when office potlucks go wrong

As we approach the season of office potlucks and other meals with coworkers, let’s discuss the many ways they can go wrong … from alarming cuisine to the person who takes an obscenely large share and never contributes anything of their own.

To kick us off, some stories from years past:

  “One of my old workplaces had a cookie baking contest, and the winner used store-bought dough. It became the source of gripes about cheating for years.”

  “I had a coworker who thought any treats were just for him. If breakfast tacos were ordered for my department, we’d usually offer other departments nearby any leftovers. As soon as he heard that leftovers were being offered, he’d go through and get *all* of the ones he wanted (example, all the brisket) and hide them in his desk drawer before the other department could get any. He’d also get in line first or near-first (he volunteered to help with setup), and would take massive amounts of what was there. If some folks didn’t get firsts while he was loading up his second, he’d say folks should have gotten there faster. Management did talk to him, but his answer was that he didn’t care.”

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

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

In the comment section, please share your stories of potlucks, cooking competitions, and other office meals gone awry.

{ 1,293 comments… read them below }

  1. Ask a Manager* Post author

    I will likely compile some of these stories into a holiday post next month. If you don’t want yours included, please note that and I’ll make sure it’s not!

  2. The Original K.*

    My “favorite” (in quotes because this is gross) is the woman who volunteered to bring in cookies and she had the cookies strung around her dog’s neck, with dog drool all over them, and couldn’t figure out why no one was into it.

        1. Llama Zoomer*

          I tried to explain to my husband why I was falling off the chair laughing at the reminder of the cheap ass rolls story. I did not succeed in explaining, though I did hit the floor…. Every time! Can’t stop laughing.

          1. Kim*

            The cookie bakeoff story reminds me of a time many years ago when my company had a bake off contest. The judges could only be from management (most of whom don’t cook) , even if a non management staffer had a degree from the Culinary Institute of America they were rebuffed.
            The winner was , as you might guess, a manager who pulled a recipe off the internet at the last minute.
            This enraged another contestant, who from a home computer , and an inscrutable email address , wrote a scathing letter proclaiming her recipe was superior , the contest rigged. Apparently the email went viral through the company . They never held another bakeoff again. But they do have softball games. The coaches can only be from management. Even if you were once a three time All Ametican Div 1 athlete but not in management , you cannnot coach . Absolutely ridiculous .

    1. Dust Bunny*

      Okay, I have a bone-shaped cookie cutter and have made (human-intended) cookies that looked like dog biscuits for pet-related events, but at no point did they actually come into contact with any animals, I promise.

      That is just foul.

      1. Sally*

        I mean, I would eat something that had come unto contact with my dog, but (1) I would never expect or even ask someone else to do so, and (2) I would not eat something that was carried around by an unknown dog.

        1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

          My dogs would like to know what kind of self-respecting canine would let themselves be covered with cookies and not devour every blessed crumb.

          1. Lynn*

            My cats have the same question. They might (sometimes) be more dignified than the dogs I have had in the past, but they are still willing and able to pig up enormous amounts of anything that they aren’t supposed to have if we don’t pay attention.

        2. Happy meal with extra happy*

          Yup. My dog has rarely managed to get a lick in when I’ve eaten something while sitting on my sofa, and I’ve still eaten it, but I would NEVER dream of offering it to others.

        3. CommanderBanana*

          My dogs both know how to eat off of forks and we have a strict sharing policy for ice cream cones in my household, but I would never assume other people have the same level of tolerance for dog slurps that I do.

    2. Quail*

      Breakfast taco guy is fine; he’s smart actually.

      1. People who help with setup SHOULD get dibs. Setup should also include teardown, so if they don’t help with cleaning, make that part of the deal.

      2. Dept snacks = dept costs. There are budgets for this so it makes sense that it goes to the dept that paid for it first; even if that means it’s a guy hauling ten breakfast tacos home.

      Hes maximizing his benefits.

      3. The only questionable one is going back for seconds before the first round, but that’s fine depending the timing. 20 minutes? Hold it, bud. An hour? They had their chance.

      1. shuu_iam*

        The complaints pretty clearly weren’t about him taking any of the tacos, but rather about him taking *all* of whatever type he liked and hiding them in his desk, or a disproportionately large amount of the food overall, or such. That’s just being selfish. If the department is deliberately ordering enough that everyone can take ten home, sure, but it’s much more likely that other people were losing their chance to have any because he decided he deserved more.

        1. Erica*

          Also filling your desk drawer with MEAT is a pretty good way to attract rats, roaches, and funky smells. Desks get wiped down periodically, not so much the inside of desk drawers.

          1. Snell*

            How about let everyone get firsts before you go back for seconds (thirds, fourths, fifths…)? Helping set up≠entitled to take all of entire dishes.

      2. Feral Humanist*

        Except we are adults, presumably, and therefore we understand that the point is not always to “maximize benefits” at the expense of everyone else. This guy presumably knew that this all made him look like a jerk to his colleagues and didn’t care.

        I have no issues with anyone taking food home at the end of an event, if it’s clear that no one else wants any more. In fact, I provide to-go containers at events for this very purpose! However, if I saw someone loading up a to-go container with ALL of one type of anything before people were done eating? That would be a jerk move and I would say something.

        1. Hannah Lee*


          Back in the before times, when we had an employee luncheon before shutting down at the end of the year until after new year’s, part of the event budget was “containers for folks to take home left overs”

          The first time we did it, we did have one person who grabbed some containers and filled them to the brim with “all the good stuff” leaving others with some cold mashed potatoes and whatever bits were hanging around in the other chafing dishes. He ate well that week, but did not endear himself to his co-workers.

          After that one time, since I’m the person who organizes the whole thing, I took it upon myself to command the buffet line with ALL the containers and pack up the to-gos. I’d make multiple containers of each dish that had multiple servings left over, and stacked them at the end of the buffet line. So if there were 4 portions left of prime rib, I’d put each one of them into it’s own small container and put the stack of 4 at then end, next to 6 containers each with a serving of chicken parmigiana, 3 containers of roasted veggies, zip locks of 6-10 cookies and chocolates, etc. That way when people were ready to head out (we get a half day the day before holiday break and most folks leave right after the luncheon) That way when people were leaving, they could come grab a couple of containers of different things already boxed up. There’d usually be some horsetrading like someone saying “ooh, my family really likes Italian, anyone care if I take 3 of the ziti and meatballs?” and people answering “sure, as long as I can get 2 of the chicken parm” or or someone asking to take a whole plate of cookies because they were heading to a friends’ house and forgot they were supposed to bring dessert. One time when some guy’s family was away and he’d be alone for a couple of days, folks offered him first crack at the to-gos and told him to take as much as he wanted so he didn’t have to make dinner for one the entire holiday weekend. (it was kind of sweet; he wasn’t a pushy or grabby guy, but he really seemed to appreciate the gesture and the thought of being able to just heat something up that was tasty instead of cooking or getting take out)

      3. JSPA*

        Do you live someplace where this is in any way normal, or have you simply opted out of the social contact in favor of writing your own code of conduct on the basis of first principles?

        This is no longer even a watertight argument for (say) gathering loot in a multi player game; even there, these days, cooperative behavior has some value.

        Helping with setup is help, not a ticket to gorge. It gets you an early chance to look at what’s there, and then taste a bit of whatever you fancy, once the line is open–not to take heaping big piles to hide for later (nor to sample before the party starts).

        1. SpicySpice*

          Yes, thank you! “Well he helped set up so therefore it’s totally cool that he got two plates of tacos while other attendees had to go without.” Nope!

      4. Lenora Rose*

        No; Breakfast taco guy is not fine. People who help might get dibs in the order of, say, taking home to or three leftover tacos instead of one, not in taking so much others get nothing. Second, it sounds like he wasn’t taking the extras just from his department, but from every department – he was just also doing so before any OTHER department could. Third, if his behaviour was at the point where management has to talk to him, he’s obviously not holding off for an hour or in any way at all. Management doesn’t get involved if it’s minor.

        The only time I got ALL of a thing I really wanted was after literal hours of others being explicitly invited to take items, and being invited more than once to take even more home than I did or wanted. (Leftover homemade lumpia FTW – the person who brought it bought only half what she made and very firmly did not want to take more home.)

        1. CommanderBanana*

          Also, taking all of one kind of a thing is crappy. If every other taco is pork or beef and you take all of the fish or veggie ones, I can’t eat any of the ones remaining.

        2. Not Your Admin Ass(t)*

          I cannot imagine homemade lumpia NOT being the first thing to go around here! You wouldn’t even have any leftovers to beg people to take home. Anyone I know would have teleported to your office and scooped up all that precious lumpia in a flash as soon as they heard it was available. :D

          (We have a large Pinoy population, so people *know* the power of lumpia around here.)

          1. SixTigers*

            I’d have been there in 0.2 seconds if I heard there was extra lumpia that was free to a good home.

        1. Princesss Sparklepony*

          This site really needs a like button on replies. You would get many likes. Great comment.

          It’s kind of amazing that everyone commenting on this main comment is all “nope, not cool.” Although I’m ok with the people doing set up getting a sample taste of what’s there while doing setting up. (As long as it’s hygienic – no bare paws into the dishes. And what did that guy do when it was hot food?)

          1. Not Your Admin Ass(t)*

            And what did that guy do when it was hot food?

            I honestly hope he burned the f*** out of himself.

      5. Ellis Bell*

        Where are these “maximising benefits” moves being taught and can we get a list of attendees for reference purposes? Those of us who haven’t been to the smash and grab seminar are operating on the basis of, well, manners. The whole point of sharing food at work is to … share, (I’m genuinely not being sarcastic by stating such basic things) and to show that you have some self control and consideration so other people will basic-level trust you.

        1. Siege*

          I cannot imagine demonstrating such behaviour in front of my coworkers, quite honestly. Even though I don’t like half of them (and am secretly rooting for them to quit or in one case get very deservedly fired so we can replace them with better people) I need to have relationships with them, and I don’t feel like “taking all the food through underhanded means and hoarding it” is really the best way to maintain those relationships.

          1. Autumnheart*

            Exactly. Whatever I might think of my coworkers, there’s no way I’m going to give myself a reputation as Potluck Food Hog or whatever. People talk.

        2. GreenDoor*

          Exactly! The point of an office potluck is to have an hour or so to de-stress, socialize, meet coworkers you’ve not met before, and get a little break from the workday. The point is certainly not to pack your desk drawers with enough food to survive the apocalypse.

      6. Momma Bear*

        Strong disagree. He’s being greedy and should wait until everyone is very done before taking anything. Otherwise it’s not a “leftover”.

      7. L Dub*

        Absolutely not. It’s a community potluck, not that one random dude’s opportunity to go grocery shopping so no one else can have any.

      8. Still trying to adult*

        Oh, gosh, hoarder & Mr. Dirty Hands need to be disciplined,

        Hoarder needs to be called out ‘No, you do care, it’s just that you only care about yourself and not about any of your colleagues. And that’s a problem. BTW, now that your management and coworkers know how you feel about them, (fill in the blank about how he will be treated and viewed)

        Mr. Dirty Hands needs to be written up immediately and disciplined, and standard disciplinary escalation. 3rd time, he’s not welcome at any more events, and his manager will fill a plate for him.

      9. Bob Wilson, Anchorman*

        What profiteth a man if he gains all the breakfast tacos but loseth the respect, goodwill and camaraderie of his colleagues?

        Mark 8:36 (ish)

    3. KoiFeeder*

      The brisket has always been one of my top “favorites” because of the bureaucracy in trying to figure out where literal blood was coming from.

      1. Elitist Semicolon*

        That story is horrifying on multiple levels, but (to me, at least) most horrifying because the night manager’s reaction was, “eh, we don’t have a key; we’ll just leave it for the day team.” Like, it is BLOOD. Dripping on someone’s DESK. At WORK. Even if you can convince yourself that’s not an environmental safety/hygiene issue, pry that shit open with a crowbar to make sure the day guy isn’t a serial killer stashing severed hands in there.

    4. Kay*

      I knew a woman, who it turns out owned lots of long haired dogs, who decided to make lots of cupcakes for a fundraiser. I had offered to loan my cupcake transporters for the event and showed up to drop them off as she was finishing the final frosting process for the last few cupcakes. The amount of dog hair covering every surface of her house was disturbing (kitchen included), and I did my best to raise my concern and protect the remaining cupcakes from the hairs floating around them (think-oh gosh, the dog hair floated in here so fast/oh no! best cover those before any dog hair falls on them!). I politely declined the offer of a free cupcake for the use of my transporters and have been wracked with guilt ever since for not throwing myself on the cupcakes 2 year old tantrum style while screaming YOU CAN’T SERVE THESE TO HUMANS!!!!

    1. RB*

      I’m the writer of #3! Unfortunately, Stew Guy was nowhere near as lovable as Kevin. And I’m sure Kevin’s chili was much better than the stew. (As long as the chili wasn’t scraped off the floor)

      1. anne of mean gables*

        I really wish your Stew Guy was more lovable, because I am really loving the energy of a guy who hypes up his very mediocre stew for the office potluck. On the right personality it becomes endearing, I think (see: Kevin).

        1. Sevenrider*

          We had a stew guy who was NOT lovable. He kept notebooks of transgressions committed against him, however minor and made veiled threats at people. He constantly called the police on his neighbors, etc. He was scary crazy! Every potluck he brought a beef stew and NO ONE ever ate it. We were all too afraid of becoming deathly ill or worse.

          1. BlueSwimmer*

            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.

            1. Marna Nightingale*

              I think I know that casserole and if it’s the one I think it is it kind of IS “jazz” casserole.

              Pasta, cream of mushroom soup, tuna, frozen peas. Optional topping of potato chips. That one?

              At one time it was fairly famous among impoverished dancers, musical actors, and musicians (and students of these things) as being the cheapest possible reasonably balanced and sufficiently caloric meal.

              If that’s how she got the recipe I can see how it had a certain odd glamour for her.

              We used to call it “fairy pudding”, which would have been inexcusable had we been a bunch of straight or mostly straight people but as we weren’t I’m going to go with “jazz casserole is MUCH better.”

              1. Marna Nightingale*

                I feel like I should add, the thing is objectively terrible, UNLESS you spend basically your entire day doing vigorous exercise and drinking water like you were being paid to while eating little or nothing to avoid being full when you need to dance or sing.

                And then it’s somehow just the most incredibly good supper you can imagine.

              2. Ms. Carter*

                “Fairy pudding” is hilarious and is the only name I’m using for tuna casserole from now on. (I’m gay and mostly hang out with gay people, I’m allowed, lol.)

        2. Katy*

          We had a Bone Broth guy at my work a few years back, and he was not loveable at all. He was intensely narcissistic, and hyping up his bone broth was just one of the more minor ways it manifested.

          1. Ampersand*

            Bone broth: useful as a base for soups, arguably good for you, and (IMO) tastes terrible.

            So you’d better have some magical, delicious bone broth if you’re hyping it up!

            1. KoiFeeder*

              Parsley, sage, rosemary, thyme, salt, pepper, garlic, onion, and meat browned/precooked (if you’re using chicken) in butter.

              1. Ampersand*

                Maybe the trick is to make it and not buy it premade. I imagine, like many things, it’s better if it’s homemade/fresh vs. store bought. Which sounds obvious now that I say it. :)

                1. Marna Nightingale*

                  It’s surprisingly good hot when you’ve just come in from the cold, but I may be biased by growing up in a generation and class where Bovril and toast was regarded as a light and nourishing meal.

              1. Alien*

                Don’t remember seeing the story here, but it is a terrific story told by author Sarah Gailey on twitter. It gets revisited in the holiday season because it happened at a holiday party where she brought a lot of juices and a clueless vinegar evangelist did the unthinkable…

                1. Alien*

                  And I realized I should have linked her thread – and it’s gone! :(

                  Long hilarious story short – she intended lovely juices for kids and mixing with champagne for adults at a potluck holiday fest. Vinegar evangelist annoyed many people at the party with his pitch, but somehow found no takers, so took it upon himself to add freaking apple cider vinegar to ALL THE JUICES.

          2. Sleeve+McQueen*

            I love the confidence of Stew Guy, Bone Broth Guy and Jazz Casserole Gal. I sometimes bring in extra jars of pickles if I have them and am totally “you don’t have to take it to be polite” because I have no idea where they sit in the pickle panoply.

            1. Princesss Sparklepony*

              I’m of the opinion that it’s hard to have a bad pickle. Although some are more spicy than my stomach can handle. Pickles rock!

      2. Nathan*

        I’m still holding on to my pet theory that Stew Guy was fully aware that his stew was awful and it was a subtle middle finger to all his colleagues (what gets me is the “[he would] send a special email thanking everyone that helped him do his job, and the stew was his repayment”)

      3. i babysit adults in the sky*

        Was it brunswick stew? I can imagine someone hyping it up, because people get super insistent their region’s version is the first/best. (They’re all wrong though, my mother’s is the best)

          1. Little Bobby Tables*

            I grew up in a family where they held that it’s not real Brunswick stew without squirrels. Although they really just take on the flavor of the other ingredients.

            1. Clisby*

              I’ve heard that, but my father made really good Brunswick stew without squirrels. Now, for all I know it would have been even better with squirrels. My husband grew up on a farm, and his family ate squirrel reasonably often – he likes it.

              1. TheAG*

                I’d try it. My husband says it tastes nutty, but I’m not sure if he’s just saying that to mess with me or being serious

        1. Sweet 'N Low*

          My grandmother gave me one of her old cookbooks that has a recipe for Brunswick stew that calls for 70 whole squirrels.

          I have not made it (yet).

          1. Artemesia*

            I got married the first time in 1966 and was given a Joy of Cooking which I still have minus its cover and some of its index. It has a recipe for cooking beaver tail that involves first charring it over a fire and peeling off the skin.

          2. Anon+Supervisor*

            I love those old cookbooks. I have one full of Depression-era recipes and one of them is for roadkill.

        1. Cat's Paw for Cats*

          I don’t know if I’m more impressed that you found the recipe or that you actually read the Terms of Service.

        2. Kay*

          Wow! I’m no connoisseur of Terms of Service, but I certainly hope there are more like this! Makes me think it might be a cool place to work.

        1. FCPHRLady*

          I’ve never commented here but religiously read AAM. Imagine my surprise when this came up! I’m the HR manager at the publisher who published Brian’s (Kevin from The Office) chili cookbook. I am also the glorified “test cook” for many recipes for cookbooks, including 25+ recipes from this one. I can confirm that his chili recipe is scrumptious. Both his actual recipe, and the Kevin recipe!

  3. Sara*

    Not a pot luck, but we had a vendor buy pizzas for the entire company as a holiday treat. As they were being brought in/set up, one woman grabbed an entire cheese pizza and took it back to her desk. When she got called out, she said she was bringing it home for her kids for dinner and did we want them to go hungry?

    The nerve of some people lol

    1. Sheworkshardforthemoney*

      Last summer I organized the thank you pizzas for the staff after a major event. I polled people to find out what kind they preferred and how many were going to stay for the pizza. I ordered enough for everyone to have 4 slices each. When I came back with the pizzas several people told their friends about the “free” pizza so there were about 6-8 more people than I had ordered for. Most people got 2 slices and I had to order several more to make up for the shortage. I ended not having any pizza at all.

    2. Eye roll*

      Ug. I had blocked this memory. At a temp secretarial job back in the day, the owner had a buffet set up for the employees as an appreciation lunch for completing a particular project (which was why I was there to temp since it was an all hands/emergency situation). One of the very well-paid senior employees took an entire tray of meatballs and an entire tray of pasta off of the buffet line, after the managers/seniors went, but before any of the other employees, who had to take a slightly later lunch that day. When called on it, he said something similar – that he needed it to feed his kids for the week – and the owner said if the only way he could feed his children was by stealing from his job and taking food from lower-paid employees, he was welcome to it. But the owner would be accompanying him to the food stamp office to apply or reporting him to CPS if he refused, because feeding his children should be his first priority and if his children could only be fed by stealing, that wasn’t something that could be ignored. It turned into a public argument about how the owner was shaming him for liking expensive things and needing a little help sometimes. Ended up as the employee’s last day. Employee was gossiped about multiple times per day for his public tantrums, calls, and repeated visits to whine about getting his job back for the next month (and maybe longer, but I stopped temping then).

      1. Juicebox Hero*

        Jeez, good for the owner. Being a parent means sacrificing your wants for your kids’ good, Mr. Moochy McMoochface.

        1. Artemesia*

          Even the lowest paid employee should be chided for doing this before everyone had a crack at the food — although you might be good with her taking all the leftovers.

        1. Eye roll*

          Don’t get too excited. This was possibly the most dysfunctional boundary-stomping place I temped for (I actually stopped temping altogether after this). The owner was okay (and this was possibly his best moment), but the managers were crazy-pants, ranging from one who thought this new-fangled computer thing was going to ruin the business and “contaminate” the files (this was around 2000) to the one who was a full-on gossipy mean girl, despite being a 70-year-old man.

          1. Observer*

            Well, obviously there were some management problems there. Because although the owner seems like a decent person – he certainly handled this situation well! it also seems to me that a manager THIS bad must have shown some other problems before this happened. So how did he last so long?

            1. Eye roll*

              Meatball guy wasn’t a manager – he was a senior employee. Sort of like a lead or chief contributor. And I don’t know how long he’d been there, but he at least seemed well entrenched.

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

              I disagree that the owner handled it appropriately… he should have done it in private.

              1. Still trying to adult*

                Heartily disagree. Perp did it in public, boss called him out in public, and if perp had acquiesced then & there, it could have been over. But he doubled down, and then doubled down again. Play stupid games, win stupid prizes.

      2. Slow Gin Lizz*

        Whoa. That company owner is my hero and wow that employee sure was a jerk. (I would use stronger language but I don’t want to get blocked.)

      3. CLC*

        Wow that is an incredible story. Also so horrible for a senior leader to claim poverty in front of their employees who probably make a fraction of what they do.

      4. HigherEdAdminista*

        It is amazing that this guy threw away his entire job because of a tray of meatballs and a tray of pasta, one of the cheapest things in a store. It’s incredible the petty hills people are willing to die on!

        1. Eye roll*

          I know! During, I was wondering if there was alcohol, gambling, or something going on and he was really having problems. But at the point he was quitting over it and the owner was showing him out the door, I just thought, “nope!” I’ve been scrounging for food broke (including shortly before that period of temp work) – I’d have never risked my job when I was broke. Rage quitting is for people who can afford it.

      5. Citra*

        Good for that owner! What an awesome guy. If I worked there, I would have sent him a thank-you note for that.

      6. Snell*

        The “I have to feed my kids” entitlement seen here always seems to ignore the fact that they’re stealing from other people who also have to feed their kids.

      7. One Potato Two Potato Three Potato Four*

        The owner handled this extremely well. He put it back on the senior employee and I’m sure no one was sad it was that senior employee’s last day.

    3. PhyllisB*

      This story about pizzas reminds me of one Wednesday night church supper. The dinner that night was pizza. My grandkids and I got there about 10 minutes after serving started, and there was not ONE BIT of pizza left.
      Luckily, there was a gas station not far away that sold awesome pulled pork sandwiches, so I went and got that for our dinner. What killed me was, I found out later the reason they ran out is because of the women had taken whole pizzas and put them in a bucket to take home FOR HER DOGS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
      Well, I complained to the pastor’s wife about that she said there was nothing she could do about it. The ironic part is this woman didn’t even attend services!! She just came on Wednesday night to eat and then left.

