the sweet potato incident, the green lunch, and other tales of terrible work food

Last week we talked about terrible food at conferences and other work events. Unsurprisingly, the most egregious examples turned out to be what’s served to people with dietary restrictions … but sometimes everyone gets the same monstrous treatment. Here are 18 of the most ridiculous stories you shared.

1. The lemonade

At a business meeting at a private club, I ordered a glass of lemonade and received a glass of lemon juice. Nothing like a cool refreshing mouthful of acid!

2. The imported cheese

I was at a conference last year where I think the venue started running out of food? I’m not sure, it wasn’t great to begin with but it got sillier and sillier. For breakfast on the second-to-last day there was a tray with “imported and domestic cheeses.” It was Kraft singles.

3. The potatoes

I once attended a training event and the vegan lunch was a potato “burger” (mashed potato pattie in a bun, no salad/sauce) with boiled potatoes and a side of chips. Quadruple carb fun times!

4. The blessed Fritos

At an event I once volunteered for, my gluten allergy wasn’t properly communicated. So I was so hungry I started dipping applesauce in chips. They also didn’t have gluten-free communion, which I felt obligated to take, so the priest very hastily blessed some Fritos for me. They did get me better food the second day.

5. The treats

My ex took the minutes for a monthly board meeting. The board chair always made a big fuss about bringing food for everyone, but it was always comically too little. The board is 12 people, plus 2-3 attending staff. The worst was the time it was three croissants from a nice bakery, and when “pizza party day” was two personal pizzas. For 15+ people. She would always make a big deal of how lucky everyone was to have such nice treats and slice out the tiny portions herself.

6. The sweet potato incident

We have a story that floats around our company called “The Sweet Potato Incident”. One of our directors was a really nice lady but had no taste when it came to choosing menus. She decided she was going to choose the menu for our annual Employee Appreciation Dinner instead of our Head of Catering and it was… baffling to say the least. Every course had sweet potatoes in it. The first course was a sweet potato soup or a salad featuring sweet potatoes. The main course was a sweet potato pasta. The dessert was sweet potato pie! Maybe our Head of Catering was miffed at not being consulted and that’s why she allowed this laughable menu to go through, but everyone strongly encouraged the director to defer to ANYONE else for future menu planning.

7. The vegan option

I went to a conference that provided boxed lunches on the last day. The meat option was a turkey sandwich, a bag of chips and a cookie, the vegetarian option was a bag of chips and a cookie, and the vegan option was just a bag of chips.

8. The light apps

My worst story is a Friday night holiday party with one round of *light* apps (at dinnertime) and an open martini bar. People got blackout drunk whether they meant to or not. Nobody could look at each other the following Monday.

Highlights: One guy withdrew the max from an ATM and gave it to a stranger. A male supervisor patted a female staffer on the butt. There were martini races. I got a piggyback ride from the IT guy to another bar. Underage interns were served. There was a conference call the next day to try to piece everything together.

And that is the last time we had an event with almost no food.

9. The faux steak

My brother’s mother-in-law was a vegetarian in a rural community who once accompanied her husband to his company’s annual dinner. The dinner organizers were very proud of themselves for coming up with something they assured her was much better than the plates of plain vegetables she’d been served in the past. Her husband got steak. She got a slice of watermelon cut into the shape of a steak.

10. The pizza

Conference worker at a fancy hotel in my youth. Management said they would provide pizza to those who helped clear down after a late running conference.

14 of us stayed late to pack up, clear down the 4 rooms and presentation halls and turn it around for the wedding the next day.

They did indeed provide pizza.


Just one.

We split slices with someone’s pen knife and had to provide our own drinks as the food and sodas were for ‘attendees only’.


Did not volunteer to stay twice.

11. The missing ice cream

I worked for a very large municipal agency in a big city notorious for being…well…terrible in all the ways. The agency was constantly putting out fires, was always in the press (for the wrong reasons), and morale among staff was low. There was never an iota of staff appreciation in any way – I worked there for ten years. Except there was the famous “Ice Cream Social.” One summer, we moved into a new building. It was all very “you get what you get and you don’t get upset.” We moved to save money, not because we were doing so well. It was very matter of fact. We moved and kept working. Someone, I will never know who, had the bright idea of doing a “Staff Appreciation / Welcome to the New Building Ice Cream Social.” This was unheard of. Someone MADE FLYERS. People were excited! There were going to be toppings! We all gathered at 3 pm in our large conference room. Yep, there were toppings, but no ice cream. All the anticipatory joy was sucked out of the room. Everyone hung out for an hour waiting for the ice cream (that was ordered by someone?) and didn’t arrive. Finally, after about 90 minutes, someone ran down to Duane Reade and just bought random pints for the people who decided to stick around.

12. The work travel log

I’m celiac. I used to travel a fair bit for work as well as attend big industry conferences. Best cast scenario for all day meetings or conferences is that I’d get edible meals with protein, but nothing to eat during the breaks when everyone else was offered dainty cakes cakes etc. Worst case…

– Fruit salad for starter at big fancy dinner. Main meal was okay … then I was served an identical fruit salad for dessert. Meanwhile everyone else had a lovingly prepared selection of mini desserts appropriate to the country we were in

– Same conference, different year: everyone was given lunch bags containing sandwiches, and drink, fruit, a chocolate bar. I was given a very onion heavy salad with no protein or dressings. Scavenged some fruit from colleagues, turns out the chocolate bar contained gluten so I couldn’t have that. Asked about it and apparently they only had gluten-containing chocolate.

– Work all-day meeting venue: caterers had got the memo about including a source of protein in ALL meals. Unfortunately they took this to mean chickpeas. So many chickpeas. A chickpea salad which honestly had an entire can of them and not much else. A dinner that was 70% chickpea. Served up on repeat, day after day, trip after trip. I’ve not been able to eat them since I stopped working there.

– Pandemic, work sent out treats to everyone ahead of the zoom holiday party. Asked for dietary preferences. Apparently the supplier couldn’t do celiac-safe so they just didn’t give me anything.

– Five star hotel I got back to at midnight on a day which had involved getting up at 4.30 am, red eye flight, entire day of meetings (with the chickpeas), mandatory socializing. Exhausted and hungry, I phoned room service. Normally hotels are perfectly happy to cobble together various celiac-safe options from different meals to give me one meal. This one apparently had never heard of such a thing and after a lot of negotiating about what they could actually provide that was gluten-free charged me £22 for a single burger patty with one slice of tomato on top. Absolutely nothing else.

Needless to say, for work travel my suitcase was always 50% food. At one point I got so fed up that this was always an issue I became a thorn in the side of conference organizers by asking why there was no food for me every time it wasn’t provided. (To be fair, most were lovely and horrified when they saw what I’d been given and made an effort to sort it out. Only for the same thing to happen the next year when the conference moved to a new venue.) I no longer travel for work. I don’t miss it.

13. The kosher muffins

At my last job, I got sent to a conference in Charleston, South Carolina over Passover. Not the best time to visit a place famous for its biscuits, but I made do.

When I went down to breakfast each day, there was a separate table labeled “kosher” – full of muffins and pastries and other things that couldn’t be eaten on Passover. (In case it isn’t clear, the universe of Jews who would care about kosher certification and would eat a muffin on Passover is probably zero.) I love that they were trying so hard and so utterly failed.

14. The standing meal

I had to attend a fancy reception for work at an art museum. The venue and food presentation were lovely but the food was a disaster. The organizers clearly spent a ton of money – prime beef, seafood, complex salads and soups and hors d’oeuvres, but no way to eat them. There were no low tables or chairs, just a few high top tables (for over 100 people) and no utensils! We all had plates of food but no where to put them and no way to eat them (this was not finger food!). Think long strips of beef and substantial pieces of salmon.

Someone flagged a server and the (in-house) caterer seemed surprised we couldn’t eat the food. They finally brought out forks but no knives or spoons! Execs were trying to cut steak with forks (didn’t work) and creative staff poured soup into cups – all while standing. It was bizarre! I had to attend the same event the next year and thankfully they provided utensils AND tables to sit and eat.

15. The canceled lunch

Employee Appreciation Lunch at a hospital, for all employees (clinical and office/non-clinical staff). The C-suite made a big deal of this, starting a full two weeks in advance. Managers were instructed to remind their employees not to bring lunch on a specific day, because the hospital would be providing lunch that day at noon.

The day comes, and there’s no indication of where the employee lunch is going to be held. No flyers, no announcement. Well, they’ll probably tell us when it arrives, right?

Noon rolls around. No announcement. Hungry nurses start calling other floors for information, since they can’t just all walk off at once for lunch, they need to take turns so that the others can stay to take care of the patients.

At 12:15, the PA system booms with an angry voice yelling: “THE EMPLOYEE LUNCH IS CANCELED. >CLICK< ”

There was never any explanation or apology.

16. The green lunch

A conference I attended had a “Green Lunch” which I thought might refer to things that were environmentally friendly or vegetarian. Literally all the items were green and didn’t even really go together. Grapes, guacamole, some green peppers, and key lime pie. I don’t even remember everything on the buffet but it was bonkers. It must have been the absolute cheapest option for the meeting planners.

17. The focaccia

Once, the org I volunteer for was helping staff a large event. We were working all of Saturday, for free, and in exchange they had promised us lunch. For other similar events we’d had sandwiches, trays of pizza, and my favourite was when an event had given us vouchers for a nearby buffet restaurant and we’d had a proper hot meal. This event, long after lunchtime, sent us a tray of plain focaccia bread. There were more volunteers than slices of focaccia. We did not offer to staff this particular event again.

18. The tofu

This was ~15 years ago, so I think/hope things are at least slightly better now, but I was attending a conference where they had tacos for lunch one day. The vegetarian option was just cold, unpressed, unseasoned tofu. I skipped lunch that day and went out to find something more palatable.

{ 531 comments… read them below }

    1. WavyGravy*

      bahahaha, I love how Marge Simpson is a stone cold weirdo.

      Hockey is a violent sport, look at Milhouse’s teeth?
      Mom, will you stop showing those to us?

      1. Jaydee*

        I feel like that is the food equivalent of when my kid was younger and insisted on wearing all the same color because it “went together better.” A non-sweet potato dish is the equivalent of a neutral here.

      1. DataSci*

        I just reread that last week! My wife had somehow never encountered it so she got to be one of the lucky 10,000 that day.

          1. Kyrielle*

            …please, no one do a themed meal that could be improved by having the Dogs in Elk puppers onscene before the meal to destroy it. Just…don’t.

            (But if you haven’t read Dogs in Elk, do go find and read it…. LOL!)

      2. I take tea*

        Oh, thank you so much for that funny story. I had never seen it before and I chuckled throughout. It reminds me of some of the Tomato Nation stories.

    2. Turtlewings*

      The taste of sweet potatoes literally makes me gag, so I’m pretty sure that meal is what I’ll be served in the afterlife if I am very, very bad on Earth.

      1. KayDeeAye*

        That’s exactly how I feel! Sweet potatoes are one of the few foods that I just canNOT make myself swallow. So for me, they’d be the perfect Hellscape food.

      2. goddessoftransitory*

        Yeah; sweet potatoes are one of those foods I CAN eat to be polite, but would never, ever choose for my plate if offered any choice in the matter. Husband loves those horrid sweet potato fries that are just terrible little sticks made of demon legs.

      3. Quite anon*

        I like sweet potatoes, when they’re cooked like home fries. And only the most crunchy bits. Soft sweet potato is repulsive to me.

    3. constant_craving*

      It honestly made me think of cooking shows where a specific ingredient has to be the star of each dish served. I wonder if something like that was the inspiration.

    4. Olive*

      I would absolutely eat an entire meal of just different types of sweet potato dishes. Or of just one sweet potato dish, to be honest.

    1. JP*

      Watermelon steak is actually a thing, but it has like a balsamic type glaze and fried. I wonder if someone heard the words “watermelon steak” and was like yeah, let’s do it, without investigating any further.

      1. CheesePlease*

        that’s still not a substantial meal compared to a steak though. It’s still mostly water.

            1. Brooklyn*

              As a vegetarian, I don’t actually care that every meal I eat has large amounts of protein in it. If you’re hosting people for a week, that’s one thing, but there’s nothing wrong with a watermelon steak for the same reason there’s nothing wrong with eating a salad for dinner. You don’t need to balance your macro-nutrients every day, certainly not at every meal.

              I’d much rather someone put a modicum of effort into a proper vegetarian meal than another chickpea disaster. Or, in the case of the last person, I’d much rather a mixed veggie taco than an unseasoned block of tofu in a tortilla.

              1. ceiswyn*

                There’s nothing wrong with *choosing* salad. There is everything wrong with being told you’ll get a meal, and then being given something with less nutritional value than a cookie.

              2. Sara C*

                I think this may depend on the person. I agree that you don’t need to balance your macro-nutrients at every meal/day, but at the same time, if I don’t eat ANY protein or fat for a meal, I am going to be hangry very quickly. Especially if we’re talking a piece of watermelon which doesn’t even have many calories! Fine if it was a snack or one piece of a larger meal, but if I’m expecting dinner and get watermelon, I will be very annoyed (and hungry).

              3. IneffableBastard*

                I would agree with you if it was not for the reason that I dislike the watermelon’s texture with all my heart. Juiced and strained, fine, pickled rind, fine, but no pulp. I can eat any veggie instead.

        1. Quite anon*

          As someone who has attempted to eat nothing but watermelon for a meal, you end up getting very hungry a few hours later. It’s delicious though, so I consider this tradeoff worth it, but probably not the best meal at a conference.

    2. Daisy-dog*

      As a vegetarian who has gotten some sad meals, this sounds cute. I’d likely need to get some Taco Bell after this dinner, but still a cute attempt.

    3. Resident Catholicville, U.S.A.*

      I’m a vegetarian who hates melon.

      I’d be spitting nails if someone handed me a watermelon steak and though I’d eat it as a substitute for a meal.

      1. rebelwithmouseyhair*

        Yeah, like, what’s wrong with running it by the person just to make sure?

        I was once served fish at our annual meeting because the boss just specified “no meat” (one other person was indeed a pescetarian). The sides for the meat and fish options looked scrumptious, so I was thinking they could just give the available veggies. But no, they made me a soggy omelette, and made sure it was stone cold before serving me, with no sides, just a sprig of off-colour parsley to decorate.

        The pescetarian was shocked, and volunteered to organise the next annual meeting, in the Netherlands rather than France. The Netherlands being a wonderful country full of tolerant and even inclusive people, I was served a meal fit for a veggie queen, starting with the strange yet scrumptious blue cheese ice cream on rocket salad, with each course even tastier than the previous one.

        1. Resident Catholicville, U.S.A.*

          Recently a charity I follow on Facebook posted about how a local family had hosted a dinner for the people living in their shelter and the vegetarian option was fish. I know pescetarians exist but, hmmm, no- fish aren’t vegetarian. It’s kind of amazing how many people don’t seem to realize fish aren’t meat. (Then again, I live in Catholicville and that whole Lent, fish on Fridays thing is basically means that the entire city eats fish on Fridays.)

          I did attend a conference at a Marriot and, to their credit, they provided absolutely spectacular vegetarian dishes at the sit down meals. What they were? I have no idea, but they all were meatless and they tasted great.

          1. Anonymous ex academic*

            It’s like that scene from “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” where her aunt, iirc says “its ok, I’ll make lamb”, to the vegetarian.

    4. Artemesia*

      If it were surrounded by half a dozen other things that she could eat, it would have been charming — What is amazing about these stories is how many of them. don’t include the basic elements of a meal e.g. starch, protein, vegetable matter.

      1. I'm Just Here For The Cats!!*

        it’s like people here vegetarian or gluten free and their brain goes haywire and they forget what constitutes a meal.

      1. ceiswyn*

        As long as it came along with some actual food.

        Watermelon is basically solid water with a little bit of fibre and sugar. A quarter pounder watermelon steak would provide a whole… 36 calories. You could more than double that by adding a balsamic glaze, and it still wouldn’t be anything like a nutritious meal. Just some sugar.

        1. Random Dice*

          Wait… You expect the people crafting menus to know as much about food as a kindergartner?! Ridiculous.

      2. IneffableBastard*

        I dislike watermelon very much and think that is is a very risky choice as a main. Even a processed fake meat would be a less risky option, albeit not as tasty as lots of vegetarian dishes.

    5. OMG, Bees!*

      “Instead of providing you with a meal, we took the time to carve fruit into something resembling a filling meal. Why aren’t you happy?”

      1. aspirational yogurt*

        The Duane Reade reference means it pretty much has to be NYC, despite the OP’s attempt to disguise the city.

    1. CJ Cregg*

      Ooooh so close. Yes, NYC. The Duane Reade did give it away. Not NYCHA. And that’s all I’ll say :)

  1. Snarkus Aurelius*

    I wish I’d seen this because I have the story to top all stories.

    I used to work for a really horrible woman. Although it was a very toxic office, she was sweet as punch, which made the whole work environment question whether things were really that bad. (They were.)

    My coworker was her assistant. It was bad enough that Boss forced my coworker to move her desk into Boss’s office for “better communication” instead of straight up control issues.

    My coworker’s only relief were bathroom breaks and lunch. Boss couldn’t control the former, but she tried to control the latter…

    When my friend went to go to lunch, Boss stopped eating her own lunch and gave my co-worker the remains of it — last night’s leftovers. “Here’s lunch for you. You don’t need to leave.” Boss didn’t even bother to get a new fork!

    Boss is dead now, but that story will live forever.

    1. OMG, Bees!*

      Reminds me of a boss who would “joke” that he wished he could chain us to our desks so we couldn’t leave. He was tactful enough to never say that when the African American employee was in the office tho.

