (which for catering is packed with the meat, cheese and dressing on the side) that’s got garbanzo beans in it, so it’s legit filling even without the salami, which helps folks stick to ~2 slices of pizza.

  40. E. Chauvelin*

    My immediate thought upon hearing “jazz caserole” was that it was semi-improvised based on what leftovers were in the fridge so I was even more confused when it turned out the name appeared to have no connection to anything.

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

      I actually thought it was probably a recipe that she got out of a woman’s magazine in the 60s or 70s. There were a lot of noodle-with-cream-of-mushroom dishes in that era. Were there any mixed vegetables like peas and carrots to add the Jaaaaaazz?

      1. No longer working*

        There was a Swedish Meatballs frozen meal I used to eat quite often. It was surprisingly good! The little meatballs sat on a base of noodles and the sauce seemed like cream of mushroom. So this sounds like that dish, but without the main component of the meatballs. An incomplete dish!

      2. JustaTech*

        When my dad was in college in the 70’s he made tuna casserole with cream of mushroom soup but added some peas (frozen? canned?) and his fraternity brothers seriously called it “gourmet” because it had peas.

        So I can totally see adding basically anything would be a reason to call it a “Jazz Casserole”.

        (Or maybe the name was originally very sarcastic, and the joke was lost along the way.)

    2. Bunny Girl*

      I normally make soup at the end of the week to use up vegetables in my fridge and I’m going to start calling it Jazz Soup.

  41. sc.wi*

    I am a nonprofit event planner so I do understand the urge/need to put rules on potlucks, but that email in #1 is just hilarious. I can promise you, if you need to be *that* tyrannical, a potluck is not the kind of event you’re looking for.

    1. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

      Yeah, if these are the rules your particular group needs in order to hold a functional potluck, then what your group actually needs is a non-potluck event structure.

  42. St Paul Ite*

    At my previous job we had one woman who would loudly complain at every pot luck that she didn’t like tomatoes. It’s not like every dish had tomatoes but she still had to draw attention to herself and her dislike every.single.time. Other people would critique/complain about things others had brought abs how they could make it better. Then one lady who had a catering business on the side decided that every item at every future potluck must be homemade no store bought items. All were surprised when no one signed up for the next three potlucks and they had to be canceled.

    Before I took my present job I was diagnosed with some medical conditions which require a very strict diet. So I decided that I just wouldn’t participate in potlucks ever. Several of the men who were higher up the chain than me, thought that meant that I could spend hours running around picking up their contributions from various stores, getting plates napkins etc. UM NO. That is not what my refusal to participate meant and I cleared that up quite quickly.

    It’s easier for me to never participate due to medical reasons than it is to being something in I can eat and have everyone else scarf it down or to be constantly questioned on what I’m eating if I only bring enough for myself and don’t take anything anyone else has brought in.

      1. ScruffyInternHerder*

        The gall to critique is right up there with the gall to assume that not participating meant running errands for them.

        Holy wow.

  43. General von Klinkerhoffen*

    I’ve never been to a workplace potluck and I’m delighted. It is 100% easier to have one kitchen prepare everything (and a million percent easier if that kitchen understands and respects special dietary requirements).

    But these stories are *gold*.

    1. Gary Patterson’s Cat*

      I hate work potlucks.
      I don’t like cooking for others and don’t like eating things like chili or other potluck type items.

      I’d usually just bring a pizza or a (grocery store) bought dessert and call it good.

    2. Bagpuss*

      YEs, happily I have never worked anywhere where it would be practical. People sometimes bring in home baked stuff to share, we sometimes go out to eat , and there are times we order in pizza.

      I think the only time we had someone who came close to any of the people in these storieswas the time when the pizza place next door to our office gve us a whole stack of free pizza, and someone complainedthat there wasn’t enough of the toppings they preferred! (There were pizzas they could eat and they were fairly senior – if it had been a junior employee and they couldn’t eat any of them I’d have bought them an individual pizzza of their own so they didn’t miss out)

  44. Marthooh*

    #1 (Thanksgiving tyrant): Half the commentariat saying “wtf?” and the other half “Yep, that’s a family-style meal alright!”

  45. Gary Patterson’s Cat*

    I just love that first one.
    “I just have a vision of the types of dishes I would prefer.” And they want to approve all dishes.
    Pffft… I hope nobody brought anything.

  46. New Senior Mgr*

    Looking up the recipe for bourbon balls right now. Annual reviews coming up within the next few weeks!

    1. I need a new name...*

      There shouldn’t be old crusty food on the plates your serving to guests.
      There is some discretion on serving floor food, I feel (though the host should be the one eating that if anyone is) but if you have pets that’s probably an immediate write-off anyway.