        1. PhyllisB*

          Yep. She usually took stuff that was left over and asked folks to put their leftovers in the bucket. All of which was fine, but to take whole pizzas and do that was just…I have no words.

      1. Slow Gin Lizz*

        Wow, the pastor totally could have done something about it. Probably grow a backbone, for one. (So maybe the wife couldn’t but presumably she told the pastor and he refused to do anything, right?)

            1. Slow Gin Lizz*

              Yeah, that’s the real reason, of course. Not that they can’t, but that they don’t want to.

            2. whingedrinking*

              My response when someone says “I don’t want to cause a problem” is “Too late. We already have one. What you mean is that you don’t want to deal with it.”

      2. Shan*

        Oh man. I can’t remember if I’ve told this story here before, but my ex-husband was Mormon, so I half-heartedly was as well, and we served on the Activities Committee. Lots of luncheons. When it was just our ward (about 150 people), they all went pretty smoothly – you always have a handful of odd ducks, but for the most part, no issues. A combined thing with the second ward – also went smooth. Well, a third ward was added to our stake centre, and the bishopric wanted us to host a tri-ward luncheon to welcome them.

        It was a *nightmare.*

        It was a potluck, and we had the people who were bringing dessert put them in one of the rooms off the kitchen. Everything else went out in the cultural hall where the party was happening. The activities committee was providing the main course, which were burgers. Hundreds and hundreds of burgers. We had them staying warm in several giant slow cookers. With so many people, we were having people self-serve from both sides of the tables, with a few people manning the tables. We’d never had any problems before, so we assumed the same would be true that day.

        Right off the bat, people were taking four or five. Not to bring back for the table – like, a family would be in the queue and each take that many. The people manning the tables tried to tell them to stop, but they were ignored. My ex quickly got on the mic and requested that everyone limit themselves to one and come back for seconds after everyone had been served. That slowed it down, but people were still taking two or three if they could. The last groups of people didn’t even get one, despite the fact we’d had more than enough for every single person to have two.

        Of course, with that many people, lots of people were done their burger(s) before other people had even started, which meant they started to demand dessert. For obvious reasons, given what had just happened with the burgers, we explained we weren’t going to bring the desserts out until everyone was mostly done. We weren’t talking waiting for hours – it would have been 15-20 minutes. They started trying to break into the room holding them. We’d locked the main door, so they started trying to come in through the kitchen. I explained that we’d be bringing them out shortly, and that they really needed to leave the kitchen. They tried to shove past me. One of the other activity members tried to close the door, and people were actively pushing back, trying to force their way in. When we finally did bring the desserts out, people where basically snatching up everything they could get.

        95% of these people were living in pretty affluent neighbourhoods, driving nice cars, and they lost their minds over subpar burgers. It was honestly the most appalling thing I’ve ever witnessed, and really drove home what could happen during widespread shortages. Actually… I bet every single one of them was hoarding toilet paper in March 2020!

          1. Shan*

            I was honestly just in shock at the time it was all happening! Plus, I was like 25 at the time – 40 year old me would be a lot more likely to say something.

        1. Artemesia*

          I was at a conference of people in a social service profession (think social workers, or psychologists, or teachers) and there was a lovely buffet after the banquet of lovely mini desserts. The organizers had planned on about 4 per person. The first half of the line piled their plates with up to 8 or 10 desserts and the last half of the line got nothing — they requested that the kitchen ‘bring more out’ — but of course, only 2400 items had been ordered and that was all there was.

          1. Shan*

            It’s such a weird thing to watch! I mean, there’s no way any of the people at my event were hungry enough to each five full-size burgers. But I think we’d passed whatever the magic number is that allows a group to self-regulate, plus a third of the people were largely unknown, and it just became this frenzy to hoard resources as people witnessed other people doing it.

          2. Sandgroper*

            The number of people who grab the coeliac/gluten free “because it looks better” and so on is bonkers. Good conference facilities have learnt to glad wrap the meals on a separate table off to the side (stops cross contamination too), with the registered participant’s name on it. Otherwise all the allergy food (even if set on a separate buffet table) gets eaten first.

            1. londonedit*

              Same happens with vegetarian/vegan stuff. Meat-eaters go through the buffet and take a helping of the veggie options because they look nice, not realising that those are the veggies’ *entire meal*, not just another side dish. The best barbecues I’ve been to have asked the veggies and vegans to come up first, so they get first pick of the veggie burgers/sausages etc and first go at the side dishes.

              1. Marna Nightingale*

                I’m in favour of just straight-up declaring—and if need be posting—the “vegetarian” rules. (Vegetarian in brackets because it applies to all food provided to people with restrictions.)

                You can have some if there’s any left once the vegetarians have had enough time to come back for seconds.

                Obviously some people are jerks, I know. But if you make it an explicit part of your potluck culture it’s a lot easier to identify the jerks, because you remove the “maybe they just didn’t know” category, and it’s easier to push back.

      3. HotSauce*

        Well that’s not only rude, but incredibly stupid. Garlic is toxic to dogs & most pizza sauces contain garlic.

        1. c_c*

          It is toxic to dogs, but the amount in pizza is really not going to cause harm. It’s about 30g per kg of dog to cause issues. Unless a really tiny dog ate a whole pizza or it was a garlic lover’s pizza or something, it’s not really an issue.

          Still a terribly rude move.

        2. Mekong River*

          The cheese is going to worse for them. And the oil, if it’s a greasy pizza. Pets are prone to pancreatitis from greasy people food.

      4. QuinFirefrorefiddle*

        My favorite church potluck story is much sillier. I worked for a congregation for a while that refused to plan their potlucks, everybody just showed up with what they wanted to bring and “it all worked out in the end!”

        Until the potluck that shall live in infamy, because that was the potluck with, I counted, 14 kinds of potato salad! About three main entrees, and a couple of jello salads for dessert, and other than that it was just all potato salad as far as the eye could see. After that one, they started planning their potlucks and having sign up sheets for bringing entrees versus side dishes versus dessert.

        1. TheAG*

          That sounds like one of my nightmares. I will pretty much only eat my homemade potato salad (and I know it’s not for everyone because everyone likes their own potato salad lol)

        2. Princesss Sparklepony*

          I don’t know – an all potato salad buffet is right in my dream wheelhouse! I’d be tasting all of them. All of them!

        3. yetelmen*

          Unassigned potlucks are TORTUROUS for me. I am not an anxiety-prone person and have always been food secure, but something about not knowing whether there will be enough in each category is a special kind of hell.

          1. Splendid Colors*

            The latest church potluck assigned categories by where your last name fell in the alphabet. Whoever set it up probably had the RSVP list so they had a good idea of where to divide up the names so they’d get appropriate quantities of entrees, sides, salads, desserts, and beverages.

        4. Zee*

          Something similar happened at a place I worked! It was like a potato salad tasting party. We had to order pizza.

      5. Juneybug*

        I disagree with the pastor’s wife – she could and should have asked the lady to allow everyone to go through the line for first and seconds before allowing her to take the “leftovers”.

        1. Eisbaer*

          Did the pastor’s wife actually have any authority in the matter? I’m a pastor’s/pastor’s wife’s daughter and my mother was absolutely not employed by the church.

      6. Cynan*

        Amazing that this happened in a church when there’s literally a Bible verse about feeding the children before the dogs (Mark 7:27).

    4. CR*

      I’m like Kevin in Home Alone, I prefer cheese pizza and I’m always disappointed when there isn’t any or everybody else takes it all. But I wouldn’t steal a whole pizza for myself!

    5. Education Mike (she/her)*

      Omg so this was based on the premise that she was going to let her kids go hungry that night if there hadn’t been a random pizza party?? Wild.

      (If I thought there was any chance this was about actual food insecurity I would obviously feel very differently but this seems to very much not be that.)

      1. Slow Gin Lizz*

        Yes, she was obviously preying on people’s feelings about letting kids go hungry, knowing that people wouldn’t be willing to call her out on that for fear of seeming like they’d be willing to let her kids starve. That’s gross. It’s nice that someone above the person in Eye roll’s story actually called him out on it but I guess it’d be hard for an underling to do that to someone.

        1. I should be working*

          I may be too sarcastic for my own good, but I’d be very hard pressed not to ask if the person’s children only ate when a parent had a pot luck at work.

          It’s no more ridiculous than claiming one’s children will go hungry because their co-workers wouldn’t provide them with food.

          1. Slow Gin Lizz*

            Yes, I probably would be sarcastic in that way about it too. At least now that I’m middle aged and DGAF what rude people think of me.

      2. Lou*

        IDK pizza is expensive, could be she was saving it for her kids not because they wouldn’t eat otherwise but because she couldn’t afford to buy them a pizza.

        1. Slow Gin Lizz*

          I’d think that could be a possibility except she asked people if she wanted her kids to go hungry, which implies that she otherwise wouldn’t be able to feed them. (I mean, that’s the impression she’s trying to give to everyone, whether true or not.)

        2. Siege*

          We don’t have to excuse all bad behavior on the grounds of “something we don’t know is going on”. Some people are rude, entitled jerks, and I would argue that someone blatantly taking food from a potluck rather than hoovering up the leftovers is a rude, entitled jerk rather than a person who is food insecure.

          1. Yuh*

            Hard agree.

            Plenty of people suffer or struggle quietly but I’m not giving literally every single person the benefit of the doubt. Some people just suck.

            And yea, big diff between scooping up all the leftovers versus assuming you can just take it all for your family, even if you are in need.

          2. HigherEdAdminista*

            And the truth is, I have known students who were food insecure. Did they go to events where there was free food? You bet! Did they try to hide their food insecurity by being extra normal about the food or only taking any leftovers when people weren’t around? Yes!

            I’m not trying to turn anecdotes into data, but all the people I knew who came around to take as much free stuff as possible were not those who actually needed it.

            1. Chauncy Gardener*

              Hard agree. Any time I’ve had students/interns at work, they were always very circumspect about taking food. And we ALWAYS gave them ALL the leftovers.

            2. The Starsong Princess*

              When I was in grad school, at the end of every event, the Dean would whip out a roll of baggies and instruct the students to pack up and take home the leftovers. But she was quite strict, only the students got a baggie.

            3. Curmudgeon in California*

              At my last University job we had breakfast stuff served once a week for the first three years I was ther. We fully expected students to be on the prowl after the event was over. I usually got there too late but could still have some breakfast.

              Of course, when they moved us all to open plan buildings they made the breakfast earlier, only monthly, and much smaller, so there were no leftovers by the time I got in.

        3. Eyes Kiwami*

          Pizza is not that expensive. If you can’t afford to buy a pizza for your kids then that doesn’t mean you get to openly steal one from your company potluck.

    6. Similarly Situated*

      At my first job out of school, the building management would host a buffet lunch for all the offices. People would come in with MASSIVE tupperwares (like the size of a casserole dish) and load up on food. It was super awkward.

      1. HigherEdAdminista*

        I had a colleague who did this once. There was an event and they brought these chafing dish containers and was loading up on food to take home before any of the guests had even been through the line.

        The other folks in the office just tried not to look because it was so embarrassing we didn’t know how to handle it.

      2. theothermadeline*

        In the graduate program I was in our Director of Finance literally worked an entire section into her orientation speech about how we should always have tupperware in our bags, ready to snatch up leftovers from anywhere. It was true, we constantly had group lunches etc. that had leftovers, alas it all disappeared with COVID times…

      3. Elitist Semicolon*

        My uncle used to do this at family Thanksgivings and it was even awkward around people he was related to. It’s one thing to accept leftovers when offered (or even to ask, “could I take some of that home?”) but to show up with a brown grocery bag full of containers and announce, before anything was even served, “these are for my leftovers” was a bit much to the rest of us.

    7. Marya*

      I noticed that even in my usually rather communitarian tech office, when one time there was not enough pizza, most people fell into two camps: either the “there isn’t much pizza, I’ll take a little and get more if there’s enough” and “there isn’t much pizza, I’d better take three pieces so I’ll be full.”

      1. Artemesia*

        It is a real study in character isn’t it? I better take one so there is enough versus, oh there might not be enough so I’ll take 4.

    8. Kettle Belle*

      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.

        1. londonedit*

          We had a similar thing at an office Christmas party a few years ago. There quite clearly wasn’t enough food, and the trays of canapes were being brought out extremely sporadically, so people started crowding around the door where the waiting staff were bringing stuff out and descending like vultures as soon as any food appeared.

    9. Autumnheart*

      My employer (in the beforetimes when we had catered lunches) would buy SO much pizza for our holiday pizza lunch. They ordered something like 80 pizzas for a 50-person team. They also posted pizza police and had a rule: First trip through, 2 slice maximum. Second trip through, 2 slice maximum. Then they’d send out an email that told people to help themselves. Then they’d put the leftovers in the break room and let everyone on the floor have at it.

      It was effective because everyone got pizza who wanted it, everyone could eat as much as they liked, and if you waited long enough, you COULD take home a whole pizza if you were determined to do so.

    10. Nobody*

      What blows my mind about this is that I’ve seen the exact same behavior out of at least three other places that I’ve worked. Every single time came with the, “you want my kids to go hungry??” excuse.

      At one very small office, it was a manager who would take literally anything left in the fridge at the end of the day home – so you couldn’t leave a preferred coffee creamer, a pack of lunch meat for the week, a frozen meal, etc. He always left an infuriating nate that said, “(daughter’s name) says thank you for the (stolen food item)!”

  4. Elle*

    You know how Allison says that when we go for an interview we are interviewing the company as much as they are interviewing us? We should all be asking about their potluck/bday/holiday situation because the worst offices always have the craziest stories.

    1. Old Academic Librarian*

      I went to an academic interview (so, overnight trip) where the meal I had on the first night, typically in a restaurant at every other interview I’ve had in my 25 year career, was a potluck in someone’s living room. There were cats roaming around the tables and there weren’t enough places to sit, so I was trying to awkwardly stand with my solo cup and paper plate with unknown casseroles, doing my best to make a good impression but also worried that I didn’t know what was in all of the dishes and am sensitive to a few things (interviews aren’t where you want to have food sensitivity issues!). They didn’t have a budget for more than one meal for my visit. While the creative solution was nice, this was a huge red flag that there probably wouldn’t ever be enough money for anything (including salary!).

      1. LCH*

        You were decidedly correct. The one university interview I had we ate at the nice university restaurant because they got a discount. But it was nice!

        1. Siege*

          The community college I taught at had a really kickass culinary program and had multiple restaurants on campus to give students ways to learn different standards of service. I *never* felt bad taking people to the fancy restaurant there. And I was very excited when the administration did a take-a-teacher-to-lunch, where students could get vouchers to that restaurant to take a teacher they liked to lunch. I was pretty flattered that several of my students wanted me to be that teacher.

      2. Artemesia*

        I was the guest speaker and the night before was invited to the chair’s home where the meal was a big spicy pot of bean chilli with lots of onions. I am hyper sensitive to onions and spicy beans before being a presenter is not my best plan either. Smeared it on my plate, ate bread and salad and was really hungry.

    2. Jaydee*

      At my former job, there was a long-standing half-joke that “what will you bring to office potlucks?” should be an interview question. I think interns who applied for permanent jobs sometimes did get asked that since they already knew the office culture and wouldn’t be put off by it. But potlucks were taken pretty seriously there.

      1. Wordnerd*

        Our office usually has a “meet and greet” with candidates and the rest of the department that wasn’t on the committee. It’s supposed to be a little bit of a “get to know the culture” but not a straight up interview, so we do actually default to “what would you bring to a potluck” as a conversation starter, but fully 1/4 of our department is on chips/plates, so no one gets dinged for saying they don’t bake or cook.

      2. Nina*

        as a woman who works in a heavily male-dominated industry and had ‘will you bring in baking for everyone’ as a job interview question and turned out to be entirely typical of the sexism in the office, I cannot sufficiently strongly recommend that that never become an interview question.

      3. yetelmen*

        I had a friend who interviewed in a notoriously cliquey department on campus and that was their final interview question. She didn’t end up getting the job and couldn’t help but wonder if she’d chosen the wrong dish..

    3. The OG Sleepless*

      That’s a great idea. Not foolproof, though. My least favorite job actually had one of the nicest holiday parties, a price fixe dinner at a nice restaurant.

  5. what's in a name*

    I know someone whose workplace has banned an employee from participating in the potluck because she put essential oils in the food she brought and didn’t tell anyone about it until after they had eaten it.

      1. Dust Bunny*

        They can be. Also, you don’t want to put unexpected ingredients that might trigger allergies into foods and not tell people. Like, don’t cook something with peanut oil that could just as well be cooked with vegetable or olive oil, since so many people have peanut allergies.

          1. Ragged and Rusty*

            A lot of essential oils are also not technically food: they are WAY too concentrated to consume.

            And then you might be like me: I’m very allergic to all essential oils, no matter how diluted. I did find this out the hard way. Having a “surprise ingredient” like that could potentially put me in the hospital.

            1. KoiFeeder*

              Seconded. The one time I’ve run into this is at a family gathering and they used so much that it thankfully caused a reaction long before I put anything in my mouth, but essential oils are not food-grade and many people have allergies to them. It’s just a bad, bad thing to do.

            2. MEH Squared*

              Yup. My brother got into sniffing essential oils from a bottle. I am allergic/sensitive to almost everything. He handed me one once and without thinking I sniffed it. My head snapped back and I almost threw it back at him. It was lavender, one of the scents I’m sensitive to. Thankfully, it wasn’t one of the worse ones, but I cannot imagine what would happen if I ingested it.

        1. Education Mike (she/her)*

          Yikes! If you have a common allergy like peanuts you learn to ask people who share food what it was cooked with, but why would you ever ask if there were essential oils in my food?! I think even if I had an allergy I would assume that was a no. So scary.

      2. LolaBugg*

        Usually they concentrations at which they are sold in the bottle are considered too high to be ingested without dilution.

      3. Mekong River*

        I don’t believe they are regulated as food, so they may not be safe to eat based on manufacturing concerns alone.

      4. what's in a name*

        There’s not really any regulation or oversight in the manufacture and sale of essential oils, so there’s not a reliable way to know if the ingredients they include are safe to consume. They also tend to be more highly concentrated than fresh or dried herbs, so even if it’s an ingredient that’s usually safe to eat, it could still cause bad reactions in people if it’s consumed in that concentrated form.

      5. GladImNotThereNow*

        There are “food grade” essential oils – for example, I’ve used a drop of bergamot in Earl Grey tea before to enhance the flavor. But, one does need to be careful – not all oils are, and even if safe in that regard are highly concentrated. A little goes a long long way.

        1. UKDancer*

          Yes I’ve used peppermint extract before now to flavour icing but I use the food grade extract (which is mixed with water and diluted) not the essential oil version because it’s safer and less likely to give people unpleasant side effects. Some versions of things are designed for human consumption and others are not.

            1. metadata minion*

              Yeah, I have various extracts, which I use by the teaspoon, and then I have a bottle of food-grade lavender oil, which I very carefully measure out two or three drops of for an entire cake.

      6. Shynosaur*

        Not many of the essential oils that are out there in the market are actually food grade. If you’re using food grade essential oils and following a recipe, there’s nothing wrong with it. (For example, my sister once made heavenly orange frosted cookies with a food-grade essential oil following a recipe designed to use the oil. They were incredible.) But just doping random food with random oils? Nopeity nope nope. And there’s no way someone being that careless was actually using a food-grade oil.

      7. Mekong River*

        Yes, it would be diluted if it were mixed well into macaroni salad.

        In a water-based soup, it would probably have to be emulsified to be well mixed.

      8. Sad Admin*

        Something can be diluted without being diluted enough to be safe to eat, especially something that’s not food grade in the first place. Really feel like you are determined to be obtuse about the common-sense points people are making in this thread so I am done engaging.

    1. GRA*

      Certified Aromatherapist here –

      You can safely use essential oils internally, BUT there are so many guidelines that need to be followed that I would never use them in food that was being shared. I don’t even use them in food that I cook for myself or my family!

    1. RJ*

      Amen to this. I’ve loathed potlucks for years because large or small, food does bring out the worst in people IME.

    2. HigherEdAdminista*

      It’s true. I love to bring in things to share, but I myself never check out a free food situation at work because it’s always a mad house. People will rush a conference room to snatch up left over wraps like they are getting manna from heaven!

      1. Capt. Dunkirk*

        Tangential example: One time a popular sit-down chain restaurant was opening near my work. They were doing a “soft opening” where you could reserve a table online and eat for free from a trimmed down version of their normal menu.
        I guess the idea was to get the restaurant staff used to the flow of a packed house before the actual grand opening.
        When word of this got around the office people went MAD trying to reserve tables and figure out what would normally be the most expensive food they could get for free. (

        You’d think they hadn’t eaten all week!

        The prospect of free food does weird things to some people.

    3. The Starsong Princess*

      It does. And the mood can quickly change. I remember the Great Lasagna Debacle of 2015. The Staff Appreciation Committee organized an appreciation lunch for the entire office, then about 150 people and hyped it up as a big event. The chair of the committee organizing it was young but promising and this was an opportunity for her to gain some leadership experience. She ordered exactly 150 portions of lasagna and salad. She told me this and when I asked her if that was enough, she said that was what the longtime catering company we used recommended as not everyone would attend. But it all went horribly wrong. It turns out that the catering company’s idea of portion of lasagna was about two inches by two inches and they ran out of food after about the first 50 people. But more and more people kept arriving expecting to eat. There were all these hungry people milling about and the crowd’s mood was shifting. A group started chanting “We want lasagna! We want lasagna!”

      Fortunately, our managing director saved the day. He got the attention of the hungry people (who were one step away from becoming a mob with torches and a rope at this point) and announced that he was getting pizza for everyone. When the pizza came, he rallied the senior leadership to deliver it to everyone’s desk with a thank you for their work that year (the staff appreciation part). As for the committee chair, she left a few months later. She wasn’t fired or anything but at every meeting, people kept asking her “So what about the lasagna?” Oh, and we got a new catering company.

      1. Barnacle Sally*

        I kind of feel bad for that young lady as that’s literally a large part of the catering company’s job to know portions for large crowds–they did her dirty by recommending 150 portions.

        1. Splendid Colors*

          And a 2×2″ portion of lasagna is only appropriate if you’re at a potluck where people sample umpteen different entrees. Not for the main course!

    4. Dhaskoi*

      Free food specifically, I think. There’s something about free food that hits us instinctively, often to ill effect.

  6. Juicebox Hero*

    The thought of someone digging their bare hand into a bowl of macaroni salad is making me want to barf.

    I wonder if he was doing it on purpose because he knew no one would want to eat something he’d just had his mitts in so he’d be able to snaffle the whole thing…

      1. Athena*

        It’s disgusting. And must have happened Pre-Covid because I think someone would have shut him down if this happened recently.

        1. Education Mike (she/her)*

          Did this get somehow less acceptable post Covid? If no one said anything I think it was more because of shock, or general fear of what someone who has that little regard for others might be like in a confrontation.

          I see this as similar to licking a coworker. It’s not worse after Covid because it was already maximum level bad.

          1. East Coast Anon*

            There exists an established maximum level of bad? I’m certain someone somewhere is saying “hold my beer”. Yarg.

    1. BethRA*

      I worked in a college cafeteria one Summer, and whenever I’d bring out a fresh tray of cookies or other desert, I’d be swarmed by football players all trying to stick their fingers in as many items as possible so no one else would claim them.