  2. Nesprin*

    I had an admin who decided that a mashed potato bar was the correct meal for a fancy dept party. It was martini glasses full of instant mashed potatoes + toppings like sour cream etc. It did nothing to soak up the actual martinis also served at this event, and shockingly was the menu for 5 annual parties in a row.

    1. Snarkus Aurelius*

      Mashed. Potatoes. Are. A. Side. Not. An. Entree!

      Might as well have a “bread bar” complete with toaster, peanut butter, jelly, Vegemite, and Nutella.

      1. Dinwar*

        “Mashed. Potatoes. Are. A. Side. Not. An. Entree!”

        I’ve got enough Irish in my ancestry to object to that. A good potato–baked, mashed, fried, whatever–can be a meal in and of itself. Cooked in a way that’s marginally healthy (ie, not deep fried in oil that’s cold enough to allow oil to seep into the food), a medium potato (with the skin) and a glass of milk is a pretty nutritionally solid meal.

        My wife is trying to lose weight, and doing the low-glycemic-index thing. For example, last night we had “pasta” consisting of squash noodles, peas, chicken, and cheese sauce. It was delicious! But after a few weeks of that, if I’m on the road, supper is often a microwaved potato with butter, chives, and bacon bits!

        Now would I ever do this at a work event? ABSOLUTELY not. And never in a martini glass!

        1. I'm Just Here For The Cats!!*

          I think the martini glass sounds fun. I could see doing this for like a party or something but also serve other foods.

          1. Lizzie*

            oh absolutly. I always said if I ever get married, I’m just doing cocktails and HEAVY appetizers. because let’s face it, if the wedding has umpteen food stations with all kinds of stuff, by the time you get to the sit down dinner, NO ONE is hungry. I would so do this as I love mashed potatoes. But i’d have all kinds of other stuff along with it.

            1. JustaTech*

              My cousin did a masked potato bar at her wedding and it is the thing everyone still talks about!

        2. Random Dice*

          Have y’all tried meatzza yet? My father genuinely thought it was regular flour pizza. And super filling.

          Crust: sausage meat + shredded cheese (I like parm but any), pre-bake, top like any pizza, bake.

        3. OMG, Bees!*

          Pre-pandemic, there was a restaurant near our old office that served essentially sandwiches, but potatoes instead of bread. Really, it was more sandwich contents stuffed and cooked inside a cut potato, but the description doesn’t do it justice for how good it was.

      2. ceiswyn*

        I would so be there for that bread bar.

        Though I would like to add butter and cream cheese to that list :)

        1. Emmy Noether*

          Add cheese and cold cuts and an underripe tomato and it’s German breakfast and dinner, and often lunch also.

      3. Anonymous 75*

        speak for yourself, I’d eat the hell out of a mashed potato bar (although I’d need something bigger than a martini glass). And as someone who has more than one mashed potato sandwich (white bread and dip it in cream gravy) I can say don’t knock it till you tried it.

          1. Anonymous 75*

            I have been known to have a packet or ore ida instant taters for dinner once or twice. cheddar and sour cream! :)

      4. BubbleTea*

        No, the problem here is that instant mashed potato isn’t food. Proper mashed potato is amazing! I went to a fabulous bangers and mash party one year. We cleaned the village shop out of potatoes and made about eight different types of mash, with sausages of all kinds. It was fabulous. Not an instant potato flake in sight.

        1. Dinwar*

          “No, the problem here is that instant mashed potato isn’t food.”

          Historically speaking, this is not correct. Freeze-dried potatoes–which is what instant mashed potatoes are–are among the first ways potatoes were prepared (chuno). The mountains of South America are the ideal place to naturally freeze-dry foods.

          Not sure if you’ve ever sampled ancient staples, but….they’ll keep you alive. And that’s about the best that can be said for them. Great if you’re a peasant farmer who’s options are “eat this boring food” and “actual starvation”, but not so great if you’re in a 21st century industrialized economy. (For my part, I’m weird; I like trying ancient staples. I don’t pretend they taste good, I just like understanding history via gastronomy.)

          1. Jaid*

            If you haven’t hear of him, Max Miller’s “Tasting History” is an interesting YouTube channel. He cooks all sorts of things using historical records.

            1. Breakfast menu on the Titanic*

              Love his channel! His facial expressions when he tries some recipes are wonderfully delightful.

      5. E. Chauvelin*

        Not a work story but I once stayed at a hostel/B&B that would have been very nice for a hostel if it weren’t trying to give the impression it was also a B&B. The deal was supposed to be that for an extra charge you got breakfast every morning. The breakfast was that bread bar (well, no Vegemite for sure, and I’m not sure about Nutella).

      6. Sharpie*

        Po-ta-toes… Boil ’em, mash ’em, stick ’em in a stew… Just serve them with something else and not on their own. Even jacket potatoes need a little something that’s not potato.

      7. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

        That’s got the makings of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich right there, though. Totally an entree if you use enough peanut butter. (Not, like, a fancy food entree, but certainly something that contains food and you can eat as a main in a sack lunch.)

      8. Teach*

        as someone with lots of food restrictions (and Irish heritage), potato in some form often IS the meal when dining out. And no complaints from me, taters are fantastic, A+ tuber. I don’t think I’ve ever eaten these “instant” potatoes you speak of…sounds tragic.

      9. TeaCoziesRUs*

        I mean… that was the breakfast option at a rather nice B&B I stayed at in Ireland. No meat. No cooked eggs. Just cereal and a toast bar. I was.. rather underwhelmed.

    2. Slow Gin Lizz*

      My friends had a mashed potato bar at their wedding. It was glorious, and I don’t even like mashed potatoes (I have a texture issue re: mushy foods). But it is definitely not an entree, not even close.

    3. Bee*

      I said in the last post that I attended a conference cocktail party for many years that was beloved for its mashed potato bar – people got very excited about it. But that was in lieu of passed apps, not a meal.

    4. WantonSeedStitch*

      It’s a great thing to serve as one of a number of options of small plates at a party. We had that at a holiday party for my work. But the only thing? No. We also got various meat and veggie protein options, cups of soup, etc.

    5. Random Dice*

      I once had a mashed potato martini bar and it was AMAZING. Creamy delicious real mashed potatoes, fancy cheeses, bacon crumbles, green onions…

      But INSTANT mashed potatoes?! Hurl.

  3. Heart&Vine*

    #7 – I love that the dietary-compensations were just removing a part of the lunch altogether! Heaven forbid someone had a sulfate allergy! Their meal would be a brown paper bag!

      1. Lonestar*

        I have learned not just to communicate dietary needs to hotels but to grill them on what options they are providing. Not only do they sometimes just cobble together random foods, I’ve learned that sometimes in smaller cities people have a different understanding of things. I once had a hotel try to serve bacon and eggs to the person who requested a vegan breakfast! The person who took the order had apparently never met a vegan.

        1. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

          I saw a sign in a grocery store once, where apparently someone thought that “veg’an” was an abbreviation of “vegetarian”.

        2. Emikyu*

          Yes, this. I’m fortunate enough to work somewhere that actually serves the only vegetarian on staff (me) actual meatless meals when providing lunch, but I’ve definitely met people who would not know how to do that.

          (I once went on a date with a guy who, upon hearing that I’m a vegetarian, asked me if I eat chicken. Then when I said no, he asked if I eat fish. When I said no to that too, he asked incredulously, “Then what do you eat?” And then tried to tell me he was taking me to a steakhouse for the second date I had absolutely not agreed to. People like him are why I have trust issues when it comes to catering.)

          1. Pip*

            There’s a funny video on YouTube with two South African flight attendants who, during meal time, offer everyone the choice of “Beef or cow?” They offer these to a vegetarian more than once, who tells them she can’t eat either, and one of them says “Well if you can’t eat beef and you can’t eat cow, how can you be alive?” She finally does get a meatless meal.

        3. goddessoftransitory*

          What drives me nuts is when they try to cram-jam every single “special requirement” into a single entree, regardless of the fact that it is pretty much impossible. I get so many orders for a “gluten and dairy free vegan pizza,” and we can do any ONE of those things but not in combination.

          The gluten free crust contains whey powder and egg whites. The regular crust is vegan but with high gluten flours. The vegan cheese is an option, obviously, but it can’t magically convey veganism to the whole thing!

          It gets to the point where I have to tell customers: okay, this is basically dirt, now. You can’t take EVERYTHING out of one thing and still expect a cohesive meal item.

          1. Deborah*

            Someone was asking for a vegetarian, gluten free matzoh-ball soup and the first thing that jumped into my head was “Tea. That would be tea.”

          2. Anna*

            Ya, I sometimes have to deal with the corollary of this, which is when conferences/caterers intentionally try to jam all the food restrictions into One Meal so they don’t have to deal with multiple substitutes or keeping track of specific needs. E.g., they make the standard meal, and then the “special food.” In practice the result consistently tastes awful, does not serve people’s dietary needs, and often *still* does not accommodate things like less common allergens. For exactly the reason you’re saying: there’s just not many types of food left to put in!

            I do wonder sometimes if that impulse is part of why serving like, raw vegetables is so common as a food accommodation at conferences. Like I can almost imagine someone thinking:
            “Okay so some people here are vegan, so no meat. For protein we could use this soy substitute meat-“
            “That substitute uses wheat as a thickener, and some people are allergic to soy”
            “Well maybe not imitation meat then, but at least we have some nut based products that could also-“
            “Nuts are also a major allergen.”
            “Well okay, we can just, not have protein. We could at least offer pasta or-“
            “Most pasta also have gluten, and the ones that don’t are too expensive”
            “Okay. . . we can just give them the salad -“
            “Oh btw the salad dressing also uses wheat thickener”

            (The actual solution would be to bite the bullet and be willing to look more earnestly at which specific food restrictions are present for a given person / group and not try to make a single Food Every Person Who Ever Attends Can Eat. Because trying to accommodate every single possible food restriction in one meal is Sisyphean.)

        4. Clarbar*

          Our family is vegan and has been since before the kids were born. My oldest kid (17) saved up and took a trip to France, Spain, and Morocco with his school’s foreign language classes this summer. He said France and Spain totally understood vegan and he could pretty much always cobble something together, despite not speaking a word of either language. Morocco, on the other hand, the one country he actually spoke some of the language, was an absolute trial. He spent so much time picking salmon and chicken off “vegetarian” meals, or surviving on bread, figs, and melon. On the plus side, it meant he always had meat bribes to make friends with the gazillion street kitties in the cities!

          1. Cyborg Llama Horde*

            I’m glad that Spain has gotten better. When I was there fifteen years ago, “vegetarian” often meant just “with vegetables.” (Thankfully, I am not a vegetarian, and enjoyed the food there very much.)

        5. Andrea*

          I’ve also learned that if they get irritated when I grill them, that’s enough of a reason not to eat their food. If “do you put breadcrumbs in your hamburger patties” is too much of a hassle to answer, actually taking care with their food is going to be too much of a hassle too.

          1. TeaCoziesRUs*

            I’m dairy-free – and often find it’s easier to look for what’s vegan at US restaurants, since most don’t mark allergens on the menu visibly… or they mark everything that has cheese as “has milk” instead of being helpful and saying “These items are dairy free when ordered with no cheese / sour cream.” I’m not sure why some places have milk powder or something in their ground beef??

            It’s been fun educating people in my life why the excellent Italian place can only serve me grilled meat with noodles covered in olive oil (and herbs if I’m lucky… DESPITE asking the chef to play around with herbs if the kitchen is slow). Great Italian places tend to put a Parmesan rind in their red sauces. Delicious!! But dairy. :(

            See also buttermilk in everything from Biscuits to fried chicken and suddenly most American Southern foods are off the menu. *sigh*

            At least I found an EXCELLENT vegan Cinnamon roll recipe!

      2. rebelwithmouseyhair*

        yeah this is my beef with vegan options. They’ll readily not add an ingredient from a salad or pizza, and you end up paying the same price for less food, and the food that’s been eliminated is the protein, which you need to eat every day because your body can’t store it (it gets converted to fat for storage purposes!).

        I recently went to a restaurant where they offered to swap the ham for a poached egg, which in fact went perfectly with the marinated peppers and other delicious ingredients.
        We’ve been back three times in the last couple of weeks, bringing a heap of other friends each time, because people running a business like that deserve to thrive.

  4. circlecitybelle*

    #8–I’m curious: what are “martini races?” I’m picturing people running with full martini glasses and whoever spills or sloshes out the least is the winner. Kind of like “Run for the Rose’ ” is in Louisville during the Kentucky Derby Festival.

    1. Antilles*

      I’m also curious. My assumption was it’s basically just a race to finish your martini as fast as possible similar to a beer chugging contest.

    2. Magenta Sky*

      According to Wikipedia, Martini Racing is a variety of auto racing sponsored by Martini & Rossi.

      I suspect this was something else.

  5. Antilles*

    #1: How? Just…how?

    It’s been years since I did any restaurant/server work, but I can’t imagine at any point serving someone straight lemon juice. Like, even if it was loud and all I hear was “lemonshsh”, I’d assume it was lemonade or at the very least clarify, because that’d be such an oddball request.

    1. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      Bartender had bottle of straight lemon juice or sour mix, but it wasn’t correctly labelled, and the server grabbed that instead of the lemonade? That’s the only thing I can come up with.

    2. NYC Redhead*

      That was mine and I don’t know how it could have happened! Fortunately, I had taken a small sip that I could discreetly spit back. Because it was a business meeting, the waiters did not hang around so I was stuck with it in front of me, untouched.
      (At another meeting at the same place, they brought me the wrong dish which was unfortunately filled with things I really hate. I tried to discreetly say: this isn’t what I ordered, but the response was “This is what you ordered.” The meeting was starting and I couldn’t hold up 15 people from starting so I just said “Oh, okay” and pushed the food around on my plate for 45 minutes.)

      1. CommanderBanana*

        It is truly shocking to me the number of times I’ve been brought things I didn’t order and was told it was what I had ordered (I don’t eat meat, why would I order an entrée with meat?). Restaurant gaslighting is a thing.

        1. Turquoisecow*

          I don’t drink soda or any carbonated beverage so when a server claims that sparkling whatever is what I ordered I know they’re wrong.

        2. Wired Wolf*

          I was with a friend for dinner once at a semi-local Thai restaurant that we both liked. This place had butterfly-pea flower lemonade, and a butterfly-pea flower cocktail. The name of the mixed drink in no way, shape or form contained the word “lemonade”. I don’t drink at all; possible allergy and I just don’t like booze.

          I ordered the lemonade, and the waiter brought the mixed drink (in the same style of glass as the lemonade…hmmm). A sniff test told me what it was, and we flagged the waiter down and I was told that I did order it; all the waiters had tablets, but he would not let me see what was put in to the kitchen. When we went to pay they would not take it off the bill…and much later I realized that not only had I paid for the mixed drink, we had actually paid TWICE (I paid cash, friend put her half on a bank card which allegedly declined at the restaurant–forcing me to cover her half–but a few days later she discovered it had gone through). Neither of us were given receipts so we couldn’t prove anything…suffice to say, that was the last time we ever went to that place.

        3. Rob aka Mediancat*

          I had a server at restaurant insist I’d ordered the chicken quesadilla (when I’m a vegetarian) and get ANGRY when I insisted otherwise. As in, she sounded irritated and when my replacement meal and soda came she slammed them down on the table and stalked off.

    3. Kevin Sours*

      In some places lemonade is… not very sweet. Lemon juice diluted with water and just a touch of sugar. I could see somebody not expecting that reacting the way OP#1 did.

      1. Vio*

        Indeed. Over here lemonade is a fizzy drink that has a very mild lemon taste, while cloudy lemonade is the same but actually tastes of lemons. In some places lemonade isn’t fizzy and is stronger. It’s actually very nice, but not to everybody’s tastes.

      2. Kendra*

        I ordered a lemon soda on a trip to Vienna, Austria once, and it turned out to be lemon juice and seltzer (no sweetener). It actually went well with the Schnitzel and Spaetzle I had for dinner (the acidity cut through the rich flavors nicely), but the first sip was definitely a shock for my American-acclimated palate!

      3. So Tired*

        Sorry, but no. You know when you’re drinking that kind of lemonade and straight lemon juice. I love the kind of lemonade you’ve described and there’s no mistaking it for straight up lemon juice.

        1. But why*

          But why is orange juice (pressed orange) ok, and lemon juice (pressed lemon) not ok? That’s just a matter of taste. I don’t see anything wrong with being served lemon juice. I understand it’s not to everyone’s taste, but I don’t get why it’s considered such an absurdity.

          1. Iris Eyes*

            Because it has much higher acidity, its basically drinking vinegar. The average human isn’t going to go for that.

          2. So Tired*

            …LW didn’t order lemon juice though. People order orange juice. LW ordered a lemonade and was served a glass of lemon juice. That’s extremely not the same thing.

    4. Wintermute*

      reminds me of an old adventure game where you have to get lime juice for a recipe but the bartender will ONLY serve DRINKS– so you need to order a “virgin lime rickey hold the seltzer… no ice”

    5. LuckyClover*

      I’ve been to cafes on the east coast that serve lemon juice usually paired with a small vessel of sugar water to control your personal sugar preferences during tea time. This doesn’t seem to be the case here unless the restaurant forgot the sugar water or the diner was unaware of it being provided on the table.

      1. Annie Pi*

        That is still diluted, though – you make & serve an appropriate mixture of water with a limited amount of lemon juice, and let the diner add sugar to taste. This poster received uncut lemon juice.

    6. Alex*

      This reminds me of the time I went to starbucks and ordered a frappechino, and the barista handed me something that looked very very pale. I took a sip and it had no flavor whatsoever. So I said um, I think…something is mising here? And she kind of got a bit offended and said, well we are out of frappechino mix so I just put some other stuff in a cup. I think it was just milk and ice with like….I don’t know what else in it.

