when office potlucks and catered parties go wrong

As we’re getting closer to the season of office potlucks, catered parties, and other meals with coworkers, let’s discuss the many ways in which they can go wrong — from alarming cuisine to cheap-ass rolls to tantrums over the chili cook-off to that one coworker who steals entire trays of brownies.

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

{ 1,044 comments… read them below }

  1. Elle*

    I just went to catered office party gone wrong! We were in a party hall where you had to bring in your own caterer. There was a card on the table that had the menu for the evening and beautiful salads were at each seat. There was a long delay after the salads were eaten and you could smell burning. Nobody came to take the salad plates away. Over an hour later different kinds of chicken wings appeared at the buffet along with deli sandwiches on cheap ass rolls. Neither were on the menu. It got to be so late I had to leave before dessert was served.

              1. Reluctant Mezzo*

                Unless you slice them open, put butter and a little garlic on them, and broil them till they *just* turn brown. It does sound like a lot of trouble, but yum!

        1. mb*

          you know, I’d love an update from “cheap ass rolls”, if they’d be willing to provide one. They seemed very adversarial and I’m wondering if they’ve mellowed at all.

          1. Erin*

            I have also wondered how Cheap Ass Rolls is doing. I hope they’re doing well, and I hope they have found a place of employment that values niche and specialty bread products.

          2. DJ Abbott*

            There was a post from a coworker of the cheap ass rolls woman. I think about a year ago. It was very interesting.

      1. I'm just here for the cats!*

        in my family we now call hawaian buns cheap ass buns. we just cant not see them and not think of that story.

    1. Raw Cookie Dough*

      A good Halloween costume (I know, missed it by *this* much) would be a cheap ass role. That would be a good way to identify other AAM readers at your company. ;-)

      1. Meri*

        Just make sure the hyphen is in the right place. Cheap ass-roll would be a much different look! (Talk about buns…)

      2. D*

        A nsfw story that happened at our annual Christmas party.

        This happened 30 years when I worked for a restaurant chain. If you’ve work in restaurants you know things can get a little wild, like living a rock star lite life. Sex, drugs and all the craziness without the money and groupies.

        Our Christmas party ends and almost the whole crew, managers included moved along to our favorite bar and many drinks were had.

        At one point in the evening, I was handed a remote by one of the line cooks. he pointed out the up and down buttons and with a grin told me to press the up button a few times. I do so and across the bar one of my foh female co-workers yell ‘who has the damned remote no’

        Readers, it was the remote for a sex toy she had been wearing all night.

        I dropped the remote like it was on fire and decided it was time to call it a night and head home

        I heard later that the batteries finally gave out right around last call.

    2. Molly*

      I love the “cheap ass rolls” letter!
      I really dislike Hawaiian rolls, regardless of brand. I don’t want sweetness in my sandwich/burger rolls.
      Given that, I took would have brought some nice, crusty, possibly whole grain rolls. And if only one person could bring each thing? I still would have brought them, but I wouldn’t be signed up for them.
      However, I suspect I would have told the witch it was me.

  2. old curmudgeon*

    This happened at a family member’s workplace a few months ago.

    A potluck was held at my family member’s office to celebrate the end of chemotherapy for a woman who was battling breast cancer. She holds a senior role in the organization, is well-liked and highly respected, and her colleagues were nearly as devastated by her diagnosis as she was. When she completed a very aggressive months-long chemo regimen, they wanted to mark the milestone in an appropriately celebratory way, so a bunch of her coworkers organized a potluck party.

    There were all the usual contributions to an office potluck – meatballs, salads, sandwiches, chips, desserts, and so on. And then there was, um, the other thing.

    One of her (male) coworkers made an authentic Italian confection to bring to the potluck, explaining that it just seemed to fit, somehow. His contribution was a platter of several dozen handmade truffles called Capezzole di Venere.

    Capezzole di Venere, for those who do not speak Italian, translates to “Nipples of Venus.”

    And in the obligatory coda to the story, the coworker who contributed Nipples of Venus to a potluck in celebration of beating breast cancer is the brother of the honoree. His sister the breast cancer survivor was fully aware ahead of his plans beforehand, and she thought it was hilarious. In addition to sharing the same parents and the same employer, they clearly also share the same irreverent and ribald sense of humor. Fortunately!

    1. Dust Bunny*

      I believe these are featured in _Amadeus_, although I think the description of them given in the movie is inaccurate (or maybe there is more than one version of them?).

      1. Random Italian*

        I don’t know about different versions, but I have also eaten “Tette di monaca” (literally “Nun’s boobs”). We like colourfully named food here in Italy.

          1. Catalin*

            I was once totally baffled at a dinner about nun’s farts, because the French-Canadian I was speaking with/translating for was trying to get me to explain this dish I had absolutely no experience with.
            Note: there is no English/American version of ‘nun’s farts’ as it was described, but it sounded like a snickerdoodle with glaze.
            (Yes, then I had to go through the repertoire of similar Anglo/American dishes. Do you have any idea how to say ‘bear claw’ or ‘elephant ears’ in French?! It gets silly fast.)

            1. rando french canadian*

              No, I’d describe a pet de soeur as a cinnamon roll, made with pie dough, and small. I make mine about 1 to 1.5 inches across. You take whatever leftover pie dough you have, roll it thinly, then spread butter, brown sugar and cinnamon on top. You roll it up like a cinnamon roll, and make slices of it.

              what do other cultures do with leftover pie dough?

              1. Glitsy Gus*

                We called those Pinwheels in my family.

                But I know folks call a lot of swirled cookies that, it’s a bit of a catch-all name.

      2. Umiel12*

        Andrew Rea made them recently on his YouTube channel, Babish Culinary Universe. He had help from Max Miller, the YouTube host of the Tasting History. I wonder if the brother had just watched that episode.

        1. GoryDetails*

          Oh, thanks for mentioning that – I hadn’t seen that one! I follow Max Miller but only sometimes peek at Babish. The episode was hilarious!

      3. Mermaid of the Lunacy*

        You beat me to the Amadeus comment! And that’s exactly what Salieri called them! :)

      4. Mister_L*

        In my native language there is a dish / type of meat called “Fledermaus”, which literally translates to “bat”. No, it’s not actually bat meat and I’ve never tried it.

        There are also some other dishes / sweets with names, that rightfully no longer pass the PC-test.

    2. Yes And*

      Given that the honoree approved this in advance, I’m coming down on the side of “Not problematic and in fact awesome.” (If the honoree had not approved in advance, that would be entirely different.)

      1. allathian*

        Yes, absolutely. As long as the honoree approved, I put this very firmly in the NBD stack.

        I’d love to see how a typical American office would react to those classic dishes of English cuisine, Bangers and Mash (sausages in an onion sauce with mashed potato), followed by Spotted Dick (suet pudding).

    3. 1-800-BrownCow*

      In my mind, I was saying “Oh no! Oh no, no, no……..Bahahaha.” Now that was good. If not for the ending, this could have gone very badly.

    4. Person with cancer*

      A curmudgeonly reply to old curmudgeon: I can almost guarantee that her colleagues were NOT nearly as devastated by her diagnosis as she was. She was the one with cancer; she’s the one who gets to think about the possibility of a recurrence every day, forever. [in other words, no one actually gets to “win” the cancer “battle” – a cliche that needs to be, uh, put out to pasture].

      I suppose I am using “almost” in the same spirit that you used “nearly as devastated” but, as someone recently diagnosed with cancer and having a family member currently behaving as if she was the one who was diagnosed … well, words matter.

      1. Hrodvitnir*

        So much sympathy for dealing with the family member (my mother was intolerable around my diagnosis), and the part about recurrence can’t be emphasised enough. Unless your cancer was in situ only, you are always at risk of recurrence, and that’s very weird to live with. I agree, that phrasing did make me wince a little.

        I must say though, as someone who is currently losing my mind about suspicious symptoms and clear CTs with a high risk of cancer recurrence that’s notoriously hard to see on CT… actually having cancer was probably more upsetting at the time to my friends and loved ones. I am unusually equinanimous about serious situations and am having a much worse time living in uncertainty than I did being like “ha, I told you my gut wasn’t right! Please get in there surgeon – and a side of poison? Sure!”

        1. RC*

          Reminds me of xkcd #931, and then the more optimistic #2386 (his wife was diagnosed with cancer and he wrote about it).

          Sending good vibes to both of you; and to quote #931, fuck cancer.

  3. Lea*

    I am so ready for this content!

    My only entry is the person who brought a half eaten thing of ice cream to a carefully planned retirement party which I will never forgive them for

    1. Elizabeth West*

      Me too, haha — when I saw the post title, I was like, “Oh boy!” :’D

      At our frequent OldExjob potlucks, people always seemed to either bring too many (cheap-ass) rolls, or not enough.

      1. EvilQueenRegina*

        We had one once where too many people signed up for pork pies because ex-boss had asked everyone to email us with what they were bringing rather than have a sign up sheet somewhere so everyone could see what had already been offered. Ex boss decided the most senior person could bring his pork pies and emailed everyone else asking them to bring something else. The next time it came up, I suggested to ex-boss that we have a proper sign up sheet instead of her coordinating emails.

          1. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

            It’s Cockney rhyming slang for “lies”– were people trying to send the boss a message?

        1. H3llifIknow*

          …what is a pork pie? Is it like … a handheld pie like a pop tart but filled with shredded pork? I honesty don’t know what they are!

          1. Thomas*

            “It consists of a filling of roughly chopped pork and pork fat, surrounded by a layer of jellied pork stock in a hot water crust pastry”

            They’re nearly always round.

            1. Artemesia*

              And they are totally a British thing — I doubt most Americans could tell you what a ‘hot water crust’ is unless they watch British baking shows and I have literally never seen a pork pie in the US and I have lived in several regions of the country

              1. Harried HR*

                It is totally a UK thing as an British Expat living in the US for over 30 years I can count on 1 hand the number of proper Pork Pies I have found in the US from NYC to LA, Miami to Denver

              2. Zinnia*

                They are also very much a Canadian and very northern New England thing as well. I grew up with the Montreal version, which is very finely minced pork and potato, with a bit of cinnamon and clove in the filling. Delicious!

              3. SeluciaMD*

                Yeah, as an American who loves to bake I had never heard of a hot water crust before GBBO. I have learned so many things watching that show!

          2. londonedit*

            Pork pies in Britain are generally a picnic or buffet food. They’re made from a hot water pastry (usually made with lard) and filled with finely chopped pork and pork fat, and then gelatine is poured in through a hole in the top of the pie so it surrounds the pork. Usually you have them cold with mustard or piccalilli or similar – they’re a staple of summer picnics and Boxing Day buffet tables. You can get big ones that you cut into wedges, or smaller one-person ones, or even mini ones.

            1. H3llifIknow*

              Well, I was with you until the gelatin. I don’t think I could get past that texture in a savory food. Although, I actually don’t like “Jello” much either come to think of it. A sensory thing I guess! Otherwise, sounds like it could be tasty!

              1. TechWorker*

                Yea as a kid the gelatine was definitely the bit I tolerated rather than enjoyed.. if it’s a thin layer it’s not too bad at all but if you get chunky jelly bits… ew :)

                1. Sharpie*

                  Whereas it was my favourite bit; I always found the actual filling a bit too seasoned. Even today, I like it when there’s a good amount of the jelly around the meat.