      1. Zombeyonce*

        This has the same energy as my dad sticking his thumb in several of my mom’s freshly baked chocolate chip cookies to make them “rejects” so she couldn’t take them all to whatever food event she was attending.

        1. what's in a name*

          Which is the exact reason that when I’m cooking treats to take to an event, I do a 1.5 recipe so there’s enough to leave at home.

        2. SixTigers*

          If someone, and I don’t care who, was sticking his thumb into my fresh-baked cookies, I’d declare, “Oh, well, look at that, THAT one’s ruined! And so’s that one! And that one! Shame I gotta throw ’em out!” and into the trash they’d go.

          And I’d think long and hard about whether or not I wanted to make any more. Ever.

          That’s just gross — and awful.

      2. Clisby*

        My son once worked a summer seasonal job at a popular cookie shop. Near the register, there were cookie jars with free samples. Accompanied by big signs saying something like “Ask us if you’d like a free sample.” He said it was a rare day when someone didn’t stick their nasty hands into a cookie jar to get a sample on their own. Which meant they had to throw out the whole jar of cookies and wash it thoroughly before reuse.

        I told him he was gaining valuable skills in learning how to deal with the public. He said, “Yeah, I’m learning that the public sucks!”

    2. JanetM*

      Not an office potluck, but I once saw someone at a salad bar scoop up potato salad, eat it off the serving spoon, and then shove the spoon back in the salad. I immediately told a manager, who told the person to leave, and removed the container from the salad bar. I can only hope it was thrown out, and not put back when I wasn’t looking.

      1. Artemesia*

        Odds are at least 50/50 it went right back on the serving bar. I avoid potlucks having observed so many gross things over the years including managers who just pour new food on top of old sat out food in a tray and food that is contaminated and then sent out again when the coast is clear.

      2. Baby Yoda*

        We watched a man “sample” all the soups from a hot food bar in a Safeway super market. Never trust do it yourself soup bars.

    3. Admiral Thrawn Is Always Blue*

      I’m very particular about my food. I just don’t like touching it, so I use a fork or spoon, including for snack food, like chips. I have had *so* many comments and strange looks at work because I am using a fork but I don’t think it’s strange. But this guy… I absolutely would not eat anything he had the slightest possibility of having touched. Massive ewwwwwww.

      1. JustaTech*

        I had a coworker who was a germaphobe (which is interesting when you work in a lab) and his response to the idea that we didn’t all use the tongs/scoop on the tortilla chips is that he would microwave them (the next day when there were leftovers) to kill the germs.
        OK, sure, you do you.

        Until he tried it with potato chips, which caught fire.
        (Small fire, went out immediately, no damage done.)

      2. Princesss Sparklepony*

        One of the “hacks” for eating Cheetos and other salty or powdery snacks that I read recently was to use chopsticks for eating them so your hands don’t get all messy. So just tell them it’s a hack…. I’m not sure I have the dexterity needed to use chopsticks on different types of the snacks. I see M&Ms shooting across the room… potato chips I see breaking, but I could probably do Cheetos…. maybe.

      3. RLC*

        Same here on preference for picking up food with utensils. Even if my hands are sanitized, I may not want food residue all over them. I think Victorian era etiquette advisers were wise to suggest that most food should be handled with utensils whenever possible. We collect Victorian era flatware and have fun trying to identify and properly use the more arcane utensils. (Saratoga chip, aka potato chip, and cracker serving spoons were a thing!)

    4. Elenna*

      I’m extremely hard to gross out and even I wouldn’t eat that salad. Or at least I’d scoop out the part he obviously touched and toss it before eating the stuff underneath…

    5. yellow haired female*

      It’s like when I was little and would lick something so my brother wouldn’t eat it….

      1. Cold Call Catastrophe*

        At my previous workplace, we got a rare pizza lunch provided. The top-earning executives descended on it first, taking up to 6 slices each. Admin people, like myself, who got there about 10 minutes later got one slice each. The receptionist had a staggered lunch time, so she got nothing. When she complained, an exec tried to bully other admin staff into giving up their one slice for her! When everyone pointed out we’d eaten our single slice, the exec gave the poor receptionist $2 to get her own slice later. We do not live in an area where pizza is sold by the slice.

    6. TheraputicSarcasm*

      That guy reminds me of Garfield touching every food on other people’s plates so that they’d give it to him.

    7. anon in affordable housing*

      We had a tenant who would come home from dumpster-diving for our building’s parties and gross everyone out–but at least he was grabbing serving utensils with his grody hands, not the food.

  7. Viki*

    Panini press brought in, for grilled cheeses, in a small conference room.

    Fire alarm went off, and office/mall since office was in a mall shut down for three hours.

    Oddly not the first time a panini press at a pot luck has shut down a building in my life.

    1. Tinkerbell*

      Ooh, my sister’s small museum did food for their quarterly all-staff meetings and once had a “waffle bar” with various toppings. Unfortunately, the break room was NOT wired for four waffle makers and they shorted out that whole side of the (historic, sporadically renovated) building…

      1. The OG Sleepless*

        My MIL insisted that we come to a “luau” at her assisted living facility, which among other awesomeness featured virgin pina coladas that someone was mixing in a residential quality blender. It took forever as this guy made one pina colada at a time, and shockingly, the blender didn’t hold up after two hours of nonstop crushing ice. Sigh.

        1. Momma Bear*

          Old office years ago when k-cups were new. Coworker got a Keurig as a gift. We learned that her making a cup of coffee at the same time my space heater turned on would blow the circuit. After the second time, Maintenance threatened to confiscate both appliances if it happened again.

      2. RLC*

        Same story but at a 1960s building with many slow cookers and electric frying pans inadvertently plugged into the same circuit as the entire computer network. My 1955 vintage electric frypan full of tamales was the final straw. Network shut down for half a day and IT staff thereafter labeled appropriate outlets for high wattage appliances.

      3. L'étrangère*

        Famous Ivy League University’s entire campus would regularly lose net access during the summer. It took us a while to figure out that if the a/c window unit in the upstairs conference room was on, turning on the microwave in the adjacent staff lounge would also shut down the part of the building that housed all the essential servers. Sadly, the physical plant was controlled by the mafia so 7+ years didn’t see a real fix. And no amount of (big, red) signs kept people from leaving the a/c on when not needed, or of course from trying to warm up their chicken soup whenever they felt like it..

    2. EPLawyer*

      Wait, you can’t leave it on that cliffhanger and just disappear. What’s the OTHER panini press story?

      1. Viki*

        High school pot luck party before finals, fire alarm went off, and the entire high school had to be evacuated in January in Ontario for two hours.

        He had to go on the morning announcements to apologize the next day.

    3. KYParalegal*

      “If I had a nickel for every time… I’d have two nickels. Which isn’t a lot, but it’s weird that it’s happened twice.”

    4. Feral Campsite Raccoon*

      That reminds me of this story.
      I worked as an assistant director at a summer day camp. We had a lot of very lovely, very enthusiastic, but somewhat immature counselors, mostly college-aged.
      At some point during the summer a few of them instituted a weekly breakfast ritual. They’d all get together in one of the teaching spaces, during work hours but before kids arrived, and eat a potluck breakfast together. We’d know when it was happening because it’d be ten minutes before camp opened and we wouldn’t be able to find the staff.
      As the summer went on, the breakfasts became more and more elaborate. Until finally one of them brought in a portable doughnut maker, and accidentally set the building on fire. The fire department responded. Camp did not start on time that day.
      The counselors were very unhappy that they were not allowed to use their paid time to eat fancy breakfast together anymore.

    5. turquoisecow*

      Not a potluck but this reminds me of the year my company – a large food retailer – did their annual food show at the office instead of off site. Someone was cooking (I forget what) inside a closed room with no ventilation, alarms went off, everyone had to clear out and wait for the fire department to come by.

      After that they went back to having the show offsite, which was a shame because we had been able to take a lot of food home after the show.

    6. BasketcaseNZ*

      Which is interesting, because I’ve worked in a number of offices where there is no toaster (because smoke hazard), but there is a sandwich press…

      1. JustaTech*

        One day I showed up to work to discover one of my coworkers in a bit of a tizzy because the toaster (which she used to make her breakfast) had disappeared.
        Now, this was upsetting partly because bread is not the same as toast, but also because the toaster and the panni press weren’t actually company property, they were things individuals had brought in to share.
        I didn’t have anything super pressing, so I offered to find out what happened. Asked facilities “where’s the toaster?” “They’re not allowed by fire code.”
        Interesting, we’d had them for years and they were fine. So, being in A Mood, I went and checked the fire code for our state, county and city. Nothing about toasters (or sandwich presses) in any of those documents. Check with our landlords, nothing about toasters. Check with the Health and Safety person, again, there’s nothing wrong with a toaster.

        What I finally found was that, at a high-rise building we used to rent a few floors of, *there* toasters were banned, because of the major disruption if a smoke alarm went off.
        I take all this information back to the facilities folks and say “toasters are not against any regulation, and if you decide we can’t have them you need to give them back to their owners.”
        The toasters reappeared.
        (Apparently someone who had been moved to our building from the fancy high-rise was surprised that we had toasters and through a game of telephone this got turned into “ban toasters”.)

      2. BeachMum*

        My child can have a toaster in her dorm room (that has a kitchen) but not a toaster oven because it’s a hazard. Meanwhile, my late-FIL used to set fire to his toast weekly at the office. At the funeral, someone mentioned that they’ll never smell burnt toast without thinking of him.

  8. Meghan R*

    At my last job potlucks were always … interesting. I worked in an area that was farmland and a lot of the employees were avid hunters. So, anytime we had potlucks, they’d dig deep into the deep freezer and pull out the strangest things. One potluck we had venison, pheasant (both fairly normal where we live), but then someone brought in elk, pickled beef heart, pickled beef tongue, and smoked swan!

    1. londonedit*

      Swan! Swans are protected in the UK, you’re definitely not allowed to smoke them. Unless I suppose one happened to die of natural causes right in front of you. But you might still have to ask the King first. Technically all unmarked mute swans in Britain are owned by the Crown, but the late Queen only ever used to exercise said ownership on certain stretches of the Thames, and only really for the ceremonial ‘swan-upping’ tradition which is basically a swan census where they’re caught and checked over and logged and whatnot.

      1. UKDancer*

        I’ve been to the swan-upping a couple of times, hours of fun watching people try and catch them for the census.

      2. Swanning around*

        And the marked Swans belong to one of the guilds so some have two nicks in their beaks which got corrupted over the years and is why there are quite a few British pubs called the “Swan with 2 Necks”.
        The guilds are The Abbotsbury Swannery, The Vintners Company and The Dyers’ Company.

      3. Joyce to the World*

        In the US, they were at one time protected and not legal to hunt. Not sure if this has changed or not since I am not a hunter. My Dad went goose hunting with a few friends (40 years or more ago) and the one guy who had never been ever in his life showed up a few days early and shot the biggest “geese”. Which happened to be swans. When he was told, he freaked. The ones that had not been dressed were left anonymously in the back of the game wardens truck. Some had already been dressed by a professional (who never said a word to him). He gave them to the others in the hunting party. All I can say is that swan is tasty, but even greasier than duck.

        1. KoiFeeder*

          Honestly, the one time I had swan it had such a distinct fishy taste that I wasn’t into it. And yeah, the grease. I’m greasy enough without adding more of it into my diet, sob.

          1. UKDancer*

            Yes that’s the problem with goose as well. There was a time when it was very fashionable in London as an alternative to turkey. I tried it once at a restaurant out of curiosity and it just tasted way too greasy for my comfort. So I’ve never had it since and would prefer not to have it again.

            1. KoiFeeder*

              I’d probably try peking-style goose, because peking duck is the least greasy way of cooking duck I know of. But outside of that, I’ll pass on goose.

            2. General von Klinkerhoffen*

              Goose is great for Christmas Dinner, but very much too rich for any meal you need to move after.

            3. Anon+Supervisor*

              I love goose, but if it’s greasy, it isn’t cooked right. You have to constantly siphon out the drippings so that it doesn’t ruin your oven and stink up the house. My grandmother made it a lot for Christmas because my grandfather hated turkey and loved to take a sip of hot goose fat (he’s extremely German).

              1. KoiFeeder*

                I mean, before puberty, I definitely did that with bacon grease. I can see it. But please, give me the degreased goose secrets! Do I need a special grease vac or can I use my hand vacuum?

                1. Rockette J Squirrel*

                  A good friend and excellent cook would use a blow dryer on duck. (Yes, seriously.) I helped, and you would not believe how much grease that duck “sweated” while being thoroughly warmed. We did it about 30 minutes, then she roasted it. It was delicious, and not greasy. It had about the drippings as a roast chicken would, and the gravy had to be portioned out it was so good. (She served everyone’s plates in the kitchen and we brought them out.)

              2. SixTigers*

                Goose grease is really useful for frying things, later, and you get SO MUCH OF IT off of one goose. You have to keep siphoning the grease out of the pan, and it really helps if, ahead of time, you stab the goose carcass repeatedly with something really sharp like a wicked two-prong fork.

                It’s really tasty meat, if you lower the grease content, and the bones and scraps make a wonderful soup base, but man, you got to work to get that grease under control.

            4. Trixie the Great and Pedantic*

              My family did a Victorian Christmas one year, complete with Christmas goose. Mom apparently almost set the kitchen on fire because of the goose grease.

      4. Meghan R*

        Its illegal to hunt them in certain states in the US as well! He had gone hunting a state over to get it.

    2. Phony Genius*

      Early in my career, I was at a potluck (in a big city), and one of the suburban commuters was a hunter. His wife (who also worked in the office) brought venison balls. (Venison meatballs, not the other thing.)

    3. UKDancer*

      I’d be interested to try smoked swan. In London (perhaps in the rest of the UK too, I don’t know) swans are considered to belong to the monarch so they don’t get eaten much because they’re a royal prerogative.

      1. Ellis Bell*

        Swans are protected across the UK. I was a small town northern reporter and we were rescued from a very slow news day by some swan bones over a campfire. The readers were genuinely horrified and basically organised volunteer canal patrols.

    4. Bexy Bexerson*

      Elk is delicious! I like it far more than venison. My parents were avid hunters, so I’ve tried just about everything…one time I visited them while they were living in Montana and my dad dug into the freezer and pulled out every type of meat he had, and then processed to grill a giant feast for the family. We had venison, bison, moose, elk, antelope, and I don’t even remember what else. Excellent meal.

      1. Amorette Allison*

        I LOVE antelope and elk. Moose has to be cooked carefully and Im not a big venison fan. LOVE goose, just make sure all the shotgun pellets are removed or you’ll break a tooth.

      2. Tasty treats*

        I was on Safari in Kenya 20-odd years aho, they served us Eland which we realised were the large Antelopes we’d been viewing on the game drive that day. Sweet Gamey Chicken in flavour.

      3. SixTigers*

        I had an elk burger when I was in Montana once upon a time, and it was deeeelicious! Absolutely scrumptious!

      1. Bexy Bexerson*

        Did you like it? I think squirrel is straight up NASTY. I’ve eaten just about everything that can be hunted in the US, and squirrel is the one thing I’ll never touch again. My dad was a big hunter, and when I was a young kid he did a lot of squirrel hunting…I think it was a combination of needing to feed a family on a tight budget, and also wanting to go hunting as a reason to get away from my mom for a few hours (she was horrible…he eventually divorced her and then got remarried to a super cool lady who ended up being his best hunting partner).

        I can still imagine the smell and taste of squirrel, and it’s been close to 40 years since I’ve eaten it. NEVER AGAIN.

        1. Kimmy Schmidt*

          I did! The hunter that shared it had grilled it in a homemade barbecue sauce, kind of like a BBQ chicken thigh. I don’t really remember the meat taste itself, just that it was juicy. But I’m about the most unpicky eater ever and willing to try just about everything.

        2. Me (I think)*

          A guy I went to college with used to hunt squirrels on campus, with a sling shot and a dab of peanut butter on the toe of his boot. He ate a lot of them, but I was never interested in tasting any.

      2. Bagpuss*

        I tried squirrel once and liked it. Grey squirrels are an invasive species here (uk) and a bit of a pest, so I believe hunting them is classed as pest control.
        the meat is very lean / healthy.
        In fairness though I did have it in a very good restaurant. I would imagine it could easily be very dry and tough, and must be even more fiddly than rabbit to prepare.

        I do generally like game, and enjoy goose and venison etc. And hare, although that’s not readily available and the last one I had came to me with all its skin, head and feet on which was a bit of a challenge!

      3. Rockette J Squirrel*

        We moved to the second poorest county in Texas when I was middle-school-aged. The cooks were grandmotherly farm wives and, man, could they cook! About three weeks after school started, everyone was sent to the cafeteria/gym during last period. We had a big bowl of the best stew ever, and fresh cornbread with butter. I was surprised, as in my big-city (where the food was horrible) had never done this. I quietly asked, and was told that all the game confiscated from poachers was processed for free, and when there was enough meat it was donated to the school. For a great many of the kids, it was one less meal they had to go without. And I noticed that the cooks would come around and offer seconds when there were any, but none of the kids who had homes with enough food said yes, and that saved more for the kids who needed it.
        My mother was absolutely horrified – she would not touch any game with a 20-foot pole. She had called another mom, who said there was always venison, squirrel, rabbit, and sometimes possum, turkey, etc. She told me to not eat it and my daddy (who hunted fowl) told me to make my own decision. I loved it, so I’d have a small portion.
        My friend also told me that if the wardens caught someone poaching to truly feed their family, it would either not be confiscated, or confiscated, processed, and returned, saying that no one they normally donated to needed any.

    5. Nea*

      There was a local hunter who labeled his crock pot offering “Venison stew.”

      And under that, in case anyone didn’t know the word venison, he’d added “Bambi stew.”

      1. Ace in the Hole*

        Reminds me of the potluck where various chilis/stews were subtitled with the meats: “oink,” “moo,” “quack,” and “I dunno what bunnies say.”

              1. Not Your Admin Ass(t)*

                And a much louder snort-noise when they’re being dramatic! My bunn sounded like a tiny pig in distress when it was time for the dreaded monthly nail-clipping. You’d think I was going to slaughter him for “pork” chops with those clippers. Every. Single. Time.

    6. Mallory Janis Ian*

      When I was in college I went with my then-boyfriend to his hometown and we visited some of his friends who were still in high school. It was a tiny town where grades K – 12 were all on the same campus with a shared cafeteria. The day we visited, the cafeteria ladies were cooking venison that had been hunted and donated by one of the local dads. They had the venison with a stew of potatoes, carrots, and celery, and some homemade yeast rolls. It was delicious!

      1. UKDancer*

        I am very fond of venison. My butcher sometimes has it in and I can make a really good casserole, cooking it slowly in red wine with juniper berries and carrots and parsnips.

        1. Bagpuss*

          I know a guy who does culls as needed. As much free venison as I can Cary. Last time I saw him he gave me some muntjac, which I hadn’t had before.

          Venison does make a great casserole – I tend to adapt my boeuf bourguignon recipe and add redcurrant jelly and a bit of mustard sand, as you say, some good red wine.

    7. Mitford*

      I worked for an Alaska Native Corporation’s office in the DC area, and the shareholders in Barrow would bring muktuk (consisting of whale skin and blubber) to us for the holiday party.

      1. mli25*

        Whoa. I think I would be interested in trying it just because I would be unlikely to have a chance to try it in any other context. Any comment on what it tasted like?

      1. SixTigers*

        I’ve had beef tongue several times, and it’s delicious. It looks terrible if it’s put whole on the table, but the flavor is wonderful.

    8. Workin' for the Weekend*

      My friend was having a chili cook-off at her work and she brought in chili made with bear meat, spoils from one of her husband’s successful hunting trips. There was some kind of surprise element with this cook-off, so didn’t disclose what kind of meat it was, only to find out that some people were livid at finding out they had consumed bear. We do live in an area in the upper Midwest where hunting is extremely popular, but I guess bear is a different level for some, even amongst hunters, as no one had issue with the venison chili.

    9. Interplanet Janet*

      Comments like this remind me that despite having lived in medium to major cities for most of my adult career I am still at my roots from the sticks because I would not have batted an eye at any of these turning up! lol

    10. RLC*

      Similar experiences in past workplaces for me (Washington state USA) but add moose, bison (colleague’s family had a bison ranch), smoked salmon and steelhead, and fresh clams (prepared in traditional ways by colleagues who were members of the Yakama Nation). Delicious foods I’d never otherwise have a chance to try; where I’m from the most we could get was mule deer venison and brook trout.

    11. allathian*

      I’d try all of those. Moose meat is very good when it’s prepared right. It does taste gamey, but that’s sort of the point…

      When I was a kid we lived for 4 years near the coast. Lots of fabulous fish. You get sort of spoiled when you have fish for lunch that you know were still swimming in the sea that morning… I’ve also eaten waterfowl as a kid, but not swans because they’re protected here. I’ve also eaten hare. It’s been so long, though, that I don’t remember what it tasted like.

      1. Hopalong, nothing to see here*

        I kind of do remember the rabbit I ate. Conecho on the grill at a Mexican family reunion about 50 years ago. Good enough I kept wanting to try it again, but I just can no longer get past seeing the whole one in the butcher case! (Maybe if they cut it up for me first?)

  9. ZSD*

    This isn’t a potluck, but back when I was in elementary school, the company my father worked for had an annual summer picnic that the employees brought their whole families to. And one year, the meat in the hamburgers was bad.
    So every employee, and all the family members of every employee, got food poisoning.
    It was memorable.

    1. Dr Sarah*

      Were there any vegetarian employees? I have visions of them having to keep the entire office running while everyone else was out…

      1. NotRealAnonforThis*

        And this is how we determined it was the turkey at Thanksgiving one year. Everyone except for me wound up with food poisoning. And I was the only one who did NOT eat the turkey.

        1. Macgillicuddy*

          As a kid, more than once I woke up Thanksgiving night having to toss my cookies in the toilet. Not every Thanksgiving, but enough times that it was ickily memorable. My mother always blamed it on “you must have eaten too much”.

          As an adult, I remembered that my mother would always defrost the frozen turkey by leaving it on the kitchen counter for a couple of days. I’m sure now that all of that “you ate too much” was really food poisoning.

          1. Not Your Admin Ass(t)*

            We shared a mother, obviously! I spent most of my life thinking (more like, constantly being told) that I was a “picky eater” with a “weak stomach.”

            Then I learned to cook for myself and discovered that I’m actually a pretty adventurous eater with a normal stomach! I just didn’t have enough of an iron stomach to handle my mother’s total lack of food safety for every meal.

            (My worst memory is just a few years ago, when I was visiting and saw she’d put a bag of pork chops in the sink to defrost. Full of room temperature water. That was also used soapy dishwater. That hadn’t been changed in probably well over a week–when I stuck my hand in, horrified, to drain the sink? That hand came out covered in slime from the filthy water. I put the pork in fresh cold water in the fridge and DID NOT eat it when it was cooked.)

      2. ZSD*

        This would have been around 1990, when I, at least, had not heard of the concept of vegetarianism, and I would bet that a lot of the adults in my state hadn’t, either.

    2. Susie*

      This happened at a Thanksgiving meal for employees of one the largest manufacturing facilities in our state (just down the road from where I work). They manufacture tires. The employees got really, really sick. Some even had to go to the ER and a few were admitted their cases were so bad. One of our colleagues has a son that worked there and he said he just stayed in the bathtub of the guest room for days.