    7. goddessoftransitory*

      I did not get that either! At the least I’d expect a default to the usual “let me ruin a perfectly good glass of ice water with lemon slices.”* Not, “Whatever, fill up a tumbler with straight lemon juice and NOTHING ELSE.”

      *I feel very passionately about this; either be water, or be lemonade. Not some weak lying drink that lies and tastes like a whiny little ghost of an actual beverege.

    8. NotBatman*

      If I had to guess, a language barrier and/or a very loud environment. I once ordered “a glass of tonic water, and also a pinot noir for my husband”… and the bartender came back with one glass. Which, upon sipping, proved to contain both tonic water and red wine. The bar was so loud and crowded it took forever to sort out the mistake. To this day my husband asks if I’m making “the world’s worst cocktail” any time I get out red wine.

  6. The Person from the Resume*

    #14, The Standing Meal seems like a big eff you to someone involved in the ordering.

    Like in-house catering aren’t idiots (I assume). So you insist on soup, you get no spoons. You insist on steak and salmon, you get no knives or forks. In fact, you get no tables at all. Eat with your hands, while standing.

      1. dawbs*

        This reference to my grandfather’s singing habits has made the internet worthwhile today :)
        (My husband develops a twitch when I start on it. Probably because gramps forgot 2/3 of the words so I know fewer than 2/3 of the words)

    1. WantonSeedStitch*

      I figured it was an issue with the furniture being provided by the venue and the catering being provided by an outside company, and no communication between the people dealing with each vendor–but then I saw that the catering company was in-house, and there’s really no excuse!

    2. Keeley Jones, The Independent Woman*

      I had a meal at a conference that was kinda like #14. But we did have utensils, but there were maybe 4 tiny high top cocktail tables for about 250 people. Most food you could just eat but there was carved meat stations. So people took turns rotating on the few tables that were there. It was a shame because I would have ate more because it was amazing but it was such a hassle to eat it. We’re having the conference at the same place next year so we’ll see if history repeats.

      1. MsMaryMary*

        Similarly, I once attended an office Christmas party at the fanciest steakhouse in town. That party also a few wobbly high tops and one or two tables with chairs, while there were full size steaks on the buffet. I just ate the rest of the excellent food, but I think some of the sales guys just gnawed at their steaks cavemen style.

        There was not a second Christmas part at the fancy steakhouse.

        1. Sue*

          I am comforted by the fact that mine was not the only Christmas party like this. I can’t remember the whole menu, but I’m inclined to believe it was more mains than appetizers/finger food. Why do I think this? Because what stands out was no tables save the buffet, drink in one hand and cocktail plate with spaghetti in the other. I’m pretty sure that this was at an establishment meant for parties/eating (banquet space, private room at a restaurant) and whatever I paid for my ticket was far too much.

    3. Princess Sparklepony*

      I was wondering if anyone at that meal was going to eat pudding with their fingers….

      1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

        Gotta love the Priest. Flexible, open minded and did what needed to be done to ensure someone received the sacrament.

        1. profesora anonima*

          Except that canon law requires that the host be made with wheat. No, really, it’s true. It’s a longstanding requirement that was reiterated in 2003 (under Benedict XVI) and again in 2017 under Francis). There are celiac friendly wafers that contain .01% wheat, apparently.

          1. profesora anonima*

            Oops, Benedict XVI wasn’t pope yet, duh. He was just Cardinal Ratzinger at the time. Sorry.

          2. Nonanaon*

            I was WONDERING about the theology of that one, although with the caveat that OP potentially wasn’t Roman Catholic and thus had some additional wiggle room with what could and could not be blessed (I remember a story about an Orthodox Church, albeit I cannot remember which one, where parishioners took turns baking bread for Communion, one congregant baking rasin bread, and the priest proclaiming “This, except for the rasins, is the Body of Christ”)

            1. Chinookwind*

              Catholic and Orthodox theology would have this as a no go (and should be seminary 101 for priests) and would be up there with the quality of the wine to be use (as in only grapes and nothing artificial).

              But I also know we are the only ones with communion, so I suspect that this was another branch of Christianity.

                1. Insert Clever Name Here*

                  I imagine that was typo and was supposed to read “we are not the only ones with communion”

                2. Zanzibar Buck-Buck McFate*

                  I think she means “belief in the real presence.” Lots of Protestants have communion but understand it to be symbolic, not the literal body and blood of Christ.

              1. GoryDetails*

                That was awesome! (Raised Episcopalian, so we did have communion but without *quite* as many rules as the Catholics had; I recall the {gasp} innovative and revolutionary folk masses in which people played guitars in church and we had actual loaves of wheat bread to tear apart instead of the flat styrofoam wafers. But we never had Mexican Wedding Cookies, nor sprinkles, and I really regret that!)

              2. MsSolo (UK)*

                The blog title made me think of how in the medieval period, when host was made by a member of the priest’s household (it was more like bread rolls than wafers, and the common man only had it on the holiest occasions) they occasionally put raw meat inside it so parishioners got that real Flesh feeling in their mouths.

              3. Beancat*

                *LOUD UGLY LAUGHTER*

                Without spoiling the ending for anyone…that ending was amazing. I mean, how else can you handle it?

              4. Rivakonneva*

                Oh My Goodness! I had to clap my hands over my mouth as I laughed so the whole library wouldn’t hear me cackling. I needed that very much today.

                Thank you for sharing it with us.

          3. Richard Hershberger*

            Or in the alternative, the priest was Episcopalian. The Episcopalians have their little ways, but this particular form of legalism typically is not one of them.

            1. Sara without an H*

              I’d bet on this. I used to be an Episcopalian and I can think of several rectors who would have been glad to bless a frito for somebody.

              1. Leia Oregano*

                Yes, my partner’s father is an Episcopal priest, and, while he’d probably be a little confused at first, I’m sure he would love an opportunity to bless someone’s Fritos for communion!

              2. Sedna*

                Episcopalian here and absolutely agreed – some priests I know might be a little befuddled, but they’d consecrate some Fritos so someone can participate in the service.

                1. La Triviata*

                  Episcopalians can be kind of open-minded about rituals. A friend was told, by the priest, that her infant baptism by her hippie aunt in a bucket in the building’s parking lot was legit.

            2. OfOtherWorlds*

              Yeah, I’m with you. If this happened in the US I’m positive that it happened at an Episcopal event not a Catholic one.

              (Outside if the US it might be Anglican, Old Catholic or possibly Lutheran.)

            3. E. Chauvelin*

              That was my guess. In the U.S. at least that’s the context in which I’d expect to hear the term “priest” used to refer to Christian clergy who’s not Catholic or Orthodox. Over the course of the phase of covid where we couldn’t have large gatherings I suspect everybody in my church used something pretty questionable for communion during online church at least once, let alone bread and wine or grape juice that hadn’t been blessed (bit of a muffin and orange juice? Why not?). So I can picture a lot of Protestant clergy being happy to bless something unconventional if needed but I’d expect the other denominations to be called pastors, ministers, or reverends.

          4. Chirpy*

            Good for this priest!

            As a kid, my church had a subscription to some religious “teen” magazine and I still remember the issue that had “Jesus just used the most common foods at the table, so if you want to do communion with your friends at lunch, you can use Mountain Dew and Doritos and it’s totally valid!”

            **(The ELCA believes that anyone can bless the communion, although in practice, most people aren’t comfortable doing it themselves except in emergencies, so honestly I thought the weirder thing was doing communion at a school lunch. But I’ve always loved this interpretation.)

            1. Lorgar*

              I’m tickled pink by the image of a priest trying to reach teenage gamers by holding Mass using Doritos and Mountain Dew.

              1. Anon for this one*

                A youth pastor at my parents’ church, whose theology and politics were both much farther left than most of the congregation, did exactly this when I was in high school. He argued that we should remember Easter at every meal, not just at Communion.

            2. Altoid Daydream*

              Whereas the Catholic church is all, “Jesus used bread, so there will be gluten!!!!”

            3. Sedna*

              There is a great chart out there detailing the various things that can be consecrated for Communion according to one’s beliefs, varying from ingredient and structure purists (red wine and communion wafers) to ingredient and structure radicalists (Mountain Dew and deep dish pizza). Personally I like the vodka-and-Lunchables option.

              1. Chirpy*

                I’ve seen that chart, it’s great.
                The most “exotic” communion I’ve actually participated in used a piña colada wine cooler and hot dog buns. I’ve also had grape kool-aid at least once.

          5. Altoid Daydream*

            For Catholics, sure. But OP didn’t specify which church this was.

            Strictly speaking, Catholic priests can’t hastily bless anything, either. It’s full mass or nothing. If they need to bless more wafers, they have to say a second mass, not just go off to the side and bless some real quick.

            1. OfOtherWorlds*

              That’s interesting. Church of England priests have been allowed to consecrate additional bread and wine by repeating the Words of Institution since 1662.

          6. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

            And true celiac sufferers shouldn’t even have that. I’m just wheat-intolerant and I would be fine with it. I mean, outside of the whole “not that religion” bit.

            1. Lorgar*

              Yeah, I was gonna ask – I thought suffering from celiac meant no wheat whatsoever? Even in small amounts? How does that work with the requirement that there MUST be wheat in the Communion wafer?

              1. constant_craving*

                I imagine the Catholic Church doesn’t care about that because in order to receive communion you’re supposed to believe in transubstantiation which means it wouldn’t contain wheat after it’s blessed.

                1. Generic Username*

                  Not quite – this isn’t the best place to get into all the details, but the Catholic teaching is that the “accidents” of the bread and wine remain after consecration. To accommodate those who are gluten-intolerant, low-gluten wheat-based communion hosts may be used and to accommodate those who can not or should not consume alcohol, mustum may be used. The Church also teaches the those who can not consume even low-gluten hosts validly receive communion by receiving from the chalice only.

                2. Lurker Cat*

                  The Catholic Church absolutely tells you not to take the host if you can’t eat gluten. Unfortunately your only option to receive communion then is the wine, which my parish is still not offering post covid.

              2. Zanzibar Buck-Buck McFate*

                At my church (Orthodox), they have a special small chalice that only ever contains the blood and which is used for people with celiac. (Usually you get a big chalice with both in it, mixed — we don’t separate them the way Catholics do.)

            2. Chocoholic*

              Someone who wishes to receive communion in the Catholic church can receive wine in place of the bread if they can’t have any wheat.

    1. Shirley Keeldar*

      And he took the Fritos, and blessed them, and broke them. And then stomped on them a few times so they’d really be ground up into a weird, radioactive-looking yellows orange dust.

  7. We Don't Work in Oregon*

    #10 – we have a manager who can’t do pizza math. Last time he ordered pizza for the office lunch, he got two large pizzas (one cheese, one meat) for 20 people (mostly men, if that means anything). Yes, it was less than one slice per. We wound up getting extra pizzas ordered and he is no longer allowed to order lunch without having someone else approve it first.

    1. ferrina*

      I’m bad at pizza estimating, so last time I had to order pizza for the group, I told the restaurant how many I had and asked what they recommended. Then added 2 pizzas to that recommendation.

      1. LifeBeforeCorona*

        The last time I ordered pizza I ordered enough for everyone to have at least 2-3 slices. Except that a few people invited other people so there was twice as many people but I wasn’t told that before I ordered, everyone got one slice. I got none.

      2. Slow Gin Lizz*

        There’s an astonishingly not-small number of people who are bad at pizza estimating. Good for you for realizing you’re one of them and trying to overcome this. :-)

      3. pizzawizard*

        I am in charge of ordering pizza. What I do is 4 slices per person (so one 12 slice pizza per 3 people) and then add 2 more to the order to account for people wandering past and grabbing a slice. Make the extra 2 cheese. Everyone defaults to cheese even if it isn’t their favourite, anyone who doesn’t like one of the other flavours plus vegetarians too.

        Usually I end up with about one pizza worth of slices left over (which anyone who wanted could take home). But the one time my manager told me to order 1 less because we always had leftovers we ran out. Now I get to order as much as I want.

    2. Daisy-dog*

      There’s a pizza calculator website!

      Overall, I say aim for 4 slices/attendee. That can provide enough for everyone to have choices and a little leftover. Usually I need 3 standard slices for to count as a meal. If you’re not going to provide at least 3 (and no salad or cheesy bread or dessert), don’t advertise it as a meal. It’s a treat. Some may still need to round out their lunch.

        1. Jay (no, the other one)*

          I did that one year for my kid’s Halloween party – the first year she invited boys. I think they were 12 or 13 years old and there were about ten kids total with three or four boys. I ordered six or seven pizzas. They ate ONE. I had forgotten to account for the fact that it was Halloween and they ate a lot of candy before they even got to the pizza…

        2. goddessoftransitory*

          When people ask me how much to get for “kids,” my first question is always “how old?” A four year old and a fifteen year old are both kids, but it’s the difference between a go kart and a nitro boosted Tokyo Drift race car.

      1. David*

        Huh, I had never heard of such a thing as a “standard slice”. I’m kind of skeptical how useful an idea it is, honestly… pizzas vary quite a bit in size and density (and how they’re sliced), so the number of slices that constitute an average person’s meal will depend on the pizza. E.g. for something like a thick Sicilian pizza or an extra-large NY style, many people would barely be able to stomach more than 2 slices (assuming the common 8 slices/pie), whereas a traditional margherita pizza which might be cut in 4 or 6 slices could be polished off entirely by one person.

        1. Satan's Panties*

          Good point. Where I’m at, there’s a place that sells Sicilian by the slice, another place that does that odd cut where the slices are half skinny, half normal, and one that does regular eight-slice rounds. Come to think of it, the Sicilian is the most popular choice. People have a clear idea of how many slices they want, so you order that amount, plus two or three.

        2. Daisy-dog*

          I was referring to a Pizza Hut/chain type place that has precise standardizations of their portions and slicing methods. (Sometimes there are slightly bigger slices and slightly smaller slices, but those balance out if you get 1 of each.) I guess I should have specified, but I thought it explicitly meant not NY-style. Apparently your workplaces get you more interesting pizzas than mine usually do!

    3. Jack Russell Terrier*

      And please make sure to have enough veg pizza so vegetarians and omnivores can fill the it plates with plain etc pizza to their heart’s content. I’ve been left with only pepperoni and no plain.

      1. Nobby Nobbs*

        The number of people who apparently think omnivores turn into obligate carnivores the moment the pizza boxes arrive…

      2. DataSci*

        Yep. Half the pizzas should be plain cheese. Half the rest, if you have four or more pies, should be veggie. So:

        1 cheese
        1 cheese, 1 pepperoni
        2 cheese, 1 pepperoni
        2 cheese, 1 pepperoni, 1 veggie

        Etc. Adjust for more cheese/veggie as needed of you know your audience, or add a no-cheese if you know it’s needed. But the basic formula works. Twenty pizzas? Ten cheese, five veggie, five some sort of meat. Pepperoni is a good default there. Cheese may not be everyone’s first choice but it’s safe.

    4. Suz*

      I’m bad at pizza math too. The last time I ordered for a large group, we had so much extra everyone got to take a whole pizza home afterwards

    5. goddessoftransitory*

      Ohhhh, God. I shall now sermonize at length.

      I get that many people are kind of “size blind” when it comes to mentally dividing up large amounts of food. Every place has its own sizing, its own number of slices each pie’s cut into, and so on. And different gatherings have different needs: a kid’s birthday party isn’t a conference isn’t a rehearsal dinner.

      When people call up in a panic trying to order for X amount of people, I can help them! It’s what I do all day, every working day! I can help estimate totals, how many kids are under four (one small) and over ten (you want at least one large) and all the permutations in between. All I ask is: when you ask and I answer, at least CONSIDER what I recommend.

      I’ve had people order three larges for five people and one large for twelve. Cut corners on kids’ parties until to the best of my reckoning each hungry seven year old is getting half a slice. With over ordering, at least at worst you end up with leftovers, but with underordering it’s a “hungry disgruntled people” at best, and “frantic reordering while they all glare at you and told there’s a forty five minute wait because this is the dinner rush” at worst.

    6. goddessoftransitory*

      Ah, that guy. I have taken that guy’s order about ten thousand times and he never learns. Usually end up talking to him again as said order is on its way and he is audibly turning pale upon hearing that another order is going to take another forty minutes.

    7. nonprofit llama groomer*

      I worked at a volunteer event a couple of weeks ago. The organizers ordered plenty of pizza for everyone as long as you wanted pepperoni pizza. They ordered one cheese pizza for hundreds of volunteers. I happened to hear the guy who ordered proudly tell the one vegetarian he knew that he’d ordered a cheese pizza for her. I don’t love pepperoni pizza but I’m not a vegetarian and made sure to take a couple of slices of pepperoni. I know this one lady couldn’t have been the only vegetarian amongst the volunteers. The event was sponsored by a local law enforcement agency in the South, and the organizer was a super muscular dude.

  8. The Meat Embezzler*

    Oh gosh, for #15 I can’t help but think of the movie “Heavyweights”.

    Ben Stiller plays a *tremendous* jerk running a weight loss camp for kids. During one scene he gets on the PA and says:


      1. Keeley Jones, The Independent Woman*

        I *think* it’s Disney+ if you have that. It’s a classic in my family, and my sister recently showed it to my 9 year old who LOVED it.

    1. nonprofit llama groomer*

      That was the one I was coming to comment on. That one actually made me rage instead of laugh.

      They told the employees NOT TO PACK LUNCH that day. Ugh

      1. goddessoftransitory*

        You want the Bastille stormed? Because THAT’S how you get the Bastille stormed!

        1. Godbert*

          OP from #15 here, and the storming did come: Shortly after this incident, the hospital across town started hiring staff for a brand-new wing they’d just built. Tons of nurses and techs applied from our hospital, and someone over at the other hospital had their brain plugged in and figured out that they could hire a big group of people who already knew each other and were already used to working together. Pretty much everyone who applied from our hospital got hired for the new wing.