              1. Daubenton*

                A chunky, mustard-based vegetable pickle, including, but not limited to, cauliflower, onions, shallots, carrots, courgettes and gherkins, pickled with vinegar, ginger, garlic, coriander, mustard powder and turmeric.

            2. Seeking Second Childhood*

              I like meat pasties… will have to go look up the difference after work. If I get inspired to try making this, I’ll report back on the weekend open forum!

              1. Grandma*

                Owing to the serious shortage of mincemeat to make Thanksgiving pies (who knew?), I looked up how to make mincemeat and discovered mincemeat pie tins. They’re evidently used to make mincemeat hand pies. Best I can tell, they are a wider, shallower version of a muffin tin. Maybe I’ll do that some day.

                1. Anon in Aotearoa*

                  I make my Christmas mince pies (fruit mince) in standard muffin tins. Works fine. Best of luck!

                2. whingedrinking*

                  This comment combined with one below reminded me of the time I went to visit my parents at Christmas and my mother asked me to make the mince tarts. My family is Canadian, but my dad did his master’s in England, so he has little random Britishisms that pop up from time to time.
                  So I’m looking in the fridge for the mincemeat and can’t find it. I look again. Nope. “Mom, it’s not here.”
                  “Yes it is, it’s in the door of the fridge.”
                  I look at the label of every single container in the fridge door, and none are mincemeat. “It’s really not there.”
                  “Oh for heaven’s sake! Right here!” And with that she plucks out a jar of a thick, dark brown substance and hands it to me.
                  All I can say is it’s a good thing I was making the dessert and not her, because if she had, we would have been having Branston Pickle tarts.

          3. Cyborg Llama Horde*

            I’m not personally familiar with the British version, but based on my experience with similar Australian foodstuffs: Imagine one of those little individual serving size chicken pot pies (the kind you’d get in the freezer section of the grocery store), but the filling is closer to pulled pork, and the crust is substantive enough that you can hold it in your hand and bite into it.

          4. New England Nerd*

            I’m guessing the folks referencing the British version are correct, but I immediately thought of French meat pies (tourtière) which are filled with ground pork (usually cooked with onions and such) which you can find in New England because of the influx of French Canadians who came to work in the mills in the 19th and early 20th centuries!

            1. Calpurrnia*

              Oh that’s intriguing, I grew up in New England (it’s been 10 years since I moved away, and I still regularly refer to jimmies, frappes, and bubblers, to the consternation of people in both Virginia and California)…. and have never heard of these! Off to the Google I go to learn more :)

              1. Heyheyheygoooodbyyyyyyye*

                I learned in my NE college that frappes were the ones with ice cream and milk shakes were basically flavored milk. To West Coast me, it was fascinating to learn the new terms. Flip flops, NOT thongs, for example! Soda, not pop!

                1. lyonite*

                  Where on the West Coast do they say thongs and pop? I’ve lived in CA my whole life and only heard flip-flops and soda.

                2. Calpurrnia*

                  Yeah, to me if it has ice cream then it’s a frappe, a milkshake is along the lines of Nesquick chocolate milk. The rest of the country disagrees, although I will never forget the time my family was at a restaurant in/near Yellowstone NP and my dad asked if they had chocolate frappes… the server just immediately was like “How ’bout them Red Sox?”

                  Another time I was visiting family in Ohio and was offered a “pop”. I expected a popsicle and was so confused when they came back with a soda can…

                  I’m pretty sure my grandmother called flip-flops “thongs”, but I’ve never heard that from any younger generations…. to me a thong is something veeeeery different :P

                3. SemiAnon*

                  I grew up with thongs and pop on the west coast of Canada. The usage of thongs has decreased since, however.

                4. Heyheyheygoooodbyyyyyyye*

                  My early years were in San Francisco, then Seattle. No memory of what other terms were in use for those, but I don’t remember getting laughed at until college!

                5. SeluciaMD*

                  Funny, I think of most of those as Midwestern terms rather than west coast terms. I have a lot of family in Minnesota and Wisconsin (I’m on the east coast) and when we were kids, all the cousins would rib each other about some of the differences with very exaggerated versions of each other’s accents. (I’d say “do you want a paaaaaap” to my MW cousins and they’d reply “nah, I wanna soohdaahhhh” and laughter would ensue. What can I say? We were like 9.) But I have to admit, a frappe as anything other than a frozen coffee type beverage is new to me! I can’t say that I’ve ever been anywhere in the US where milkshake didn’t mean a blend of milk and ice cream. That’s interesting! Wonder where that particular usage came into popularity and why…..language evolution is so fascinating to me!

              1. Heyheyheygoooodbyyyyyyye*

                My early years were in San Francisco, then Seattle. No memory of what other terms were in use for those, but I don’t remember getting laughed at until college!

    2. 1-800-BrownCow*

      Haha, this reminded me of a story from my childhood. Not a work event, but growing up, the church my family attended would have tureen dinners every few months for all the members. Small town, everyone knows everyone…. So one family (grandparents, mom, and 3 kids) in the church, it was well-known that they ate out at restaurants daily for all their meals and never cooked at home. Anyway, this family always came to the tureen dinners (free meal, of course) and would often bring already open and eaten from bags of food like chips or something as their contribution, which then everyone avoided taking food from their contribution not knowing how sanitary or how old the food was. Also, everyone was also supposed to bring their own eating dishes (plates and silverware), but this family didn’t have any so they’d borrow the church kitchen’s dishes.

      So, this one time, instead of bringing their usual open bag food, they showed up with 1 can of baked beans. They grabbed a serving bowl from the church kitchen, opened the can of beans, dumped them into the bowl, and set it out on the buffet line. Didn’t bother heating up the beans first. Despite the food coming from an unopened can, everyone still avoided the unheated beans from a can.

      1. Umiel12*

        I’ve seen situations like that at the church I grew up in. It makes me wonder if someone said something to them about their “contributions.”

        1. 1-800-BrownCow*

          Oh, most likely yes. And probably in a nice Christian manner, meaning some kind of passive-aggressive comment like “Oh look, you brought potato chips again! It’s nice sometimes to have something different to eat instead all this homemade food that everyone else always brings.” I can think of a few of the church ladies who would have likely said something like that.

          1. Irish Teacher.*

            Honestly, I’d probably miss the sarcasm there and assume they were actually sick of homemade food.

            1. Lily Rowan*

              The person who brought cheez doodles to an office potluck where we were supposed to be “honoring our heritage” or whatever, was a HUGE HIT.

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

        My aunt did that at a Christmas Eve potluck we had at the house. Brought TWO cans of baked beans, handed them to my mother, and asked my mom to put them in a crock pot for her.

        Mom was not amused.

        1. Frickityfrack*

          My aunt did that once, too! Only it was one can of green beans for almost 20 people, so it wasn’t even useful. My mom put them in the cupboard and didn’t even pretend like she was going to use them. I guess that’s better than (at the same Thanksgiving) my other aunt and her husband bringing Arby’s with them because they didn’t think they’d like any of the food.

          1. Grandma*

            And here I am test driving various vegetable sides for TG that I think people will actually eat. Who really wants a vegetable side when there’s turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, and gravy, with pies and whipped cream aplenty to follow? Next up: Sautéed Carrots with Bacon Dijon Dressing. It sounds good even for those who give cooked carrots the side-eye. Sautéed cabbage has already been scrubbed. I mean, Waldorf Salad would be good, but that’s got like 500 calories and wouldn’t leave room for the main event. -working on it

            1. No Direct Reports*

              Feel free to share the Sauteed Carrots recipe! My family will ONLY eat the turkey and various starches, so I always bring a vegetable for just me and my sister in law.

              1. goddessoftransitory*

                Yes indeed! That sounds delish!

                I think I finally may have found a green bean casserole recipe that isn’t “well…nostalgia” or too deconstructed/precious. It’s got a sour cream sauce to replace the cream of mushroom soup!

                1. whingedrinking*

                  Oh man, the green bean casserole…my family is both very white and very Canadian. My brother, who lives in the States, is engaged to a lovely woman who also happens to be Black.
                  So at his first American Thanksgiving with her family, my brother is served a giant spoonful of something completely unfamiliar and, in an effort to impress his fiancee’s family, eats all of it. He later tells his fiancee, “Everything was delicious except that weird stuff with the green beans. Why would anyone mix beans and mushroom soup?”
                  Well, it turns out that her aunt insisted that white people eat green bean casserole at Thanksgiving and they had to have some so my brother would feel welcome, so she’d looked up a recipe online. Needless to say, it was never a tradition in our family, and I can’t remember ever hearing about it being one from any other Canadian I know.

                2. SeluciaMD*

                  My dad makes a mean green bean casserole from scratch that has essentially a cream sauce with sauteed shallots, garlic and mushrooms and some white cheddar and it is BOMB. It puts all other green bean casseroles to shame.

                  My parents have been divorced for almost 30 years but they knew each other growing up so my dad still has good relationships with my mom’s family. He also doesn’t have much extended family of his own so he will come to Thanksgiving at my aunt’s house (mom’s sister) every few years (everyone gets along fine). He is not allowed to come without making like a trough of this casserole because its so delicious everyone wants to make sure they can have plenty with dinner AND take some home with their leftovers. It tickles him to no end. :)

            2. Honor Harrington*

              Those carrots sound tasty!

              Every August, I buy 3 dozen ears of good corn at the farmers market, cut it off the cob and freeze it for Thanksgiving dinner and Christmas dinner, so that we will have the best tasting corn for a side dish. Lots of work, but it tastes so much better than either canned or store-frozen.

        2. Christmas Cactus*

          I used to participate in a church “gourmet group” which usually had the meal divvied up between four or five couples from rotating larger group. One couple got a reputation for being very late (it was not rude in her homeland) so the word was “don’t let her pick the appetizer” if you were hosting that month. One time she did end up with the apps. The couple arrived almost an hour late and then had to make the Greek fried cheese in the hosts’ small kitchen. While we were waiting, most of the rest of us got blotto on the ouzo cocktail. Another time she had the dessert at my house. The dish had to be baked while we ate (move stuff from my oven where I stored it for the dinner!) because she claimed it needed to be piping hot and then topped with freshly whipped cream. She only brought a pint container of whipping cream so I had to get out a bowl and my mixer and clear kithcen space for her to work while we waited patiently for dessert. Then there was time they offered to host a big group event at their house. I was in charge of the event so I arrived a half hour early to set up. She had not even started to get her home ready. It needed vaccuming as there were tufts of hair from their collies everywhere. The kitchen had dishes for days stacked in the sink and was the least sanitary home kitchen I have encountered. I had to warn my husband not to eat the food she prepared as food poisoning was likely.

          1. BatManDan*

            When I hear stories of people whose homes / lifestyles are untidy enough to be remarkable to the rest of us, I always wonder what reactions THEY have to OUR homes / spaces. Do they go home and say things like “they must not have much to do / lead a boring life, their space was so CLEAN” or “they must suffer from a mental-health condition; they cleaned the kitchen as SOON as dinner was finished.” Do we stand out to them? Or do they just not register it at all?

      3. PhyllisB*

        I remember one church dinner where someone brought a stuffed baked potato from a fast food place. One baked potato.