    3. Cedrus Libani*

      That happened at a science camp I attended in high school. They got catering from a nice Italian restaurant, except it was standard American fare, which I guess they weren’t used to. The hamburgers were cooked rare. I woke up the next morning to find the bathrooms fully occupied, and trails of vomit in the halls from people who didn’t make it there in time. I was the only omnivore who didn’t eat the burgers (I prefer hot dogs), the vegetarians were also fine, but everyone else had been puking their guts out for hours.

      Bonus: our scheduled activity was what our camp lovingly referred to as “Bag of Dead Animals Day” – a day-long dissection workshop. It’s a challenge, from a sights and smells perspective, even when you’re well. People tried to rally, but…it just wasn’t happening.

    4. learnedthehardway*

      Oooh. Not a potluck and not even work, but the closest I’ve got was last year of university, 9 flatmates and 1 bathroom and Salmonella from our end of year dinner together.

    5. Asenath*

      At one point while I was a part time student and part time worker, I often ate in the dining hall that served most of the student residences. People who didn’t live in the residences could buy a special category of meal tickets, and they were extremely good value for money. Mostly. By some chance, which I have always been thankful for, I didn’t use my meal ticket the night the cream puffs were contaminated with something – I heard salmonella, and that the sights and smells in the residences were terrible.

  10. Mekong River*

    I’m relatively new at my company, and I have learned that my group typically has a yearly potluck. Honestly, good potluck experiences are much more common than people digging in with their hands or tying cookies around their dog’s neck, but I am still not jumping enthusiastically into the return to the office potluck.

    1. The Cosmic Avenger*

      Yes, we used to have project potlucks which were great, which is not as surprising with a small group, especially at a great employer. And when we catered client events in our office, leftovers were always put out in the break rooms, and while they sometimes ran out quickly if there weren’t many leftovers, I never saw anyone walk away with more than a meal’s worth of food. Maybe it’s also because we work largely in health and social service consulting, people here may trend towards people who are more likely to think of others.

    2. Elenna*

      Yeah, my team hosted a potluck a few weeks ago and everything was fine, people brought enough food, nobody took way too much, etc. Glad I work in an office with sane people!

      1. Lynn*

        I read these horror stories with interest, mostly because I can’t actually imagine them happening in my family or friends group. Or, honestly, in any workplace I have ever been in.

        My motorcycle club has joked that we are going to start asking people to bring designated eaters to the potluck events, just to be sure that more of the food that gets brought is eaten. Well, we are mostly joking. But not entirely-and anyone who attends one of our food meetings as a first-timer who was unaware of the potluck is welcome to join in the eating as there will definitely be sufficient food for everyone.

        The few folks who can’t cook well, or bring weird things are are easily offset by the chronic overcookers (I might be one of the guilty parties here) who always bring way too much food to these things.

        1. Lenora Rose*

          Vegetarianism is hundreds of years old. Most of my bad potluck experiences are when there are no controls t what’s brought for the potluck so you get heavily unbalanced meals. (example: a potluck which ended up with everyone bringing a dessert, usually with chocolate, except two items: the chocolate-banana muffins were technically not dessert, and there was a carrot salad. This got supplemented a bit when the cafe nearby turned out to have a bag of apples off someone’s tree; the small sharp kind that are almost crabapples, but still a bonus.

          1. Lenora Rose*

            Wow, that first line was from a comment I decided not to post as it seemed unnecessarily unkind, I wish it hadn’t somehow snuck in at the top of this one.

            (also, to clarify, the cafe was giving away free apples, in addition to the paid for drinks we visitors were sneaking off to procure)

        2. Free Meerkats*

          Back in my SCA days, there was a miscommunication for one Crown Tourney and everybody in the group brought food to feed the entire group two meals instead of one meal. We had so much food! Then someone said, “Hey, Henry is always hungry.” Said Henry was 6’3″ and about 120 pounds. We had him to our camp every meal after that and no one took home any food. That boy could eat!

        3. MaryLoo*

          I’ve been to church potlucks where for example a (well-off) family of 4 would bring a small casserole dish with 4 servings of a side dish. I never understood why they thought this was mathematically ok.

          Someone finally quoted the rule about number of servings in the dish you bring equals the number of people in your party, times the number of “courses” at the dinner. So if the potluck has main dish, salad, and dessert, then a family of 5 would bring something with 15 servings (5 people X 3 courses).

          And they had people sign up for salad, main dish, or dessert, after a memorable potluck where everybody brought baked beans.

          The annual meal that followed was the shortest one in years.

    3. Artemesia*

      We never had abusive potluck experiences — the professionals with the bigger salaries brought meat dishes, staff and grad students brought salads, breads, chips, desserts. But even so, many of those student dishes looked like maybe they didn’t come from a good kitchen — I avoided the creamy saladish things or anything in a salad with protein and stuck to the green salads, breads and cookies from that end of the table.

  11. Minneapolis Nonprofit*

    Okay this is more of a story of how things go right but still very amusing! In our staff team of nine, we have a rotation of someone bringing treats for each person’s birthday. It works out well because everyone only has to do it once and everyone gets celebrated. Usually it’s something like a box of donuts and some fresh fruit. But not our admin! She goes all out. For the last birthday that she was in charge of she brought in three full charcuterie boards (all very delicious!), coffee, tea, sparkling water, juice, hot cocoa, two different kinds of pastries, and of course a chocolate cake.
    The only problem with this is that it took so long to set up that our one hour staff meeting was delayed by 30 minutes! I think our boss had the talk to her later about scaling it back.

  12. Snow Globe*

    #3-I have a friend like that. She always brings a certain baked good to any parties or pot lucks, and goes on and on about it. She makes it for gifts. They are beautiful—magazine ready. But no flavor at all. Our other friends, who are all very polite, always gush about this dessert, so I’ve wondered if it is just me. (But my husband agrees with me.)

    1. Bex*

      I had a coworker who “loved to bake cakes” but actually I think she only loved to decorate them, as they were always beautiful but often sort of dry/stale. She made cakes as a side hustle and when we had a potluck, she would always bring a cake that tested out a new technique. There were a few funny things, mostly related to how you couldn’t predict the flavor by looking at it (the blue icing on one batch of chocolate cupcakes turned out to be peanut butter flavored; there was something chocolate mint once in a color that definitely did not imply “mint”), but the most notable was the elaborately decorated 4-layer cake that had a layer of white chocolate on top and artfully drizzling down the sides. Not white chocolate icing. Not white chocolate ganache. Straight up white chocolate that she had melted and poured on, which then had of course hardened. Pretty. Shiny. Way too intimidating to cut through with four layers of cake underneath. We didn’t even have plates big enough for a 4-layer cake slice. The cake sat there, pristine and untouched, all through the potluck and for the rest of the day in the kitchen because no one knew what to do with it.

    2. Roy G. Biv*

      Beautiful baked goods, with all the ingredients and labor involved. And no flavor. I want to cry at the thought!

      1. SixTigers*

        Years ago, a coworker’s wife was taking a cake decorating class. He’d bring in her work, because the family was Sick And Tired of cake and there they were, every week, looking at ANOTHER ONE.

        The decorations got prettier and prettier over time as she got better at it, but the cake was always a really dry, dull-flavored vanilla. She was spending her time and efforts on the decorations, and the cake was just there to be decorated.

        I expect that when she got done with the class, she made better cakes, but he didn’t bring any of those in.

    3. Quinalla*

      Growing up, a lot of the family friends exchanged cookie plates at Christmas time. My Mom makes very tasty cookies, and while they look fine, she doesn’t put much time/effort into the decorating. So cookies look fine, but nothing special, but taste amazing. We always had at least one or two plates from others that would look gorgeous and would taste awful. Now folks we know who are successful bakers or caterers – they can make things look beautiful and taste good, but I’m honestly automatically suspicious of home cooking/baking that looks too good :P To the point when I ordered my wedding cake I said it has to taste good above all, looks are a distant second. It still looked good, but was pretty run-of-the-mill, but boy did it disappear quick once people tasted it :)

      1. Autumnheart*

        I have a friend who is just ridiculously talented at making food. He went to culinary school and became a professional chef for a while (and then went back to IT because it pays a lot better), but even before that, he just had the knack like you wouldn’t believe.

        He used to put on a Friendsgiving dinner where the rest of us would bring sides, and he’d make the turkey and a couple sides and one dessert. (This potluck would have 8 guests and enough food for 30.) He made a brown butter cake that looked straight out of a magazine. The food was good enough to bring tears to my eyes. Man, that dude can cook.

      2. Not A Raccoon Keeper*

        Yes, I have this belief too! In elementary school, we had ‘cupcake days’ to fundraise (lol, the 90s), and each grade would provide the cupcakes 1-2x per year. The ones we baked and brought in were never the prettiest ones, but once one or two people bought them, the word would get around and they’d sell out pretty quickly!

        Sour cream is the secret to a delicious chocolate cupcake. Not giving a crap about what they look like is the secret to producing ugly cupcakes.

      3. Bryce*

        I make some Passover cookies that are like that. Not much to look at, but there’s a whole orange and lime in there so they taste amazing.

        1. BeachMum*

          Please post the recipe. I’ll trade you for my utterly luscious flourless chocolate torte. (I have an April birthday as does my child and my father. Someone always gets stuck.)

          1. Bryce*

            Passover Existential Mandelbreit (“almond bread” without almonds or bread)
            Cream: 2 cups sugar + 1 cup butter
            6 eggs
            Diced/grated rind and juice of a small lemon and orange (I’d suggest cutting off the rind and chopping it up by hand/processor, grating made a lot of mess last year and most of it didn’t get into the cookies. What did had a lot of flavor though.)
            1 cup raisins
            1/2 cup potato starch
            1 box (~3 cups) Passover cake flour (very finely ground matzah, matzo meal or grind-your-own should work with a bit different texture)

            Heat oven to 350
            Let dough stand about 10 minutes, then make into rolls on baking sheet.
            Bake ~40 minutes
            Cut diagonally into slices and turn on side (so you get oblong slices instead of a cylinder, mostly aesthetic so don’t worry about doing it perfectly)
            Turn oven down to 325, put back in for ~20 minutes until cooked through

            Similar to biscotti, if that’s a known reference, but mandelbreit uses a lot more eggs. Have water handy when you try them, they’re very dry and crumbly.

    4. Art3mis*

      They are probably being polite. I have a friend who makes salsa and everyone goes on about how great it is. Granted I’m the quintessential white person mayonnaise is hot enough for me type, but I’ve had tap water that was spicier.

  13. CreepyPaper*

    We had a bake off at an old job of mine and someone bought a chocolate Swiss roll from Marks and Spencers (posh supermarket here in the UK) and ‘jazzed it up’ with squirty cream from a can and chilli flakes on top because chocolate and chilli go really well together, apparently.

    He won.

    1. londonedit*

      Now I really want someone to just bring in a Colin the Caterpillar and deadpan claim to have made it.

      1. CreepyPaper*

        My friends had a Colin wedding cake and the baker made the body but cut the face off an actual Colin and stuck it on. That kind of counts as homemade, right?

        1. Raw Flour*

          As an American unfamiliar with this style of cake, that description sounds absolutely morbid! I can’t argue with Swiss roll-inspired wedding cake, though.

          1. CreepyPaper*

            The wedding cake was about three feet long, an average Colin is far shorter. So there was this magnificent chocolate covered log in the middle of the table with the little face at one end. It was a hit with all of our inner childs, really was.

          2. TechWorker*

            The face is just a bit of solid chocolate, and it’s like a cartoon caterpillar – very not morbid I promise :p

          3. Irish Teacher*

            Yeah, my thought was “I hope Creepypaper meant an actual Colin the Caterpillar cake and not an actual PERSON called Colin.”

        2. General von Klinkerhoffen*

          You can buy Colin faces separately in the food hall.

          You can also buy a full set of official Colin wedding cake with a bride and groom and mini attendants. It would be baffling for a guest not in on the joke.

        3. Princesss Sparklepony*

          I just did a mini dive into Colin the Caterpillar since I’m not familiar. Turns out you can buy a bag of Colin faces. So the baker may just have bought a bag of them.

        4. The Other Katie*

          For some reason this reads as incredibly savage to me. Like it was wearing the face of its enemy!

      2. debs514*

        Reposting as i posted this in the wrong section of the thread…apologies for seeming off topic earlier. As an Canadian Expat living in the UK the last 13 years, I can’t think of anything more terrifying than the caterpillar cake. I suppose that is why they are so popular here, as there is that old British tradition of thinking, “yeah its a bit shit, but thats why we love it” Don’t get me started on Mince pies and christmas pudding. Have there been no advances in Xmas desserts since Victorian times?

      1. MM*

        I think this has to be a case of the British dessert palate being wildly different from the US one (as I have observed many times from GBBO–they seem to think chocolate and lime is classic over there?), because yeah, chocolate and chili is classic in Mexican food and has been thoroughly mainstream here for at least 20 years. Though granted, plain old chili flakes shaken over the top is not the best way to go about it.

        1. I&I*

          Brit here: I think most of us are familiar with the combo. Just not with the idea that sticking some chilli flakes on a Colin the Caterpillar counts as combining flavours!

        2. londonedit*

          Chocolate and lime is seen as a classic here because there’s an old-fashioned sweet shop boiled sweet called a chocolate lime, which is a lime-flavoured boiled sweet (I’m not sure what the US word for boiled sweets is? Hard candy?) with a chocolate filling. We’re well aware of chocolate and chilli as a combo and it’s been doing the rounds for at least 20 years here as well, but yeah sticking some chilli flakes on a Colin the Caterpillar is not the general idea of chocolate and chilli.

          1. Miette*

            We have those kinds of candies here in the US–they are sometimes canned chocolate straws for some reason? They come in “flavors” other than lime (I use quotes because i’m not sure that the candy part is flavored or not LOL; they come in red, green, yellow, orange, etc.). They’re definitely a sweet that your grandma would enjoy–not very mainstream any more

    2. ggg*

      Something like this beat out a delicious, homemade, beautifully-hand-decorated cheesecake our intern made for a dessert contest. That intern is several years past a Ph.D. now, working somewhere else, and we still talk about how unfair it was.

      1. Artemesia*

        Can’t get too invested in contests. I made a gorgeously decorated mojito cake for a baking contest at a photo school I participated in and the winner was a simple drop cookie. There were so many better things there than that cookie.

    3. debs514*

      As an Canadian Expat living in the UK the last 13 years, I can’t think of anything more terrifying than the caterpillar cake. I suppose that is why they are so popular here, as there is that old British tradition of thinking, “yeah its a bit shit, but thats why we love it” Don’t get me started on Mince pies and christmas pudding. Have there been no advances in Xmas desserts since Victorian times?

  14. I should really pick a name*

    I want to know how the person with the cookie dough got caught. It sounds like the perfect crime.

    1. Shynosaur*

      I was wondering how that person managed to win! In my experience, store-bought dough is incredibly obvious. I mean, I’m envisioning a tube of Pillsbury sugar cookies that you just slice every quarter inch and bake and they aren’t even circular because the knife squishes them down lol. (Assuming you have the willpower to bake them. Me, I’m like Amy on Everybody Loves Raymond: I peel that sucker like a banana and just eat!)

      1. Well...*

        Have you tried microwaving raw cookie dough for 10-20 seconds in the microwave? It’s my snack that maximizes flavor + laziness

      2. Artemesia*

        Maybe they didn’t slice and bake but rolled the dough out and used specialized cutters or patterned rolling pins or something and so it looked ‘home made’?

      3. New Jack Karyn*

        You can get cookie dough in a bucket! Then you’re dropping blobs on the baking sheet, just like normal.

    2. Dumpster Fire*

      Reminds me of Phoebe’s grandmother’s cookies (from Friends) – the infamous “Tolouse” (tollhouse) cookie recipe!

  15. Resident Catholicville U.S.A.*

    At a non-profit I worked out, one of the employees had his 10 year anniversary, so management bought a sheet cake to celebrate. When the employee saw the cake (presumably with his name and “Happy Anniversary!” on it), he asked, “Oh, is this for me?” and when he was told yes, he closed the box and took it home with him for his family. The intention, of course, was for the employees to share, but that apparently had not occurred to him but we all had a good laugh about it. It was very on brand for that person.

    1. ZSD*

      That’s kind of awesome. It makes me want to start asking, “Oh, is this for me?” more often in my life.

    2. Sheworkshardforthemoney*

      If it was a Costco sheet cake, those things are huge and delicious because they’re not overly sweet. lol, Your office should have ordered another and said this one is only for people who work here.

    3. Cookies for Breakfast*

      I have a friend who did something similar.

      We used to be able to expense cakes for colleagues’ birthdays, and they’d be taken to the office common area for everyone to eat. Leftovers were fair game to take home at the end of the day, but there were rarely any. My friend couldn’t eat most of the cakes that were brought in because of a dietary restriction, but for her birthday, we made sure to get a cake that would suit her from an independent local bakery. She said thanks in front of the whole office, then proceeded to close the cake box and put it in the fridge to take home later.

      That’s not particularly on brand for her! I figured she wanted to make the most of the one thing she could enjoy, given 99% of the time she couldn’t participate. Which is fair enough. In her shoes, I wouldn’t put it past myself to do the same. Though at the time I was very curious to try the cake :D

      1. Slow Gin Lizz*

        These stories are so weird. Did these people never attend birthday parties as kids? (Or even adults, for that matter.) Do they not know the cake is supposed to be eaten AT the party? Sure, taking the leftovers home, especially if you are the person being celebrated, but share it first among the people who are there to celebrate with you!

        That said, this would make for a funny joke at a party. I honestly thought both of these stories were going to end with them saying, “Haha, just kidding! Let’s cut up this sucker and devour it!” So maybe I’ll do this at my next birthday party, which alas is almost a year away.

        1. MM*

          [the following is not actually political, it just requires political references] There’s an infamous tweet from some far right-winger or other trying to snark by saying that under socialism you’d have to give away 90% of your birthday cake. Endless replies to the effect of “that’s what normally happens.”

        2. Bridget the Elephant*

          I’ve been to a lot of kids’ birthday parties lately and for all of them the attendees were given a slice of cake to take home as part of the party bag. My daughter’s birthday was the exception because we gave everyone cake following the meal and it was eaten then and there.

      2. Anon but hungry*

        As someone with a thousand food allergies and issues who watches everyone eat all the foods around me at every event all year long for decades, I wouldn’t steal the whole cake for myself, but I gotta say, on the very rare occasion when someone goes out of their way to arrange a safe cake for me on my birthday, it’s REALLY hard to watch other people eat it.

        1. Cate*

          Especially as people would just be eating it from a place of almost morbid curiosity, and will definitely go on that their usual cakes are better! Let the person who actually will enjoy it, enjoy it!

          1. Bubo Bubo*

            Oh my god yes. I can’t digest wheat because of a chronic condition and whenever I bring my own gluten-free bread/dessert to a potluck or group dinner, people always ask me to try them out of curiosity. I used to say yes out of courtesy, only for the people in question to end up making faces and say how dry/crumbly/dense/definitely not “real bread” they were.

            Meanwhile the loaf costs 8$ tax not included… Now I make sure only to bring enough fo0r myself so no one asks.

      3. Retired Lady*

        I wonder if she knew the cake would taste weird to her coworkers who weren’t used to eating something with the necessary modifications, and she just didn’t know what their impression of the cake would be. (Or want to see them take one bite and throw out the rest). I have multiple food restrictions and a lot of the food I eat (especially treats) have weird tastes, textures, etc. that most people wouldn’t like. I’m used to them and am just glad food science has developed these things. I made my brother a sundae with “no added sugar” ice cream and sugar free topping that I thought tasted great, just like the real thing. He could barely choke it down.

    4. c_c*

      Ok, I did something like this once, but not quite as egregious.

      A coworker brought in two paneer rolls wrapped in foil (something she knew I liked because she’d made and shared them with me and my husband when we’d helped out walking her dog during a family crisis she was dealing with). She handed them to me and said she’d brought them in to share with me. I had brought a lunch, so I put them in my bag to take home and share with my husband after work. Later she came and asked where they were. I explained and she said she had meant for it to be a shared snack with her and my coworker. I was really embarrassed, but I still think I made a fairly reasonable assumption.

    5. Tired of Working*

      I’m reminded of the time that I worked at a very toxic company. A client came in to have a meeting with the very toxic owner. During a break in the meeting, the client came out of teh owner’s office and said that Fergus the owner had just told him that today was his birthday. As Fergus had told him that none of us had done anything about it, he gave my co-worker Wakeen some money and told him to buy Fergus a birthday cake.

      The company did not have birthday celebrations or holiday parties. There was one December when Fergus said, “Oh, we didn’t have a party, did we?” No, we didn’t, but then, we didn’t have a holiday party the previous year or the year before that, so no one was expecting a party. He said that we would have a party in January. In January, the party got postponed to February. In February, it was postponed to March. In March, it was postponed to April. In April, it was postponed to May. In May, the subject was never brought up. No party.

      Wakeen was furious about being told to go out and buy Fergus a birthday cake, because it wasn’t his job to run errands (it was Ralph’s job), and he just hated being asked to do something that he didn’t think was his job. But he couldn’t say, “I’ll have Ralph do it” because we were constantly told that our clients were our guests, and being rude to a guest was the very worst thing we could do. Being rude to a guest meant doing or saying something that might make the guest feel uncomfortable. As it might have made the client uncomfortable to learn that he should have given the money to Ralph instead of Wakeen, Wakeen took the money and stormed out. Then the client resumed his meeting with Fergus.

      The meeting ended an hour later. Wakeen still hadn’t returned with a cake. The client waited and waited, because (1) he wanted to give the cake to Fergus, and (2) he wanted Wakeen to give him his change. Finally the client left. After a short while, Fergus asked where Wakeen was. We had to tell him that he had gone out to buy a cake. Fergus screamed and screamed. Eventually Wakeen came back with a cake. Fergus took it home. I don’t think he called the client to thank him.

  16. JMR*

    Where I work, we do a Thanksgiving potluck – everyone brings desserts and sides, and the company provides the turkeys, which some employees used to deep-fry in the parking lot behind the building. I say “used to” because one year the combination of high winds and hot oil resulted in our accidentally lighting some shrubbery at a neighboring company on fire. They still provide the turkeys, but they are no longer deep-fried on-site.

      1. migrating coconuts*

        And make sure you place it slightly higher with a little path running down the middle! NI!

    1. Manders*

      Prior to Covid we also deep-fried a turkey for Thanksgiving and Christmas. But we are scientists, so it’s all very technical with proper safety protocols and PPE. I’m not a fan of turkey, but deep frying it is pretty good!

      1. Elitist Semicolon*

        In the 50s and 60s, the grad students in one of the science departments at my uni used to cook T’giving dinner in the autoclaves. This stopped when someone underestimated the speed and distance with which cooked cranberries can erupt from a pressurized container.

    2. Warrior Princess Xena*

      Pretty sure having something catch fire is the usual result of deepfrying a turkey anywhere.

      1. MarsJenkar*

        And this is a major reason to watch the Good Eats episode on turkey-frying–a good deal of it focuses on safety.

        The fact that Alton Brown’s famous DIY turkey derrick makes its debut here doesn’t hurt.

        (Still, I would say, if high winds or super dry conditions are in the cards for your area, forget it.)