          Revenge was not only swift, but orchestrated: 20% of the nursing staff put in their two weeks’ notice on the same day. Another 13% of the nursing staff trickled in notices over the next couple weeks. Fully one-third of the staff gone in less than a month.

          It was kind of wild working there for a while after they left (I’m not a nurse), but I absolutely did not blame any of them.

          1. Shiba Dad*

            FAFO is real. I’m sure the powers that be at the hospital are oblivious to the reasons why all these people left.

  9. I've fallen for this, never again*

    When someone tells you not to bring your own food from home, there will be plenty of food for everyone… please don’t believe them. The worst that happens is that you have a meal you can eat later.

    1. ceiswyn*

      Hah, yes. I learned that one the hard way.

      We were told that the morning after our work Christmas do, there’d be a hot breakfast at work. Yay!

      I went for my usual morning swim, came in hungry, and discovered that the hot breakfast consisted of foil-wrapped bacon rolls and sausage rolls. I asked where the vegetarian option was and received an incomprehending stare.

      I am a bit grumpy when I’ve swim 1km, driven for an hour, and have no way to eat (the closest shop was a fifteen minute walk away). That may or may not be why they didn’t make that mistake again.

      1. Bookmark*

        There are scientific studies showing that swimming makes you hungrier than other forms of exercise for comparable levels of effort. I know when I get out of the water I basically want to eat everything in sight. I would have been way more than a bit grumpy in your shoes.

        1. Wendy Darling*

          I have never eaten more in my life than when I was a teen having a growth spurt and also on the swim team.

    2. Just Another Zebra*

      Ugh, yes.

      We had a vendor stop in who was going to bring us “a full lunch a catch up”. He brought a box of donuts and stayed 5 minutes. I don’t normally order out, but I rage-at Arby’s that day.

      1. Richard Hershberger*

        That is odd behavior in a vendor, where bribery for face time is the usual course.

    3. Slow Gin Lizz*

      Yeah, I learned that one day at work when they promised us pizza and ordered two small pizzas for 15 people. I got one small slice and the people who were doing the work that we were supposedly celebrating got none because they were doing the work when the pizza arrived. I felt terrible for them. I think someone ordered them separate lunches later but jeez, that was a major pizza fail.

    4. Richard Hershberger*

      I learned decades back to keep an emergency lunch in my desk. Shelf-stable soup in a microwavable container is a good bet.

      1. DataSci*

        Tasty Bites! Shelf stable Indian food, can be eaten cold in a pinch. They were my “shelter in place earthquake food” when I lived in California. Never needed them for that purpose but they’re tasty enough, if you add hot sauce.

    5. dawbs*

      We hired someone new at my work recently and first day there was a “crap my lunch failed” and newbie didn’t have time to go elsewhere…
      Someone pointed her to my office (we hadn’t been introduced yet) because everyone knows “if you’re in dire need, get into dawbs’ desk; she’d be fine with it”

      I had easymac, granola, and soup–because you gotta have some options

      1. Wired Wolf*

        I always have stuff like that stashed in my desk. It started when I was in at 6AM and didn’t have time to actually eat something at home, I then discovered that a certain supervisor likes to delay/deny breaks because power so I continued hoarding granola bars for the cashiers.

      2. ravenous*

        This will identify me to anyone who works in my office, but I dislike buying lunch (so expensive and time consuming!) and while my kitchen was being redone and I had no refrigerator, I had a box labeled Apocalypse Provisions under my desk full of shelf-stable food. Soups, cup noodles, EasyMac, you name it. Not the healthiest few weeks, but I got through it… I still try to keep a couple things in case I forget to bring a lunch with me.

    6. Budgie Buddy*

      I don’t know why this is true but it is. It’s like when people brag about how beloved their dish is – you know it will be awful.

    7. NotBatman*

      I just came from a 10-hour training listed as “lunch provided” with “gluten-free and vegan options.” Lunch was provided, but the vegan option was… a mozzarella sandwich. It was listed as non-dairy on the menu, and (I confirmed) it was real mozzarella. Every other food item — salads, sides, desserts, other entrees — had dairy, which I’m allergic to. Thank goodness my coworker had pretzels in her purse, or I might’ve resorted to chewing the wallpaper. Last time I leave home without my own purse pretzels.

  10. The Editor-in-Chief*

    I attend a major conference in Vegas every year. Every year I request a kosher meal – which they could easily do by ordering from one of the (many!) kosher restaurants in town. Or the kosher kitchen which most of the venues have.

    At the big fancy luncheon, everyone gets bread and starters, a lovely chicken or beef meal with vegetables and potatoes all beautifully plated, and then a decadent cheesecake or some other dessert.

    I get a Meal Mart TV dinner and /nothing else/ – which is not only crap, but makes all my colleagues think Jews can’t eat decent food.

    1. Smurfette*

      It’s depressing, isn’t it?!?

      I have a couple of kosher catering mishaps to share as well.

      1. My SIL’s ex-husband was a cinematographer and had a day trip for a work project. He requested kosher food, sent pictures of the hechsherim (symbols used by kosher authorities to mark kosher food) so that they knew what to look for. The lady at the facility was super enthusiastic and helpful.

      On the day of the trip, lunchtime arrived and he asked for his meal. She brought out a plate containing cheese and cold meat rolls. He must have looked hesitant because she explained where she’d bought everything and even showed him the packaging… it was indeed all kosher.

      He was fairly new to keeping kosher and I don’t think he made this mistake again.

      2. I had a work function (end of year party) where the food was all finger food. The organiser had very kindly ordered me a kosher mini platter – but they (or the kosher caterer) had missed the information that I’m a vegetarian. It was chicken. I felt so bad about handing it to one of my colleagues and asking them to eat it.

      3. At another work event (a conference in another city that I attended with many colleagues) I asked our work admin who was doing all the bookings to make sure there would be kosher meals for me. She said “no problem” – yeah, no.

      On the first day of the conference there was no food for me to eat because the organisers hadn’t received the communication. For a full day I had fruit, sweets, and coffee. The organisers felt terrible but there wasn’t anything they could do (there were no kosher food places anywhere close by). The 2nd day I ended up eating the vegan meal (no lettuce) because by then I was getting really hungry. I can’t remember what happened on the third day.

      Then we went as a team for a (planned) restaurant meal. I asked the admin about my kosher meal… by this time I was a little concerned. She said “oh right! The restaurant said they could do that for you – you just need to explain it to them”. Facepalm. I think I ate a piece of unseasoned baked fish, double wrapped in tinfoil. And some raw vegetables.

      Since then I’ve insisted they don’t order for me – I’d rather eat beforehand or take a wrapped bagel or something. It’s less hassle and I know I’ll actually get something to eat.

      1. Anonymous badger*

        Can you explain #1 for someone unfamiliar with Kosher? As written it sounds like he got a Kosher meal so it’s unclear what his mistake was.

        1. kendall^2*

          One of the constraints is that all processed foods have kosher certification. One of the biblically mandated constraints is no dairy and meat products together (and in practice, there is a wait period after meat (and really hard cheeses, but that is less observed). So a plate of kosher cheese + kosher meat = fail.

  11. Snarkus Aurelius*

    #15 I know what happened.

    A C suite full of men, who don’t see the invisible work of event planning, each thought someone else was going to figure out the logistics and charge the company card.

    I had a boss like this who once admitted,”But when I go to meetings the projector is set up, lunch is there with my other, and the handouts are collated and stapled. How come it happened then, but my own staff doesn’t do it?” Answer: because you say yes to hosting the meeting and you don’t tell anyone else!

    1. A Girl Named Fred*

      Thank you for the flashback to all the times I’ve been found at 3pm and told some variation of, “Oh, we’re hosting 30 people for a lunch meeting tomorrow and need to cater food, I forgot to tell you. Can you sort that out? Thanks!”

      1. LifeBeforeCorona*

        I once got an email from another site telling me that 35 people would be coming for lunch the next day. Two hours later it was recalled and canceled which was a good thing because I was salty enough about the lack of notice to serve peanut butter sandwiches.

      2. goddessoftransitory*

        Ah yes. Quite often the panicking intern who’s talking to me also has not been allowed access to the company card and suddenly has to put three hundred bucks of lunch on her own.

    2. Industry Behemoth*

      And thanks for reminding me why I’m glad to be out of the big corporate office setting. Amazing how many professionals, both seniors and mid-levels who should’ve known better, didn’t understand that you can’t order lunch delivered for 10 or 20 people on half an hour’s notice.

      Not from a nearby restaurant, and not even from our in-house cafeteria.

      1. Impending Heat Dome*

        I will say that, as much as I am not a fan of their founder, and they’re not my preferred chain delivery pizza either, but Papa John’s came through in the clutch for us a few years ago.

        Every year we have a White Elephant exchange that has, over the years, grown to include 50-60 people. We block out two hours on the calendar and it’s a great time. Lunch is catered and the arrangements made months in advance, as one does for catering for a large group. The year this happened, we’d arranged to have Chipotle cater.

        The event was scheduled to have food served at noon, and at NINE IN THE MORNING THAT DAY, Chipotle called up and said they wouldn’t be able to cater the event, sorry. No restitution, no alternatives suggested, just canceled. Unbelievable. Needless to say, the organizing team was in a tough spot. Who the hell can deliver food for 60+ people with 3 hours of notice, also with gluten-free options? We all know what a big ask that is. But PJ’s did it. We had 30 pizzas, salads and sides delivered right on time.

        We will always think fondly of Papa John’s and poorly of Chipotle for their respective performances on that day. I don’t know if Chipotle really understands that their catering fail is common knowledge at my employer (prominent national retailer) and has probably cost them a LOT of catering opportunities since then, but oh well. Pass the pizza.

        1. JustaTech*

          We had a similar experience at work a few years ago except that our usually very reliable caterers (the folks running a soup shop across the street) completely forgot about our order and we only found out when someone called and said “Hey, you were supposed to be here 10 minutes ago, what gives?” “Huh? What?”

          Our amazing admin managed to magic up some Dominos (meh) and while we were effusive in our praise for her (not even Costco could have done it that fast) we were all still irritated and the pizza was barely OK.

    3. Love to WFH*

      After a layoff, some outside folks were brought in for a 1/2 day meeting, starting at 9am. After about 15 minutes, the CEO looked around in an irritated way and asked why there wasn’t any coffee or snacks.

      Long silence.

      Then I said, “Susan used to do that, and she’s been laid off.”

      Much longer silence.

      After the meeting, a coworker came over and gave me a big hug.

      1. nonprofit llama groomer*

        You win all the things. Your CEO was an idiot. Bet he got a raise during/after all the layoffs.

  12. Phony Genius*

    On #16, properly made key lime pie should not be green. It should be beige or something similar.

    1. starsaphire*

      A shocking number of people put green food coloring into lime pies because they think lime = bright green.

      1. Garrett*

        It’s the same thing with cheddar cheese. It’s not really that fluorescent orange color; that’s due to added coloring.

          1. I AM a Lawyer*

            I’m in the US and had a roommate from Australia. After her first trip to the grocery store, she said, “the cheese… why is it ORANGE?” I had no answer for her why we feel the need to dye it.

            1. Orv*

              I had a similar reaction when I went grocery shopping during a trip in New Zealand, checked all the refrigerator cases for eggs, and was about to give up before discovering that there they just set them out on a shelf at room temperature!

      2. MigraineMonth*

        When I was at college, the food service tried way too hard to be “educational”. For example, they’d put little stands on each table encouraging us to exercise outside, such as by taking a walk on the beach… in the middle of a Minnesota winter.

        The strangest week was when they decided to encourage us to eat a “healthy rainbow of food”… by choosing one color for each day. Yes, we had a day when everything was green, including the cupcakes. Were they zucchini bread, lime or mint? No, just vanilla cupcakes with green food coloring. (Though one of my friends was suggestible and claimed they tasted mint.)

    2. NerdyPrettyThings*

      I would like like to know what time of year this event was held, because the only reason for “all green” to even be an option on the catering menu is if it was mid-March.

      1. Bosslady*

        Oh My Gosh
        Op from #16 here- this conference is always in March or April (this was at least 10 years ago so can’t actually remember) but this could totally be the reason! Ha!
        Still nothing was remotely Irish. It was just totally random green foods. I don’t even remember any protein at all.
        Love the whole conversation above about key lime pie color.

      2. goddessoftransitory*

        Or you are training at the Boston Cooking School in the 1890s.

        The book Perfection Salad is full of stories about the craze for “matching” lunches and dinners where all the dishes are dyed and shaped within an inch of their lives!

  13. Amber Rose*

    Oh man, that reminds me. Generally speaking there were no issues at the conference I attended this past January, except that lunch on day two had at least one soup and a fancy pudding for dessert, and there were exactly no spoons. Three huge plate and cutlery stations, with zero spoons at any of them. I ate my meal as best I could with a fork.

    I did not even attempt to join in on breakfast, because while they set up properly at lunch, I noticed that breakfast had no tables. I hate eating standing up.

      1. BubbleTea*

        If I’m going to spend the day at a conference, my breakfast had better contain calories. You can easily walk multiple miles at those things.

        1. MigraineMonth*

          I went to a conference in a U-shaped building, so the fastest way from one end to the other was to walk outside and across a little bridge over the artificial stream.

          Unfortunately, a red-winged blackbird had put its nest right next to the bridge and dive-bombed any conference attendees who made the attempt.

  14. Bitsy*

    I worked overseas for awhile, for an organization that would put a lot of money and effort into catering, but sometimes missed the mark. I suspected that some of their “recipes” were based on just seeing a picture of something, or reading the name of something, and then riffing on that.

    At a reception there was a tray of little desserts including what looked like little key lime pies — pastry shell, cream filling, a bit of lime zest. Bit into it and it was a mouthful of pure sour cream.

    What looked like a chocolate cupcake with a big, swirly mound of what looked like tasty peanut butter frosting. Bit into it and it was pure peanut butter.

    The menu listed “egg rolls.” They looked like egg rolls. Bit into them, and found they were filled with two whole hard boiled eggs.

    1. jane's nemesis*

      This is truly incredible, and I love it. Though I’m sorry you had to take those bites in order to be able to report back!

      1. PhyllisB*

        This reminds me of an Archie comic book. (This was in the 60’s.) Veronica, the Spoiled Rich Girl decides to make a sponge cake for Archie. Veronica asks him how it is after he takes a bite. He gasps out that it’s great. Veronica says, “No it isn’t, it’s terrible!! The grocer must have sent the wrong kind of sponges!!”

    2. SnappinTerrapin*

      If only the eggs had been wrapped in sausage, instead of a bread wrapper. Scotch eggs are delicious and filling.

    3. lin*

      Ohhhh you made me think of a conference catering fail. To be fair, I don’t believe this was a fail on the part of the caterer or the organizers. It was a failure of expectation, or maybe cultural understanding, on my part.

      It was just after I moved to the southern US; big downtown hotel and conference center; fancy nibbles in the form of carving station, pasta line, passed apps. I grabbed what looked like a delectable little tomato tart with a mozzarella cheese round melted on top.

      Nope. It was mayonnaise. Ewwwwwwww. I hate mayonnaise. Also, THAT MUCH mayonnaise. That poor pastry shell and roasted tomato slice…

  15. JP*

    The cancelled hospital lunch reminds me of when I was working during winter break on a line in a warehouse. It was something dumb like unboxing bottles of mouthwash, affixing a promotional item to the bottle, then packing it back up in new boxes. Management told us they’d order pizza for us one day. The go to order the pizzas twenty minutes before lunch time and learn you can’t just order dozens of pizzas without giving the pizzeria notice. So no lunch. At all. A lot of people hadn’t packed lunch because they were expecting pizza. They were given the option of either a few extra minutes to their lunch break to drive somewhere and buy lunch, or they could leave half an hour earlier than normal quitting time to go home for…early dinner or something I don’t even know. This warehouse wasn’t really located near any convenient, cheap food options so the people who left to buy lunch were a little late getting back and got in trouble. It was infuriating.

    1. Snarkus Aurelius*

      There was a great Miss Manners column, from so long ago that I can’t find it, that asked this question: how do you respond when a workplace “reward” isn’t one? Here was the situation:

      Management “rewarded” the office with an reservation at a fancy restaurant and additional 30 minutes for lunch.

      *LW only had one hour for lunch to begin with.
      *Restaurant was an hour drive round trip.
      *Restaurant was a sit down place.
      *Restaurant was very pricey, but management was clear they weren’t paying. They were only making the reservation.
      *LW was a lower paid employee as were the other invitees.

      MM had a great response: no one utilize what is clearly not a gift or reward. Just don’t go and politely say why, if asked. What management does when they see no one showed up will tell you how they really feel.

  16. LifeBeforeCorona*

    The main takeaway from all these stories is: If your empoyer tells you not to bring a lunch because they will be feeding you, BRING a lunch and pack an extra one for a friend.

    1. Vio*

      If in doubt I always bring a lunch.
      Best case scenario: it goes in the fridge/freezer for another day or makes a snack later.
      Worst case scenario: lunch. Pretty good for a worst case!

      1. Sharpie*

        (The following story is the opposite of a work food fail)

        This! Working at a warehouse, we’d get our deliveries in forty-foot containers, – front to back, floor to ceiling boxes that had to be hand-balled off.

        We’d had a whole change of management and the new bosses (good guys!) came down to help us with the work. Below their paygrade but they wanted to see what the grassroots work was like so they could change things that needed changing.

        Anyway, we started unloading at nine, finished by about eleven, half-eleven, something like that. And got an extended lunch while they ordered in pizza all round – there was plenty, too. The lunch I’d brought with me just stayed overnight in the fridge and I had it the next day. I’d have brought a lunch even if I’d known they were going to spring for pizza, too.