    3. Jasmine*

      At a party for something I can’t remember a woman brought a beautiful home made cake…. With one slice missing. A small sign on a toothpick was stuck in the cake: “Larry was here”. ( Larry being the bakers hubby. )

    1. Keeley Jones, The Independent Wonan*

      We went on a Grand Canyon rafting trip this summer and one of the nights there were Hawaiian rolls with dinner. My 9 year old ate about 10 of them. All I could think was “I’m glad my son doesn’t like Cheap Ass Rolls!”

      1. Brad*

        As a Canadian I had never heard of Hawaiian roles before this letter. A few months ago there was a display that our local grocery story would be carrying them and I excitedly texted my wife that we were going have “Ask a Manager rolls” with dinner!

        1. Dust Bunny*

          Thank you, now I will forever think of these as Ask A Manager Rolls. In the event I am ever asked to contribute to a community cookbook, hands-down I’m contributing a Hawaiian rolls recipe as Ask A Manager Rolls to cement it in American vernacular culinary history.

          1. Not Your Sweetheart*

            If the AMA community ever had an in-person gathering, we would have no shortage of “infamous” foods! Hopefully, some will only share a name, and not the circumstances (like the cookies attached to the dog). We’d have: Cheap Ass Rolls, Counterfeit Cranberries, Joe’s Guacamole, and more!

                1. Heyheyheygoooodbyyyyyyye*

                  Loved those books! I wanted to live their lives and I had a large crush on Jim.

                2. goddessoftransitory*

                  Have you read Sara Gran’s Claire DeWitt books? They’re super takeoffs on the “girl detective” genre–Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead is the first one.

            1. BellyButton*

              OMG that would be the best. I once hosted a party that consisted of foods mentioned in Beastie Boys’ music. Eggs and omelets, White Castle, Brass Monkey (drink made with orange juice and malt liquor), etc etc etc.

              1. Karstmama*

                I’ve hosted a party with a Jimmy Buffet theme including having shrimp, sponge cake, cheeseburgers, margaritas, etc!

              1. Hlao-roo*

                From the 2017 “I will confront you by Wednesday of this week” and other holiday stories post (story #10):

                I work in academia, and at the last place I worked, we used to plan a small holiday party for some of the students who majored in our field and were graduating in December. One colleague was usually in charge of the food (because she was a control freak who didn’t trust anyone else to prepare it hygenically, but that’s another story). One particular year, she refused to tell anyone what she was bringing and insisted it would be ‘a surprise,’ but also insisted that no one else bring a single scrap of food.

                The ‘surprise’ turned out to be her fat, overfed dog dressed up in a Santa Claus hat and a harness that was covered with hanging cookies—that had been banging against her fur and were also licked and sometimes half-chewed by the dog where she could reach them. My colleague was expecting everybody to worship her dog and happily eat the cookies. Instead, everyone else went, ‘Um…okay,’ and drifted off to the holiday party upstairs that had actual, clean, non-dog-tainted food.

                My colleague was bewildered.

                I’ll drop the link in a reply because the other stories are worth a read too.

            2. Queen of the World*

              As someone who normally avoids all community food-centered gatherings, I would absolutely make an exception for an AMA potluck! That sounds awesome!!

          2. Seeking Second Childhood*

            This exchange has given me a much better attitude towards my day. Thank you for the good humor!

        2. Dulcinea47*

          A friend of mine in college who was from Hawaii used to bring these back for us (dormmates) in the early 1990s… they weren’t available all over like they are now. So the cheap ass rolls were actually a fancy treat for me. (they’re also not cheap, compared to other store bought rolls.)

          1. Constance Lloyd*

            For what it’s worth, in the original Cheap Ass Rolls, King’s Hawaiian were the good rolls brought by the letter writer, and the cheap ass rolls were brought by someone else who clearly had it in for LW.

        3. Artemesia*

          I don’t understand their appeal; they taste sweet which IMHO is gross in dinner rolls. Maybe they pare well with spam.

            1. StarTrek Nutcase*

              Not so strange but most seem to enjoy commenting when surprised a particular has many fans – like the pork pes discussed here.

          1. Michelle*

            They have some called “savory butter” now that don’t have the sweet taste to them! I tried them last Thanksgiving and they were actually pretty good. Of course I’ll call them Ask A Manager rolls now.

          2. Seeking Second Childhood*

            Try frosting them lightly and eating them with fruit as dessert.

            Covid supply chain issues spawned a few unusual food ideas like WWII rationing did… that was one of my experiments that I’ll repeat. (And admit to.)

              1. SeluciaMD*

                I like them with the ham and swiss sliders you bake in the oven like a slab in a 9×13 pan with that butter sauce poured over the top. Because yep, the sweet rolls are a nice complement to the ham, sharp cheese and salty, buttery sauce. SO GOOD. I also liked them with my grandma’s ham salad back in the day. Think they do work especially well with ham/pork.

      2. ZugTheMegasaurus*

        Totally off-topic, but you reminded me of something I did when I was about 9. My mom owned a small business. There was a 1-day conference in a beautiful area near Yosemite (just a few hours’ drive) and she decided to turn it into a little mini-vacation with me and my aunt; basically we’d spend a couple days in the park before/after the conference and she’d call the whole thing a business trip.

        We stayed in this really nice hotel that was sort of lodge-inspired but which I remember having way fancier finishing than an actual lodge. The place was packed and every morning they had an enormous breakfast buffet with every kind of breakfast item you could want.

        My mom and I had arrived before my aunt, so the first day we were on our own at breakfast. As we got to the dining room, my mom realized she’d forgotten something up in our room. I was an extremely well-behaved and trustworthy child, so she gave me a plate and told me to serve myself whatever I wanted and she’d be right back.

        I decided I wanted bacon. It was under a huge metal cloche and must have been several pounds’ worth. I took it ALL. It was the only thing on my plate and was mounded up a good 6 inches (at least). My mom was absolutely mortified, took the plate from me, and went to apologize to the staff. I was absolutely baffled about what I had done wrong – I mean, it was there for people to eat, right?

        1. SeluciaMD*

          I used to work at a Shoney’s when I was a teenager (if you aren’t familiar they are a US restaurant chain best known for their breakfast buffet). Every so often my mom and brother (who is 7 years younger than me) would come in for breakfast on a Saturday and sit in my section if I was waiting tables. Every single time my brother would start off with two plates: one with some eggs, fruit, hashbrowns, whatever….and one completed mounded up with bacon. He loved that bacon. Sometimes he’d get a chaser plate of bacon when he was done with that because the bacon was delicious and plentiful. (I think this was in part because he was just starting to go through puberty so he was in that place where he seemed like a bottomless pit with food.) When I quit that job he was mad at me for MONTHS. The managers had done some shady stuff (which is part of why I quit) so I was not about to go back there ever again, and my mom (of course) didn’t want to go there anymore either. At that time, I think my brother’s loyalties were with his stomach. Took him ages to forgive me for depriving him access to his trough of bacon.

          So just know, you were not alone in that impulse! (And FWIW, I think you were well within your rights to claim that bacon. The hotel could always make more.)

          1. LifeBeforeCorona*

            Years ago we drove to Florida and every morning we started with their buffet. It was our main meal of the day and we wouldn’t be hungry again until late afternoon. It was so good and plentiful that I thought I dreamed it.

  4. forrest*

    The time I said, “Oh, are we having a fuddle?” and it turns out that’s a dialect word from where I grew up and everyone looked like I’d just sexually harassed them. :-/

    1. Will Work for Chocolate*

      How are you going to tell this story and not tell us what a “fuddle” actually is?

          1. A Poster Has No Name*

            That was my take, as well. If my office still had potlucks I’d make it my mission to bring this into the lexicon, but alas.

        1. forrest*

          Midlands, mainly! I’ve heard it in Nottingham, Derbyshire and South Yorkshire, but I never heard it in North Yorkshire or Lancashire.

            1. Letters*

              Snap! Born and bred in Yorkshire, lived in London for too many years, never heard this one. It does sound a bit …rude

            2. Maddie*

              I first came across the concept of a fuddle in Bradford, so it’s definitely a West Yorkshire thing, don’t think I ever heard the term further north though.

          1. Sharpie*

            Having recently moved to the Midlands, I will be able to translate for my Kentish parents if this ever comes up that their church is going to hold one of these.

            Dialect words are amazing and sadly dying out. :(

        2. Ellis Bell*

          When I worked in Lancashire, the term was “Jacob’s Join In”. No one was ever able to tell me who Jacob was.

        3. londonedit*

          I think it’s very specifically regional – where I grew up (south-west) I can’t remember there being a potluck culture at all, and I’d definitely never heard ‘fuddle’ until I met people from the Midlands/North. I don’t think there’s a specific Westcountry name for it!

        4. Not the fruit*

          In New Zealand, potlucks have traditionally been referred to as “bring a plate” and there are many stories of new immigrants who, not unreasonably, interpret that literally.

    2. Maddie*

      I love a fuddle! It was a surprise when I moved cities and nobody knew what it meant, thankfully, I have since introduced many friends to the joy of fuddling :)

    3. Dust Bunny*

      I had to google this to find out where it was from–I lived in Pennsylvania for a few years when I was small and picked up a couple of Pennsylvania Dutch-derived words that pop up and derail conversations every once in awhile.

      1. Chocolate Teapot*

        My mother’s workplace (UK) always did fuddles, for which everyone would contribute a dish, but often it was cakes or desserts.

      2. Richard Hershberger*

        My father is from Bedford, Pa. One word he used was “schleckerstuff,” meaning candy, or junk food generally. So far as I can tell, it is not used in modern German. I have occasionally asked native German speakers if they know what it means. They will listen carefully to the work, analyze it in their heads, and come up with something along the lines of “sweet stuff.” This suggests that my father came by it honestly, but I have never heard anyone else use it.

        1. Marieke*

          Slik is the word in the dialect of Groningen for candy ( groningen is the most northern part of the netherlands on the border with germany) so I totally suspect it to be a north west German dialect word because it comes just awfully close!

        2. PCYogini*

          As a child growing up in Pennsylvania Dutch country, I was criticized for eating “schleck,” such as cake, cookies, candy, etc. I’ve not heard it used anywhere outside of PA.

        3. Lenora Rose*

          Families often have their own language terms, as well as local idioms and regional dialects and all that. It can sometimes be a surprise what isn’t universal, or at least regional.

          1. Michelle*

            My family seems to be particularly bad about this. We have a lot of inside jokes, and occasionally one of my younger kids will be shocked to learn their friends have never heard what they assumed to be a common expression, but is really just a joke we’ve been telling since before they were born.

            1. Selena's nan*

              a friend could never order her fav eggs (sunny side up) while out because in her family they were only known as pompom eggs

          2. goddessoftransitory*

            Heh, I make clafoutis (pronounced “clah-foo-tay,” approximately) for Christmas dinner, and when I told my sister about it she immediately deemed it “claw-footy.” Now when we talk about fancy desserts we sound like we’re baking four and twenty blackbirds in a pie.

            1. Sharpie*

              The four and twenty blackbirds recipe absolutely requires a pocketful of rye if the endeavour is to be in any way successful.

        4. Aneurin*

          That sounds like a partial Anglicisation of “Schleckzeug” (literally “lick stuff”, figuratively “sweets/candy”) which is a word I used as a child living in Bern – it seems to be in use in Switzerland if not Germany.