      2. Cat Named Brian*

        It’s just a flesh wound!
        All the men in the family know how to deep fry a turkey. My Dad passed the secret recipe and skills to my son. This will be the first year that Dad won’t be here supervising. :(

    3. Roland*

      I listen to William Shatner’s “Eat, Fry, Love: A Cautionary Remix”, the greatest song ever created about turkey fryer fires, every November but this is the first story I’ve heard about an actual turkey fryer fire, so thank you for that :)

      1. Clisby*

        Maybe 10 or 12 years ago a guy in a neighboring town actually burned down his house with a turkey fryer. You know how they tell you that to use a fryer safely, it needs to be well away from your dwelling? Apparently he thought his attached garage was well away enough. He was misinformed.

        1. Amy Farrah Fowler*

          Oy vey… My dad deep-fried turkeys several years and never had any problems, but he has always been a safety oriented guy. I can see how without precautions it would be dangerous, but the precautions aren’t that hard to follow.

        2. JustaTech*

          I have fried not one but two turkeys in an attached garage.
          In my defense, it was *pouring* rain and therefore outside was not an option.

          The cars were moved outside, the electric fryer was put on a paving slab, the fire extinguisher was in easy reach (and in working order) and I had someone stand in the doorway to the house to watch, just in case something went wrong.

          It turned out fine, if you ignore than four people can’t possibly eat 2 fried turkeys, even if they were small turkeys. (And they still wouldn’t let me build Alton Brown’s turkey derrick.)

    4. GasketGirl*

      We made a deep-fried turkey one year at work and had a similar problem with the wind; luckily no shrubbery as it was behind a big warehouse. The shop guys ended up taking the screens outside that they used in the welding area to help shield the fryer. I will say that turkey was absolutely delicious; of course it helped that they had slathered under the skin with garlic butter and I think injected it with some melted butter. I ended up taking the carcass home and simmered it for several hours to make some of the best stock I’ve ever had.

    5. Firefighter (Metaphorical)*

      Okay I am not from the US, and also a vegetarian, and I am AGOG. Deep-fried turkey is a thing? Like… the whole turkey? Or like in pieces, like Kentucky Fried Chicken (but turkey)?

      (I have family in Scotland, so I am no stranger to deep frying, btw!)

      1. to varying degrees*

        It is AMAZING!! When my friend’s dad deep-fries a turkey we all just stand around it waiting for it to cool all enough (and sometimes not enough) so we can try to grab pieces of it before her mom yells at us.

      2. Amy Charles*

        The whole thing! Which is why it can be dangerous if there is any moisture in or on the turkey. Water and oil dont mix, but water and hot oil….. It’s an explosive relationship.

  17. els*

    One year for our holiday potluck, a person who’d been out for awhile came back on the day of said potluck, having forgotten that it was happening and thus forgetting to bring what they said they’d bring. It was no big deal, we had more than enough food for the forty people in our office, but they fretted aloud for hours in the morning before abruptly disappearing from the building… and returning to the office, beaming proudly, bearing a box of fried chicken from Royal Farms containing three (3) drumsticks. Bonus points, they carefully pushed a tray of mini-quiches to one side to give the box ample room on the table.

    1. Lizzie*

      This reminds me of something. Not an office potluck but a gathering of friends. When we were young and broke, we’d get together and everyone would bring something. One friend would bring frozen appetizers, which was fine, but there were usually 10-15 of us, and she’d bring 3 boxes, of 3 different things, each containing maybe 5-6 pieces. So maybe only 1/3 would even get to try or eat any of them! i never understood why she just didn’t bring 3 of the same thing!

    2. Artemesia*

      I used to bring KFC to the end of year potluck — but a bucket of the stuff. It was always a big hit.

  18. Tesuji*

    > Management did talk to him, but his answer was that he didn’t care

    As horrific as this person sounds to work with, there’s something hilarious to me about someone who is either (a) delusional about how safe their job is, or (b) accurately aware that they have built up enough capital in their job to get away with stuff like this, and this is how they want to spend that capital.

    I mean, I feel like it’s saying more about management than it is about him, that he could tell them to F off about something like this and they were like “Well, we tried basically nothing and that didn’t work; guess we’ll just have to live with it.”

    1. EPLawyer*

      Yeah. I mean this is one of those “You will not put your hands in the food. If you continue to do so, we will have to ban you from participating in food events.”

      Although, Alison, can they do that? It’s not like its a condition of his job.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Sure, there’s no law that you can only make requirements of people that are directly related to their job. They could ban him from food events, require him to deliver an apology to everyone offended in iambic pentameter, or even fire him for it if they wanted.

        1. EPLawyer*

          Okay now I want managers to require apologies in Iambic Pentameter (not really but it would be cool).

          1. paxfelis*

            Apologies! For circumstances caused
            By not regarding you well as I should,
            And doing what I felt had served me best
            Which meant that you were left pissed off and sad.
            I should have thought to share the cheap-assed rolls,
            And not have taken all of them at once.
            To make amends, and get you off my back,
            I offer you this cake, of things I know
            You can not eat and should not be around.
            Why won’t you take it? Do you even care
            About my feelings? I’ll take this to Jan,
            Our much-adored and nosy HR rep,
            And then we’ll see who says sorry to who!

            (The things that come out when you’re hiding from work for a few minutes…)

    2. Putting the Dys in Dysfunction*

      Sounds like a classic case of sociopathy. I wonder whether he suffered any social consequences.

    3. Ellis Bell*

      I actually would be both highly entertained and horrified by this person and would need to start testing just how bad his delayed gratification skills are when food is in sight. I’m thinking…. a box of stale doughnuts on top of a high and complicated assault course. While he’s busy with that, whip out the fresh doughnuts and enjoy the spectacle.

  19. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

    We had one sales guy who was really good at his job, but he was also an incredible moocher.

    Even though the company did a big fancy formal Christmas party, most of the individual departments of 20-80 people would do potlucks too. He was notorious for always being in the right place at the right time to hit up every departmental potluck.

    1. What She Said*

      I have a family member like this. He used the excuse of visiting his favorite aunt/uncle for the holidays and look, we just happen to be sitting down for dinner. Every holiday. And he has a lot of favorite aunt/uncles.

  20. Stephanie*

    I don’t remember all the details but the setup is that the company where I worked had the whole second floor of a building and there were several companies on the first. One of the companies on the first was having a BBQ in the shared outdoor space and somehow fire escaped the grill. Luckily my company had a couple of former firefighters who contained it in addition to contacting the actual fire department but that was a wild day!

    1. SunriseRuby*

      Oh, it’s definitely there! It’s the link that starts with “I feel insulted by the rolls at my new job..”

  21. MyySharona*

    I used to bring two versions of stuffed dates: both stuffed with goat cheese and almonds, half wrapped in prosciutto and the other half rolled in dried cranberries. Separate containers, clearly labeled with the ingredients listed.
    One woman consistently complained that they weren’t vegan. “I REALLY want to try them, but I CAAAAAANT.” And then she would complain to everyone that she couldn’t eat them. Though we always had a good mix of meat, vegetarian, and vegan dishes. She was really focused on this one. She even emailed me and other people “I can’t believe you would bring these knowing I can’t try them.” So weird.

      1. SunriseRuby*

        Not to mention they’re a great way to identify whiny, entitled PITA co-workers if you didn’t know who they were already!

      2. MyySharona*

        So I’ve definitely changed and perfected the recipe over the years and I’m happy to share.

        Dried, pitted medjool dates
        Goat cheese, optionally mixed with a little honey and black pepper
        Slivered blanched almonds OR chopped smoked almonds (good for the non-meat version)
        Prosciutto or bacon, cut into strips
        Chopped dried cranberries, tart cherries, or berberries

        Slice one side of each date, creating a pocket. Remove the pit if they’re not already pitted. Put some goat cheese and almonds inside. MEAT VERSION: Wrap with prosciutto or bacon and secure with a toothpick. Put on a baking sheet and broil, stirring/flipping frequently, until crisp (this isn’t necessary if using prosciutto).
        VEG VERSION: roll the exposed edge of goat cheese in the dried berries.

    1. SereneScientist*

      I’m sorry, your coworker acting like you’d brought that in *just* to tempt her with something she can’t eat (by her choice) is….something, lol.

      1. Minimal Pear*

        It does! I’ve had it, some is very good and some is AWFUL. (I’m allergic to dairy–totally got a screenshot of the recipe so I can try it next time I find some good vegan goat cheese.)

    2. Siege*

      One of my coworkers is vegan, and a) we make sure to include them in potlucks and lunches, and b) they don’t whine about not being able to eat the bacon or whatever.

      Actually, I’ve felt pretty fortunate to always have a vegan in my life since my early 20s (rarely two at a time, though, for some reason!) and that they’re generally not entitled. You made a choice, same as I’ve made choices about what I eat (I like crab, but crab does not like me; it’s not an allergy, but half the time I eat it I get violently ill). Sometimes those choices suck when something looks tasty!

      1. Marge*

        This reminds me, according to a woman who runs a sausage shop (The Sausage Queen on the clock app) pescatarians are the most annoying group to deal with, while vegans are just excited to have food they can eat, and lactose intolerant people are gluts for punishment.

        1. The Rural Juror*

          One of my coworkers is stocking up on Lactaid and taking the day after our Thanksgiving potluck to WFH just so they can enjoy all the food! I had offered to make something with no dairy and they shot me down and said, “BRING ON THE DAIRY!”

    3. Juicebox Hero*

      I was on a vacation earlier this year where the meals were served buffet style. For breakfast one of the items was a whole roast salmon with the head and tail still on. One woman had a total cow right in the middle of the room about how she was a vegetarian and she couldn’t handle seeing something like that on the breakfast buffet. Over and over and over again. There was plenty of other food available so it wasn’t like it was fish or nothing (I don’t eat fish and I find cooked fish with heads on repulsive but I just avoided looking right at it until I got through the line).

      I’m not sure what she was trying to accomplish, because the caterers certainly weren’t going to take the salmon off the buffet to appease her and that thing got picked right down to the bones so obviously no one felt bad about eating it.

    4. Ellis Bell*

      That is so odd. I’m limited in what I can eat but I’m happy if there’s one or two solid things I can have at a buffet. The things I can’t eat are practically invisible. Also, this would be an awesome thing to eat for a gluten dodger like myself!

    5. Artemesia*

      How is trying something made with goat cheese as its primary major ingredient, possible if you are vegan?

      1. Rebecca*

        I had to read the original comment several times to make sure, but it definitely sounds like both versions of the dates had goat cheese. The cranberry ones would be vegetarian, but not vegan

      2. Jeebs*

        It’s not. The point is that it’s rude and weird to insist that this particular dish (which relies on goat cheese) be made vegan just so that she could eat it, when there were plenty of other vegan dishes at the party that she COULD eat.

        1. Elitist Semicolon*

          This reminds me of a former co-worker who complained that she couldn’t try something w/dairy I’d made because it wasn’t vegan. I spent an entire day and a LOT of money trying to reduce soy milk enough to use in the recipe. It didn’t work. The next day I apologized and told her what happened and she shrugged and said, “whatever. I don’t like {thing} anyway.”

  22. Jealous of the Water*

    I’m a paralegal and worked for a year at a very toxic, small law firm that had a noticeable us v. them culture between attorneys and staff. The attorneys all went out for a holiday meal on the firm’s tab, but the staff had a potluck during office hours (and had to rotate who would cover the phone throughout). Anyway, we (except for the person covering the phone at that moment, lol) were all sitting in the conference room eating the food we brought in, and one of the attorneys swept in and said she wanted to come eat with us to make it clear that she values staff. But . . . she brought nothing to share. Instead, she ate a ton of what was there and then left after 10 minutes. That place was a mess.

    Oh, also, one of the paralegals would sometimes bring in crab dip. People raved about it. I never ate any because I saw her stick her hands in the bowl to mix it up without washing them first. Sigh.

      1. Dust Bunny*

        Both of those things: WHO DOES THAT?

        I don’t even mix cheater Chex Mix [made with commercial Chex Mix plus peanuts, cheese crackers, and Corn Nuts] with my (washed) hands and it’s dry!

        And I would absolutely have put that attorney on the potluck sign-up for the next year. If there wasn’t a sign-up I would have made one specifically so I could put her on it. What a jerk.

      2. Elenna*

        I fairly often hand-mix things *for myself* without washing my hands first, since they’re my own germs and I have a pretty strong immune system (and usually my hands have at least been rinsed recently, just not right before). But I would never do that for food that is being served outside my family!

        1. Van Wilder*

          Same but who mixes anything with their bare hands. Especially something wet. That’s so gross and weird.

          1. The Editor in Chief*

            Anything that’s going to be cooked is fair game, IMO. I’m not trying to mix meatloaf with a spoon.

          2. I cook*

            It’s not weird to mix something with your bare hands. It’s weird not to wash your hands right before handling food.

          3. I should be working*

            I’ll mix wet stuff with my hands, but only right before it goes in the oven! Cookie dough, meatloaf, etc. Oh, and I wash my hands thoroughly with soap and water before and after touching the food.

            Mixing it with one’s hands once it’s in the serving dish (or getting ready to be served)? I’m with Dust Bunny. Who would do such a thing?

          4. Siege*

            I don’t know what other people do, but I find it impossible to get meatloaf or anything hamburger-based mixed up well without using my hands. But I wash them! A lot! Lady MacBeth levels of washing! (Raw eggs are disgusting to touch, to me.)

          5. CommanderBanana*

            Ugh, nope – always with those food prep gloves on and they go right into the trash after. I have long nails and there is nothing more gross than getting anything under them.

          6. Asenath*

            I mix lots of stuff with my hands – bread dough, meat loaf (indeed, meat balls and similar items). Now, my hands are usually clean and the food in question is cooked thoroughly afterwards, so I’m one up on someone who mixes food that is not going to be cooked with their hands.

          7. Bagpuss*

            For some things it the best way – making pastry for instance where you start by rubbing the fat into the flour. But of course thorough hand washing before and after is essential.

            1. UKDancer*

              Yes I always make pastry or other forms of dough with my hands. I don’t think it works as well any other way, you have to rub it in. But I always wash my hands first and make sure the surface is clean.

          8. Curmudgeon in California*

            We tend to use gloves just for ease of cleanup. Classic example is meatloaf or tossed salad.

    1. Artemesia*

      There are some things that require getting your hands in. e.g.I make a really great smoked salmon cheeseball that really does require mixing by hand — so washing hands thoroughly first is critical and which is why I tend not to eat other people’s hand made cheese balls.

  23. Not a party planner*

    One job I had, most of the senior employees/bosses were men and there was one senior level woman (SW). The majority of junior employees were women. Every year, a few days before the winter holidays, we would have a “potluck” that was pretty much entirely planned by the SW and mostly catered by her and the junior female employees, while the male senior employees tended to bring things like a bottle of wine or paper plates. This seemed to work out for the first two years I was there. The third year, SW took a long vacation around Christmas and wouldn’t be there for the potluck time. In an unspoken game of chicken, no one else volunteered to plan the party or bring in the elaborate spread usually orchestrated by SW. Finally, a few days before, one of the male bosses suggested we go out for a meal on his dime instead. We all had a great time! When SW got back, she seemed kind of disappointed that no one had stepped up in her place.

      1. Texan In Exile*

        Me, too! That is my main advice to young women in the workplace: Unless you see senior-level men doing it, do not volunteer to help with any social events. Do not help plan. Do not help set up. Do not help clean up after. Do not do not do not.

        1. UKDancer*

          Yes, there is a reason I have cultivated a reputation of being unable to cook. I don’t want to get dropped into having to do this type of labour and I really don’t enjoy baking. So when we have a staff picnic I always make sure I get the plates, napkins and drinks and stay well away from anything more creative. Or I’m happy to stop at the supermarket for anything else we need, but I won’t spend time cooking it.

          1. Foley*

            OMG me too. Many people were surprised that I can cook (and do and rarely eat out) because I NEVER volunteered for these office duties. The male professionals surely never did.

      2. Robin*

        I totally understand SW being disappointed that this tradition she worked so hard on was dropped without her, but also very very glad none of the junior staff stepped up so that the Senior Men had to *do* something

    1. sometimeswhy*

      We had a similar thing but birthdays. We rotated and not all the contributors were women but most were and all of the organization and tracking was done by the women. One year WHILE I WAS ON VACATION my boss called me in a panic because nobody told him it was HIS boss’s birthday and nobody had done anything.

      Hilariously, this was long enough ago that I had no way of getting calls that weren’t to the hotel front desk in the lovely but extremely remote back end of nowhere which meant I didn’t get the voicemail until I got home. Several months later, my birthday and my turn to bring something in coincided and I just quietly did away with office birthday celebrations.

      1. Lady_Lessa*

        One of the places I worked, we were each responsible for bringing goodies for our own birthdays. Frequently, the men who participated did store bought, but one brought in bakery doughnuts that were so rich and so delicious.

        1. UKDancer*

          We do that most companies I’ve worked in. You bring something for your birthday if you want. Some people (like the lady with a Christmas Day birthday) usually bring something another day. Some people make something but an awful lot of people go for doughnuts which is always a popular choice.

            1. Boopnash*

              I really hope you’re referring to the story here about the employee with the Feb 29th birthday because that’s one of my favorites

        2. Bagpuss*

          That’s how it works where I work- you bring treats to share on your own birthday. Mostly shop bought but some people do bake.
          And it can be a few bags of Tesco doughnuts- so no pressure to spend a lot

  24. calvin blick*

    Not a potluck, but my brother worked a job and set up a little kitchen at his desk. As I recall, in addition to all his snacks, he had a wide variety of hot sauces and condiments, a blender, and a waffle maker.

    He was good at his job and well-liked, so no one said anything.

    1. Zombeyonce*

      I can’t imagine typing away at work and suddenly hearing a blender whirring a cube over. That sounds like a nightmare w/my sensory issues.

      1. PurplePartridge*

        Someone in a previous job had a soda stream at their desk and that occasional bubbly hiss noise was super distracting to me. I can’t imagine a full on blender.

    2. Lady Ann*

      For awhile the person in the office behind mine (that I shared a wall with) would make smoothies in her office for multiple people a few times a week. It sounded like a jet engine and was so loud that I had a hard time hearing if I was on a video call. It really baffled me why she chose to do it in her office and not the kitchen.

      1. SofiaDeo*

        Thank you! I don’t know how I missed the update! OMG what a nightmare person hahahahaha so sorry anyone ever has to work with idjits like this…..

      2. Not Your Admin Ass(t)*

        Cheap Ass Rolls is such an AAM legend that I’m always shocked to be reminded that the original post is from 2019, and not, like, ten years ago…and the follow-up isn’t even a year old at this time!

    1. Butterfly Counter*

      I think we got a comment from someone else who worked at that office. Some of the details were a little different, but the attitude was the same.

    2. Zephy*

      She was pretty thoroughly read for filth in the comments on that letter, so I doubt she’ll ever poke her head into any of these threads. I hope she’s in a better place now, though.

  25. RSVP: Burnt to a Crisp*

    This is my first time commenting though I am a long time reader. 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 (which 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, 2022, from 12p-2p.

    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.

      1. SunriseRuby*

        It’s either Cheap Ass Rolls Lady, or the woman whose email dictating what every family member should bring to Thanksgiving dinner, right down to options for acceptable brands of wine, went viral about a decade ago. She definitely wouldn’t have put up with any cheap ass rolls!

      1. Not All Hares Are Quick*

        I had a Christmassy vision just reading that – wise men queing up at the manger, anxiously holding out their gifts in the hope that they’ll pass muster with the child’s mother:
        “Are you sure that myrrh is organic? Sorry, without documentation, we can’t accept it. Thanks for coming though, and maybe we’ll see you next time.’
        “Oh my, there’s a whiff of preservative coming off that frankincense, can you take it away please? I have a very sensitive child and we don’t want to spoil this special Family day.’
        “10 carat? Are you kidding me? Do you even understand the privilege you have being allowed in here?”
        “You over there by the door, does that sheep have a currently valid vaccination certificate?”
        etc etc…

      1. word nerd*

        I liked that too! I also enjoyed the decision to keep “baked” lowercase in Honey baked Ham and Turkey.

    1. Weekender*

      Woooooo!!! I think this wins, or rather loses. Unreal. It is like Bridezilla 2.0.
      I would be inclined to make a litter box cake or something equally grotesque and weird.
      Please let us know how this goes down if you get to go.

      1. Mekong River*

        Ironically, the commentor Poop Cake complained about someone bringing exactly that down stream. I think there’s a know-your-audience factor to something like that.

      2. MEH Squared*

        I would be inclined to bring one of everything they said not to bring, but then would decline to go because I don’t need that aggro.

    2. UKDancer*

      Wow that’s very stringent and somewhat controlling. I mean a sign up sheet is good but not everyone can afford bakery cakes or name brand soft drinks.

    3. Hound Dog*

      You need to get in contact with someone at the main office and find out how this goes, and then tell is!

      1. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

        oh darn, I have pets and have strong moral stances against name brand sodas, paper/plastic cups, napkins, cutlery, and catering to the “vision” of “communion” brought to us by an elitist narcissist (using that term in layman’s terms, not the mental health diagnosis).

      2. Lily Rowan*

        Yeah, I’m a good cook and baker and after receiving this note, I would happily show up with one (1) bottle of Diet Coke.

    4. Sheworkshardforthemoney*

      I would volunteer to make a homemade cake and bring in my famous Kitty Litter Cake. Google it, it’s a show stopper.

      1. Professional Cat Lady*

        I work in animal care and one of our former exec staff used to make these every halloween. when done well they’re absolutely horrendous/amazing.

        Nothing beats having a kitty litter cake on the table in the office while there are multiple of the real thing on the floor one room over.

      2. Mekong River*

        Ironically, the commentor Poop Cake complained about someone bringing exactly that down stream. I think there’s a know-your-audience factor to something like that.

        1. Jessica*

          There definitely is. I would not recommend bringing one (or any deliberate gross-out thing) to the workplace.

      1. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

        I’d roll in with store brand sodas, cookies, and cake, all covered in cat fur (and I don’t even have a cat)!

    5. The Prettiest Curse*

      Do all the food and drink items not up to this person’s standards get defenestrated with extreme prejudice, or something?

      1. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

        Yes, we will defenestrate all the store brand food items, followed by the host and planner of this event!

      2. Not All Hares Are Quick*

        No, there’s be a Table of Shame against one wall, where the offenders had to stand by their offerings, with hands clasped together and heads bowed. No communion for you this year.

    6. WellRed*

      Well it certainly misses the meaning of communion. Although having just attended a wedding with offbrand sodas, I sympathize with that one.

    7. Jeebs*

      Yikesaroonie! The way she spells out ‘the type of soda you find in vending machines’ like she thinks recipients might be too ignorant to know what a name-brand vs. off-brand soda is…

      If she ‘has a vision’ of what kind of dishes she would prefer, she should probably provide (and pay for!) them herself.

    8. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Oh my goodness what. This is a good time to say I would like to compile some of the best stories from this post into a holiday compilation next month — is it OK to include this? I’ll put a note at the top of this post too.

      1. RSVP: Burnt to a Crisp*

        Yes that’s fine with me! I’m also available for questions.

        I’d also like to say I really appreciate this site and your perspective and wisdom. It’s been really helpful in adjusting my view of what’s appropriate in a workplace and what my boundaries are. Definitely not something that is taught in schools, but it should be!