  17. Charleston Girlie*

    I would love to know if the Charleston Passover one was held at the College of Charleston! The college has a kosher dining hall, so I’m wondering if they got the pastries from there and thought they would be kosher for Passover since they were made in a kosher kitchen xD

    1. The Editor-in-Chief*

      A kosher dining hall wouldn’t have been making pastries during Passover – it’s not kosher!

      1. Charleston Girlie*

        It pulled double duty as the kosher and vegetarian dining hall, so they might have still made some bready things for the veggie students during Passover. It was just a guess!

        1. ceiswyn*

          If they made pastries – which involve leavened dough – in there during Passover, then they made the kitchen non-kosher.

        2. AvonLady Barksdale*

          Then it would have become un-Kosher and they’d have to start alllll over again. :) A reasonable guess! But it’s for this reason that I avoid traveling during Passover as much as I can unless I’m going to NYC or to a place where I have a lot of friends/acquaintances who wouldn’t mind a dinner guest. So far I’ve been lucky. Though I did have to go to Greenville, NC for something during Passover and I brought my own food because we couldn’t be accommodated (which was, frankly, incorrect, but that’s a whole story).

    2. fhqwhgads*

      I’m guessing what actually happened is they went to a regular grocery store that has a kosher section. My experience is during passover there’s always a table nearby with all the factory-made kosher-except-during-Passover stuff for sale on clearance. Or not even in a kosher section, just went to a regular store and looked for premade stuff with a K on the label and called it a day.

    3. Savoury Creampuff*

      OP here! Nope, not at College of Charleston, just a hotel.

      I think they just did it on their own. I certainly didn’t request KFP food, and of 300 people, I only saw one other guy with matzah.

  18. Anon today*

    Worked with an admin that was responsible for all department catering. Messed up every time. Consultant with celiac, orders pasta for lunch. Large group lunch with many people that don’t eat pork, orders almost all sausage and pepperoni pizzas. Organizes potluck and asks about allergies but doesn’t label anything. I was glad she left.

    1. Vio*

      Wonder if they just didn’t want to have that responsibility and so were deliberately bad at it? Of course it’s equally possible they were just naturally awful.

  19. Scarlet Ribbons in her Hair*

    #15 The Cancelled Lunch reminds me of the time I was a temp at a company where the secretarial staff had to punch in and out and were given only a half hour for lunch. (As I was an employee of the temp agency, I did not have to punch in and out, and I was able to take one hour for lunch.) They were required to go to a fast food restaurant on their lunch half hour to pick up lunch for their supervisors. If this meant that they took an extra minute or two for lunch, the minute or two was deducted from their paychecks.

    One day, it was an executive’s last day, and he announced that he wanted to treat the entire secretarial staff (plus me) to lunch. We were told to meet him at a restaurant. We drove there and waited and waited for him, but he never showed up. Eventually, we all went to a fast food restaurant. The secretarial staff wound up taking well over half an hour for lunch. When we got back to the office and saw him and asked him why he didn’t show up, he said that he had been joking. He was surprised that none of us had figured out that he was joking.

    The secretarial staff took a big hit in the pocketbook after being docked for having taken more than a half hour for lunch that day.

    1. The Meat Embezzler*

      Mannnnnnnn I hope that guy hits his toe on the corner of his bed really hard in the future. What a jerk!

    2. CommanderBanana*

      Requiring people to work over an unpaid break is literally illegal, right? If you’re required to go pick up lunch for your supervisors, that’s work.

      I hope that executive’s collars are always too tight.

      1. Slow Gin Lizz*

        All I can think of is that this was ages ago when this kind of thing was still legal. AH-erly for sure, but legal.

        1. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

          It was probably illegal then, too. Lots of execs don’t know basic labor law.

          1. Scarlet Ribbons in her Hair*

            This took place in 1972 (maybe a year or two earlier). It’s true that lots of execs don’t know basic law, but unfortunately, the secretarial staff didn’t know it either. The secretaries probably figured that if they complained, they would lose their jobs and get a bad reference. Back then, references were very important. Companies did not merely confirm the dates of employ and job titles and duties. TPTB were required to say what they liked or disliked about former employees, and it was very common for them to lie and say nasty things about a former employee out of malice.

            1. Slow Gin Lizz*

              Gross. And back then women’s job prospects were rather limited (or so I’ve been told) so this AH at your job was not only being a total AH but also being a total sexist AH making a sexist power play UGH.

    3. Turtlewings*

      Oh, this makes me see red. And THIS part — “They were required to go to a fast food restaurant on their lunch half hour to pick up lunch for their supervisors. If this meant that they took an extra minute or two for lunch, the minute or two was deducted from their paychecks.” — THIS part makes me see red with black sparkles. The “joke” lunch was horrific, but at least it only happened once, instead of every day!!

      1. Dust Bunny*

        Yeah, I thought I’d read this wrong: So they had to spend their off-the-clock time . . . working?

        F that.

    4. goddessoftransitory*

      WTAF? Those would be the last words he ever spoke because he’d be busy choking on a throatful of his own blood if he tried that with me! I cannot believe they didn’t walk out and pull a full Milton at the end of Office Space.

    5. stratospherica*

      Ohhhhhhh my god. This is why I could never be a secretary/assistant because if someone did this to me I’d be tempted to make sure more than just their employment contract was terminated.

    6. Emotional support capybara (he/him)*

      I hope someone flushes every scrap of toilet paper in his house down his toilet at once and gives his kids drums for Christmas.

  20. Third or Nothing!*

    #18 – the sad tofu: I am having a hard time wrapping my mind around the sheer laziness and incompetence of the caterers on that one. Tacos are so easy to make vegetarian! Every single taqueria I’ve been to has at least one or two vegetarian options.

    1. RedinSC*

      At least cook up the tofu with some packaged taco seasoning and have it out there for the vegetarian option! holy cats!

  21. ChaoticNeutral*

    I had a feeling many of these would be related to folks with food restrictions. As someone who has been vegetarian since I was a teenager I have my fair share of stories as well. My refrain is always: if you wouldn’t be happy to have this as your main course, don’t serve it to me. It’s like those in charge of the food forget that vegans/vegetarians need protein too! My favorite recent example was an internal work conference with a buffet. The vegetarian option, as far as I could tell, was plain quinoa and a beet salad. I went up to an organizer and asked what the vegetarian main was/could I be served one and she brightly said “oh, didn’t you see the beet salad?!” Beet salad, for an all day (12+ hour) event. Like some of the stories mentioned, I’ve recently started to bring my own (protein rich) snacks to events :)

      1. Grace Poole*

        Once on a girls’ trip, my sister confirmed with a highly-recommended restaurant that there would be vegetarian options. The person on the phone assured her that the chef made “wonderful” vegetarian food. What was she served? A lump of all of the side dishes: mashed potatoes, roasted veggies, some kind of pasta, some kind of rice.

    1. Slothy*

      The other problem is that caterers try to have the ‘regular’ options and then one special option that covers all food restrictions. So when you take into account vegetarians (no meat/fish), vegans (no eggs/dairy/honey/etc.), celiac/GF (no wheat/gluten), and major allergies (no nuts), it leaves a pile of raw ingredients masquerading as a meal. Case in point: plain quinoa and beet salad. Nobody gets a decent meal but the caterers have technically addressed all of the restrictions in one go. I once got a bowl of plain barley as the veggie main at a wedding.

  22. Spiders Everywhere*

    One time, when I was working at the kind of tech company that provides dinner to help encourage people to work way too many hours, we moved into a fancy new campus. Previously dinner had been sourced from local restaurants, but now we had on-site catering. Unfortunately, that was still getting set up, so for a while all they had was sandwiches, and whatever chef they were overpaying clearly had no idea how to make a vegetarian sandwich. I spent two weeks choking down alternately weird sweet pear sandwiches and whole, undercooked and slightly gritty portobello cap sandwiches. It’s been almost two decades and the taste of those two sandwiches is still burned into my mind.

    1. goddessoftransitory*

      Pear sandwiches?? I mean, I can see one as a panini with brie and a balsamic reduction or something, but I have the feeling that was not what was on offer.

      1. Spiders Everywhere*

        See now that actually sounds good, but no, the filling really was mostly just big soft chunks of pear. It was a surreal transitional period, notable also for the time I got trapped in a stairwell that you could enter but not exit without one of the new keycards.

  23. PDB*

    I thought I might post about the other side. When I worked at NBC in the 80s when it was part of RCA we worked on Thanksgiving and Christmas because people watch TV every day. But NBC would serve a full, traditional catered dinner on both days. Turkey, ham, sides, the works but no alcohol.
    No complaints about it.

    1. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

      Back in the early 1970s, I worked in a gas station as a pump attendant. Our boss – who we LOVED – did the same thing for us on Thanksgiving and Christmas.

      He asked all of us to work 2 hours but the party was so damn good, that we all spent a lot more time there.

    2. PDB*

      And for those of you lamenting the poor caterers, they all got several hundred in tips because we were on TRIPLE time.

  24. Bumblebee Mask*

    When I first started at my previous job we had an annual employee appreciation event, always catered by a local barbecue place. I’m not sure how long the event had been going on, however apparently I was the first person ever to suggest that perhaps vegetarians and vegans would like options other than the “sides” that go along with barbecue – cole slaw, mac & cheese, bread and beans (which since this is Texas means beans with bacon).

    1. CommanderBanana*

      I don’t eat meat and I can happily make a meal out of BBQ sides – BUT NOT IF EVERY SINGLE *($*%ING SIDE HAS MEAT IN IT.

      1. Dust Bunny*

        The cole slaw and mac don’t, although they still obviously have either eggs or dairy, and my favorite BBQ place does a mean baked potato with as many fixings as you want (on the side, if you wish). I don’t know where they get their potatoes but they are epic. That’s the one place I know where you do order a potato as an entree.

        1. ceiswyn*

          Well… it depends whether the cheese in the mac and cheese was made with rennet. Not all cheese are vegetarian. Which is why I sigh deeply when I see a ‘vegetarian’ option that’s made with parmesan cheese.

      2. Dawn*

        This was a school I worked at once. It was a small school for boys with emotional disabilities, so graduation was a big deal and catered … and every single item save the plain green salad had some form of meat in it. Some of the sides it seemed truly creative to be able to add meat to them. I worked there for years, and it didn’t change. Finally, I started bringing my own lunch, which got me astonished, “But lunch is provided!” comments. Not for me, it wasn’t!

    2. Era*

      Ah, yes the Texas vegetarian barbecue experience. In my experience, both the beans and the green beans are suspect. If you’re lucky you get to add creamed corn and a nice peach cobbler dessert to the mix. And barbecue sauce itself is usually vegetarian-friendly so at least you can spice up the bread.

      I was home for my father’s workplace’s employee picnic last fall, and the options had not improved in the slightest! I think I made a cheese sandwich out of hamburger buns, ate a bag of chips, and considered myself lucky I wasn’t vegan. Also that my workplaces as an adult have all been much better about giving options.

      1. CommanderBanana*

        I absolutely love collard greens, and there is one place here that makes them with turkey neck instead of ham hock (I will eat poultry) so I usually end up there.

  25. Ms. Coffee*

    The all-potato meal has me channeling my inner Mr. Collins from Pride and Prejudice. “What excellent boiled potatoes! It is many years since I’ve had such an exemplary vegetable.”

    1. word nerd*

      Haha, now I want to know if everyone has an inner Mr. Collins. I mean, every time you rehearse saying something ahead of time, right?? I also feel like you could upgrade the all-potato meal in your mind to some of gourmet potatoes-presented-in-three-ways, kind of like when I went to a fancy Japanese tofu restaurant where I got multiple courses of tofu presented to me in all sorts of fascinating ways! …Or not. :)

  26. ConstantlyComic*

    Dunno if anyone wants to hear from the other end of the spectrum, but my workplace has a big all-staff training day twice a year, and the food is always great. This is, admittedly, because we do a breakfast potluck and the people organizing it are very good at keeping up with allergies and dietary restrictions, as well as who’s already signed up to bring what, but I’ve been here for 5 years and it’s been good every time (although one time I brought a casserole thing that was apparently so good my great-grandboss jokingly threatened to fire me if I ever brought it again because it would make her ruin her diet)

    1. Dinwar*

      The way our office does it is to choose a location, then let everyone order their own food. Usually they’ll give us 2-3 locations to choose from and whoever speaks up first or gets the most votes wins (most of the time the first person to say something is the only person to say something). This is nice, because it allows people with dietary restrictions to be accomidated without being singled out–no one knows if you ordered your meal because of restrictions, or because you happened to like it. And the options are within the range of things the people in our group like, the places where we go out to eat on our own anyway.

      1. ConstantlyComic*

        Casserole might not be the correct term (they’re listed as Cream Cheese Squares in the recipe book) but I remembered baking it in a casserole dish and I’m in the south, so…
        Anyway, here’s the recipe:
        Ingredients: 2 eight-ounce cans crescent roll dough, 2 eight-ounce packages of cream cheese (softened), 1 cup sugar, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, 1/2 cup butter or margarine (melted), cinnamon sugar (the recipe specifically says 1/4 cup of sugar combined with 1 teaspoon cinnamon)
        1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F; grease a 9×13 pan (again, I used a casserole dish)
        2. Press one can of crescent roll dough on the bottom of the pan
        3. Mix cream cheese, 1 cup sugar, and vanilla extract until smooth and creamy; spread over crescent roll dough layer.
        4. Unroll the second can of crescent roll dough on top of the cream cheese layer. Do not press down.
        5. Pour/spread the melted butter/margarine over the top layer. Sprinkle cinnamon sugar on top
        6. Bake 25-30 minutes, or until top is crisp and golden

        So yeah, definitely a diet-ruiner, but very tasty and definitely worth waking up early to bake it so I could serve it warm at staff training day.

  27. Vio*

    Charity I work for had a Volunteer Appreciation event scheduled, a buffet and bar at one of the local pubs. We get a last minute message from the pub that they’ve ‘accidentally’ had a double booking (from somebody who doesn’t get a charity discount and so pays more) and cancelled us. So at the last minute we have to organise something in our own building, which means we also need to ask for some volunteers to help out… at the event that’s supposed to be letting volunteers relax for a change.
    Those volunteers did get a lot of extra perks for helping and the staff all made sure to minimise how much the volunteers needed to do.

  28. narya*

    The ice cream social story reminded me of when the last place I worked used to do ice cream socials. The first 2 I attended were great! Real soft-serve ice cream machines where we could help ourselves, an array of toppings set up on tables, lots of nice utensils, and it was an all-day event. Anyone in the building could come down to the cafeteria at any time during the day and just load up. Even if you wanted seconds! It was awesome! Then… for some reason, the very last “ice cream social” they had before I left that company was this: We were called down by floor, had to stand in line outside the door, ushered in one by one, and were given a generic ice cream sandwich. WTF. I remember going down there, seeing the line of people, and guy coming out of the cafeteria frowning at his sweaty, white-wrapped block of garbage. I peeked into the cafeteria, and there were 2 people sitting at a table with boxes of the junk (why did TWO people need to man this ridiculous operation? Why was this a “social” if nobody could socialize?). I just turned around and went back to my desk. By then, employee morale at that place was at an all-time low, and this was the cherry on top (ha).

  29. Dust Bunny*

    My workplace picks a restaurant and then emails everyone with a list of four or five lunch options, with limited customizing (like, one might be a salad and then you have a choice of added proteins). They’re enough that you can work with dietary restrictions, everyone gets their own so nobody can hog all the food, and the servings are ample.

    1. Random Academic Cog*

      Yes, this is how we’ve done it for years. We send everyone the budgeted options and they pick for themselves. So much easier!

  30. Goldenrod*

    These are all magical, but I think my favorite is Green Day. I remember we had a similar event when I was in fifth grade. It was great! But for an adult meal at a conference???!

    Although, to be honest, I would love it. It’s so insane that it’s wonderful.

    1. MigraineMonth*

      My college cafeteria did that (they had an entire week of color-coded meals, since apparently they thought we were preschoolers). One of my friends liked the mint cupcakes, and I had to point out to him that it wasn’t mint, just green food coloring in vanilla cupcakes.

    2. Artemesia*

      Well yeah. When my kids were young we would do green eggs and ham from time to time — and make the grits as well as the scrambled eggs green.

    3. Janice*

      We had a “white meal” at school once: White rice with chicken breast (no skin) and some sort of white sauce. It was just so bland.

  31. Daisy-dog*

    I know someone just like the board chair in #5. For the person I know, her diet mentality is so ingrained that she lets it dictate what she thinks is appropriate for other people to eat too. I can imagine her thinking a bite of pizza is a special treat.

    1. CommanderBanana*

      I forgot to reply to that post but yes, in that case, I just assume that person is foisting her/his disordered eating off of everyone in their orbit.

    2. anon diabetic*

      Yeah, I was at an event once where a “lunch buffet was provided” and I do NOT consider one hard-boiled egg per person and one tiny bruschetta per person to be “lunch.” They may have had other things, but by the time I got there (I was not late, just further back in line) all that was left on the “buffet” was one cold, sad hard-boiled egg (still in the shell) and everything else was wiped clean.

      Apparently, the person in charge had recently had a gastric bypass, and was super entrenched in “no one needs more than x ounces of food” and was amazed that those of us who’d been out running around outside all day might want more than a single egg or a slice of baguette with some herbs on it as nourishment…

    3. Artemesia*

      That rationale works for a pizza that she slices into many many tiny pieces — but 3 croissants for a group of 12?

      1. Kat*

        1/4 of a croissant each! Perfect treat! This one reminded me of visiting a friend for a weekend and being hungry the whole time because she served tiny portions. She was just serving what she normally ate

  32. Lorgar*

    Is there a good resource to look at to learn about food restrictions and dietary requirements?