        5. Veryanon*

          I’m from Central PA originally, and when we’d have a mishmash of leftovers for dinner, my mother always referred to it as “snits and nip” as in Mom, what are we having for dinner? Snits and nip. I’m sure it’s some kind of Anglicized PA Dutch term, but I’ve never found out what it actually means.

        6. Who, Me?*

          I speak German very well (people in Germany think I’m one of them when I talk), and had to carefully analyze this word to figure it out as well.

          To be honest, IMHO this is a Yiddish word (the languages in their various dialects are closely related).

          Unrelated: The word fuddle does NOT mean is “shtuppen” in Yiddish. (Forgive me, Alison, I’ll be good!) Germans laugh when they hear that, it sounds oldfashioned and funny to them.

      3. 1-800-BrownCow*

        I’m now living in PA Dutch Country, not originally from the area though. So yes, I get a chuckle at some of the words and terms I hear on occasion.

    4. Salty Lamp*

      I have never heard of a Fuddle before but as I read it I recalled the scene in Extras where Maggie is trying to do dirty talk and says “I’m fudding my self stupid and I’m bloody loving it” “Fudding, it’s a word..”

      1. Arts Akimbo*

        I immediately thought of that episode, too! Poor Maggie, she got the word from Kate Winslet and all.

      2. Not Australian*

        Well, some people use ‘fud’ as a variation of ‘food’ … e.g. on a shopping list, ‘cat fud’ etc.

    5. Pangolin*

      My partner, who is from Lancashire, is always most put out when people call it a pot luck rather than a Jacob’s Join!

    6. Lady_Lessa*

      In the Southern US, the term is “covered dish” and I heard a tale of a person bringing a covered dish, but had nothing in it.

      While I use “pot luck”, my mind still translates it into “covered dish”

      1. PhyllisB*

        Another Southern term is Dinner on the Ground. It’s been many years since dinner was served on a tablecloth on the ground, but many churches still use the term.

      2. Soup in Arms*

        Where I started working right after college they called it a “pitch-in.” This is the southern part of Midwest US. First time I heard it I was so confused since we had used “potluck” my entire life.

    7. Cease and D6*

      For Canadians who love history, ‘fuddle’ is sometimes a jokey replacement for a notable expletive that begins with an ‘f’. This is because in 1971, Pierre Elliot Trudeau, the sitting prime minister, was filmed in the House of Commons clearly but inaudibly saying ‘f*** you’ to another member of the house. When interviewed about it later, he claimed he had merely been saying ‘fuddle duddle’

      1. slashgirl*

        I always thought that happened in the later 70s cus I “remember” it, but I guess it was just hearing my family talk about it, given that I was about, oh, 12 days old when he said it. lol

  5. Amber Rose*

    Last year we organized our annual potluck super last minute, and it somehow came together except we forgot plates. There were no plates anywhere in the building. People got creative but oh man, I was so embarrassed.

    A couple years before that my boss tried to make some kind of stew but the potatoes didn’t cook and she messed up the recipe, and then because it was inedible she tried to flush it down the toilet and the starch turned to glue and basically destroyed the plumbing for the day.

    One of my coworkers is a former chef, and no matter what food we bring in he tears it apart like Gordon Ramsey. He absolutely means nothing by it, he’s the nicest guy just very critical of food, and his commentary is like the highlight of organizing these lunches for me. One of our newer employees got super offended last year though and required some talking down.

      1. Amber Rose*

        The stew like, congealed into a gluey mess, and it seemed like it flushed but then the next person who tried to flush could not. It had solidified somewhere down in the pipes.

        The emergency plumber was very not impressed with us.

        1. StarTrek Nutcase*

          I can empathize. I cooked a huge pot of black eyed peas and drained them in the sink leaving minimal liquid in the pot. I quickly discovered cooking cooked bean liquid will clog a drain especially if faucet isn’t also running warm water. That was an expensive lesson.

    1. Dust Bunny*

      That’s not actually very nice. Gordon Ramsey tears apart food for people who have asked him to come find out why their restaurants are failing–they’re not civilian potluck participants. If he’s going to critique, it really should be at the request of the food contributor only.

      1. Fluffy Fish*

        Right? He does mean something by it. He means to insult and tear down peoples food. That’s some real “Mean Girls” stuff. Being a chef doesnt make it any less awful. Rude af!

        1. wordswords*

          Seriously! I believe you that he’s a nice guy and you have fun with it, Amber Rose, and maybe he tries to keep his commentary restricted to the people who do find it fun or something. But if anybody did that to something I brought, I’d be really hurt and angry, and it would absolutely kill any desire to take part in any potluck he was going to be at.

          1. Fluffy Fish*

            The poor person that needed talking down – it’s the potluck equivalent of “it’ just a joke” and putting the onus on the person who is rightfully offended vs the guy that needs to keep his mouth shut.

            1. Amber Rose*

              It wasn’t the potluck though. It was a catered BBQ lunch. I promise, my super nice coworker only critiques professionally cooked food. Also he’s not insulting, just kinda blunt.

              1. Expelliarmus*

                If that’s the case, then that’s fine, but in your initial post, you did say “no matter what food we bring in” after mentioning a potluck, so I can see why other people assumed your coworker unnecessarily roasts meals that his coworker makes.

      2. Charlotte Lucas*


        I worked with a former pastry chef, and she was always very gracious about everyone’s contributions. And made amazing cheesecake!

      3. Malarkey01*

        Also Gordon Ramsey does that for entertainment on TV and with people who signed up with that expectation. I know someone who has worked in his restaurants ten years and he absolutely does NOT do that off camera. He’s considered a good mentor and someone who really values teamwork, collaboration, and educating new chefs.

        1. UKDancer*

          Yes I know someone who worked with him and said he was a lovely chap off camera. Tearing people’s food apart is a thing he does at their request. To tear someone’s food apart at a potluck if they haven’t asked for feedback is mean

        2. Ally McBeal*

          He doesn’t do it on the kid-centered shows either. He’s such a kind guy with those little Junior MasterChefs or whatever they’re called.

      4. Amber Rose*

        Sorry, I should have been more clear. He only has critique of catered food. He never says anything about the potluck stuff, and always contributes something delicious.

      5. Miss V*

        Not a work event, but at my partner’s request I made a batch of cookies for us to take to a party. One of the guys attending fancies himself something of a food critic, and isn’t shy about sharing his opinions, wether you asked for it or not.

        He picked up one of the cookies, and declared that if I used a cookie dough scoop, they would have all turned out more uniform. Now, they weren’t of such varying sizes that the batch didn’t cook evenly, he just thought they could be more aesthetically pleasing.

        I walked over, took the cookie out of his hand, and told him that if my cookies were unacceptable he didn’t have to eat any.

        Since then he hasn’t stopped critiquing, but he has stopped criticizing me.

        Guess the cookies weren’t that bad.

        1. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

          This is not the Great British Bakeoff! “Perfectly uniform” is not generally a requirement for homemade cookies.

      6. Platypus*

        Exactly, “he’s the nicest guy..” just a jerk about food because he thinks he’s better than other people. People who are just trying to share food with others.

    2. Bast*

      If I had someone critiquing my food that hard, I’d be the one bringing plates and soda. It would give me such anxiety.

      1. Caroline*

        I would be saying something, very loudly, that involved sex and travel.

        I would also ask why this self-important ex-chef is no longer a chef and did he just not have what it takes?

    3. Richard Hershberger*

      Manila file folders make good substitutes for paper plates. If your office does not use them anymore, so much the better. Check the back of the supply closet.

    4. LCH*

      yeah.. if i knew no matter what i brought in, it would be fully criticized and demeaned, i would stop participating.

      1. Jen in Oregon*

        I would be telling Gordon Wannabe to keep my damn tater tot casserole out of his effin mouth…

        1. JSPA*

          You’re fine. Really!

          People here are supposed to read comments with the willingness to stretch a smidgen to see where other posters are coming from.

          Not explain that you’re wrong, that your enjoyable friend whom they have never met is a horrible person and bully, and that by extention, you are horrible for sticking up for him, I guess?

          Sure, we can’t excuse predatory or dangerous behavior by saying “he’s just like that,” but eccentricity and having a bit of a bee in one’s bonnet are not predatory, nor dangerous. There is no harm at all in hearing that someone finds the soup bland and the beans oversalted; not even if you grew up on a constant diet of bland soup and salt-lick-flavored beans.

    5. I'm just here for the cats!*

      I want to know more about the chef criticizing the food. Is it like all in good fun and people ask him to do this or is he being really hurtful?
      Like I could see silly things like the cookies aren’t shaped right, or the potatoes are too chunky in a silly way like mimicking Gordon Ramsey. But it sounds like thats not how he is doing it and that’s not ok, especially if someone didn’t ask him to do this for their dish.

          1. Platypus*

            Probably because that person maybe loved that food and didn’t need some self-proclaimed master chef saying mean things.

            Sorry, Amber Rose, I know your comment was probably just a side comment and you aren’t even the one who is criticizing food, but I think you can see how people feel about having food, even catered food, around them criticized because it can just bring up a lot of emotions for people.

        1. Rachel*

          You are really under fire here and I know that sucks.

          I’m going to explain why this is off putting even if it’s catered: if I am somebody enjoying the dish and somebody else is tearing it down, it’s unpleasant. If I am the person paying for the dish and somebody tears it down, it’s entitled.

          If I am somebody who grew up with, or is currently experiencing food insecurity, tearing down the dish is hitting a nerve.

          Like most things, this is know your audience. If you and this dude want to go out to eat on your own time and dime and criticize food, by all means, have a ball.

          At a work function the chances of it landing poorly are just too high to be smart, even if it is catered

          1. Cyndi*

            Not about food at all, but last month I was really excited to see a cheesy old movie I unironically love on the big screen at a local indie theater! Unfortunately I wasn’t aware that it’s a movie most people watch to laugh at the cheesiness, and I had a pretty bad time watching it in a theater full of strangers.

            1. Princess Sparklepony*

              People watching it to laugh at it are secretly big fans of the film but not strong enough to say they like it! It’s not cool to like something schmaltzy.

              I say this as a huge fan of What A Girl Wants. I love that movie. It’s cheesy as all get out. And I’m cool with that.

              It’s Now, Voyager that I’ve never understood the appeal of. And anything with Claudette Colbert.

    6. EvilQueenRegina*

      We had one once where no one had brought cups/glasses for drinking.

      I was very pleased that my Secret Santa present that year was a wine glass.

    7. Michelle Smith*

      Yikes on bikes. They were right to be offended; what he’s doing is offensive, whether you personally found it entertaining or not.

    8. Dulcinea47*

      I would be offended too, I never claimed to be a professional chef and I make things based on what I know other people like and will eat. The way you “win” the potluck is by having all of your dish eaten before everything else (and not b/c you made tiny portions.) Not by professional level reviews.

    9. Lady Ann*

      I have an acquaintance who used to have a part time job as a taste tester or something, and it took us awhile to convince him that he didn’t need to critique every dish that everyone brought to a party. It was not pleasant to interact with him.

    10. Alisaurus*

      One of my former jobs had a legendary story about the person who tried to flush a whole bowl of watermelon chunks and backed up the plumbing… apparently it happened after work hours when this employee was cleaning up, so everyone else came in the next day to that. (Small office, only a couple single-occupancy bathrooms.)