        1. TK*

          I have a question. Was the person who wrote that not a native English speaker? To me, that would explain some of the language choices used that are really bizarre. It doesn’t make the situation any better, though. How crazy.

    9. Shynosaur*

      “I have a vision” LOL!!! Oh, my, it’s an office potluck, not your wedding, girl!

      Between all the approval and the nix on cooking if you have a pet, I’m not sure how there will be any volunteer dishes brought in at all.

      1. LizB*

        That part killed me, omg. You don’t get to have a “vision” for any event you are not paying for yourself!!

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

        Regardless of whether it’s for a wedding or a royal welcome reception, when you make it potluck you cede control over the exact contents. If you want to have control provide all the food yourself.

    10. That'sNotMyName*

      I think I was in a cooking club with this lady. Once a month, a group of us got together and had a potluck around a specific country or other theme. There would be a google doc where you could sign up mostly to make sure the meal was balanced. If someone really wanted to bring something that had been signed up for, it was fine. Very low key. Or so I thought at first. One of the members apparently drove someone out by sending them an email scolding them for bringing salad too many times and she thought they should put more effort in. A few months later, I got an email scolding me that my dish wasn’t close enough to the theme (to which she had no particular connection or expertise) and I told her too bad. Apparently, she scolded other people for the same thing and that was the end of the club.

    11. Van Wilder*

      This is so icky because different cultures have different traditional foods and she is clearly only focusing on her version. She needs to go back and watch the Sesame Street about Thanksgiving.

      1. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

        What? Look at my calendar. I will be here in the office and ignoring this ridiculous nightmare of a “party.”

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

        I have a (kid who likes to pretend to be a) cat at home, sorry, gotta opt out!

      1. RSVP: Burnt to a Crisp*

        Yes! Hence why I am looking for other employment.

        As a side note, the office is closed for Christmas eve, Christmas day, new years day per holidays listed in employee manual. But it doesn’t list specific dates for 2022 (since those fall on a weekend). Despite repeated attempts, I cannot get an answer on when we will be observing those holidays. “Dr. So and so hasn’t decided yet” Too busy planning the potluck I guess!

    12. Dark Macadamia*

      “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.”

      I LOVE THIS! So unhinged. Sounds like someone needs to provide the whole meal so it meets her Luncheon Vision.

    13. CommanderBanana*

      Re: #5, I am not only a serious baker, but I used to work in a very fancy high end bakery, and I still think that Whole Foods and Wegman’s have some of the most delicious baked goods and cakes ever.


      1. OtherBecky*

        Agreed! I’ve only had a cake from Wegman’s once, and it was both beautiful and tasty. My wedding cake came from Whole Foods. Also both beautiful and tasty. (And chocolate, because screw tradition.)

      1. Curmudgeon in California*

        Yikes! I would bow out, even though I can be kinda picky about potluck only in that I and others in my orbit have food allergies. But I just request that stuff be labeled with ingredients and handled safely.

      2. SpringIsForPlanting!*

        Aha thank you for this! I had not seen it. I believe my favorite part is that the person with the extremely demanding vision lets everyone know she has provided the … Coors Light.

      1. anon in affordable housing*

        Where I live, a “bakery level” pumpkin pie is going to cost at least $25 for an 8″ pie. I might not bring the cheap-ass Grocery Outlet $5 pies, but Costco ought to be good enough for anyone.

    14. Hearts & Minds*

      Violations of pretty much all of these rules with the exception of #6 have been complained about by people on this site, not to mention this very post. Maybe the rule-maker has been reading AAM and took the comments to heart.

    15. Citra*

      As the owner of a dog who sheds AND a fanatic about food cleanliness who has never once found dog hair or any other kinds of hair in my food, or allowed my dog to come in contact with any food that is not his, I’m both amused and offended by the implication that shedding pet automatically = pet hair in food. Some of us are perfectly capable of cleaning and of keeping pet hair off our kitchen counters and out of our pots, pans, and food containers, thanks.

  26. PsychNurse*

    The stew thing– I feel like that is somewhat common!! I used to work in an elementary school, and one of the teachers was proud of his shrimp-and-grits. Like, really REALLY proud. When I started working there (months before the potluck) he started telling me how it’s a tradition and everyone loves his grits. Then leading up to it, he was talking about making his grits. Then during it he was making sure everyone tried his grits. He appeared to be convinced that his grits were the entire raison d’etre for the potluck. And there’s no polite way to say “Actually the grits are good but nobody cares that much,” so of course I ended up playing into it with “Mm-hmm, yes, very delicious!”

    1. UKDancer*

      I had grits forced on me when staying at a hotel in Baltimore because the very kind waitress insisted I have some with my breakfast and brought them anyway (despite my saying no). It was the first time I tried them and I think they must be an acquired taste which I have not acquired so I have managed to avoid having them again. I would have struggled to sound enthusiastic with someone imposing grits on me.

      1. Kimmy Schmidt*

        I like grits, but they’re definitely a vehicle for other flavors. Butter, jalapenos, salt and pepper, cayenne, cajun seasoning…

          1. Me (I think)*

            Heavy cream and butter. Seriously, the secret to great grits is heavy cream. Also, really good very sharp cheddar. Also, once the grits are cooked and the cheese melted, let them cool a bit, stir in a couple of beaten eggs, put in a buttered casserole, and bake at 425 until the top is nicely browned. Serve with eggs sunny side up and your choice of breakfast meat. (Andouille is good.)

          1. Curmudgeon in California*

            I prefer them with either a good sharp cheddar, or plain butter, or just brown sugar.

        1. Lady_Lessa*

          One of the best things to have with grits (breakfast) is runny egg yellow from a decently cooked fried egg

        2. CommanderBanana*

          The whole entire point of grits is to get whatever you put on the grits into your mouth. It’s like polenta or couscous. It’s a vehicle!

        3. run mad; don't faint*

          Grits are great with grillades, which is much like Swiss steak, only better in my opinion.

      2. PsychNurse*

        I am from the south, and the school was also in the south, so grits were not a novelty for anyone there! I do like them but I can see it being an acquired taste.

      3. higher ed*

        Grits are easy to do wrong and they are pretty tasteless alone. I avoided them for years because they would get cooked to the point of becoming cakes everywhere I went or all food places I worked. The daycare I went to when in middle school had only instant grits for breakfast, no salt pepper or butter, and it was awful. Avoided it for 25 years after that.

        Finally had some good ones at a hole in the wall diner in New Orleans. Now I make my husband cook them (I’m a transplant. I cook oatmeal) but only mix them up with my eggs(over easy). Sometimes I put cheese in them. Always lots of black pepper. They’re an acquired taste but done well with the right additions can be quite good. (I don’t like shrimp and grits. They never have enough water and it brings back traumatic memories of why I still rarely eat breakfast).

      4. carcarjabar*

        Yea grits in Baltimore should not be a thing. We recently moved from the deep south to the pacific northwest- I have my family ship me my favorite grits because they’re not available here. (Trader Joe’s Stone Ground White Grits, in case anyone cares)

        1. UKDancer*

          I think the waitress in question was from somewhere further south (judging from her accent). She was really sweet and lovely but the grits were sadly not and had no flavour so it reminded me of eating wallpaper paste. If I go back to the US at any point and I’m further south, I’ll try them again.

        2. Here we go again*

          PNW native. We had grits on rotation for elementary school breakfasts, but they were served like hot cereal with butter, milk & sugar. I grow & grind my own corn now. Incredibly tasty.

        3. KoiFeeder*

          Maryland native. Don’t eat the grits here. It’s like eating raw flour with little bits of gravel in it.

      5. Harried HR*

        Fellow Brit here…I have lived in the South for 20+ years and still have everyone and their brother tell me I just haven’t had properly prepared grits !! To me it’s a texture thing and reminds me of wallpaper paste !!!

        1. acmx*

          I agree that they sound improperly prepared – sounds like they’re too watery but not trying to talk you into grits. I dislike oatmeal myself due to texture.

          1. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

            Yeah, I am funny about texture. I don’t like regular couscous, though I do like the large Israeli kind. Not huge on oatmeal either. And I really don’t like very grainy things.

        2. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

          I’m in the US and in the South, and I wouldn’t eat them plain. With good cheese they are just like any other cheesy carb and tasty enough. But shrimp and grits are a low country dish with lots of spices, peppers, etc. It’s not really that dissimilar to having a spicy dish over rice, like with Indian food.

          It’s just a bland carb and like most bland carbs, really just needs to be a base with something more exciting. While it definitely is not my top choice of bland carbs, it works fine with shrimp and grits.

          1. PsychNurse*

            yes I always try to explain to northerners that grits are like potatoes! You don’t just boil them and eat them plain. They’re a vehicle for whatever you like to put on them— for me, I eat my potatoes and my grits the same: butter, salt, and cheese.

            1. MM*

              Sadly, plenty of northerners (speaking as a northerner) do just boil potatoes and eat them plain. I don’t claim to understand it, but they do. I’ve been confronted with this twice in the last few months.

              1. KoiFeeder*

                I have been known to wash a potato and eat it raw, but I wouldn’t serve it that way to a guest.

                Actually, my worst potato sin is one I picked up from high school bio class. Cut a raw potato into cubes, soak it in sugar water, eat.

      6. KJ*

        Grits in Baltimore – too far north. Now, scrapple or Taylor ham – that’s geographically legit.
        Also really depends on your food texture preferences – I love grits, but not the soupy kind. I need a firm grit!! (Which is why the baked cheese grit casseroles that used to be at a place called Wellspring in Chapel Hill NC were absolutely joyous to me.)

      7. Gracely*

        Oh no. Restaurant breakfast grits are often the *worst* kind of grits . I’m so sorry someone tried to make you eat them.

      8. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

        They are a lot better in shrimp and grits, which are a low country dish with lots of spices. It’s not dissimilar to having a nice spiced dish over rice really.

      9. EC*

        Grits are one of those very simple dishes that is wonderful when done properly, but is very easy to screw up. Grits can easily turn into tasteless glue when they aren’t cooked well.

    2. That'sNotMyName*

      I’ve never felt bothered or left out by my shellfish allergy and this whole thread (especially the shrimp dip below) is only reinforcing that.

      1. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

        I love shellfish, but bringing any seafood (especially that needs to be heated up or kept warm) to a potluck, especially in an office, is just not a great idea in my opinion. It will inevitably be overcooked and fishier, and we all know that the guy in the office who microwaves fish for his lunch is public enemy number 1!

        1. Artemesia*

          my first thought too. I love shrimp and I have had decent enough shrimp and grits though it is often too spicy for me. But no way I am eating a shrimp dish at a potluck that I cannot observe has been properly heat managed — e.g. maybe grilled shrimp, or a creole stew kept hot — but shrimp grits prepared at home and then sitting around. Shrimp is a great food poisoning vector.

  27. Poffertjies!*

    We had a chili cook off and the winner admitted she didn’t make the chili. She got it from Wendy’s. No drama ensued to my knowledge but it sure was funny.

    1. Zephy*

      How much chili will Wendy’s let you buy all at once? I’m picturing her going through the drive-thru, maybe multiple drive-thrus, buying up ten cups of chili and carefully pouring them all into a pot she brought from home…

      1. Lab Boss*

        So one of my friends makes his own alcohol, and decided on a whim to make “Kentucky fried mead” using only the “honey sauce” packets from KFC as the sugar for the recipe. He’d go through about once a week, and ask for his meal to include “as many honey packets as you’re allowed to give me.” He said that varied from 2-3 to a dozen or more. Tragically, the finished product was underwhelming.

        (before he started he did ask if he could just buy an entire case of the packets directly. The store manager said the only reason she couldn’t is because they have no mechanism for tracking direct-to-customer resale of supplies like that so it would mess up the books).

    2. Alliesaurus*

      This reminds me of the story where the chili cook-off winner just took scoops from everyone else’s crock pots and mixed them together.

    3. Art3mis*

      LOL my BFF did that once for a family potluck. She was supposed to make the chili and didn’t have time to really do it properly so she just bought a bunch from Wendy’s. Her whole family raved about how good it was and twenty some odd years later they still don’t know she got it from Wendy’s!

  28. DMC223*

    Years ago the floor manager banned crockpots from the work floor where teams would use an empty cubicle for team birthdays and celebrations due to ongoing issues. Fast-forward a few months; a team brings in a crockpot for an event. An outraged employee approached me yelling that it wasn’t fair the other team could have crockpots and hers couldn’t. She looked me in the eye and completely seriously told me, “This is crockpot discrimination!”

    Now over 10 years later, whenever something crazy happens in the office, my coworker and I look at each other and yell “Crockpot Discrimination!”

  29. Nowwhat465*

    Early on in my career, I was on a team with three assistants and 6-7 middle managers. My team would do pot-luck 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.

    1. ScruffyInternHerder*

      Thankfully it worked out at my first real job – there were a lot more in the assistant role than there were upper level senior or manager level in my department. All it took was for the director to take one glance at the sign up sheet and have a senior level/manager level meeting where there was discussion about how the lowest paid (assistant roles) were covering the bulk of the cost and the work on this potluck, and perhaps there should be a bit of a switch up and maybe those who earned more could perhaps do more than provide plates? Because now employer was providing all paper goods/disposables/main meat dish so surely they could cover something instead of the paper goods they’d signed up for. (Employer had always covered the meat main.)

      Honestly turned out to be the best potluck ever.

    2. Bex*

      Wow, that is not at ALL how potlucks are supposed to work! Not just the people with more authority and higher income claiming all the cheap/easy stuff, but the creation of a specific menu?? No no no. Theme, sure. Categories, yup that’s helpful. Detailed list of items that must be provided, just not by any of the people making the list? NOPE.

      1. Elenna*

        The clear abuse of power aside, half the reason I enjoy potlucks is the opportunity to see what kinds of things other people make that I never make! Which wouldn’t happen at all if I was telling people what to bring (not that I have any authority or desire to do that).

    3. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

      I would just bring in some store bought cookies and when they complain, I would tell them that they are free to spend the significant difference between their salaries and mine to get the stuff on their list that they chose to put on the list while only offering to bring in paper plates.

    4. Artemesia*

      How do you get that many insensitive yutzes in a management team? At my university a top professor always roasted a bunch of chickens for the pot luck, another got a spiral baked ham. etc etc i.e. the well paid people felt it their responsibility to provide the high cost items so AAs could bring a salad or a plate of brownies.

      And how come someone didn’t tell one of them.

      1. Tesuji*

        My immediate assumption was that the managers were all (or mostly) male, and the support staff wasn’t.

        If they’re used to only having to put in minimal effort to make events happen (because their mothers/wives/etc. take care of things), female support staff doing the heavy lifting would all seem normal to them. They did their usual part, what’s the problem!

  30. Marie*

    I worked in an office of about 20 people.. food was big there, there was always a celebration with food…. we had 2 food hoarders…. Gina and Jonde… before ANYONE even touched the food, some of it was taken by them and hidden in their offices to take home (they tried to be discreet, but everyone knew). Jonde would make repeated trips to the food tables and keep on taking… and if there were bagels, forget it… she would make off with at least 6. BTW… neither of these people EVER contributed, just just took. We had contribution for birthday cakes and one of them had the nerve to say “I don’t eat cake”… yeah right

    1. WS*

      I had a Jonde in my previous workplace, and then a new senior manager joined. She saw Jonde slice of a quarter of someone else’s birthday cake to take home, and then she made a rule that you can’t come to any potluck/birthday/etc. if you don’t contribute. None of us thought much of that, it had happened before and our Jonde didn’t care, but she damn well stood at the door and stopped her and the other (not as bad) freeloader coming in! Then locked the door!

    2. JustaTech*

      I used to have a coworker who was like this. If I or my officemate brought in a pan of brownies or the like Zinny would be the first one in our office to grab a piece. Fine, cool.

      Then he’d come back for his second “piece”, which was a quarter of the pan. Before anyone else had even arrived at work! After the third time it happened we told him flat-out that he wasn’t allowed to cut his own pieces and he couldn’t have seconds until after 1pm.

      (Apparently his wife had him on a low-sugar diet, but seriously, dude, you’re a full grown adult and there’s a bakery with really good cookies two blocks away. Buy your own!)

  31. New Senior Mgr*

    A retiring and much loved colleague put in their 2 months retirement resignation. Within 24 hours our manager had a pot luck retirement list listed in the break room. I signed up for a large lasagna (that I’d made many times before for precious potlucks and this was retiring colleagues favorite of my dishes). Beside my entry on the list, I asked for any vegetarian or veggie lasagna preferences to note their names.

    3 days before creating my shopping list, there were 4 names preferring veggie lasagna. The day of the potluck I had one large pan of meat lasagna and 4 individual serving containers for our 4 veggie lovers. I placed them in the fridge and emailed the 4 on where they were located.

    After the potluck luncheon began, I had 3 other colleague come and ask where the veggie lasagna was located. I told them they were individual servings and already given to those who signed up. 2 of those employees admitted they didn’t prefer veggie but was hoping to sample it anyway. They are the meat lasagna and never mentioned it again. The remaining colleague turned red as he shouted that his wife was vegetarian and he was hoping to take a veggie serving home for her.

    I apologized for any misunderstanding and said maybe one day in the future I’ll consider making an all veggie lasagna for everyone. That didn’t satisfy him. He went in 3 yr old temper tantrum mode, saying it wasn’t fair and was bordering on discrimination! Finally, I said hey, you’re spitting over my food, please leave my office. Last I heard he went around asking around for who had the single serving veggie lasagnas and if they could give him a little. They all declined. It’s been 5 months and to this day he avoids me when possible.

    1. ferrina*

      Wow, the audacity! And to complain not for himself, but because he was planning on bringing home leftovers?!

    2. Robert Riemersma*

      Haha, it sounds like your strategy worked! The most annoying person in the office now avoids you when possible. You win!

    3. Cyndi*

      You know what I absolutely love in a partner is when they bring me home a plate with a pile of little corners cut off separate lasagna slices. So thoughtful. So romantic.

  32. Jmac*

    In a previous life I was a radio DJ. Occasionally restaurants would make deals with our promo department to give us a sample of something (a new sub at Subway etc) and the DJs were supposed to talk on air about how great the food was. One day we got a delivery of some sandwiches and one of the salespeople promptly scooped up all 10 of them, said he was taking them home to his family for lunch, and walked out the door

  33. UK BA*

    Not wrong, but too right? In my former office one guy would occasionally bring in brownies he’d made. These are undoubtedly the best brownies ever and would disappear very quickly. One time, a woman from the other side of the department heard that the brownies were around. By the time she found where they were, they had all gone. She was so upset she actually cried a little bit!
    Massive shout-out for Noel’s brownies, which I miss terribly.

    1. ThatGirl*

      This reminds me of a coworker I had several jobs ago who made the best potstickers. They were always the first thing gone, at like 9 a.m.

    2. WellRed*

      I had a coworker who was famous for her brownies. I heard soooo much about these brownies. I finally had a chance to taste one of these magical treats. Meh.

  34. Elle Woods*

    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.

    1. That'sNotMyName*

      I’m in grad school for food science and we’ve yet to have a potluck but I’m very curious on how it would go. Would everyone take into account all of our sanitation or safety training? Or will they be just as gross as the rest of the world. I already have no illusions about quality, however. You can be a good food scientist and a mediocre home cook.

      1. Owler*

        All of the reports from my food scientist family member are raves about their potlucks. She says they all love to showcase what they are working on, and at the same time, they all love to appreciate each other’s work.

        And they are particular about food safety. Ymmv!

    2. Aine*

      That reminds me of the time that my former coworker decided to treat everyone to her homemade pies. I declined because she never washed her hands at work (we work with food!), so I doubted her sanitation practices at home. Every single person who tried her pies was sick the next day.

      There was also the coworker who decided to eat the leftover fried chicken in the break room that had been sitting there for 9 hours. Unsurprisingly, she called out sick the next day.

      1. Curmudgeon in California*

        I won’t eat anything with mayo or miracle whip at a potluck, or even a catered picnic. So few people handle it right.

      1. Elle Woods*

        Exactly. What made it even worse was that the shrimp were the super small ones–ones that take hardly any time at all to defrost.

  35. Falling Diphthong*

    Management did talk to him, but his answer was that he didn’t care.

    I think this is emerging as a 2022 theme: Seize the power of being the person who doesn’t care.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        As a moral thing, sure.

        But as a looking out for number one thing, encouraging those in power to make everyone else change to accommodate your whims works a discouraging amount of the time. “We can’t talk to Matt; he’s unreasonable. So it’s on you, his more reasonable teamamates…”

  36. Marna Nightingale*

    I don’t have any terrible potluck stories but having just reread the “insulted by rolls” letter again I have come to ask:

    So, she was looking for a more senior roll?

  37. Nook Nook*

    Ugh. I had two coworkers that made potlucks awful.

    First guy always picked his teeth or his nose with his fingers, and of course never washed them. Had to always to the sprint to the food table before he would bare hand things (think picking up a baguette and tearing off a piece instead of using a knife). One of those guys who would pick up a cookie, look at it, and put it down to pick up another identical one until he found the “perfect” one.

    The other was a woman who had multiple cats and would always insist on bringing food in. Her desk, chair, clothes, everything were always covered in cat hair. It was no surprise her food also came in like this. Baked goods, salads, entrees, it didn’t matter! If you didn’t know who made what and accidentally grabbed one of hers, you’d be plucking little hairs out of your teeth.

    So thankful the pandemic moved us to WFH.

    1. That'sNotMyName*

      How many cats did she *have*? I totally get having some stray hairs stick to your clothes here and there but how was it in the food? I have a dog who is constantly shedding her full weight in fur and grew up with multiple cats. We never had fur in our food.

      1. LizB*

        I have one single cat and sometimes end up with cat hair in food that I cook for myself… if I’m cooking for anyone else, I make sure I wipe out every piece of equipment and banish her from the kitchen just in case.

      2. Jeebs*

        My only thought is this has to be someone who isn’t regularly cleaning their house.

        We have three cats. Occasionally I have to use a lint roller on my clothes (usually because I left the clean clothes out too long and one of them slept in it) but there’s never cat hair in our food.

      3. Nook Nook*

        Last count we knew, 13 (because she referred to them as her “lucky kitties”). And agreed, many people have cats and don’t have their fur end up in their food but this coworker…it was always. I can’t speak to how the home probably looked, but if it was anything like her clothes/jacket, then yikes.

    2. Lily Rowan*

      When I was in college, I worked in a day-care center part time. (I’ll come back to this.) One semester I had an evening class where we were assigned in pairs to bring snacks for the class. I saw a classmate pick up a cookie one time and start to put it back to look for something else and I literally grabbed her hand and said “you touch it, you take it!” Inappropriate? Maybe, but if she didn’t learn this lesson when she was 4, she was going to learn it at 20!

      1. Artemesia*

        I sat by a buffet in Hong Kong where one guy literally felt up every one of the rolls (50+) in a large basket at the end of the buffet before selecting one of the identical rolls. Just handled them all. I hate buffets.

        Had to eat at one for two weeks in Kuwait one time at the hotel where I stayed while consulting. Beautiful beautiful salads; gorgeous giant cold gulf shrimp cocktails. And they were the same every night — they would be put away and I assume brought out again and again until gone? or reconstructed. I was really worried about getting sick while having heavy work demands. I ended up living on the hot side of the buffet –lovely lamb chops, grilled veggies, and a big copper kettle of bubbling rice pudding. I’m sure those salads were fabulous — but my buffet phobia got the better of me.