    At my first job, I was responsible for ordering lunches and it was standard to send people with dietary requirements a link to a restaurant and ask them to choose what they’d like to order (within a budget, but it was high enough to allow for a dish, a side, and a drink.) There were a few different kosher restaurants we ordered from for the people who ate kosher.

    A new employee got hired who ate kosher and when I sent him the menu for one of the restaurants and they emailed me back saying, “this place isn’t kosher, is there another option?” I sent them one of the other ones and they said it wasn’t the right kind of kosher either. It took more back and forth to find the one place they could order from.

    At the time I was so embarrassed that I sent an apology to the other kosher coworkers about ordering them food from places that weren’t actually kosher. They responded that the other restaurants were kosher and they were fine with ordering food from there in the future. I forget if there was an explanation why the new coworker could only eat from one specific place, but I still feel terrible that I sent that coworker a menu for a restaurant they couldn’t eat at.

    1. CommanderBanana*

      Kosher can be really complicated! There are varying schools of thought around whether certain things are kosher or not (see the Great Salmon Debate), and of course, kosher for Passover is even more stringent.

      1. Mitford*

        I used to work in fund raising for a Jewish women’s organization that ordered salmon for every event. I don’t eat fish. One year, the vegetarian option was a plate of rice.

        1. CommanderBanana*

          I feel like salmon is always the default for kosher meals, which is fine…if you like salmon. The Great Salmon Debate is pretty interesting though.

    2. Panda (she/her)*

      I don’t think you did anything wrong here – in fact, I think you handled it perfectly! I am not very familiar with kosher requirements, but I know many religious dietary restrictions can vary based on the person’s faith, values, denomination, beliefs, etc. so what works for one person may not work for another. You did what you needed to get this person food, and checked in with the others who ate kosher to make sure they were okay with the food selection, and they were!

      But as to your question, you can Google requirements for many of the dietary restrictions. Off the top of my head, vegetarian/vegan, Kosher, gluten-free, halal, pork-free, beef-free cover most of the non-allergy restrictions I’m aware of. Then some of the most common allergies are egg, soy, nut, shellfish/seafood, sesame, lactose (intolerance, not necessarily allergy). But I think the best policy is just to ask people if they have food restrictions and then offer options that they can eat.

      1. NotRealAnonForThis*

        Adding to Panda’s list of most common food allergens recognized in the USA: milk (proteins, not just lactose intolerance), peanut (honest its not an actual nut), wheat, fish, and I think you hit the rest!

        Definitely agree that asking is the best way to go.

    3. AvonLady Barksdale*

      Don’t feel bad. While “Kosher” generally covers it, there are people who have different personal rules. There are a bunch of restaurants in DC, for example, that have a particular Kosher certification but many people refuse to eat there because they don’t have a more traditional certification and don’t follow certain rules. They advertise that they’re Kosher, and you would find that when looking for restaurants, and it’s not incorrect, per se, it’s just not correct for some.

    4. Hlao-roo*

      The way you handled that situation sounds pretty good to me (as someone with a dietary restriction but not kosher). Restrictions are so personal and varied, the “chose something from this menu… can you eat at this restaurant instead?… how about this one?” back and forth is sometimes tiresome but if everyone is properly fed during the meal then you were successful.

    5. Over It*

      Hello! Jewish person here. Just wanted to assure you that you did not mess up at all here. There is huge variation in interpretation of keeping kosher. Some people will happily eat from a regular restaurant and just eat vegetarian, as meat has to meet higher standards to be considered kosher. Other people will only eat at restaurants with fully certified kosher kitchens. And there’s a whole lot of variation in between and sideways. A great example: my whole family is Jewish, but only a handful are Orthodox and keep a strict interpretation of kosher. (Most of us don’t eat pork but otherwise don’t keep kosher at all). It’s understood that when we see those cousins either they are in charge of making food arrangements, or they BYO. Because even though we’re all Jewish, there’s no guarantee they will find the food acceptable if someone else does the planning.

      When your colleague said those restaurants aren’t kosher, he may have implied that to be universally true, but in reality they just didn’t meet the correct level of observance for HIM. And tbh he was a little dismissive of your other coworkers interpretation of kosher. I think the best way to handle this is essentially what you’ve been doing; give people who keep kosher a list of restaurants you’ve ordered at for other kosher employees, ask if those meet their level of kosher observance, and if not ask them to provide suggestions for local restaurants that work for them.

      Honestly, if someone keeps a very strict diet whether due to keeping kosher, having a severe allergy or other reasons, the best thing to do is to ask people to give you a list of local options that work for them. That’s the only way to ensure that there will be food they can eat. If you try to research yourself, the odds of you not getting it right are just too high.

      1. Lorgar*

        This is really good to know, thank you! I’ve been reading the responses and I feel a little better. I’ll probably spend a little time reading up on the different certifications, if only so I know more.

        I got lucky at that job that the office admin kept good notes – she had lists of restaurants with notes on which had good vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, nut-free, soy-free etc. options, as well as which restaurants were good for halal or kosher food. But when I started, I didn’t actually know what gluten was and didn’t know soy allergies existed! I spent time googling those. Random googling did bring up sketchy sites though and it took time to weed out which were unreliable.

        I wasn’t sure if there might be specific organizations that would put out guidelines on common food allergen sources/dietary restriction rules or provide instructions on how to help clean up allergens. Something where, if I could go back in time, I could hand my younger self a single website and say “here, start here and learn more.”

      2. Lorgar*

        That’s really good to know, thank you to you and everyone else who was giving me advice on kosher standards! Definitely something I’ll default to letting people set their own standards for, but I still want to know a little more.

        I’m lucky the office admin before me kept good notes – she had a whole list of restaurants with notes on which ones offered good vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, nut-free, soy-free, etc. meals, as well as which restaurants were halal/kosher/etc. But when I first started, I didn’t know what gluten was and I didn’t know soy allergies existed! I had to google to learn more and I found a few sketchy sites, so along with learning, I had to filter out which sites to believe and which weren’t worth it.

        I was curious to know if there were organizations that put out lists of things like “foods that are likely to contain gluten” or “common ways to clean up allergens” so that, if I went back in time and talked to younger me, I could hand them a single website and say, “Here’s where to start, here’s how to learn more.”

        1. Frieda*

          I was in charge of food at a dinner event that included one person who keeps kosher, and the food had to be ordered from the org’s regular cafeteria/caterer, and they dutifully brought a kosher meal, but it turned out that while she kept kosher at home, she was more “kosher-ish” when eating outside her home, and the kosher meal did not appeal. She very discreetly conferred with the person in the group most knowledgeable about kosher food, they put a napkin over the sad kosher meal and set it aside, and she ate the non-kosher food.

          I was happy that she got a meal she preferred but also felt like I’d done my best under the circumstances. I would never have told *her* that she had to eat the non-kosher meal (or the kosher one!) but was glad she had the flexibility in her own practice to be selective on her own behalf about what she ate.

          Everyone had the kosher dessert, which was delicious, and the kosher wine, which was perfectly drinkable.

    6. TCO*

      I agree with others that you handled this just fine. When I’ve been in charge of food for an event and someone shares a dietary restriction that I need more information about (such as what type of kosher restrictions they keep, or whether or not cross-contamination is a concern for their allergy), there’s often a little back-and-forth to figure out what will work for them. I always approach it as, “I want to make sure we have a good meal for you. Will anything on the menu from Restaurant X work for you? If not, it’s no trouble at all for us to order something from somewhere else; do you have suggestions of places you trust and prefer?”

      I think most people would prefer a bit of well-intentioned back and forth to not having a proper meal. I just make sure to emphasize that I’m happy to accommodate and seeking their guidance about what would be best for them. For folks that you’re ordering for regularly, as long as you remember and consistently accommodate those needs (not starting the entire conversation from scratch every time), you’re doing great.

  33. CommanderBanana*

    I don’t know who needs to hear this (probably no one on this thread!) but if you are staffing an event with volunteer labor, you need to feed them. I got into a massive argument with a director at my last (horrible) organization that was refusing to let her own staff eat at a banquet event we had already paid for after they had worked a 12-hour day. If you do things like this, you’re a horrible person.

    1. Missb*

      Yep. I often did the financials at our annual auction event night. I usually got a sad sandwich. I mean, I’m dealing with oodles of calculations all night and I get a sandwich? I stopped after a few years because it just wasn’t worth it to put in all of that time and get a cold sandwich for my efforts.

    2. The Prettiest Curse*

      Always feed your event vendors, staff and volunteers with the same food that everyone else at the event is getting. It is so easy to do and it makes people enjoy working your event a lot more. (It’s fine to tell staff and volunteers that they can’t drink alcohol while working their shift, though – way too much potential for things to go wrong there!)

      1. The Prettiest Curse*

        An addendum: make sure your event vendors, volunteers and staff actually know they can eat the provided food! I always tell people ahead of the event so they don’t have to stand around wondering if it’s okay to go ahead.

    3. Satan's Panties*

      Okay, not volunteer work, but a few years ago, DH and I had our kitchen remodeled. One day shortly before it was all finished, we had six workers in the house. The carpenter and his assistant had been there every day, and they were in the dining room. Husband-and-wife woodworkers were in the kitchen, installing and detailing the cabinets, and father-and-son plumbers were in the basement, making things ready for the new dishwasher and sink. What I said was, “There’s so many people here, it feels like a party!” But what I was thinking was, “I have to give these people some kind of bump, all having to work around each other.” Anyway, I told them, two by two, “I’m going out and bring back pizza and breadsticks with sauce. Are you okay with pepperoni?”

      Said the plumber: “We’re okay with *food*.”

  34. Coverage Associate*

    I understand why OP was suspicious, but I can totally make kosher for Passover muffins with potato flour, especially if they can be dairy. Banana bread too.

    1. AvonLady Barksdale*

      I wouldn’t trust a commercially made Passover muffin unless I had an ingredient list and the name of the bakery. It’s safe to assume those muffins were not K for P.

      My stepbrother’s roommate once gave him a challah for Passover. He meant well! It was a nice gesture. But stepbro still wouldn’t eat it.

      1. Jay (no, the other one)*

        Our local supermarket once put the leftover hamantaschen in the Kosher for Passover section.

        And then there was the time I was eating at the hospital cafeteria during Passover. Usually I had a scoop of tuna salad and called it lunch, but that day there was a lovely display of what looked like gefilte fish in the cooler case. Each plate was individually wrapped with two pieces on a bed of lettuce. I love gefilte fish even if it doesn’t taste like my grandmother’s so I happily sat down to lunch….and discovered they were cold matzah balls. WTAF?

        1. The Editor-in-Chief*

          …..WTAF indeed! Cold matzah balls sounds like some sort of punishment, in addition to very likely being non-KFP because the vast majority of matzah meal isn’t KFP. And a gebrokts issue!
          AND getting people mentally prepared for gefilte fish and then bait-and-switching them to a horrifying alternative.

    2. Savoury Creampuff*

      OP here. They were just loose pastries, except the cereal, which was of the usual chametz variety. So yeah, very sure in my suspicions.

      I remember the first time I had a KFP-certified potato bun, and looking at it I was so convinced someone had made a grave error….

  35. Dragon Tea Smithy*

    I have a corn allergy, nut allergy, and a few others as well. Feeding me is… complicated. I always bring emergency food just in case there’s literally nothing I’m able to eat. Most pitiful one was where all I had was a single can of tuna. I ate the tuna straight out of the can with a fork.

  36. Mr egg*

    The image of “hastily blessed Fritos” are destroying me lmao- first time for everything I suppose.

    1. Melissa*

      I bet the priest called all his friends to tell them about it too! First time for everything.

  37. Quality Girl*

    #3 sounds like dinner at my geographically Great Plains + culturally Midwestern mom’s house. I’m only partially kidding.

  38. Chinookwind*

    #4. In my head I keep hoping you are not Catholic because what your priest did, while highly thoughtful, makes me quite angry. But the intent is so sweet and makes me smile, especially because I sat through a weekend convention of Catholic ladies who didn’t seem to understand that a gluten-free meal is not interchangeable with a vegetarian meal and proceeded to give my friend plate of salad, without dressing, as its main course when everyone else got lasagna or chicken in sauce. Considering these same women do up funeral luncheons, my heart breaks at what so many of their community members have to put up with.

    Luckily, my friend is an expert gluten-free traveller and came with a travel suitcase full of snacks and meals that she could eat and share with others. And then feedback cards were politely filled with all sorts of meal suggestions for next year.

    1. Zanzibar Buck-Buck McFate*

      I’m glad someone else said it — the Fritos story really made me wince, too. But assuming the priest is an Episcopalian or something, it’s a nice thought.

    2. Tacos are life*

      I think we can safely say that this did not happen in a Catholic church since 1) Catholic communion wafers must contain gluten and 2) Catholic priests are not allowed to say a quick prayer to create more wafers.

      I think you should consider why it Makes you so angry that other religions follow their own rules. For blessing communion products in particular, Jesus just blessed the common food that was on the table in front of him. I think Fritos are just fine.

  39. Bookmark*

    My work involves frequent travel to an office in another city with a completely cursed local food environment. I have had so many bad meals or nonexistent meals (apparently all the restaurants are closed on Monday?) there that I’ve started packing a cooler of food. The worst was the time I was on a delayed train and was at the mercy of the one late-night delivery option: a Papa John’s about a mile away from the hotel that took an hour and a half to deliver a cold pizza. It was all I had to eat for the next day too, because there was no food available in the office. The sole usual option, a pair of sad vending machines, were out of order.

  40. Lonestar*

    Our Annual Conference is held every year in September. When the association was starting out it was smaller and had smaller budgets so would host the conference at a regional college’s conference center. This college had a hospitality track and the conference center gave students hands on experience. Since the college is small, it shuts its conference center down over the summer months because there aren’t enough students to fill all of the positions. Apparently, when the center was shut down the previous year in May, they had just taken a shipment of meat and stored it in the freezer. The same freezer that was about to be turned off for the entire summer! When the conference center re-opened in August, the power went on and I guess all of that meat re-froze and no one questioned how long it had been in there. The student cooks proceeded to re-thaw the spoiled meat and cook it for the conference! This was a few years before I started but I always question how no one thought the meat smelled off. My co-worker told me the conference had to be cancelled because nearly everyone was sent to the hospital with severe food poisioning. We now host our conferences at 4 star hotels in major cities with professional staff running the kitchens.

  41. YouwantmetodoWHAT?! *

    I have SO many questions about #14.

    How/why would the IN HOUSE caterer be so surprised that people could not eat the food that THEY prepared without utinsils?! They prepared the menu, they made the food – they KNEW that they were not offering fingerfoods!
    I’ve worked catering – utinsils are ALWAYS on the checklist.

    The table/chair situation, once again, sounds like a fingerfood set up.

    I’m flummoxed

    1. Insert Clever Name Here*

      My guess is that separate people were responsible for food and for the reception’s actual set up — I helped plan an event once where we very nearly ran into this same issue.

  42. Tau*

    18 is giving me flashbacks to the time I went out to a hot dog place with some coworkers. I was a little nervous about this, as I’m vegetarian, but I was assured there was a vegetarian option!

    There was.

    It consisted of a half-cooked carrot in a bun with sauce and toppings.

    OK, as opposed to #18 I did get sauce and toppings, but still. A carrot is not a hot dog substitute.

    1. Ink*

      That sounds like SUCH a “parent trying to pitch the kids on veggies being cool” trick, I can’t believe anyone would try it on an adult. “What’s shaped like a hot dog?” *goes with first thing they think of instead of typing “vegetarian hot dog” into google*

    2. Chilipepper Attitude*

      I make a really good carrot hot dog – it gets marinated in a smoky mix, then charred in a pan. It can work! but not a raw or steamed carrot!!

    3. Birdle*

      Did they at least season the carrot with hot dog spices?

      I guess if I had to make a vegetarian hot dog in a pinch I’d use seasoned seitan. Or, you know, one of the many pre-made options that would be better than a half raw carrot.

      1. Tau*

        Nope! I can believe that a properly seasoned/glazed/actually cooked through carrot might make for an interesting taste, although I’d still want some protein somewhere. But this was like the cook/person at the grill had deliberately done the most slapdash job they could of it.

        1. Birdle*

          I’ve never made a hot dog, but… definitely garlic and onion powder, plenty of salt, pepper is in everything, cumin because it makes all foods taste better, coriander seems to be in all sausages, maybe some nutritional yeast or mushroom powder for a more savory note, mustard and paprika, and since hot dogs have been around forever, they probably have parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme in them. I add a tiny bit of cayenne pepper to most foods, too – not enough to actually taste, just enough to make the other flavors stronger. There is maybe a little bit of vinegar flavor, and I think I’d add a tiny bit of liquid smoke to duplicate the effects of curing.

  43. The Prettiest Curse*

    I forgot to say this in the original thread, but if you have any problems with food at an event (terrible options for your dietary requirements or allergy restrictions, not enough food etc.), please complain to both whoever is providing the food AND whoever organised the event. As an event planner/coordinator, I want to know about issues on the spot so that I can work on fixing them ASAP. Your issue might not be something that can easily be fixed, but it’s still vital to get that feedback so that we can work to address any problems for future events – or never use a caterer again if they have really messed up.

    Food issues can be a result of the event organiser, the caterers or the venue messing up (or various combinations of all three), but please let the event organisers know, because we can talk to the correct people to at the caterer or venue if it’s an issue on their side. Do not suffer in silence – and if there’s a major issue, don’t wait till you’re completing the event evaluation to let us know about it!

  44. Elementum D.*

    #8 “People got blackout drunk whether they meant to or not.”

    I don’t think that’s how it works.