      1. Garblesnark*

        Did they not know about trash or compost? Or outside? If it’s watermelon you can just put it outside.

    11. Misty_Meaner*

      We have a German restaurant here where I live call “Amber Rose”. Completely off topic but when I saw your handle, I wanted you to know!

      1. Jackalope*

        I was actually taught at one point that that was the correct way to deal with liquid type foods you were getting rid of (soup, milk, etc.). No idea about the watermelon, though.

      2. Observer*

        Why in the bloody hell would anyone FLUSH the food? That’s insanity.

        If it’s not going to plug the plumbing, it’s a lot easier than putting it in the garbage.

    12. Hrodvitnir*

      Wow. I would absolutely tell Mr Ramsey where to stick it, by god. Hopefully in an office appropriate way, but wth?

      Also people whose first instinct is to stick things down the toilet: staaaaahp. I did laugh though.

    13. ZugTheMegasaurus*

      My parents had a friend who was a fun guy, life of the party, but OMG he was the snobbiest snob that ever snobbed. He had extensive opinions on EVERYTHING food or drink related, always ordered the most expensive things on the menu, and nothing was ever good enough (unless it came from him). It ended up with my mom deliberately fixing dishes that contained ingredients he’d turned his nose up at to see if he could even tell (and he usually couldn’t).

    14. Raida*

      That doesn’t sound like a nice person.
      That sounds like a person who’s more interested in hearing their own voice when they’re nerding out than being considerate.

      I’d argue that ‘being considerate’ is a pretty standard expectation to call someone ‘nice’

      and I’d expect a manager to tell him to stop bitching over lunch.

      If he did that to my food I’d tell him “You don’t have to eat it.” also “Shut up. I didn’t buy a ticket to your food review show.”

      1. Overit*

        If I were Gordon Wannabe’s manager, he would be firmly disinvited from all food events. We would be having a discussion about respect and basic manners.
        It does not matter that the food is catered. By criticizing the food, he is also criticising those who chose it, ordered it, paid for it, enjoyed it. it is incredibly rude, disrespectful, arrogant and entitled.

  6. SGPB*

    I once saw someone place a large metal dish in the microwave in prep for the potluck and then waltz out of the breakroom. I managed to stop the thing before it exploded but that sure was scary!

    1. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

      How does someone get to be a grown adult capable of holding down a job without knowing you don’t put metal in the microwave? That was quite literally the first rule of microwave safety we taught my kid when he was about five. (Second was “don’t walk out of the kitchen when something is in the microwave”, in case of accidentally pressing a button one too many times and getting ten minutes instead of one. So your co-worker violated both!)

      1. WeirdChemist*

        I had a coworker who frequently brought in leftover pizza wrapped in foil for lunch. His first month back from paternity leave I had to stop him from accidentally microwaving the foil SO MANY TIMES. Although I think I can chalk that one up to sleep deprivation…

      2. Dulcinea47*

        Not exactly a grown adult, but I have a vivid memory of a college dorm mate putting tinfoil in the microwave. Another friend said, “Didn’t your mother teach you anything?!” His response: “My mother puts tinfoil in the microwave!!”
        (they had a maid who apparently did everything including the microwaving for them. Dude also had laundry troubles. If you pack it too full the powdered detergent won’t dissolve.)

        1. Zombeyonce*

          Our house came with a convection microwave that can cook with metal in it, it even has a metal tray that the food sits on inside. I didn’t know these existed until we moved here but I imagine my kids might be confused about metal and microwaves when they’re older.

      3. Cyndi*

        Sometimes your brain shorts out! I’ve known my whole life not to microwave metal but just last week I mixed a splash of milk into some leftover mac and cheese, popped the bowl in the microwave to reheat, and then looked around and went “Wait, where’d I put the fork down?” First and only time in thirty years I’ve put metal in the microwave, and thankfully nothing went wrong. It sounds like it was premeditated from SGPB’s coworker, though.

        1. TrixieJeep*

          Me, too! Never in my whole life, until…there were some extra Chik-fil-A sandwiches at work. In little foil bags. I went to my office & popped one in my microwave. Didn’t take long for me to realize my mistake, but I could not believe my stupidity.

          1. Alisaurus*

            My coworker did that! He popped it in the microwave, started chatting, and then we heard pops and saw it sparking. I think he covered the distance to the microwave in a single bound.

      4. Turquoisecow*

        I somehow made it to college, I once picked up a tinfoil-wrapped whopper and brought it back to my dorm. It was cold and windy out so the burger wasn’t really hot so I thought I’d heat it in the microwave. Opened the wrapper and stuck it in the microwave. A tiny bit of flame appeared on the wrapper, I freaked out, stopped the microwave, and took it out, then used a paper towel to finish the burger.

        Telling the story afterward, everyone was like “omg you don’t put tinfoil in a microwave!”

        My mom always took the food out of tin containers from like restaurants and put them on plates, but I assumed that was just for like, serving purposes or it would heat better. I honestly don’t remember anyone ever explicitly telling me not to put metal in. Will definitely tell my kid, though!

      5. Worldwalker*

        When both microwaves and I were much newer, I once put a baggie of leftovers tied with a twist-tie into the office microwave. The resulting fireworks (arcing) were impressive. I didn’t destroy the microwave, but you only make that mistake once.

        1. learnedthehardway*

          When I was a student, I did that by accident with some hamburger / ground beef. I’d bought it at a butcher rather than the usual grocery store, and didn’t realize the tie on the bag had metal in it. I guess the butcher shop didn’t use trays for meat – probably more environmental of them.

          First and last time I did that!!

        2. BubbleTea*

          I inherited a microwave recipe book from when microwaves were new, and it had recipes specifically instructing you on how to arrange the foil to suitably arc the sparks and channel the heat. I don’t remember the details and no longer have the book, sadly, but it definitely encouraged metal in the microwave. o_o

      6. Michelle*

        Unfortunately, some parents prefer to mock their children for not knowing how to do things rather than teaching them. Then, when the kid grows up and moves out and realizes they are hopelessly incompetent at basic tasks, that parent insists, “It’s obvious, I shouldn’t have to teach you!”

        I ruined many clothes, blew up a microwave, set a toaster on fire, and flooded the dishwasher (twice!) trying to teach myself the things my mother insisted were “obvious.”

        1. New Mom (of 1 3/9)*

          I’m a youngest child and sincerely think that my parents just forgot to teach me some stuff. I learned all of the microwave stuff the hard way and am still a terrible laundress.

        2. Sharpie*

          We had the toaster fire, though in our case it was because their was a loose part of the inside that kept the bread from poppyup all the way, which kept it cooking until the bread caught fire. Dumped the whole thing into the sink, as being the nearest heatproof surface.

          That toaster went out with the rubbish/recycling that week (our local council at the time also picked up small electrical items if you put them out with the rubbish).

      7. Kathleen*

        We had a colleague in his late 20s, who had recently moved here from a country where the norm is for women to cook, and men live with their mothers until they marry. He was unmarried, so cooking for himself for the first time. We had to stop him from eating chicken that was still raw in the middle, he thought it was like steak. I can definitely imagine him putting metal in the microwave.

        1. Baby Yoda*

          French au pere in the 90s put whole eggs (in shells) in our microwave. That was the first of many exciting household adventures.

          1. TheAG*

            We did that once when we were kids (and we had a babysitter there). In our defense, it was the 70s and microwaves were brand new…no one knew it was going to be an issue…
            It’s a major issue lol

          2. Michelle*

            I also did this in my early 20s. My husband told me you could cook eggs in the microwave. He assumed I knew to crack them first, but (as I mentioned above), I didn’t know anything about anything. I didn’t really understand how microwaves worked. The entire door blew off the microwave — luckily I was on the other side of the kitchen, especially since I was heavily pregnant at the time.

        2. whingedrinking*

          I used to live in a huge house with half a dozen roommates at a go, and at one point there was a middle-aged guy who’d just gotten divorced and a first-year undergrad away from his family for the first time. They’d bonded because they were from the same culture, but unfortunately neither of them had much experience with looking after themselves.
          The older guy tended to survive on frozen pizza. One day the oven was broken, so he tried using the broiler to cook it. This didn’t produce the desired result. The younger guy popped up and made a suggestion.
          And that’s why I came home to find two dudes cleaning pepperoni off the bottom of the oven and an upside-down pizza melted into the oven racks.

      8. MigraineMonth*

        Not everyone grows up with microwaves. One of my friends used one for the first time in her life at her a job, when she microwaved a hotdog.

        For 10 minutes.

        1. Cedrus Libani*

          On what was probably the second time I’d ever used a microwave, I was reheating a dinner roll but didn’t know how long to cook it, so I asked my mom. “8 to 10” she said. So I put it in, set the timer for 10 minutes, and walked away.

          She meant seconds. We never did get the smell of flambéed dinner roll out of that microwave. It reeked for another year or two until we finally got rid of it.

          1. BubbleTea*

            Similar issue for me when I asked my mum what to cook scrambled eggs in and she said a glass casserole dish. I’d read Swallows and Amazons so I knew you cooked scrambled eggs over an open fire. Put the casserole dish on the gas stove top. Minutes later there was scrambled egg on the ceiling and glass all over the kitchen.

            1. goddessoftransitory*

              I set a ceramic baking dish, for lack of space, on top of a stove burner I thought was off. It was not, as I found out when it cracked in half a minute later.

        2. lyonite*

          This reminds me of my very sheltered college roommate, who mentioned in passing once that she didn’t like Campbell’s soup because it was so salty. The concept of condensed soup was totally new to her.

        3. Our Lady of Shining Eels*

          Yep. I’m 38, and we didn’t get our first microwave until I graduated high school.

          It lives in the garage.

      9. Kit*

        Former coworker pulled the second one on me. He tried to microwave a Hot Pocket, apparently entered the time wrong, and set the microwave on fire. Since the microwave was in a small area off to the side, we didn’t notice right away. Filled the room with smoke and completely destroyed the microwave.

        That was the day I learned we didn’t have fire alarms in our part of the building. I worked with flammable materials and had multiple fire cabinets.

        Icing on the cake? We were in the basement so we didn’t have a way to air out the space. Closest they could come up with was turning the air up to circulate it more, so not only was I stuck working in a smoky room, it was freezing.

        I don’t miss that job.

      10. MusicWithRocksIn*

        I once caught my brother putting a frozen pizza in the oven with the cardboard round still on the bottom of it. He is so smart and very street smart/handy so it blew my mind that I had to explain to him that cardboard is flammable and we don’t put flammable things in the oven.

        1. goddessoftransitory*

          I have had to tell so many people that if they buy a half-baked pizza (to finish at home when they’re ready to eat) they have to take it OUT OF THE BOX before putting it in the 325 degree oven.

      11. GasketGirl*

        I know to not put metal in the microwave, but I remember one time putting a piece of apple pie in to warm it up. I was using a paper plate that was left over from NYE and didn’t even think that the pretty holographic pattern would cause a spark, but it definitely did! Stopped it quick enough, but whoo boy, that was some excitement.

        1. Kayem*

          Yeah, I learned fairly quickly that the coffee mug with the pretty metallic lettering should never go in the microwave.