        1. PleaseNo*

          I hear you! If I have to use a water fountain I always pick the highest one because i’ve seen kids suck on the ones they can reach. If I can’t find a trusty water fountain I just go thirsty.

  38. Juicebox Hero*

    My junior year in college one of the clubs I belonged to had an end of year picnic and they asked me to bring a big fruit salad. So I made a big giant bowl of fruit salad with melons, berries, kiwis, all kinds of good stuff. (I was a commuter student so going to the store and bringing it to the school wasn’t a problem for me.) It was a bit of money for a college student, but I wanted folks to enjoy it.

    And some jerk went and put Everclear (90% pure ethanol) in it. I was furious. All that money and time spent and they ruined it. This was right after the start of the picnic, so people who wanted fruit without booze didn’t get to have any, and the ones who did eat the spiked fruit were bombed off their feet after a helping. Not to mention the party included minors, including kids of some of the professors, and the professors too. The school probably could have gotten into serious trouble if the wrong people had found out.

    Two seniors wound up so drunk the only way they could stay upright was to sit back to back in the grass propping each other up. One of them had an awards ceremony later that night that she ended up missing because she still couldn’t walk straight hours later.

    I couldn’t even take the leftovers home because I didn’t want to give my mother and myself alcohol poisoning.

    That same club did not have an end of year picnic the next year.

    1. Manders*

      A colleague of mine hosted a pool party one year. She spiked a watermelon, which a lot of the parents of young kids didn’t realize wasn’t just… watermelon. My friend’s son, after eating a bit of it, walked over to another kid, pointed at his junk, and declared “these are my tentacles”. We still laugh about that (but not about the idiot host who knowingly let kids eat spiked watermelon).

  39. Microdissections*

    Okay, so this isn’t technically about the potluck itself…

    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.

    1. Tinkerbell*

      On the one hand I’m sorry about your upholstery but on the other I’m literally laughing out loud in public here :-D

  40. Two Cups Of Pepper*

    My coworker “Annie” was very bubbly and sweet but sometimes frustrating because she didn’t pay attention to details. At our holiday potluck she brought the main dish which was some kind of pasta. It was a weird color and smelled spicy as she heated it up. I love spicy food but from the smell I was like damn that’s going to be hot. Just opening the crockpot made your eyes water. Lunch time came around and we all dig in and within seconds people were spitting out the pasta (politely). Even Annie was perplexed and said “I only put two cups of pepper in it! I don’t understand how it’s so spicy! Here, look!” And she showed my coworker the recipe on her phone. Two teaspoons. The recipe called for two teaspoons.

    1. Juicebox Hero*

      Holy smokes. Two cups is 96 teaspoons!

      I can just picture her dumping jar after jar of pepper into a measuring cup and complaining about why don’t they make the jars bigger if you’re supposed to use that much.

    2. Butterfly Counter*

      Where do they sell pepper in sizes that you could even GET 2 cups of it? Did she go to a restaurant supply shop?

  41. Idunn*

    At a workplace cookie exchange, coworker hyped his chocolate chip cookies. Another coworker decided to share her haul with her elderly parents. He had failed to tell anyone that his special ingredient was very hot dried chili peppers and the elderly parents got sick. He laughed when when she told him to label his ingredients, but he said it was a funny prank. He was not aloud to participate again.

    1. JustaTech*

      We used to have a place that catered for us that would do anything you asked (because they were very creative but since their main business was as a soup shop they were limited in their creativity).
      One year they catered our Cinco de Mayo party and provided a lovely tray of chocolate cookies. Thankfully I looked closely at the cookies before I took one because they were actually jalapeño chocolate cookies, with all the seeds and everything. Even my spice-loving coworkers said they were pretty hot!
      I wouldn’t have minded if the cookies had been 1) labeled and 2) not the only dessert provided.

    1. What She Said*

      Love rereading the update/other side of the story!!

      Personally, not a fan of Hawaiian rolls. Would have picked up a cheap ass roll for my meal.

    2. SunriseRuby*

      Personally, I think Cheap-Ass Rolls Lady should be the face of KING’S HAWAIIAN®. If only the company could be tipped off about her appreciation for their rolls and her resentment toward other bread products stealing the spotlight from KING’S HAWAIIAN®. Imagine the marketing campaign they could build around her if they could just get in touch with her!

    3. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      I confess, I truly don’t understand how this story has become a defining characteristic of this site the way it has. It was funny at first, but man, some of the ways in which people have contorted to bring it up and shoehorn it into completely unrelated posts because everything must relate to the cheap ass rolls have really hammered it into the ground.

      1. SofiaDeo*

        I think it’s our version of a “Karen”, before “Karens” became a thing. Entitled, whiny, “whatever-I-do-and-say-is-so-obviously-RIGHTEOUS-how-dare-anyone-do-this-to-ME”. Plus, it IS much funnier to say “Cheap Ass Rolls” :)

  42. Lauren*

    We had a chili cookoff. If you wanted to eat, you had to donate $10 to a chosen charity. Those that cooked could eat for free and get a gift card for supplies. On the day of, crock pots were on their way, and someone got cut off on the way to work and her crockpot went off the seat and onto the car floor. Chili everywhere.

    1. Zombeyonce*

      This is why my husband buckles up any food we’re taking somewhere. It’s hilarious to look in the backseat and see a cake container carefully buckled in like it’s a child.

      1. JustAnotherKate*

        Ha, I put a seatbelt (in the front seat, no less) on a box of tacos I was bringing to an event, and man did I feel silly…until some jerk stopped short and I had to stand on the brakes to avoid rear-ending him. Totally worth looking weird.

    2. What She Said*

      This is why we never put a crock pot on the seat. Always on the car floor. Wrapped in a thick towel to avoid sliding.

      She must have been so heartbroken.

      1. Lauren*

        We actually ate the remnants still in the pot. Lol, but I think we could have gotten her car detailed as a bare minimum.

      2. Hosta*

        If you get one of those grippy under the carpet pads and cut it to size, you have extra hold on car floor worthy items!

    3. Bronze Betty*

      When I was in college, a friend and I were carpooling together to another friend’s birthday party, and I was bringing a cake. It was just a homemade sheet cake, which I had decorated and written Happy Birthday on. Nothing fancy, but it looked nice. On my way to her house, someone cut me off, the cake slid off (or around–I can’t remember) the seat. The cake was intact, but the decoration was ruined. Once I was at my friend’s, we fixed it by smearing all the frosting and putting sprinkles all over the top. Yay! It looked fine–not as nice, but fine, and we didn’t tell anyone it had looked nicer before.

      Since then, I am diligent about securing all foods for transport.

      1. ggg*

        Our local bakery puts stickers on the cake box that say, “put this box on the floor of your car, not on the seat!”. And they tell you as you leave. Clearly There Was An Incident.

    4. Shan*

      I had that happen with a slow cooker full of barbecue sauce in my trunk… not sure what I was thinking. It honestly smelled like barbecue every time I’m opened my trunk for several years.

  43. Three Cats in a Trenchcoat*

    This is a cooking contest, not a potluck story, and it isn’t one that went wrong so much as one that went… too well.

    A club (I’ve honestly forgotten which one) sponsored a baking contest my second year of medical school. I thought, well everyone is too busy to make anything too elaborate, so I’ll whip out my best guinness chocolate cupcakes and it’ll be a slam dunk.

    Now, what I had forgotten, was that medical students tend to be a bit… intense. One might even say… competitive. It turned out that everyone who had entered had gone full-bore take-no-prisoners, to the point where there were too many entries and too much food for the judges to be physically capable of tasting everything. There was homemade baklava! French macarons! Elaborate multi layer cakes!

    Thankfully, the club entry fees were going to a local childrens’ charity so there were some small children on hand to taste the finalists and save the overwhelmed club organizers from a food induced coma.

    1. Warrior Princess Xena*

      This is 100% on-brand with the medical students & residents I know. They have no chill and take no prisoners.

  44. Molly Grue*

    Not really a pot luck, but years back, my department had successfully implemented new software. The process had been grueling and stressful, so to celebrate, our Director treated us to a pizza lunch.
    Except she ordered 3 small pizzas. For a department of about 30 people.
    When the pizzas showed up, she started berating the delivery person for bringing the wrong order, and kept saying she’d ordered 3 small pizzas, not 3 personal pizzas. I’m not sure how she’d gotten that far in life without understanding how pizza works, but we finally convinced her that the mistake was hers and she needed to re-order.
    Pizza Lunch was delayed about an hour.
    It seems like such a silly mistake, but it was the sort of thing that made a lot of us question her abilities on other things going forward.

    1. ferrina*

      Yeah… I recently ordered pizza for the pizza party. First thing I did was ask the person taking my order what they would recommend (their recommendations lined up with what I had been expecting). Then I added an extra pizza just to make sure.

      1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

        I did that for my five-year-old’s birthday party and the person at the pizza shop didn’t seem to understand that five-year-olds do not eat the same amount of pizza as, I don’t know, college athletes. I rounded down a pizza, then fifteen minutes later was still feeling skeptical and called them back and cut the order in half. We STILL had three and a half pizzas left over at the end of the party.

    2. EvilQueenRegina*

      Sounds like the chicken and fries place in London I went to once with my cousins and their spouses, we’d tried to order two and a half chickens but it somehow ended up being conveyed as two half chickens. I’m not sure now how we only realised what happened when we got the bill, we all thought there didn’t seem to be a lot but that everyone else had eaten it!

    3. Slow Gin Lizz*

      My last job, an office of about 12 people, did a pizza lunch once, ostensibly because we were running a lunch webinar that day and they wanted to provide lunch to the three or so people running the webinar. The person in charge of ordering ordered, IIRC, two small pizzas. By the time I got there I think there were maybe three pieces left and the webinar was still going. At least two of the people running the webinar did not get any pizza. I wonder that the person doing the ordering was thinking one slice for every person or something weird like that, but come on, you should at least think two slices of LARGE for everyone and I would even go so far as to order three slices/person and figure leftovers are nice. She was a recent college grad, so you’d think she’d know something of how pizza works but I guess not. Company did eventually order lunches for the two people who didn’t get any, but on top of feeling bad for those two I was annoyed because I hadn’t brought my own lunch that day and one piece of a small pizza barely does anything to combat my own hunger. Pizza fail.

      And no, the two small pizzas were not supposed to only be for the people running the webinar; they’d specifically emailed us earlier that week to say we were all getting pizza for lunch that day.

      1. Chris too*

        I am a taller woman who works at a job with a strong physical component. I can easily eat at least twice what the tiny women with the desk jobs at work can. If one of them has been in charge of ordering the food for a lunch event I just resign myself to being quite hungry that afternoon.

        I once went to a large dinner meeting with a group of people who do the same thing I do. A buffet dinner had been arranged based on our number but nobody had stopped to tell the hotel that we did something physical. You could see the serving staff quickly getting wild-eyed as they realized they didn’t have anywhere near enough food, and their quiet but frantic communication with the kitchen.

        People tend to judge serving sizes based on their own size and lifestyle. . My very petite MIL wanted to scallop 6 medium sized potatoes for a 16 person dinner – luckily we have a great relationship and she wasn’t upset when I told her that wasn’t enough.

        1. Bryce*

          I went scuba diving once as part of a college class in the cold Oregon coast water (had a wet suit, so it wasn’t gonna kill me). Didn’t realize how much energy I’d used that afternoon until dinner at an all you can eat BBQ place where I was just inhaling everything.

  45. SMH*

    One year for a company BBQ they grilled hotdogs and bratwurst. Not sure the logic but they set up the grills at least 200 yards from where the line was for everyone to fill their plates. The two runners selected to bring hotdogs and brats from grill to table were over two women over 50 and both 110 pounds max while the IT guys, many of which participated in multiple sports, grilled. The women must have walked/ran 10 miles that day going back and forth dozens of times to feed 300 plus people. I think enough people made a comment because the next year they were within 200 feet of the tables.

      1. SnootyGirl*

        Some of those grills really put out a lot of smoke so maybe they were trying to be mindful of that?
        One of our local markets decided to start offering BBQ; the first couple of weeks the grill was set up in front of the entrance and filled the store up with smoke and assaulted all the shoppers entering the store with a smoke-filled haze; the next few weeks they moved the grill off to the side of the entrance, same result. Then they moved it out and onto the handicapped parking spaces, NOPE; then they tried the first row of the parking lot but took up eight-ten prime parking spots so had complaints; then they tried the side of the building but I heard sales dropped dramatically so they were trying to come up with a new plan. Unfortunately, I moved at that time so, alas, I will never know the ending to Howl’s Moving BBQ!

  46. Beancounter Eric*

    Company I worked in the 00’s did a Turkey Fry each Thanksgiving – at the peak, they would have 7 or 8 fryers going – company would buy the turkey, french fries(!?!) and propane, and the team would bring in the side dishes, desserts, etc. Also, if one wanted to bring in a turkey to be fried for home, they’d fit it in.

    We’d wind up feeding people from the other companies in the building, the security officers….

    I’ve been gone from there nearly 12 years…..I do miss Thanksgiving there!!

  47. JustaTech*

    Three stories!
    Competition gone badly and malicious compliance: My company decided that we would hold a chili competition as a fundraiser for the charity we’re associated with. Great! Then I was told that, as a member of the social committee, I *had* to contribute a chili. Here’s the thing: I don’t do spicy food. I can’t eat it, so I don’t make it. And I know that the key to success in a chili competition is heat. So for two years I brought in my mild chili, watched it be devoured and then come in stone cold dead last. I like to think I’m a good cook, so this was a real blow to my ego. Just before the third round of this humiliation I was bemoaning it to a friend who is the king of malicious compliance. “Why not make a curry?” “Huh?” “It’s a heavily spiced stew of beans, that’s the definition of chili, right?” So I made a (mild) vegan curry that was a huge hit! It didn’t win (because it wasn’t chili) but I didn’t care because, again, it wasn’t a chili. And the organizers agreed that the next year we would do “soup and chili”.

    Competition gone well: As another part of the fund raising for our charity, someone decided we needed a bake sale, including a live auction. I contributed a pie, but the real winner was the guy for customer relations who did stand up as a hobby and had the best “auctioneer” character anyone had ever seen. He was so funny and so persuasive that he easily doubled the final price of everything (my pie is good, but it’s not $100 good, even for charity).

    The joys of cultural exchange: When I worked for an academic lab we decided to have a big multi-lab holiday potluck. The sign up sheet goes up and there are all the usual suspects (I brought two pies), and then there are the three no one really is sure about. One is “a plate of bacon”. One is “wife’s dumplings”. And one is “pork aspic”.
    The day arrives and just before lunch I hear someone in the kitchen, microwaving bacon. So the “plate of bacon” wasn’t a joke! And it got eaten very quickly. The pork aspic was exactly what it said (for those not familiar with aspic it’s basically savory jello), and while the spices were interesting it was mostly nibbled out of politeness’s sake (the guy who brought it had only just moved to the US and was still learning the food culture).
    And “Wife’s dumplings”? Far and away the most popular thing at the potluck. Easily the best steamed Chinese dumplings I’ve ever had, and thankfully the wife of the guy who brought them knew how much we would like them, because she must have sent a hundred. The guy who brought them wasn’t anyone’s favorite coworker, but he bought himself a lot of grace with those dumplings.

      1. Elenna*

        Could have been Chinese, too, I believe it’s also a thing in Chinese cuisine. (And I personally love aspic-type stuff, although I do know enough about Canadian food culture to not bring it to a potluck.)

        1. JustaTech*

          Yes, he was also Chinese (but from a different region than the dumpling guy).
          There were a few people who had been raised with Southern-style aspic who were super excited for it, and I tried it to be polite (you never know when you’ll find a new favorite food) but for most of the Americans the visual of wobbly bits of meat was a bridge too far.

          (This researcher once brought a combo pizza from Domino’s to a 9am lab meeting because someone once told him to bring pizza to meetings. It was not popular, and the tradition of “bring food when you present” ended shortly after.)

      2. Robin*

        I was definitely thinking Eastern European; my parents love it, I hate it. I have a friend who spent time in Ukraine, could not get on board with aspic, but was forced to eat it every time they met someone new. The conversations always went something like:

        New Ukrainian: have you tried holodetz (aspic)? It is a local specialty!

        Friend: I have, but it is not my cup of tea; very cool dish though!

        NU: Oh, you just have not had mine/my mother’s/a proper version. Next time we hang out, I will bring you some.

  48. Poop cake*

    We had a holiday potluck at work. A co-worker who loves cats made a cake that looked like kitty litter, with all the details, gross. This was a grown woman who worked in a professional setting. How she thought that this was appropriate for a holiday party is beyond me. I’m still grossed out 10+ years ago.

    1. Corrigan*

      I kind of love this. Not something I would bring to a work party, but if a friend made it I’d be into it.

    2. Mekong River*

      Ironically, two people upstream appear to consider that cake one of their specialities. I think there’s a know-your-audience factor to something like that.

      1. Robin*

        I heard about this cake first in relation to a psych lab where researchers were looking into how the visual appeal of something influences opinions. Head of the lab made kitty litter cake, made sure to bring it in a (clean, new!) litter box and everything. The team knew it was tasty treats but none of them could bring themselves to try it.

    3. WellRed*

      Probably also plans baby showers with the party game where they smush candy bars into diapers and you have to guess what kind it is.

    4. SnootyGirl*

      HAH! We used to have a coworker that did this – and it ABSOLUTELY looked like a litter box full of used cat litter. I LOVE cats, I adored the woman that made it, and I knew she was a great cook/baker. I managed to try a bit (and it was delicious) but I just couldn’t bring myself to eat something that looked like what I cleaned up twice a day in my home.

    5. Professional Cat Lady*

      We had a coworker who used to make these all the time, but we work in animal sheltering so it’s on theme!

    6. Art3mis*

      I love cats, I even run a locally based Facebook group for cat owners. And I love me some baked goods. But… no. Just. No.

    7. Francie Foxglove*

      Was there a smashed Tootsie Roll draped over the rim of the box? That’s the little touch I added when I made that cake for a Halloween party!

    8. kimberly*

      I used to work with a spay/neuter group and we’d get together about 4x/year and have a mass spay/neuter event. This cake was mandatory — someone was assigned to make it every event.

  49. Irish Teacher.*

    One school I worked in had a tradition that each Friday, a teacher would make treats for the staff (though they were pretty laid back about whether you made them yourself or bought them). Anyway, the deputy principal didn’t bake, so when his turn came around, he decided to bring in a chocolate fountain and lay out marshmallows and strawberries to dip in it.

    Ye can probably guess what happened next. He turned it on to test it and chocolate went EVERYWHERE – all over his shirt and tie and down on the carpet of the staffroom.

    I’d left the room to do some planning after helping to lay out the marshmallows and strawberries and came back to chocolate stains on the floor and a “do not turn on” notice under the fountain.

  50. Well That's Fantastic*

    Not a potluck, but a co-worker once brought in brownies and left them on the break room table for anyone to enjoy. It was common for people not to say who brought treats, so that didn’t seem ominous until I saw a post-it on my chair that said, “Don’t eat the brownies.”

    Turns out, someone thought it was hilarious to make jalapeño surprise brownies without warning. The mystery baker left me the note because they knew I have an allergy and could’ve ended up seriously ill if I’d had any.

    1. Corrigan*

      Ugh, that kind of thing is not funny. I know someone who has seriously problems with anything spicy (stomach issues, not just taste preference) and this would have been really bad for them. Just from a taste standpoint that’s pretty mean too.

  51. Stacy*

    I’ve shared this one before in the comments awhile back.

    I used to be a teacher for a small special education department. It was customary for our supervisor to host an end of year luncheon that they catered. Nothing fancy, maybe Chipotle or party subs. We had a new supervisor who was all around disliked by everyone for very justified reasons.

    She announced that the end of the year luncheon was being changed to a breakfast potluck, before school, so we had to come in early. It was mandatory. So not only did we have to wake up early, we had to provide the food for our own party. The kicker was she put herself in charge of bringing the cutlery, but she only brought knives. We had to try to eat breakfast casseroles and other dishes only with knives. Good times.

      1. Stacy*

        I’m pretty sure she didn’t buy them and just grabbed what was leftover in the lunchroom from previous parties.

    1. Annie*

      This has me giggling and wondering if, out in this vast wide world of ours, there are people who think “cutlery” means only knives – aka, the one for cutting.

      1. Monday*

        There is a set of dish towels I saw on the internet once with art of a knife, fork, and spoon, labeled underneath with “cutlery, stablery, scooplery” which I found delightful.

    2. knitcrazybooknut*

      I recently took over administration of a large academic department. Over the summer, I decided to combine all the little stashes of tea/coffee supplies the frugal academics had stolen/hoarded over the years into one large stash. This included silverware that had clearly been purchased as sets – 50 spoons, 50 forks, 50 knives.

      There were three spoons, six forks, and about 200 knives.

      We’ve since purchased spoons and forks (compostable, yay!), but I will probably retire before the knives are gone, and I’m at least 15 years away.

      1. JustaTech*

        One time when I was a teen I was hanging around my dad’s office late (waiting for him to finish up so we could go home) and I decided that, since I couldn’t do any more homework, I would organize their kitchen. Nothing major, just get everything grouped together.

        I must have found 60 pairs of disposable chopsticks. No forks or spoons, but chopsticks until next year. And about as many soy sauce packets.

  52. Me ... Just Me*

    I love this site. Seriously, reading about “cheap ass rolls” brings me the warm fuzzies each year, now. It’s like watching a favorite holiday movie.

  53. My Cabbages!*

    Not exactly a pot luck story, but I did part of my doctoral research at a large institute (think several buildings and dozens of labs). As you might imagine, various catered events (and potlucks!) were common. Every time one finished but before the food was cleared away, a quiet word was sent out thru the grad student mailing list and groups of underpaid and overworked grad students would descend like a cloud of locusts. Especially if there was leftover beer.

    1. AcademiaCat*

      As someone who works as staff for a STEM department at a university, we plan our faculty meeting lunch order to accommodate this. When I was the office admin (now I’m a dept. manager) I would sit in my office waiting for one of the faculty to come by after the meeting so that I could send out the “leftovers” email. And by leftovers I mean most of the food hasn’t been touched because the faculty all know what’s up and why we order three times as much food as we “need” for the monthly faculty meeting.

    2. OtterB*

      Yep, I’ve been associated with various meetings and workshops in higher ed settings, and “feed the grad students” is a real thing.

      1. The Prettiest Curse*

        Yup, we were asking one of our grad students what would make him attend our monthly seminars and he said “Honestly? Food.”

        1. JustaTech*

          The funny thing is that this mode of thinking holds on for years and years – scientists who have been out of academia and making actual money for more than a decade can be enticed to a meeting or seminar with the promise of the most basic snacks.
          Eventually it wears off (proportional to how long one was in academia), but if you really need Doctor Professor Much More Important Than You to show up for something, promise the “good” cookies.

    3. Asenath*

      Yeah. Anytime you organize food in an academic setting, there are two rules. The first one might only be for us, because we often set up the tables of food in the corridors, which also acted as a break area for nearby meeting rooms (don’t ask me why the place was designed like that). First rule, put a guard on the food until the people for whom it is intended arrive from their meetings. And the second rule – any leftovers go to the students. Students can eat an incredible amount of food, and honestly, I don’t think any employees (who, of course, had actual incomes) grudged the students the perk of food left over from a meeting they didn’t attend.