    Wish I had been there …

    1. Olive*

      This happened at my partner’s holiday party (I wonder if it was the same event as the OP’s), and a lot of people wouldn’t have gotten so drunk if they also had a full meal, which they were led to believe was coming at any moment…

      1. RVA Cat*

        This, plus the cocktails may have been stronger than normal. Yet another reason to stick to beer and wine for work parties.

    2. Onomatopoetic*

      It can happen by mistake. As a student I once hosted a party where I was responsible for the starter drink. Someone got hands om a couple of medical alcohol (96%) for it and I miscalculated. Coupled with the food being quite light, the party descended into the worst case of general intoxication I ever saw, and I tended the bar a whole year. I’m really lucky no-one had to be hospitalized.

  45. DramaQ*

    My previous company wanted to reward us for doing such a good job in 2020. They sent out an email bragging about they had hired a food truck. We were excited to get actual restaurant food for a change, maybe the owner wasn’t such a cheap prick after all. We all go outside and it’s the Children’s Museum cart filled with crock pots of Sam’s Club hot dogs and hamburgers. . .at room temperature. The sides were either grocery store potato salad or coleslaw. The dessert was sugar free, fat free, dairy free fudgesicles that had clearly come out of someone’s home fridge because they were half melted and refrozen. I flipped my lid. And I kid you not for entertainment they brought in one of those traveling zoo exhibits so we got to see an alligator! They were at my kid’s daycare the next day I almost died laughing. My husband asked me if they did balloon animals and made us sit criss cross applesauce during the performance.

    1. goddessoftransitory*

      I wouldn’t mind seeing the alligator, but only so I could toss that boss into its enclosure.

  46. Justice*

    Amusing that LW #11 doesn’t name the city, but does mention Duane Reade, which only exists in a certain five borough city and its outskirts.
    Kind of gives the game away!

    1. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

      Pretty typical of the city, though, to either think their local stuff is universal or something totally common and ubiquitous is Only In City.

  47. CzechMate*

    Re #13 — I’m a freshman at a tiny liberal arts college. It’s nightfall following Yom Kippur, so Jewish students who are observing can finally break fast. The (one) dining hall serves up a huge ham dinner. The tone deafness has stayed with me to this day.

    1. Artemesia*

      I get that a non Jewish person might not think of this if it were a dinner in a home or a picnic or a restaurant order. BUT a food service operation at a college should be run by experts who know about food issues whether allergy, vegetarian, or religious restrictions. This is their JOB to plan and serve food.

  48. Chilipepper Attitude*

    I did not post this last week, but I went to the weekend in-person orientation for my graduate program, and they very thoughtfully asked many questions about food restrictions – I’m vegan.

    For the first night social, they got wraps from Publix – with just the tortilla and shredded lettuce. Publix has vegan wraps with hummus, veggies, and lettuce. they were so proud of themselves. IDK why.

    Every single snack at every break was cheese – string cheese, chips with cheese, pretzels with cheese, cheese and crackers, etc. They had prepackaged snacks that I did not know you could put cheese on that had cheese on it!

    The lunches included lovely salads – with lots of shredded cheese! Instead of picking out the shreds of cheese, I walked as fast as I could downtown and bought lunch.

    Why did they ask so much if they were not gonna offer accommodations?

  49. EC*

    14 reminds me of the video game Rimworld. You attempt to guide a group of people who crash landed on an alien planet and keep them alive and in decent shape until they can build a communication devise to contact help. Keeping morale up is critical, and one thing that will send your people spiraling into despair/rage is being forced to eat without a table.

  50. Ingemma*

    These have reminded me of a really silly incident I had happen earlier this year that we have named ‘pizzagate 3.0’ at work (pizzagates 1 & 2 were also bananas, but this one took the cake.)

    I’m a shift manager at a 24 production facility, and that week I was on the night shift. During the day (Ie business hours but while I’m not at work) I see an email go by from HR that has been sent to everyone in the plant, announcing a celebratory pizza lunch because the month before we had beaten our volume record. The email says each shift will be shutting down production to enjoy pizza together. For night shift, the email announces, this will be at 3am.

    I immediately text my boss. This is not my first rodeo and I know for a fact that the latest any of the delivery places within range will deliver is 1am. It is not his first rodeo either, and he agrees that yes, we have never found somewhere that will deliver at 3am but that when they’d pointed this out HR had PROMISED they had it under control and that I would not have to do anything. I decide to not look for trouble, and at some point in the afternoon get a message from an HR rep that says ‘we’ve given the pizza place your number as a contact, please have everyone ready for the dinner at 3am :)’

    We stop production at 3am. At 3:15… no sign of any pizza still. I have 50 hungry operators in the main office with me. Understandably, people are antsy.

    At 3:20, still no pizza, I open Ubereats to see if literally anything is open (basic answer: no.) at 3:25 I start calling nearby drive thrus to ask what the maximum number of burgers they’d be able to make was, thinking I could probably send the intern on shift me with my corporate card. In all cases, there were maximum two employees at each fast food location, and they seemed nervous about anything more than three burgers at a time, because it was 3:30am on a Tuesday in a suburb.

    At 3:40 I give up completely, and I instead send the intern out to the 24hr Tim hortons and give him very strict instructions to buy out the donuts. I promise everyone on shift that we will do pizza the next day instead. I expected people to be furious, but (un)fortunately most people shrugged and said ‘we know how it is around here … we’ve all brought lunch in case.’

    The intern returns with 6 dozen donuts and 300 Timbits. It emerges that he had to barter very hard to get them and had probably ruined the morning for the poor souls working at the Tim’s.

    The next day, I ordered the pizzas myself and we stopped production at 1am instead because that is, in fact, the latest time you can get pizza delivered around here.

  51. Ink*

    Do people think folks with dietary restrictions will be offended if they’re asked what they can eat? Because especially with trickier ones like gluten-free and vegan I’ve never met someone who didn’t have a list within 30 seconds of things they can eat. All the celiacs in my family have literal lists in their notes apps of places with trustworthy food- both local, as we’re fortunate enough to have a couple excellent GF bakeries and a couple restaurants with good offerings, and national chains for stuff like road trips and business travel. Others I struggle to see as anything but malice. Take bread or dairy away and I can see blue-screening trying to come up with stuff, but I KNOW 99% of people eat PLENTY of things that don’t include meat, or nuts, or whatever. Might wind up with a bunch of sides or little protein, but I know they eat things that are both vegetarian and not pathetic salads! I know they know types of sandwiches that aren’t PB&J!

    And that’s not even getting into how there are vegetarian, vegan, GF options at WALMART now. 20 years ago, you did legit have to go to weird specialty places for GF bread/pizza crusts/etc, and veg protein options probably weren’t much better. But for a single restriction, or even 2 or 3 common ones at once, now you can type “[restriction] food ideas” into google and come up with several options from a regular supermarket.

  52. Former Red and Khaki*

    #3 is seriously making me laugh. It really feels like the chef/caterer looked at the vegan request and was like “Vegan? Vegan?! What the f&*k does a vegan even eat. What do you EAT. Here have a potato. Have another potato. Have a third g*dd&mn potato. Have a bun. Do vegans eat buns? No I don’t even care. Here. JC.” *wheezing*

    1. EC*

      A potato burger could work in theory. Like if you took the inside of a samosa and formed that into a patty and cooked it. Or something like a big croquette. Those could be good. But plain potatoes on a bun is not it.

      1. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

        There was a now-extinct comic strip – “Priscilla’s Pop” – in which Priscilla’s pop, Waldo Nutchell, had mashed potato sandwiches packed for him for lunch.

      2. Elle by the sea*

        Potato burger is an Indian dish called vada pav. It’s just a potato patty in a bun. It’s quite tasty but is rarely served with boiled potatoes and crisps / chips as well.

        1. Elle by the sea*

          Hahaha sorry, I didn’t see the previous comment saying the same thing. I feel like eating a vada pav right now.

      3. MsSolo (UK)*

        One of our local Indian places does Vada Pav, which is a curried mashed potato patty in a spiced burger bun. Easily the most popular thing on the menu. But you’d have it with okra fries, not potato!

        1. Lizzie*

          And curry. While I am not vegetarian, I have a VERY strong aversion to both the smell and taste of curry.
          Which makes me wonder, sure, some places will be ok with providing an alterante meal, but what if its something that you don’t like?????

          1. Kat*

            For me at least, even if I don’t like it I’ll eat it because I need food and something I don’t like is better than something that will make me sick.

            I’m #12, the work travel log, and today I realised I should have added to the burger story…it was a beef burger, and I don’t like beef. I don’t eat it normally. But I was also really hungry and needed something hot and more substantial than a cereal bar or crackers, so a beef burger patty it was!

  53. Molly Millions*

    Our team ordered one of those grocery store photo cakes for a colleague who was leaving. I sent the store’s bakery department a JPEG of the photo we wanted and had the following conversation by phone:

    Me: And can you put “We’ll miss you, Justin” on it?
    Bakery department: “We – will – miss – you – Justin?”
    Me: Yes!

    I expected the bakery to write “We’ll miss you, Justin!” in fancy icing atop the image. Instead, they typed the phrase into a text box above the photo and just printed it onto the cake. So there was a big blank space above the picture that said “We will miss you Justin” in a sans serif font with no punctuation.

    Most unenthusiastic cake ever. It was like when Dwight Shrute threw a birthday party.

  54. Bookworm*

    Sending appreciation to everyone who shared. If anything, this yet ANOTHER reason why I only want to WFH for forever and not have an office or requirements that we must meet in person: stories like this are exactly why. And it’s not just the bad food/allergies/religious considerations, etc. Serving underage interns? YIKES!

  55. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

    Yeah I can tell some work meal horror stories. One was just, well, a mistake, but well intended attempt to feed us all.

    The manager ordered a barbecue – pork ribs.

    On Good Friday. Most of the staff is Catholic, there were a couple Muslims, and a couple Jews…. not kosher, not halal, and on a day where most weren’t eating meat.

    Only two Protestants on the staff -me, and a lady = “OH BOY! All of this is just for us!”

    1. Random Bystander*

      Reminds me of when I had my twins. They were born on Ash Wednesday via c-sec, so Friday was the first day that I was allowed to eat food. Now, at the time, the city I lived in was very much Catholic (just about anywhere you went, the number of Catholics present started at 50% and often much higher). So, here we are on the first Friday of Lent. I had not gotten to eat breakfast, as I was just getting to trial liquids at that time. So here comes lunch, which I had not been able to choose what was coming (you had to order your food the night before or else you got the default). I will never forget the potato soup. Potato soup can certainly be meat-free (though there is a loaded baked potato soup I love that includes bacon–but I know that and wouldn’t order it on Fridays), but this potato soup included tiny cubes of ham. I picked out all the ham and ate because I was famished (see that thing about not eating since around 1pm on Wednesday and now I’m at noon on Friday), and there was meat in everything provided for lunch, even the things you might have thought would be meat-free like the potato soup and green beans, and a meat main dish. Later, I was doing my regular walk around the floor (something that we were all very strongly encouraged to do … I think something about preventing leg clots?), so I’ve put both babies into one of those plastic bassinets on wheels and walking the floor and I pass the nurses’ station. They are just completely beside themselves because about 60% of the new mothers on the floor had declined to eat because lunch was meat-o-rama on the first Friday of Lent. Now, granted, new mothers are actually exempt from the requirement to avoid meat on Fridays of Lent (probably anyone who is in the hospital who is able to eat on the day), but if someone wants to follow the normal obligation, it is not that hard to make it possible–and it certainly would have been a good plan to make the default for a Lenten Friday vegetarian. There are plenty of tasty options for vegetarian meals (granted, I only like things that start as intentionally vegetarian, I cannot abide fake meat pretending to be actual meat).

      And of course, Good Friday is not just a day of abstinence (no meat) but also fasting.

  56. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

    Another horror story. I worked in a building that had a private cafeteria. It wasn’t bad.

    Then they fired their staff and brought in some bozos. And then within two weeks, they were having financial problems, because the caff had no plastic knives, forks or spoons. One morning they had a pancake special, but no syrup.

    They even had a club sandwich – but no bacon.

    All signs pointed to not paying suppliers’ bills. And then we had no cafeteria for a couple months.

  57. The Dude Abides*

    Reading the horror stories, I consider myself very fortunate to have no such stories. Where I am at (state gov’t, so everyone has to come out of pocket for food days), various restrictions (vegan, halal, etc) are accommodated, and we make a point of asking newer people when food days are announced so that everyone can participate.

    The only horror stories people have around here involve the number of filled plates that end up in my office over the course of an afternoon (usually 3-4, and I’m 5’7 160lb).

  58. SHEILA, the co-host*

    I was at a regional a few years ago (before Covid, so 2018ish?) and the hotel put out sandwiches on moldy croissants and grapes that were literally withering before our eyes. (There were, thankfully, other options). I was third or so in line and the first person to take a croissant, which I immediately noticed was moldy. When I pointed out the mold to the caterer, he looked at me incredulously in a how-dare-you-point-that-out kind of way. Apparently I was supposed to just ignore it or eat around it? The guy behind me in line started flipping over all of the sandwiches on the tray to look at the bottoms and the caterer tried to tell him he couldn’t touch “everyone’s lunch” and the guy was just like, dude, look, there is mold on ALL of these. The caterer turned and left the room without taking the tray or saying another word. One of the meeting organizers came over to where we were all standing, looking dumbfounded, and asked what was wrong. We showed her the mold. She was horrified and went out to the hotel desk to speak to someone. A few minutes later, a different catering staff member came out of the back room and took away the croissants. Thankfully, there was salad, chips, some packaged stuff (granola bars, etc) and a second sandwich option on different bread, but we were all dumbfounded that they would serve something that was so obviously spoiled and then try to act shocked when they were called on it – and also they didn’t replace it with anything else once it was finally removed. Subsequent meetings of this organization have moved to a different hotel/conference center.

    1. MsSolo (UK)*

      We had a meeting at a venue in London who got very sniffy when we asked them to provide water during the meeting (basically, they didn’t want to provide tap water, they wanted us to pay umpteen pounds per bottle for very fancy fizzy water, which no one wanted anyway). Then lunch comes around, and the sandwiches were mouldy on the bottom. Suddenly water was no longer a huge imposition, and would you like some free brownies (and new sandwiches). I don’t think the mould would have stopped us using them again, but the fact they’d been so rude beforehand really compounded the error. You can be rude, or you can make a mistake, but not both.

      1. SHEILA, the co-host*

        “You can be rude, or you can make a mistake, but not both.”

        This is a really good way of putting it. Mistakes happen, and people can have bad days, but we need some cooperation!

  59. ADD*

    The Sweet Potato Incident just makes me think of those old episodes of Iron Chef, where every dish had to contain the theme ingredient in some fashion. I just imagine Takeshi Kaga flamboyantly shouting: “KYOU NO TEMA WA…. Sweet Potato.”

  60. Ramona*

    One time, I accidentally CAUSED one of these terrible lunch tales, and I still still sink into my chair thinking about it!!
    I am in outside sales, and I was hosting a Lunch & Learn for a local firm. A couple days before the scheduled presentation, I emailed the point of contact asking about any dietary restrictions, and confirmed the RSVPs. There were a few people with different food allergies, so they sent a list of ‘pre approved’ catering/local restaurants that could meet their needs. She let me know 4 people confirmed to be attending (out of an office of about 20, and my presentation only applied to about half of the staff).

    It was the summer, its the slow season and I was THRILLED to even have 4 people come to my presentation. One of the approved restaurants was Chipotle, so I ordered from there, for a quantity of 10-12 people. I thought I was overestimating and was excited to have some cheeky Chipotle for lunch after my presentation courtesy of my company, HA.

    Word got out that there was Chipotle for lunch, so 18 people showed up! Everyone in the office that was at this presentation, excited for free lunch, even if what I was selling had little to do with their department.
    The first few people who showed up overfilled their bowls and plates with mounds of food, making the most beautiful burrito bowls. The last few only literally only got lettuce with salsa on top, and a couple chips, looking around at everyone’s plates commenting on how much food everyone else got. I wanted to die!

    1. I take tea*

      That’s really not your fault. That’s on the rude people who showed up without warning and also took more than their share. I really dislike that kind of people. If there is food provided and you were supposed to RSVP and didn’t, don’t come and eat the food anyway.

  61. EC*

    My horror story is from grad school. My advisor was a known tightwad. At conferences we stayed in the worst places. We had to eat at the cheapest spots. But one day he went above and beyond his normal level of cheap, and decided that one sandwich was enough for three people and made them split it. The dude had grants too. He would always have to scramble to spend all the money at the last minute because he refused to buy stuff.

  62. Chief Bottle Washer*

    I was just at a conference this summer held at a small college. Dinner the first night was unorganized and a bit odd. The next morning, they ran out of coffee, not only in the dorms (which were set up to have coffee ready for early risers) but also in the dining hall. I thought there was going to be a riot. Food continued to be a bit odd the whole time. We found out half-way through that the catering company apparently pulled out shortly before the conference, and the folks cooking for us were the culinary students who volunteered to help out. That certainly put a new spin on things for me.

    1. Jenny F Scientist*

      I am still haunted by the memory of the vegetarian options at my college. Kentucky Fried Tofu (not breaded and not fried) which no-one ate! and the one time they put salad bar leftovers in the veg chili: whole baby carrots and chunks of unpeeled eggplant. SHUDDER.

  63. NoEatingBabies*

    Not at work, but my best/worst food story is after I gave birth to my oldest. I have been on/off vegetarian most of my life, and this was during a more strict time because the pregnancy meant I couldn’t even stomach eggs or much dairy, much less meat. I went into labor in the evening, gave birth the following evening, and after not not eating for over 24 hours, they gave me a plate of veal. I told the nurse that I’m vegetarian and asked if I could have literally anything else, and she just looked crestfallen and said “no… just the baby cow….” and then ran away. Horrible at the time, but very funny now.