          I do have some containers with metal that I microwave, BUT those containers are specifically made to be microwaved despite the metal inserts. They use removable silicone shells so it’s actually safe. The metal inserts give a surprisingly good sear to brussels sprouts.

      12. Catgirl*

        I tried and failed to stop my coworker with a PhD in chemistry from microwaving food wrapped in tinfoil.

      13. Sharpie*

        It was not a potluck not anything like but you reminded me of an incident that occurred while I was serving in the army… At the time, I was the only female soldier in the single accommodation block on what was a really tiny camp, I had the first floor (second floor to you American folks) pretty much to myself apart from the General’s driver and o e other guy who I never saw, who both had rooms at the other end of the building.

        It’s about ten o’clock on a Friday, I’m ready for bed when the accommodation block fire alarm goes off. I head out into the corridor and there’s nobody else around. There’s smoke but nothing to indicate fire.

        I head downstairs, just in case. There’s nobody downstairs, either, and I know of at least four guys who should be around, so they’re probably outside waiting for the fire brigade. Still no sign of any fire, just smoke.

        I head outside. There’s smoke pouring out of a window, fanned by one of my colleagues. No fire, just a whole.lot of smoke.

        Apparently he’d put a microwave meal in. For half an hour, when the package said three minutes. And of course things had either blown up or straight out caught fire, though it was quickly extinguished. The whole kitchen had to be redecorated and all the appliances replaced.

      14. goddessoftransitory*

        Lord, how many AAM roundups involved somebody putting popcorn in the microwave for an hour…

    2. sara*

      Not a potluck story, but I used to work in a small office with a little kitchen area right outside my door. We had a microwave and a toaster oven. People were constantly trying to melt cheese in the toaster oven and it would drip down onto the element and flame. The office manager, instead of unplugging the toaster oven or doing anything else productive, would run laps around the office shouting “The microwave is on fire! Who has food in the microwave?” So the actual culprit, who was using the toaster oven, would have no idea anything was wrong.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        Ugh, at Exjob, it was someone always putting microwave popcorn in and walking away. Commence the burning popcorn smell wafting through the office for the rest of the day. Don’t walk away from the microwave, people!

        1. LurkersRUs*

          We have a stove in our break room. One of our researchers decided to boil eggs for lunch one day. She put the pan on the stove with the eggs in the water, turned on the burner, and walked away. The water eventually boiled off and the eggs exploded.

          I wasn’t in the office when it happened but it was apparently a gigantic mess.

          1. Christmas Cactus*

            I worked in a cubicle just feet outside an office kitchen and the smells wafted out. (Burned popcorn, anyone?) Someone who had clearly never worked in an office setting before cooked fish in the microwave. The odor was gross and permeated half the floor until mid-afternoon. We knew who the culprit was as she was seen putting it in or taking it out. The next morning a memo was sent to all staff reminding them not to use the microwave to heat food that had a strong odor while cooking.

            1. MagicEyes*

              I’ve told the story here before about the time my (now ex-) coworker burned fish in the microwave. :-( That was the worst thing I have ever smelled. She was not a good coworker for many reasons, and this was just the tip of the iceberg.

        2. Lucy P*

          We had someone put their lunch in the microwave for 50 minutes (by accident) instead of 5. They walked out of the room and then became so engrossed in the book that they were reading that they forgot about the time until the whole area was filled with smoke and the scent of burned plastic.

      2. Jam Today*

        I worked in a tech company years ago which had a huge institutional ego problem, as in ‘we only hire the best and brightest etc.’ and we got both our regular toaster and toaster oven taken away from us, the former because someone tried to make a grilled cheese in it apparently not understanding the thermoplastic nature of cheese and setting the (vertical) toaster on fire when it melted onto the heating element (as above) and the latter for putting a slice of pizza wrapped in plastic wrap and melting the plastic, filling the kitchen with petroleum-product-based smoke and fumes.

        So, just in case you ever feel a creeping inferiority complex around someone who went to Harvard or MIT…don’t.

        1. MigraineMonth*

          I worked at a tech company with an institutional ego problem that put on a huge conference twice a year. A week before that conference, popcorn was removed from all break rooms, presumably to prevent a repeat of the burned-popcorn-mass-evacuation of ’09.

          Naturally, everyone just learned to stockpile a few bags of microwavable popcorn in their desks, because surely *they* would never burn popcorn.

        2. Calpurrnia*

          I went to MIT, and would need at least two hands to count the number of times my dorm got to stand outside in the snow because of fire alarms from people failing at cooking.

          Setting the microwave for 10:00 instead of 1:00, leaving their fork on the plate when they put it in the microwave, trying to make grilled cheese in a toaster, putting a foil-wrapped pop tart in the microwave, leaving pasta boiling on the stove until the water boiled dry and the pasta started smoking (confession: that was me)… or my personal favorite, my suitemate who set their electric rice cooker on top of the hot stove that my other suitemate had forgotten to turn off after cooking, and not noticing until the bottom melted.

          You can be real good at calculus and an absolute idiot in the kitchen.

          1. Cyndi*

            For two years I went to U Chicago, which has a big annual scavenger hunt where dorms compete against each other, and this always happened more often than usual during Scav week. We figured it was inter-dorm sabotage, since of course you couldn’t work on entries while the building was evacuated, but in hindsight I wonder if some of it wasn’t caused by people trying to get creative with food-based entries.

          2. Azure Jane Lunatic*

            A conversation I once had with a colleague:

            Me: … and don’t do dumb things with fire.
            Him: Just what constitutes ‘dumb’ here?
            Me: You work [at a Silicon Valley tech company and went to MIT and Stanford], you can figure it out.
            Him: I mean, is a hairspray or non-dairy creamer flamethrower ‘dumb’?
            Me: *sigh*
            Me: OK, fine. Don’t do dumb or overly clever things with fire or the fire pit.

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

          Not work related, but in college, the honors floor set the fire alarms in the building off- twice, both times in the middle of the night- by throwing water balloons down the hallway. We non-honors students, who were asleep at the time, were none too pleased.


      Ha! In grad school, a friend of mine and I stumbled on a physicist who was about to microwave a pork and bagel sandwich on a metal plate. We had to explain that there wasn’t one right element in all of this.

    4. MigraineMonth*

      I worked at a restaurant with a microwave convection oven, and it felt wrong every single time I put a tin-foil tray in there.

    5. Kayem*

      When I was in my very early 20s, I used to microwave CDs for fun. These were AOL CDs or any that failed burning (which was frequent back then). You had to be quick because they would spark across the surface and etch this interesting complex pattern in just a few seconds.

      Though I will absolutely not tell my niece and nephew how cool it looks. I don’t need to get in trouble because they microwaved their dad’s CDs.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Microwaving marshmallows is just as entertaining, more environmentally sound. Plus tasty food science that demonstrates how a microwave can affect textures.

        (PS use wooden toothpicks to assemble Mr. Stapuff.)

      2. ampersand*

        I did this same thing. My boyfriend at the time introduced me to it, and it was very cool. That said, I cannot in good faith recommend microwaving a CD.

    6. goddessoftransitory*


      Oh my God, that could have started a fire! *freaks out, seriously WHO DOES THAT*

  7. I edit everything*

    Dang it! Why’d this post have to come up on a day when I’d vowed to buckle down on my current editing project?

    1. A Girl Named Fred*

      I have to order catering today for a couple meetings later this month, so now I’m triple-checking all of my notes to make sure I don’t end up on this list next time!

  8. Exhausted Electricity*

    Several of my coworkers are painfully lactose intolerant. I also work with an extremely diverse group of people so anything cheese and meat related isn’t optimal due to religious reasons.

    I compiled a list of catering places of
    a similar price range but with more non-dairy options and asked the admin to please consider literally any options as pizza excludes 30% of the office.

    She refused. It is always pizza for company lunches and catering, even with holidays.

    The Fart Wars have begun. A coordinated crop dusting attack of lactose intolerant people with just enough lactaid in themselves to not create a mess will walk passed her desk in the tiny welcome area.

    1. Bronze Betty*

      OK, the thought of Fart Wars has made my day (most notably since I do not have to be anywhere near these wars).

      1. Carol the happy elf*

        We had a Reborn Vegan, “Sid”, who ordered catering from his vegan cousin’s restaurant, years ago. They were just introducing gluten-free options, and peanut allergies were well-known, but pea-flour wasn’t known as an allergen, nor was bean flour. That day, they made meatless dishes with brown rice and lentils, mixed with a soy sauce for meaty richness. The sides were baked beans, green bean casserole, and chia pudding ice cream for dessert.

        Full disclosure- I wasn’t sure of the ice cream, so I had the vegan cake with the fake cream cheese frosting.

        Chia makes the digestive tract nice and “lube-y”, so the bean overload can FedEx-Lax right outta there.

        They also had asparagus spears wrapped in fake slivered ham, (so urine smells like mating yack piss, according to Phil, who studied ancient medicine in Asia)

        This was for early lunch on a Friday. By the end of day, three people had needed to leave with some humiliating urgency, and the rest of us were pretty high-octane. It was early December in the northeast, and I drove home with all my windows down, but Tricia and Barry had to ride the bus, and poor Danny (who loved the food, so he ate three full plates) rode the subway.

        The only thing worse than Fart Wars is Fart Peace!

        1. 1-800-BrownCow*

          Ok, so I just read this to my coworker and we are dying from laughter over here!!! So far, this one win’s for me!.

        2. Caledonian Crow*

          This description is so hilarious and evocative that I had tears running down my face from all the laughter I had to suppress while reading.

          You are a genius with words! Can we be friends?

        3. Anonymous 77777*

          Oh no. I live in fear of lesser-known food allergy interactions like pea flour. Potluck season means brace for impact.

          Since it wasn’t mentioned on the list above, PSA that cricket flour can trigger shellfish allergies!

            1. Kayem*

              It’s probably because there’s similar proteins in their exoskeletons. Kind of like how someone allergic to cashews or pistachios can also be allergic to mango and papaya.

              1. sparkle emoji*

                Or how banana, kiwi, or avocado allergies can also make people react to latex. Always interesting how allergies work.

            2. Hlao-roo*

              Crickets and shellfish have some of the same proteins, so someone who is allergic to Protein X in lobsters will also be allergic to Protein X in crickets. I don’t think that ground bits of lobster shells are being put into cricket flour (although it is possible that some location processes both crickets and shellfish and there’s cross-contamination in some cases).

            3. Data Nerd*

              Shellfish allergy checking in! Crickets–and funnily enough, dust mites–are anthropods like shrimp and lobster and trigger the same reaction. Imagine if you will how very often I have to vacuum my bed

              1. Sharpie*

                …I’m surprised shellfish share anything, you’d think they’d keep it to themselves.

                I’ll show myself out…

        4. Harried HR*

          OMG…I’m dying of laughter at the visuals my co-workers are looking at me like I’m demented

        5. goddessoftransitory*

          OMG. This is the kind of meal I would expect to see in a Shirley Jackson-type short story about a fed up woman getting revenge on a local women’s club!

    2. Southern Girl*

      Vegan here. Pizza without cheese is easy to order and delicious. You just have to get the non vegan and non lactose intolerant to keep their hands off it!