  54. Jessica*

    So many of these anecdotes illustrate the related problems of (a) managers who are unwilling to manage; (b) managers who think anything not directly related to work duties is somehow outside their scope of concern. I’d like to think that if I had an employee who did some of the more egregious things here, I’d do something about it.

    1. She of Many Hats*

      The “swarming locusts” was why my office has a designated meeting food location and an “or else” policy about eating from that area if you were not involved in the meeting. As soon as the food was moved to the common area, the programming team pirahnas would swarm the food. They were civilized but fast.

      1. ICodeForFood*

        I worked for a very short time on a team of outsourced I.T. consultants located in a small room at a major corporation. When food was places at a common area, one or another of the consultants would come running into the room, yelling “Food alert!” And then there would be a mad scramble as the guys (it was always the guys) in the group practically ran over each other in a mad dash to wherever the food was… It was pretty amazing…

  55. urguncle*

    I made mashed potatoes with redskinned potatoes for a work potluck. Someone asked if the “red stuff” was bacon. I said it was not (we had a few vegetarians/people who didn’t eat pork) and she gagged and threw the serving spoon back in the crockpot. Thanks for the feedback, I guess.

    1. ferrina*

      I love potato skins in my mashed potatoes. My kids think I’m weird. Too bad I’m the one cooking (mwahahaha!)

      1. Anonymouse*

        Next time, let your kids make the mashed potatoes.
        Then have them make the green beans, then carrots, then peas.
        Then they can make the meat course.
        You will have a fully trained kitchen staff in no time.

        1. ferrina*

          Lol! My youngest is in preschool, and I’m trying to teach her not to mess with the oven and/or grab the sharp knives! They actually love cooking, and my oldest does cooking camp in the summer.

          We actually stumbled on a way for making Covid tests bearable- whenever someone needs to take a test, they get to choose a cookie recipe from our amazing cookie cookbook. We make the cookies at the next opportunity. They discovered whoopie pies this way, and it’s been an experience. My older now doesn’t even flinch at testing- he’s already thinking of what cookie he wants to try.

    2. Kimmy Schmidt*

      You can bring them all to me! This is my favorite type of mashed potatoes. Give me skin on, chunky, buttered up deliciousness. Mmm.

    3. WellRed*

      So she doesn’t mind potato but the skins were a bridge too far? I probably wouldn’t have stopped myself from saying WTF is wrong with you?

  56. Tinkerbell*

    I know I’ve told this story in the comments here before, but here goes:

    I worked for a small branch of a largish public library system. The main branch did a Thanksgiving week meal each year where the library paid for the turkey and everything else was potluck. They then had us all stand in line for food… while the board members and various “community leaders” they invited got to go to the front. We all suffered through a pointed long-winded prayer by a local pastor (public library but Bible Belt) and then the bigwigs ate all the good stuff and left the staff who had actually contributed to the potluck to get whatever was left.

    Great morale-boosting exercise, there.

    1. Artemesia*

      After that happened once people should have gone to see the director about the library ordering enough food to feed guests instead of punishing low wage employees by making them caterers and then not feeding them. I am sure the guests were not aware they were abusing the staff.

  57. Reality Check*

    Our boss was allergic to carrots but didn’t tell anyone. Someone brought in a dish that had carrots in it, and he ate it. He spent the remainder of the evening locked in a restroom because his face swelled so badly, as he put it, he “looked like something from Star Wars.” This was in the days before food allergies were as widespread as they are now. Lesson learned: ask around when contemplating what dish you’ll bring to the pot luck.

        1. Seashell*

          “Didn’t tell anyone” sounds like he knew he had this allergy, but didn’t mention it to anyone at the workplace.

          1. Reality Check*

            Correct. He knew, but didn’t tell anyone. The carrots were blended in to a dip or something, so weren’t obvious.

        2. kendall^2*

          I thought that the “…but didn’t tell anyone” meant that he knew, but … didn’t tell anyone. Not that he himself didn’t know. If he didn’t know, then the wording would’ve been of the “The boss hadn’t discovered he was allergic to carrots until….” variety.

      1. Juicebox Hero*

        I used to have a boss who was allergic to strawberries. We were at a coworker’s baby shower and she was gobbling up a whole plate full of strawberries. I said, “Cheryl, what the hell are you doing? I thought you were allergic!” Her response was it was ok, she’d only get a rash and her throat wouldn’t swell. And the strawberries were soooo goooood.

        She got such a bad rash that it took months to heal and it left scars on her legs.

        She was also deathly allergic to even minute amounts of shellfish (eating a burger from a grill lobsters had been cooked on earlier was enough to send her to the ER) and her favorite restaurant was Red Lobster so common sense wasn’t her strongest quality.

        1. ScruffyInternHerder*

          Someone want to find my eyebrows please? They’ve left my hairline and possibly the building.

          I can’t even walk into Red Lobster because it smells like vomit to me (also very allergic to shellfish in miniscule amounts). Cross contact hazards all over the place there.

          1. Juicebox Hero*

            Here, they were on the roof.

            Yep. She’d eat chicken or pasta when they went there, but had to pull out the epi-pen in the ladies room more than once because cross-contamination is almost inevitable in a freaking SEAFOOD restaurant.

        2. CommanderBanana*

          This is like the commenter on an earlier column from a letter writer with celiac who has a relative who is very allergic to oysters, but will have a once-a-year oyster splurge and call head to the ER to let them know to expect her.

          I love oysters, but dang.

          1. Juicebox Hero*

            Holy smokes. That’s just insane. All it takes a delay getting to the ER, or getting the medication, or the dose not being effective, and you’re dead meat just for the sake of oysters.

            I’m allergic to tomatoes, which make me break out in hives and itch like I’ve got fire ants crawling on me. So as much as I love ’em I just don’t eat ’em because an itchy rash isn’t worth it. I can’t imagine playing Russian Roulette with my LIFE that way!

          2. Not Your Admin Ass(t)*

            Woooooooow. Way to waste the ER’s limited resources and manpower while people who are literally dying NOT of their own stupidity and hubris might not get the help they need in time.

        3. Chauncy Gardener*

          What the actual heck??? No common sense and not a lot of the little grey cells either maybe?

        4. JustaTech*

          I had a coworker with a “mild” (his words) nut allergy. I discovered this when he came over to get some of the brownies my officemate had made and she warned him that there were walnuts in the brownies. “That’s fine, it’s not a lot, it’ll just make me cough.”

          My response was shock and horror and a pointed remark that we work in immunology (allergies are part of immunology) and maybe that’s not a great idea?
          “No, no, it’s fine!”

          After that I started very clearly labeling everything I made with all the ingredients *and* the top-ten allergens (not everyone realized that Nutella has nuts in it), because if someone was going to have an allergic reaction to something I’d made it had darned well better be because they chose to eat it anyway.

    1. Artemesia*

      That was on the boss. It isn’t like it is some weird ingredient you might not expect. I just served fabulous creamed spinach at a dinner party and learned that one of the guests is very allergic to spinach. Won’t serve it when he is a guest again. What did he do? Well sensibly said ‘that looks great but I can’t eat it’ and ate the rest of the meal. I was glad that I at least had a plate of tomatoes and basil on the table too.

      And if someone is that allergic then he needs to ask about carrots in things like soups where it might not be obvious in time.

    2. Curmudgeon in California*

      My solution to that is simple: Label potluck dishes with the ingredients so everyone can be aware of their own food intolerances and allergies.

      1. ScruffyInternHerder*

        Here’s how you know that food allergies and Celiac have been a thing in my family for FOUR generations (so dating back to at least the early 1950s that I’m aware of):

        Everything at family reunions has an ingredient label.
        There are blank papers for folks who need to do this at the reunion park.
        There are flag picks to denote the most common offenders. Obviously the flags just get us to pay WAY more attention.
        Certain family-trending allergens are segregated to a separate table away from the rest of the food in order to reduce the chances of someone using a utensil in two dishes.

  58. old curmudgeon*

    Before he retired, my spouse worked in a unit that LOOOOVED their potlucks. They’d happily leverage any excuse – or no excuse at all – to have a full-on potluck for the entire division to enjoy, and the bragging rights for whose dish got consumed fastest were hotly contested.

    For one potluck, “Trudy” announced to everyone that she would be bringing in home-made sushi as her contribution. Sushi is a very popular item in our part of the country, and Trudy was happily and confidently expecting to take top honors as having brought the most popular potluck item.

    The day of the potluck arrived, and everyone crowded around Trudy as she proudly revealed her carefully prepared delicacy. Because sushi!!

    Well. There is sushi, and then there is “sushi.”

    Trudy’s potluck contribution was string cheese and raw hotdogs wrapped in sushi rice and Nori (the dried seaweed used for sushi), and sliced into pretty little rolls.

    Trudy was both baffled and deeply offended that her contribution went largely untouched throughout the potluck. She just could not understand why everyone preferred pulled pork sandwiches to her wonderful homemade “sushi.” And she never forgave my spouse for taking top honors for his pulled pork, the most popular item at that potluck.

      1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

        Hot dogs are pre-cooked, not actually raw – but it’s still a bad idea to eat them straight from the package because they can wind up re-contaminated with Listeria during the packing process. (Listeria can also, more rarely, wind up in deli meat, which is why it’s recommended that pregnant people and others with weakened immune systems avoid eating deli meat unless it’s been heated until steaming.)

        1. Jammin'*

          “Listeria can also, more rarely, wind up in deli meat, which is why it’s recommended that pregnant people and others with weakened immune systems avoid eating deli meat unless it’s been heated until steaming”
          This is timely given the recent listeria outbreak attributable to deli meat (and cheese, too, I think).

    1. Bamfer*

      I expected warm sushi, I expected everyone getting sick sushi, I expected six pieces of sushi sushi, but I did not expect this sushi.


    2. Little Bobby Tables*

      If you’re going to combine sushi rolls and cheap ass rolls – fill them with cucumber slices. Would have been cheaper than hot dogs and is a well known recipe.

    3. Kara*

      My understanding is that “sushi” actually refers to the rice; not any of the other ingredients. That’s certainly not the commonly-understood meaning though!

  59. Faintofheart*

    I’ve written the story here before, but in the “before” times my office used to host a huge Octoberfest party for all of our clients and while they catered the actual food, dessert was a chance for the employees to bring a dish if they wanted. One of my coworkers took off two full days to bake cakes… multiple, three layer cakes… putting our small department under-staffed. She would always make a big deal about the cakes and how delicious everyone thought they were. They were not. Inevitably, there was one or twice slices taken from each cake but 90% of the cakes were left uneaten, and I was (and clearly still am!) salty that I was left to cover her desk while she baked these *so delicious* cakes.

    1. Chocolate Teapot*

      Are you the person who got stuck with “Amy’s” work, which was supposed to be nearly complete, but ended up taking a long time as various documents for each file were missing? Amy had taken the day off to bake her cakes.

  60. Taura*

    I startled my coworker with my chocolate mice once! They’re not super realistic or anything (you can google “chocolate mice” and they’re the kind made with cherries and kisses) but I do use the shimmery icing for their faces and I guess she just wasn’t expecting a trayful of little chocolate mice looking up at her at 8am.

  61. Proposal Manager*

    We had an older guy in the office at a prior job who would steal all the food as well. He would even go into meetings for other departments (which he wasn’t invited to) that ordered food, get the food, and then leave the conference room. He would also pressure our clients to buy him lunch, then pocket the per diem he would get for lunch when out of the office. When we was politely asked to retire post-70 because he refused to learn to use a computer, he plopped his computer on my desk, full of year of emails, and asked to sift through all of them to find all his project files from the last 5 years. He had a bunch of personal emails in there as well, and it turns out he was a multi-millionaire with three homes (including one in Rome) and entire units of condos as investment properties. I’ve personally went hungry because of this guy. No one was sad to see him go.

    1. ScruffyInternHerder*

      I’d say I used to work with you, BUT I’ve seen this go down in 2-3 different employers’ offices so its likely a more widespread issue than believable!

      The audacity was bought in bulk from Costco with that one!

    1. never mind who I am*

      All right–here’s another one. My organization hasn’t had a pot-luck event since the advent of The Pestilence. When I was having my annual review with my boss and grandboss (very informal, actually kind of enjoyable) they mentioned that my department might have a pot-luck event sometime soon. I immediately said that I would bring the cheap-ass rolls. My grandboss was unfamiliar with the term and I had to explain the reference. And I thought ALL management folks were familiar with AAM! So disillusioning. (Note, just in case: she wasn’t offended–I’ve seen her say worse. And if you want to see what I’m hoping to take, google “school cafeteria rolls.”)

      1. SunriseRuby*

        You’ll be the office hero. I grew up in the midwest, and when I was in elementary school in the 1970s, those were the best part of any school lunch when they were offered. Who didn’t love them (keeping in mind that this was decades before wide awareness about issues with gluten)?

  62. MyySharona*

    Oh oh oh I can’t believe I forgot about the most notorious holiday party. We had historically had a party where the meats/mains were provided and all the sides and desserts were potluck. Great time every year, you could also sign up for a cookie swap, people would contribute recipes to our company cookbook, etc.
    A longtime employee, who notoriously hated all “ethnic” food or spice, became the party planner and then also the office manager, making her in charge of the holiday party. She canceled the potluck and got a baked potato bar. Not a fancy one, just some baked potatoes with butter, sour cream, and cheese. Maybe there were some bacon bits. And she stuck to her guns despite suggestions, offers to help…
    A ROGUE potluck was organized behind her back. So her potatoes arrive, and then everyone also shows up with more dishes than ever out of spite. I’ve never been to such s great office party and I’ve also never seen any one person so pissed off.

      1. MyySharona*

        She was SO MAD. And took a crazy amount of potatoes home, but she always did that. One of the “feed the family at home” people before some staff had a chance to eat. She was something special. I don’t miss working with her in the slightest.

    1. Lily Rowan*

      That is amazing.

      My office “holiday” party traditionally includes a mashed potato bar that people are OBSESSED with. Like, all of the new staff since 2020 are sure to be disappointed, because it’s really not that exciting.

    2. IT Manager*

      Ok so, I’m not a potluck person (work food should be paid for by work budgets!) and I *love* a baked potato bar….

      …. But this is awesome. I would definitely have contributed to a passive-aggressive-potluck for such a good cause ;-)

  63. DayGloEyes*

    So I work in a medical office and one of our visiting locums shared a horrifying story. He was an OBGYN and was invited to attend the hospitals maternity department party/potluck. One nurse went around offering her platter of cookies to people (instead of leaving it on the table). Now she was known to be a little out there but had just come back from her own mat leave so people were asking about the baby and such. It was only at the end of the event did she start telling people that the cookies had her breastmilk in them! She subbed cows milk for her own personal breast milk that she had pumped for her baby…just a small health hazard! The dr said he was so thankful he hadn’t eaten one but a lot of people got sick and started throwing up (because of the ick factor.) HR got involved post event and she got suspended and had to do remedial ethics training before she could return to her job. Anyone who had ingested the cookies was offered free medical testing to make sure they were okay. Yikes.

    1. ZSD*

      That is super bizarre. I don’t understand about the health hazard, though. Is breast milk not safe for adult humans to drink? Is it because it wasn’t pasteurized?

      1. Warrior Princess Xena*

        Not a medical professional, but while the milk itself would probably fine, I believe at least some diseases can travel through milk just like any other bodily fluid.

      2. Mekong River*

        Yeah, it’s not pasteurized, and also not regulated for consumption in non-babies. I mean, milk straight from the cow is probably ok, but there’s a reason we don’t sell it that way in grocery stores.

        1. Here we go again*

          I used to have a milk cow and quality really depends on how well you clean up the cow before milking, how clean milking gear is, and how fast the milk makes it into the fridge after straining for floaties.
          I miss making cheese and all the other tasty dairy, but not shuffling out to the stable at 4:30 am with milk bucket on one arm & cleaning bucket/gear on the other, while my cow yelled at me for her milking treats and her baby yelled at me for stealing his breakfast.

          1. Mekong River*

            All those quality qualifiers are true for human milk, as well. Probably fine, but depends on cleanliness of all elements and whether it’s refrigerated quickly.

      3. Aine*

        Breast milk is still a bodily fluid and it’s still not completely known what all can and cannot be transmitted through it.

      4. Ann Perkins*

        It’s generally safe as long as it’s stored properly, but there are a few diseases that can be transmitted via breast milk. I’m a milk donor and had to conduct a blood test before I could donate pumped milk to be used in hospitals.

      5. not a doctor but...*

        I mean… it maybe is safe, but there are so many issues, including pasteurization. It’s true that some people are unnecessarily squicked out by human milk when it’s being provided to a human baby. But it’s just very personal and I think people are just uncomfortable consuming a substance that came out of a coworker’s body!

        And the pasteurization thing is no small thing! How do they know she didn’t leave it out before using it? And disease can be spread through human milk, not sure if that still applies if it’s been baked into cookies… but really, does anyone want to find out?

        1. Mekong River*

          Pasteurization relies on holding the food at a high temperature for a long time. Cookies don’t take that long to bake. Cookies probably reach a high enough temperature, but they are not held there long enough to pasteurize them.

      6. Artemesia*

        Baked in cookies it was probably not a health issue; it would of course be if in a smoothy or something as a bodily fluid not pasteurized could harbor hepatitis or HIV or various other viruses some of which are infectious if ingested. I actually thought we were heading for placenta as an ingredient. The milk would have annoyed me because it is a nasty thing to do to people but I would not have been worried about it since they were baked.

        1. Mekong River*

          I wouldn’t count on baking as doing a good job at pasteurizing. Even though you bake something at 400 F or whatever, the baked goods are not 400 F. Think about baking a roast—the temperature rises slowly, and you take it out when it reaches it’s done temperature, which is 165-195 F. It’s the same for breads and cakes and such. Cookies aren’t even baked very long, maybe 8-12 min. So even if the baked goods reach a high enough temperature to kill germs, they don’t stay at that temperature long enough to kill very many.

    2. WillowSunstar*

      Stories like this are why I generally stick to the obviously store-bought food at potlucks, including my own (generally bring a fruit or veggie tray so there is at least one healthy thing).

      1. Kiwi*

        Stories like these make me grateful for having a ton of food allergies and an excuse to avoid potluck foods

    3. WillowSunstar*

      Stories like this are why I stick to the obviously store-bought food at potlucks, including my own (generally bring a fruit or veggie tray so there is at least one healthy thing).

    4. FrogEngineer*


      I am truly speechless. What on earth was she thinking. Actually maybe I don’t want to know…

  64. Lemon Zinger*

    My last workplace did an annual chili cook-off. One year everyone who partook got sick. The organizer does not wash her hands after using the bathroom. I’m not saying the two are linked, but I also wouldn’t recommend eating Jackie’s chili.

  65. merida*

    Our office had a chili cookoff 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 cookoff again.

      1. Generic Name*

        Right? Typically, people who have OTT emotional responses like this are rarely all that good at their jobs

    1. Artemesia*

      why didn’t she just put the crock in the break room and announce there was chili for those who got to the office today?

  66. Bethannie*

    Ok, I got one. My last job (for which I should write a book. I’ll title it “Trolls and FBI raids”) I was one of two women that worked in a large open office area with a bunch of middle aged men. Like it was just an open area with half cubicles and the owners stuff randomly stuck wherever. Anyway, I kept getting sick. Like every couple of weeks I’d have norovirus like symptoms that I just chalked up to having kids in public school. Until one day, the owner of the business next door followed the Troll back into the office from the communal building bathroom just yelling at him about how he took a massive stinking dump in the bathroom AND DIDN’T WASH HIS HANDS!!!

    After the other guy left, the Troll looked around the office where we were all just staring at him and said, “why would I wash, I used toilet paper.”


    Me and the other woman just stared at each other in a dawning horror about the daily communal donut boxes.

    I wish I could say I put in my notice that moment, but it took several more weeks of insanity to push me over the edge.

    1. H.Regalis*

      I worked at a bar that had a bathroom attendant only for the men’s bathroom, and a major reason for it was reminding/forcing men to wash their hands.

    2. Siege*

      I have taken great, malicious pleasure in sharing the story of the high-ranking businesswoman in my state (seriously, she’s involved with the state government, she was head of the chamber of commerce, etc) who doesn’t wash her hands in the bathroom.

  67. ICodeForFood*

    Not really a potluck story, but still pertinent, I think.
    In the 1990s I worked in a department of 19 people, and as thank you, we were told that our vice president would be ordering breakfast for us all. There were probably a few emails that went out, hyping this ‘thank you’; event, and reminding us that breakfast would be provided on whatever day they had chosen.
    On the day of the event, the V.P.’s secretary ordered 19 assorted donuts from Dunkin’ Donuts. Not even 2 dozen… 19! One donut per person, and whoever was last got whatever kind happened to be left.
    Certainly made me feel appreciated…. not!

    1. ferrina*

      Wow. I used to work with a team that would bring in donuts if one of them had a good commute and arrived early. They were just happy to be there and ply us all with sugar (their requests were always prioritized)

    2. Lacey*

      lol that’s not the worst thank-you I’ve heard of, but it’s pretty bad!

      Most places I’ve worked have had donuts pretty regularly. One did it for specific meetings, another did it for our deadline days. One did every Friday – but for a special event they’d buy the GOOD donuts from a specific bakery.

      1. JustaTech*

        I have a VP who keeps trying to buy our love with food (to make up for insisting we all work from the office all the time). So he’s always bringing in donuts from a popular local chain. These are (from what I’ve been told) good donuts, but they’re cake donuts, and I don’t like cake donuts.
        Inevitably every couple of weeks we have this conversation “You didn’t come up for a donut!” “Thanks for bringing them in, I just don’t like that style of donut.” “But they’re donuts!” “Yes, but I’m not hungry and I don’t like them.”

        Why should I hike up two flights of stairs to eat food I don’t like when I’m not hungry from a guy who has been Not Great about basic disease prevention?

    3. Irish Teacher*

      Oh, that reminds me of a story. I correct the state exams and beforehand, we have a marking conference for training and so on. For the first few years I corrected, we used to get the most delicious bakery goods along with tea or coffee for our break. And then, the recession hit. So the government made a lot of cuts, including our expenses and…our bakery goods. At the next conference, along with the tea and coffee, there were literally two or three saucers with penguin bars on them (about 100 people attend the conference; I doubt there were more than 30 bars). It would probably have been better if they provided nothing. I honestly heard more complaints about the cutting of the bakery goods than I did about their cutting our travel expenses or others.

      Not really an issue like yours, as it was reasonable really. The country was genuinely bankrupt (and THAT is a WHOLE other story, but it involved the IMF bailing the country out) so it was reasonable not to spend money on presumably thousands of baked goods (I assume the teachers of all other subjects were getting the same). And they were good stuff, bakery goods rather than from the local supermarket. And they hadn’t promised us a thank you or anything; they had been quite clear that all things that weren’t necessary were being reduced and I think we were even given a heads up to bring a mid-morning snack as it was no longer being provided. But it still caused a fair share of complaint.

  68. WillowSunstar*

    Had a coworker who just did not understand that you were supposed to contribute something to the potluck in order to take food from the potluck. Management let him get away with it repeatedly. The rest of us would not have been allowed to.

      1. ggg*

        I can see how it is annoying to have repeat non-contributors. However, in general I think it is better to allow everyone to participate regardless of contributions.

        We always have a few people who didn’t bring something for whatever reason, and visitors from different areas who stop by not knowing that there’s a potluck on, and we feed everyone. We have never run out of food.