  64. SB*

    I thoroughly enjoyed reading the comments on the original post. It makes me happier knowing I am not alone!!!

  65. Coin Purse*

    #15 is every hospital I worked at in my 40 year nursing career.

    Reading these, I recall my nutrition professor saying “Always remember that potato chips are vegan!”….seems a few other people took that class!

      1. Coin Purse*

        Yes, always treating staff like crap. Not great benefits, very little pension/retirement offerings, minimal to concern for off shift personnel.

  66. You should eat!*

    The kosher muffin incident reminds me of a kosher-related snafu at a work event that ended up having a happy ending. I was attending a training event for people in my industry, and one guy requested kosher food. Whoever made his food must have been a Jewish grandma because she was determined that there would be no way this person could ever possibly go hungry. Every meal he got was enough to easily feed four people. He looked so miserable sitting there with this mountain of food he couldn’t eat, but didn’t want to waste. Since I’m Jewish (although I don’t keep kosher), I figured, I might as well share his food with him. We ended up eating every meal together and it turned into a nice bonding experience — he even invited me over for Shabbat dinner!

  67. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

    Back in the early 1970s, I worked in a gas station as a pump attendant. Our boss – who we LOVED – did the same thing for us on Thanksgiving and Christmas.

    He asked all of us to work 2 hours but the party was so damn good, that we all spent a lot more time there.

  68. Jo*

    We had a fancy-ish dinner at a conference where the protein was Cornish game hen. They WERE cooked, but not really browned. They looked like little naked baby butts, cleft and all. (Think of a baby on on its knees curled up, butt slightly raised – viewed from the back.) I guess the waiters were instructed how to position the plate and each of us got the same view.

    It was so funny. There was the normal talking and klinking of glasses, silverware. Then table by table, there would be a bit of startled silence then chuckles.

    I actually had an infant at the time and it was hard for me to cut into that hen.

  69. spuds for the have-nots*

    *whispers* baked potato bar for staff volunteering at a fancy fundraiser where the rich guests were getting beautiful plated meals

    (I do not actually dislike a loaded baked potato, but the context/optics of “thanks for staying late; here’s a potato” felt not great)

    1. UrsulaD*

      The MREs
      When our outpost was being shelled all nonessential personnel were evacuated, including the kitchen staff. Once a day an armored truck pulled up with MREs for us, but they only brought soldiers+4 or so, so we only got one meal a day (these were small one meal MREs, not the big boxes of cans). After so, so many complaints they added a few loaves of plain white bread to supplement the rations. They sent all the same meal every day so if you were allergic to one (like me!) some days you just went hungry.
      The Blind Taste Test
      At another workplace, with about 40% Muslims, our bonding event included several contests and one was tasting a stew to guess all 25 ingredients. I bowed out because I didn’t want to risk allergies, but most people tasted the stew. They proudly announced the stew was kosher, to be inclusive. Yay! What they didn’t mention was that it contained red wine (my muslim colleague was baffled alcohol in food was even a thing! Big miss, especially because kosher meat is hallel, so most didn’t think about alcohol.
      The Comedy of Errors
      I’m wrapping up with a good one, third hand story!
      At a university a kosher fellow (as in fellowship) was leaving and we threw her a goodbye pizza party. She told the organizer where to order from (a kosher pizzeria) and brought her family. The organizer proudly told her he put all the pepperoni pizzas in the kitchen so they would be separate from the others and it would all be kosher. Annoyed, but resolved not to ruin the party the fellow goes into the main room only to discover they ordered from the correct, kosher pizzeria, which had started serving soy pepperoni on their pizzas!

    1. Tacos are life*

      Sort of, if you also consider a sandwich basically vegetables in wheat “leaves” if you drop the meat. You can put any kind of filling in a taco. You can have tacos with beans, tacos with fish, tacos with nopales (cactus), tacos with eggs, tacos with potatoes, tacos with mushrooms, the list goes on and on.

      1. Champagne Cocktail*

        I took a cooking class when I went to Mexico city. The chef told us, “If you can put it on a tortilla, you can make a taco out of it.” He then went on to describe some of the things kids would put in tacos. Like spaghetti.

        1. Clarbar*

          We have 3 teenagers, and we always always always have tortillas on the shelf and, at minimum, refried beans and (vegan) cheese in the fridge. Super quick/easy protein & fat that they can slap together in <2min if they need a snack. Other ingredients that have made their way into tortillas are Thai peanut noodles, hummus & shredded carrots, leftover teriyaki tofu stir fry, leftover baked potatoes, and leftover fried rice. My husband and I have a running joke about how our kids wouldn’t know how to move food into their mouths if it’s not wrapped in a tortilla!

    2. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

      Vegetarian (and even vegan) tacos can be pretty good. I make bean-based vegetarian tacos all the time, and I’d do tacos as a group meal when I knew I had vegans coming over since it’s an easy one to make vegan as well. (Not all beans are vegetarian, since some will have lard or other animal products in them, but it’s easy to make tasty vegetarian beans without using any “fake meat” type ingredients if that’s the goal you start out with.) For group meals, I’d often do it as a semi-potluck, where I’d cook the meat and the beans, and sometimes provide tortillas and cheese, and then let different people sign up to bring and prep the veggies of their choice. The more people coming, the wider variety of fillings we’d have.

      If the caterer making the tacos didn’t plan ahead and make vegetarian beans, then it’d be possible to assemble just a cheese and vegetable taco, which would be bland (since the meat or beans are usually seasoned) but not inedible. If they only had the basic tomato and lettuce for veggies and were trying to accommodate a vegan, I could see that being insufficient protein, but they could have at least served it alongside the sad tofu. (It is presumably possible to prepare and season tofu in diced cubes that would at least be edible in a taco if one was determined to use it as the protein in a taco dish, but I think most people would either go with beans or with a fake meat that mimicked taco meat.)

      Taco Bell is the US fast food chain where it’s easiest to get vegetarian and vegan food because their beans are vegan and they’ll swap in beans instead of meat on basically any menu item if you ask (which makes sense – they already have the beans on hand and beans are cheaper than meat).

  70. I take tea*

    Not a work story, but at a weekend thing I was at there suddenly was no food for anybody with any kind of restriction. Someone who had no business touching the Excel file had just dropped or forgotten the column with the extra info. For some strange reason the person who told the caterers (who was a different person) never reacted to the fact that after two days there suddenly were no people with restrictions. Maybe she thought we had all left, but it was the lunch before our big show, so it would have been unlikely. They managed to get something for us, but I had to wolf it down just before going on stage. Not the best experience.

  71. Noodles*

    My university caterers once presented trays of sandwiches, all of which had ham in them…

    for an important meeting with a delegation from Saudi Arabia.

  72. Fred Mouse*

    Australia, work meeting for roughly 200 people, fancy hotel. At the ‘special meals’ table, there is nothing labelled gluten free. There is cake labelled ‘flourless’. When queried on this, the poor serving staff had to tell us that that is ‘what the chef wants it called’. I pointed out that a) that cake certainly wasn’t flourless, b) there are lots of things with gluten in that aren’t flour, and c) I had zero faith that the chef had a clue what gluten free meant.

    Fortunately, the organising staff are incredibly on the ball about things, and were entirely horrified as well. We won’t be going back there.

    And yet, it is the third worst catering we’ve had in two years. Last year, after fruit for morning tea, I took one look at the provided options of dodgy salad for lunch and went elsewhere (we were in the CBD, there were options). When there was then fruit for afternoon tea, one of the other GF people went on the war path.

  73. WheresMyPen*

    “They also didn’t have gluten-free communion, which I felt obligated to take, so the priest very hastily blessed some Fritos for me.”

    This is the best thing I’ve heard all year :D

  74. Orange You Glad*

    Food provided at work and conferences is generally ok – basic but edible. All these comments reminded me though of the last time my office tried to host an employee lunch. The local sports team was in the super bowl so we had a “tailgate” lunch. We’ve had this type of event before that was catered by a local restaurant w/ wings etc. This year they used some generic catering company that provided “sliders” and only sliders. They did succeed in variety – beef, chicken, and falafel sliders – but each one was tiny (about an inch in diameter). The numbers must have been off or the organizer thought a slider was bigger than what was provided. There was not enough food.

    I had a phone meeting at the same time the lunch started. By the time I made it into the kitchen about 30 mins in, there were 2 tiny sad chicken patties, the crumbs of a bowl of pretzels, and some cupcakes left. That’s it.

    The CEO felt bad and ordered full meals from the deli across the street for those of us that got nothing. At least the cupcake was good. Apparently, those that did get food complained that it wasn’t good. We haven’t even been offered pizza since then.

  75. Wilbur*

    We need a year, or at least the current song of the summer, president, summer blockbuster, for a lot of these. None of the celiac/vegetarian/etc. ones are great, but it’s a lot worse if it happened 5 years ago vs 20 years ago.

    I always pack food when I fly for work-its either long days auditing factories or a long flight overseas. I don’t trust most airline food after I got food poisoning from some meatballs on United. Nothing like spending a 4 hour layover in the bathroom, then trying to hold yourself together on the last flight home.

  76. Anonymous ex academic*

    A university I used to work at had a very large Jewish population. My colleague and I made the mistake of going to the dining hall the last day before spring break. They were clearing out the kitchen and mostly only the saddest of the kosher and vegan items were left. It’s like when you’re trying to clean out the pantry or too tired to go grocery shopping. I tried ordering a grilled cheese but they only had the fake cheese and it was completely bland and flavorless. I think we maybe had some yogurt and granola and cereal with soymilk or something like that. It was the saddest and funniest lunch ever. Never went that close to break again, though.

  77. KayStraw*

    My previous job had a mass layoff which affected approximately 100 people (half the company).

    On the last day of the 60-day notice period they threw a farewell party for those of us who hadn’t already resigned for new positions. About 50 people came, may of whom had been working from home and had no other reason to come into the office. The “food and drinks” mentioned in the invite turned out to be warm cans of diet coke, a SINGLE party tray of sushi, and 6 crumble cookies. The food was completely gone within 5 minutes. Really added insult to injury!

  78. Cubicle Raccoon*

    This is making me feel better about catering a lunch and forgetting to get water, having to scramble for a pitcher and plastic cups from the breakroom. At least I had remembered sodas!

  79. Chocoglow*

    How did I miss this one?! We had a wedding/marketing spiel my cousin’s then new husband set up to sell timeshares. No joke.

    Entirely aside from the fact he was doing this ON THEIR WEDDING DAY, shiny new hubs thought that the crowd of fifty plus family and friends would be delighted by mini apps, booze, and no real food, and folding chairs for seating.

    The annulment came as no surprise.

  80. Quokka*

    My workplace caters lunches for us (200+) several times a year, and the food is usually great, but is packaged in trays ready for us to walk past and grab.
    Just brought my own food the year that I was pregnant as I couldn’t be sure they were able to properly meet the guidelines, and I didn’t want to risk it.
    I still always bring my own food on those days anyways as I’m a pretty picky eater in a way that can’t be easily defined as a “dietary requirement”, so on the off chance that there is something included that I won’t eat I still have food.

  81. Farro is a kind of wheat*

    Late to the game here but I recently attended a conference at a fancy hotel in a major city and after a number of appalling food-related issues (e.g. labeling the hummus as “contains nuts”, putting dairy in every single oatmeal or egg breakfast dish, etc),

    the coup de grace was serving A FARRO SALAD as the GLUTEN FREE OPTION in the boxed lunch on the last day. I rescued a celiac colleague from grabbing a box on autopilot.

    The servers kindly brought me a nice green salad with sliced roast beef on top but jiminy christmas, that felt like it was bordering on criminal negligence.

  82. Drowning in Spreadsheets*

    Conferences–so many carbs, so much sugar, so much wheat…

    Work related, but not conferences…

    I remember a team dinner with borderline tastely Mexican food and the boss kept buying margaritas. I’m not sure what back alley the restaurant went to in order to buy the tequila, but that was the worst hangover I’ve ever had. Or maybe that boss just drove me to drink.

    Went to a client site for a kick-off meeting, and lunch was literally eaten while I was walking down the hall between conference rooms. Somehow I managed to find the worst tuna salad wrap I ever had outside of a school cafeteria, but it was 2:30 p.m. and I was starving.

  83. Ana Maus*

    I remember a company holiday party. I think the choices were beef or chicken and the person sitting next to me was vegetarian. Her plate was just heaped with all the side dishes. I tried to get the server back to get her some protein and she asked me not to. She was so used to this, it broke my heart.

    What kills me, is it’s not that hard to cater to multiple needs with a little planning. For what companies pay for some of these catering events and conferences, there’s really no excuse.

  84. Joe*

    Ahh, I missed the original call for submissions but I have a fun story for this one! A few years ago, a delegation from my company (including my team) went to an annual conference which my company is a major sponsor of, which was being held for the first time at a new hotel. Now for some background we had a member of my team who is an Orthodox Jew, and who keeps strictly kosher. My boss (who was wonderful for many reasons) was great about making sure she had food options at any kind of staff event, team lunch, etc. and had confirmed with the event organizers that there would be appropriate kosher food available.

    Day one of the conference rolls around and lunch is: a horrible, limp ham sandwich on white bread with mayo, a bag of unflavored Lays chips, and a banana. The woman who keeps kosher is given the chips and the banana. Everyone is disappointed by the food (especially since we were in a city known for its food scene, and the previous years had at least been decent), but my boss goes on the warpath about the kosher meal in particular, and talks to one of the conference organizers about how this isn’t acceptable. Organizer apologizes, says there will be a more appropriate kosher meal the next day. The next day, same meal all around (which none of us eat, it was so gross). Boss fully loses her shit at the organizer, who apologizes again and says it will be fixed the next day.

    Following day (the last of the conference) everyone has the same meal except the kosher option now includes what is clearly one of the ham sandwiches with the ham removed (which, for context, would still be extremely unkosher). My boss, clearly flipping a table in her mind, decides this is the last straw and orders the entire team takeout (paid for herself) from a well-regarded kosher restaurant in the area, which we bring in to the lunch session. Delicious meal, but after the session wraps up one of the conference organizers comes over and starts being all snarky about how they have a contract with the venue and it was very unprofessional for us to bring our on food. My boss hits him with an absolute death glare and says something along the lines of “if it had just been that the food you’ve provided at this event was as inedible as it is that would be one thing, but the fact is I specifically asked about appropriate kosher food and was assured that it would be provided, which was a lie. If you want to make this a discussion, I can go to the DEI rep on [our organization, who again was a major sponsor of the event]’s board and let them know about this so they can keep it in mind when it comes to supporting next year’s conference, though – how does that sound?”. I’ve never watched someone melt so fast in my life, and it was one of the highlight moments of that entire job!

  85. Milton's Swingline Stapler*

    My first job out of college I worked for a progressive nonprofit in Brooklyn. One of the office culture quirks was a rotating chore chart with each division assigned a chore they would perform for one month, then rotate. The chores were pretty low key — watering the garden, cleaning the fridge, managing coffee supplies, and planning the monthly all-staff meeting. Planning the monthly all-staff meeting was A Thing primarily because it involved providing lunch for everyone. We had some talented cooks (and people whose partners were very talented cooks) and it got a little crazy with departments trying to one-up each other with amazing lunches — except for one department head who just absolutely refused to engage, and I think kind of got off on being contrarian about it. So when it was that division’s turn instead of, say, an incredible spread of amazing freshly prepared tacos with homemade tortillas and salsas and all the fixings, we’d get… packs of ham and turkey cold cuts, Kraft singles, and sad hamburger buns to MYO sandwich, and there were never any condiments, sides, nor drinks. Everyone gave him so much grief, but he never relented.

  86. here comes the judge!*

    I used to work at a small religious college. The new president invited everyone to his home for a holiday party. He and his wife had just moved to the area. They made it a potluck! So one of the nuns and an administrator brought a Honeybaked Ham (expensive!) and others brought whatever. Turns out, they did not have enough glasses for everyone to drink at the same time. The President’s wife would collect glasses, run the dishwasher, and then put the glasses out again! They weren’t even embarrassed! Here’s the president making 200+k with no one else making more than $115k and they’re cheaping out on this party they threw. He turned out to be a terrible president who lacked leadership and the ability to fundraise. I had no respect for him.

  87. Mystic*

    oh, I can’t believe I missed the request. Would’ve added my own.
    Govt job, had to travel for work for almost 2 months, mainly weekends. Breakfast, lunch and dinner would be provided-breakfast was good, multiple options. First lunch was hot dogs, which doesn’t sound bad…except we were in a tent most of the day and power kept cutting out, so the hot dogs didn’t stay warm, and the people providing the food didn’t count correctly-they ran out before everyone could get some, and some got sick from them near the end.

  88. Maggie*

    I was one “voluntold” for a party planning committee for the public library I worked for. We were tasked with planning the annual Non-Denominational Winter Dinner. The expectation was a sit-down meal and cash bar off-site. Our budget? $12 per person. We priced out the cheapest banquet hall prices ($30/head) and then figured out what we could afford at the $12 budget, and presented a plan for Happy Meals served in the library basement.

  89. MAOM7*

    I am diabetic, and trying like heck to avoid carbs. I also have some severe food allergies. No one ever knows what to feed me, so I often bring my own food. Yes, it’s weird to whip out a tossed salad with protein and a safe dressing from my totebag when everyone else is eating the fancy meal, but it’s the only way I know I’ll get something to eat, and that I won’t die eating it. These days, I don’t understand why it is so hard to be more expansive about what you are offering. I’ve gone to a thousand breakfast meetings with nothing but pastries and bagels, bowls of fruit, and cups of yogurt, none of which I can eat. I always eat before I go.

  90. Holy Hershey*

    OMG! The Blessed Fritos.
    My husband has just gone to bed and my face is hurting from trying to laugh quietly!

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