      1. Ace in the Hole*

        Vegetarian here. I like a lot of vegan food, but cheese-less pizza is neither filling nor appetizing. It’s usually just… toasted bread with red sauce and mediocre diced vegetables. Better than nothing, but honestly still a bit insulting when there are so many better options for the same price.

        1. not my usual name*

          Spak brothers, pittsburgh, has vegan “cheese” (and veggie sausage and veg-pepperoni) pizza that’s essentially indistinguishable from their (good) non-vegan pizza. Also, vegan cheesesteak. Not as into the seitan wings, though they have those too.

        2. Princess Sparklepony*

          Toasted bread with red sauce – that doesn’t sound so bad. The vegetables might mess it up though.

      2. MusicWithRocksIn*

        My kingdom for someone who can order pizza for groups with sense! At my office they always have to get an exactly equal amount of: Pepperoni, Hawaiian, BBQ Chicken and Everything (including mushrooms). The Pepperoni goes pretty much instantly leaving a bunch of people to decide if they would rather pick off pineapple or mushrooms. There is always a ton of leftovers but also still hungry people, and the vegitarians/vegans are totally without options. At least get something that is veggie only or cheese.

        1. sparkle emoji*

          The highest number of pizzas for any topping type should be cheese. Almost everyone who will eat pizza will tolerate a cheese slice. This is the hill I will die on.

          1. UKDancer*

            Definitely I love pepperoni but it doesn’t love me back and tends to transit my system fast and somewhat urgently. So at social events I stick to cheese pizza because I don’t enjoy gastric upset.

            My company is wise to the fact my colleagues have a major cheese habit so orders a lot more cheese pizza than anything else. Likewise if it’s a sandwich lunch we get more cheese and pickle than anything else because it’s popular.

          2. goddessoftransitory*

            This! If only people would just get another cheese instead of debating endlessly over who wants chicken and if they can have the marinade or…

        2. goddessoftransitory*

          It’s so hard! Where I work the gluten free crust, for instance, is NOT dairy free/vegan, whereas the regular crust is, but contains tons of high-gluten flours. It can be really hard to convince people that they can’t just combine the “not regular” things into one dish.

    3. Atalanta*

      I’m glad I work from home because this had me in hysterics. Hopefully biological warfare got the point across.

      1. Body of a Heavy Reader*

        Perhaps just request that a few of the pizzas be made without cheese? It’s an easy compromise that should solve most of the problems.

        1. king of the pond*

          Or vegan cheese — if I understand correctly, it would have no dairy, definitely solving the lactose issue and probably solving the religious issue.

          1. kalli*

            I’m not sure what you may not be understanding correctly but unfortunately whether coconut, soy or nut-based, not all vegan cheese is created equal – some is made in the same factory as the brand’s non-vegan equivalent and comes with ‘may contain milk’ messaging, thus ruling out people with severe dairy allergies and people keeping kosher. The dedicated vegan brands don’t tend to make any dairy products (although some cannot rule out cross-contamination from ingredients they source from other manufacturers) but may not be certified kosher or made under kosher conditions, so people keeping very strictly to kosher may still not be included

            Pizza without cheese might be fine but the melted cheese serves a structural purpose in keeping the toppings on the pizza, so the cheeseless pizzas tend to lose more toppings in transit and during eating. Some people do prefer to melt their own cheese on or enjoy cheeseless pizzas (I do!) but it is still not the same experience as getting your pizza straight from the box, lifting a slice out with the stringy cheese melting off the edges, and perhaps losing a couple of pieces of topping that were sliced or at the edges.
            Vegan cheese also does not guarantee the pizza is actually dairy free – some traditional Italian tomato sauces contain milk (to cut the acidity of tomatoes) and it’s becoming relatively common to have pizzas that have a white sauce of some kind instead of tomato, like yiros pizzas (garlic sauce). The toppings may not be kosher either – some deli meats used in pizza toppings (ham, salami etc.) can have dairy added to them for taste and texture. If someone is concerned enough to be checking the pizza place may not necessarily have the information to hand or assume meat is meat and not even realise that there isn’t a part of a pig named sausage.

            As with everything team-building and work-social, variety such that everyone is explicitly included at least some of the time, and accommodated where possible when needed, is better than the same thing all the time.

            1. Cyborg Llama Horde*

              Also, some vegan cheeses are REALLY GROSS. I *think* they’ve been getting better (though I mostly avoid them due to early bad experiences), but the worse one had a very unpleasant aftertaste that lingered in my mouth for something like four hours afterwards, despite eating a meal of other food, and brushing my teeth.

              1. UKDancer*

                Yes they vary. Ocado substituted vegan feta on my order once. I used it in the recipe i was making and it was foul and had an awful aftertaste. I have had decent vegan cheese a couple of times but it’s often not great.

          2. Sparkle Llama*

            Yes, either would work. It is becoming quite common for good pizza places to offer vegan cheese, but no cheese is also great and some people prefer it.

            1. Arts Akimbo*

              Is this admin a sentient computer program, like in the Matrix? “One of these lunches has a future in our office, Mr. Anderson. The other does not.”

          3. Platypus*

            I love a LOT of vegan things, but vegan cheese is one of the worst things I’ve ever ever eaten. Why do substitutes when you can just eat other foods that aren’t made to have animal products in them?

            1. ampersand*

              Well, for times when you miss pizza and just really want some pizza but can’t eat cheese for whatever reason. (There are a couple of okay brands out there, thankfully, though most are terrible.)

              I otherwise agree–it’s usually best to eat foods that aren’t poor substitutions of better-tasting foods. :)

        2. Pastor Petty Labelle*

          if the person ordering were going to compromise they could literally order from the suggestions made. They had a list with a specific request of Not Pizza. Yet Pizza is being ordered. The orderer doesn’t care so isn’t going to compromise.

    4. Leia Oregano*

      I am somewhat severely lactose intolerant and this is amazing. I’m known in my office for ALWAYS having lactaid with me, and all anyone needs to do is ask because I’m happy to share to keep the stomach cramps away. We had a charcuterie-themed potluck yesterday as the farewell party for a much-loved and long-serving staff member, and I definitely gave out a lactaid or two in the aftermath. (fortunately, the charcuterie potluck went off without a hitch and my now-former coworker was touched.)

    5. Lenora Rose*

      I never understand this absolute refusal to consider alternatives. Sure, pizza is “easy” — but so are other things, and you came with a pre-compiled list, which cuts down on the effort. And Pizza can be cheap, but again, so can other things. And as soon as anyone says “I can’t eat anything here” you have to start taking it seriously.

      Like, there’s a pizza lunch tomorrow, if I recall the week correctly (I didn’t throw into the pot for it and am not joining in). But our last several group lunches or events were all *different*, not pizza every time.

      Last week, we did a “taco in a bag”. Take a personal-sized bag of doritos. Slit the side open. Fill bag with a scoop of taco meat/vegetarian alternative (the only item requiring more prep than chopping), lettuce, salsa, sour cream, cheese , and onions – with all items scooped in individually by servers so anyone can skip anything they can’t handle or can’t mix. Add some cups of popcorn and cookies or half-donuts on the side, you have a meal. It’s relatively low prep, the serving job is needed but lightweight — and the next time, we’ll do something else still, so the few people whose dietary needs are still an issue can maybe get involved.

      1. NotRealAnonForThis*

        For tacos in a bag, Fritos are a good non-milk based option should anyone ever need that information :)

      2. JSPA*

        aka “walking taco,” close cousin to the “frito pie.” Both served in the bag. Memories of childhood!

    6. Sssssssssssssss*

      I have a kid who cannot eat dairy at all. He’s allergic and no Lactaid is gonna fix that. What does this overly rigid person do for allergies?

      (I very much dislike such rigid thinking in these kinds of ppl.)

      1. Observer*

        What does this overly rigid person do for allergies?

        What makes you think that she does ANYTHING for allergies? The only good thing here is that you *know* that you cannot depend on her. So at least you don’t take the risk of expecting something you can eat.

        Hopefully, she doesn’t have the power to call someone out for “not being a team player..”

  9. CheesePlease*

    This isn’t something that went wrong as much as it is a funny misunderstanding.

    A few years ago (pre-covid) our office had a “Chili Cook-off”. It was understood by most people to mean typical American chili stew, with beans and/or ground meat etc. However, one employee understood it to mean spicy food, and brought in spicy “chili” chicken wings. They were delicious! but did not win the competition haha. Everyone still talks about their wings years later.

    1. Frickityfrack*

      The last time one of my employers had a chili cook-off, the winner made turkey chili (which some people tried to say wasn’t *really* chili) and their only seasoning was a McCormick’s spice pack. Oh my god, the uproar. How dare the winner not have a secret family combination of spices passed down from great-great grandma since 18-dickety-2 (or whatever)?! I was a vegetarian, so I didn’t try any of them, but I thought it was hilarious that people put all this time and energy into their seasoning and lost to a $1.99 mass-produced packet.

      1. H3llifIknow*

        Our company had a chili cook off. I decided to make essentially chicken tortilla soup (if you’ve had Max and Erma’s –tastes just like theirs, very cheesy etc…) except I did put white beans in because…chili. It won. The beef chili makers …well had a lot of beef with that because they didn’t think it qualified, but nobody had defined chili as having beef.

        1. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

          I once participated in a (non-work) chili cookoff where there were only two vegetarian entries, so by unanimous consent the third-place vegetarian trophy was awarded to the guy who brought margaritas. It was unquestionably vegetarian, and nobody had defined “chili”. Plus most of us had had a margarita when doing the voting.

        2. MusicWithRocksIn*

          Oh my god I LOVE Max and Erma’s chicken tortilla soup! I’ve been trying to make a copycat for years- could you tell me where you got the recipe? I can never get it quite right, and now there aren’t any Max and Erma’s left in my state!

      2. Ally McBeal*

        There was a similar AAM thread a year or two ago, and my favorite comment was from someone whose office had had a chili cookoff; someone secretly stole a scoop of everyone else’s chili, put it in their crock pot… and was voted the winner.

        1. Frickityfrack*

          Oh my god, I forgot about that! That person is my hero. What an absolutely insane thing to do.

      3. CV*

        This made me laugh! My partner can get precious about his chili; I should try the spice packet someday. The kids’ll love the MSG in it and I will be best parent for a day LOL

      4. JustaTech*

        For several years my office has had a chili contest. Normally I wouldn’t enter, as I can’t eat spicy food, but as a long suffering member of the social committee, I was told that I *had* to bring a chili.
        So the first year I made my normal, not-spicy chili and while it all got eaten I came in quite low on the rankings. I didn’t expect to do well, as it was a mild chili, but I’m a pretty good cook so that hurt a bit.
        The second year I was stone cold dead last.

        So the third year rolls around and again I am told that I really must provide something. I’m whinging about it to my friends when my friend who is the king of malicious compliance says “Make a curry! It’s a stew of beans and spices, same thing, right?”

        Readers, he was so right. I made a nice (mild) vegan curry and while it didn’t win (not that I expected it to) it was *very* popular and I soothed my ego by choosing to not play the game.
        And the social committee has not demanded that I enter the contest again.

    2. UsuallyLurks*

      This is the kind of situation that calls for a “Most Unusual” prize. When I was a kid my mom hosted an apple pie contest, and the prize for “Most Unusual Apple Pie” went to … the pecan pie that was the only pie one guy knew how to bake. (I’m pretty sure this was a “contest” with the same number of prizes as entrants….)