      With this kind of gathering it *is* difficult to navigate any kind of criticism, valid or not, so the advice of ‘come early and volunteer to wash everything’ is probably still the best solution.

    2. yala*

      Ok, I live somewhere on the corner of bedlam and squalor most of the time, and that response still made me want to scream.

    3. Veryanon*

      Yeah, I read that one and was totally grossed out that the author thought that was normal for home cooks. I get the sense that maybe that person doesn’t cook very much?

    4. JustaTech*

      Twice, ever, have I served food that fell on the floor to guests.
      Both times the guests witnessed the falling and were totally fine with it.

      Both times were caused by me pulling the rack a little too far out of the oven and having the baking pan (once a beef roast, once a meat loaf) slide off the rack, hit the door and slide, food side up, onto the floor.
      So technically the food didn’t touch the floor, and both times it went straight back in the oven (wasn’t done cooking yet).
      Both times I looked at the guests in horror and they laughed and insisted it was fine.

  47. Bagpuss*

    Ew, no, that’s not normal. (crusty plates)
    Floor food – dpends on the food, the family and the situation. I admit that something like a half-cooked potato that escaped onto the floor during basting might well get a quick rinse and go back in the oven to finish roasting, if I were cooking only for my immediate family.

    (I did have a difference of opinion with a woman my brother was dating, some years ago, when she thought I ought to bin all of the carrots which I dropped on the floor when unloading shopping. I pointed that would be washed beofre being cooked, and that my kitchen floor was a lot cleaner that the field they were dug up from, the farm trailer they were trasported in, and almosst certianly, the farm shop baskets and tills. I have a horrible feeling that I may have put her off ever eating carrots again )

  48. 1-800-BrownCow*

    #1: I was cringing until I got to the part about having pets, that you could only bring drinks, napkins or bought desserts. SWEET, I have 3 cats, so napkins it is. And cheap ass napkins too, because I’m that petty.

  49. Veryanon*

    I have been giggling for 10 minutes over the poor sweet lady who always made the “Jazz” casserole – I can’t get that visual out of my mind.

  50. AvocadoEmpathy*

    I feel empathy for avocado salad guy. The guy did try to make a salad that everyone would like even if the execution was not perfect. Assuming he washed his hands, dumped the salad in a proper place to fix the preparation, and he was able to cut the peel off the avocado, I could see why he could see why he could have hurt feelings if folks were actively telling others not to eat it.

    1. Nick*

      Exactly, I posted a comment on another thread about this above, but it really seems like a guy who’s probably already ostracized in the office trying to bring an “acceptable” item to a potluck, and doesn’t think crackers or soda makes the cut. I think he’s entirely right on that, a lot of workplaces absolutely have people who would judge you for bringing a “low effort” item when they’ve spent two hours on their chili or whatever. And based on the fact that the LW and coworkers “rushed to the lunchroom” to gawk at him like a circus freak when he’s clearly panicking trying to fix the dish he didn’t understand how to prepare – I really only feel empathy for the guy too.

  51. Boris*

    As someone who inevitably forgets to bring something for the potluck EVERY SINGLE TIME, Magic Mike and his terrible Magic routine is honestly kind of my hero.

  52. LilPinkSock*

    I love the idea of the Jazz Casserole coworker. I don’t love the idea of people telling her her dish was amazing and then laughing behind her back, though.

  53. Moose*

    # 1: There are more control-freak/egregious things in that list, but telling people not to bring food if they are not a good cook cracked me up. Ouch! (And in my experience, most people who want to cook things for stuff like this think they’re at least a decent cook–how would you possibly judge this from the outside??)

    1. Allisen*

      What got me was the rule about Name Brand only. They are aware that the name brand product is the same as the store brand, right?

  54. ladyhouseoflove*

    #3 just brought me back to the time my aunt was a friend’s birthday dinner and she saw a man in a suit setting up a stage in the living room. She thought he was a magician and she got all excited. She loves magic tricks and so she sat in the front row, exactly where he would be performing right in front of her.

    The man was not a magician but he did make his clothes disappear.

      1. ladyhouseoflove*

        She was gobsmacked at the time but nowadays she has a good laugh about what happened. I’m tempted to take her to that upcoming Magic Mike movie because “well, didn’t you say you love Salma Hayek?”

  55. smallness*

    “Please don’t take offense, I just have a vision” is how I am going to start every meeting in December.

  56. WorkingRachel*

    These are gold. “Jazz” lady sounds like a sweetheart and as for the the drunken SVP, hey, at least his instinct while drunk was to be generous rather than stingy. And maybe it’s just me but potluck magic sounds kind of awesome.

Comments are closed.