  10. LadyAmalthea*

    I hate bananas to the point where the smell of a ripe banana peel makes me nauseous and I can’t stand having it in a trash can next to me. All of my coworkers knew this and had made gentle fun of me for this.

    When I was leaving my job of 15 years, my boss held a breakfast for me. what was the only food his partner brought for the breakfast? Banana pudding from Magnolia Bakery because she was sure she remembered I loved it. I had to wait an hour through the breakfast before I could run out and grab a roll.

    1. Ole Pammy's Getting What She Wants*

      oh my gosh, i cannot even imagine eating that for breakfast and i LOVE banana pudding

    2. Fluffy Fish*

      Solidarity! I too am an adamant banana hater. A former boss use to pack a banana every Wednesday and sneak the peel into my trash can.

    3. Bananas are poisonous!*

      Yes!! The smell makes me sick too. My coworker used to eat one every day in her office when we were working very closely together. When she saw me appear in her doirway, she would take her half-eaten banana and put it in a drawer so I wouldn’t have to smell it. And my husband has to eat babanas only in the kitchen and put the peels into a plastic bag in the freezer so I don’t smell them.

    4. LCH*

      i got stuck in a car on a road trip when i was little with bananas. it smelled so bad. i don’t hate eating the actual fruit, but i don’t love banana scent or flavored stuff. ugh, just thinking about the scent makes me nauseous.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        High school Advanced Placement Chemistry class had a lab where they synthesized esters.

        Apparently banana ester is a great introduction to the process. Unfortunately they did this lab in middle of winter, and the reek hung around for a week. Every year. I still like real banana but the artificial flavor still smells like a high school.

      2. RegBarclay*

        Hah, I have a similar thing with grapes! Actual grapes are fine and delicious, but grape-flavored anything (candy, jelly, etc) is an absolute no-go. Due to a grape fruit roll up and stomach flu as a kid.

        1. Junior Assistant Peon*

          I always wondered why grape candy, soda, etc tastes nothing like actual grapes. The mystery was finally solved when I tasted a Concord grape as an adult.

      3. Clisby*

        I’m the same way. In general, I don’t like fruit (unless you’re including things like tomatoes, squash, and peppers) but I’m OK with bananas. I’ve never found any banana-flavored food I could stomach.

          1. Liminality*

            This is completely random, but do know and can you tell me Where one can buy banana Nerds? It’s a long story, but I’ve been looking for Years without success. Thanks in advance?

            1. Proofin' Amy*

              Economy Candy (famous NYC candy store on the Lower East Side) seems to sell a wide assortment of Nerds; I was just there. I don’t see any banana-specific options on their website, but a bunch of the options include a yellow flavor which I’m assuming is banana (I’ve never heard of lemon-flavored Nerds)?

              1. Liminality*

                You’d be surprised. I have personally held in my hands a box of lemon flavored Nerds.
                Near as I can tell they just don’t make them (banana) anymore.
                I’m trying to recreate a childhood memory for my brother, but the banana nerds seem to be a phantom.

                1. Seeking Second Childhood*

                  Maybe look at off brand stuff: I just saw something on a web search called “bananarama”— maybe its similar.

                  Could be a hard search… apparently there’s a cannabis product brand using.the name.

    5. mango chiffon*

      Always feel a sense of camaraderie when I meet another banana hater since everyone else seems to love them. I would’ve been so upset to see that.

      1. LadyVet*

        The coffee guy right outside my office building always tries to give me a banana when I tip him, and I keep telling him thank you, but I don’t like bananas.

        Every time.

    6. Weaponized Pumpkin*

      I even like bananas, but there is something about the smell of a peel in the trash that is super gross.

      1. JustaTech*

        I only like bananas when they’re really green, so pretty much everyone else’s peel is just the Worst.
        The good thing is that our compost bins are covered and all the way at the other end of the floor, and no one has ever complained when I asked them to throw out their banana peels in the compost bin, not even the people who liked to needle me.

    7. Language Lover*

      Ah. My people! Banana haters unite.

      I hate how they’re included in so many smoothies or as a healthy substitute in so many things (like pancakes.) I can taste it. I can always taste it.

      1. Miette*

        So much banana-hate solidarity. I feel truly seen lol. I too hate that they are so ubiquitous. And don’t get me started on how annoying all the banana bread recipes during Covid lockdown I had to scroll through on Instagram like wtf learn how to bake ANYTHING ELSE

      2. Distracted Procrastinator*

        I don’t mind eating a banana every once in a while, but I absolutely can’t stand them in a smoothie. It makes the entire smoothie taste entirely like bananas and nothing else. Just banana. it’s overwhelming and not great.

      3. sparkle emoji*

        Or “one ingredient banana ice cream” that’s just frozen bananas thrown in a blender? I’m sure it’s great if you like bananas but that is not ice cream, do not lie to me.

    8. didi*

      My husband years ago had a dental procedure and for some unknown reason, they sprayed banana-flavored antiseptic or numbing agent into his mouth. He didn’t used to care about bananas one way or another before this incident, but after it, he LOATHED them.

    9. Calpurrnia*

      I am not a banana hater, but I have the same reaction to oranges. They smell so strongly and awful that someone peeling an orange on the other side of the room makes me want to throw up, and then they leave the peels in the trash can just stinking up the place. And people make cleaning products that smell like it, for some ungodly reason! I’d rather smell bleach!

      Much sympathy on the “bad reaction to smelly fruit others think is innocuous” front.

    10. Princess Sparklepony*

      People rave about Magnolia’s banana pudding. I do not get it. Their layer cakes on the other hand – perfection. The cupcakes are so so.

      1. Azure Jane Lunatic*

        I’m allergic to bananas and somehow the hospital that did my hysterectomy managed to forget this. They gave me the bright red allergy bracelet! Yet somehow there was a banana on my meal tray. And a muffin with walnuts (my other documented allergy at the time).

  11. Lisa*

    When I worked for a doctor’s office in the early 90s, we had lunches catered just about every day by drug reps. We had one certain drug rep who had a huge budget (company rhymes with Kaiser) and he would bring enough for our lunch PLUS extra for us to nosh on for the rest of the week if we were so inclined.

    EXCEPT our lab tech always seemed to conveniently have her husband and teenage sons “visit” her at lunchtime on “Kaiser” days, and they would help themselves to HEAPING plates of lunch, so much that our extra was totally gone by the end of lunch. Our office manager had to finally cut off their mooching of our mooching lol and make an “employees only” rule.

      1. La Triviata*

        One of our employees was famous for her barbecued rib – she’d take off the morning to prepare them. An ex-employee would always find out and turn up and eat more than his share. He was generally well liked, and she always made more than enough, so it wasn’t an issue. I don’t eat meat as a rule, but I did like her baked beans (made without meat) so I didn’t end up starving.

    1. Fishsticks*

      Based on what I have heard from the parents of teenage boys, the mom was probably hoping it would help lower her grocery bills, haha

        1. Ally McBeal*

          I recently watched the Amazon documentary on Jason Kelce… between him and his brother, I shudder to think of their family’s grocery bill when they were teens and already well on their way to successful football careers.

          1. RuledByCats*

            My brother was a student athletic therapist for a varsity football team. He and the offensive line would go out for dinner to the buffet place near the university once or maybe twice a month. The buffet owners told them, just at the start of the second semester, that they were welcome to eat there but they would only be allowed to hit the buffet twice a night. They also liked to go to a seafood place for fish & chips; one night a week was unlimited chips and they’d do one extra piece of fish for like a buck. Two guys decided there was a fish record to be made and/or broken; they waited until near close and then went for it. I don’t recall the winning number (it was wild though) and the entire staff was cheering for one or the other, including the manager, who bought the table a round as the kitchen closed and told them in the nicest possible way that this would never happen again. I think the entire crew regularly went to both places for their entire playing terms and were on first name basis with just about every long term employee.

        2. Cedrus Libani*

          When I was in growth spurt mode, my parents would take me to buffets, make sure any pets and small children were safely out of the way, then stand back to watch the show. I’m fairly sure I single-handedly made the local brunch buffet cancel their “16 and under eat for 99 cents” promotion…I was eight, but that was also the growth spurt where I outgrew my mom, so I was either 5’9″ or headed that direction at a near-visible rate.

      1. Kelly L.*

        Many years ago my old department hosted about 10 guests for a weekend, which was an annual thing, but that one particular year everyone was on a strict diet. So I ordered the usual amount of catering, and no one would eat! The chair had teenage sons at the time, so I can happily report that not a morsel went to waste!

      2. whingedrinking*

        As part of my grade 12 comparative civilisations class, we visited a mosque to learn about Islam, and they fed us after. I was genuinely impressed by the extent of their hospitality – there was actual food left over from a meal with multiple teenage boys present.

    2. Princess Sparklepony*

      I have drug pens from “Kaiser” from when I temped there 30 plus years ago. Those pens are workhorses. They spared no expense on promotional items.

  12. HugeTractsofLand*

    A school I worked at catered an all-staff lunch from a hugely popular local chain. Their chicken was legendary; everyone LOVED this place. The admin who planned things must have been patting themselves on the back. However, the catering trays arrived WITHOUT any of the signature spicy green dipping sauce. That was the day we all learned that we didn’t love the chicken…we loved the sauce. I’ll never forget the sad mounds of dry chicken left over after lunch. I (and plenty of others) took those leftovers home, but dipping sauce from a bottle just wasn’t the same.

  13. Nanc*

    I’m pretty sure I’ve told this story here before but here goes. I make an awesome bread pudding, if I do say so myself. The reason it’s so awesome is I make it using pound cake. At a long ago job I took it to the first holiday potluck I attended at this particular job. I brought along copies of the recipe because hey, someone always asks for it. The wicked witch of the finance department (I’ve worked with many lovely finance departments-she drove off so many employees in her department, including three finance directors in the five years I worked there, but that’s another story) raised a stink about how it was NOT bread pudding–it had no bread! And there is no such thing as cake pudding, what was I trying to pull? She accused me of trying to invent something and it just shouldn’t be done, especially at a potluck where if you sign up for a dessert, you must bring a traditional potluck dessert, not something made up! In the days ahead she filed a complaint with HR as after reading the recipe closely she discovered I used a boxed pound cake mix and recommended a specific generic brand that, in my opinion, made a fantastic pound cake. The HR director danced around a strong suggestion that in future I not bring a bread pudding made with pound cake–this was a city government and there were unions involved and finance witch spend a great deal of time being counseled but never crossed a line to anything fireable. So next year, I brought a bread pudding made with chocolate croissants. There was a hissy fit of epic proportions but every crumb of my bread pudding was gone be the end of the potluck.

      1. Charlotte Lucas*

        I am having trouble even processing this thought. And I have worked with some very unreasonable people.

    1. thatoneoverthere*

      I can’t imagine complaining to HR because someone make a bread pudding out of pound cake.

      Also do you still had said recipe? Bc now I want to make it!

      1. Lainey L. L-C*

        Why would HR even handle the complaint and wouldn’t instead tell the complaintant this isn’t an HR kind-of thing and they need to stop it?

    2. Ole Pammy's Getting What She Wants*

      this is incredible and i have to try making bread pudding with pound cake sometime! In the other direction, my partner loves to buy whole wheat/rye/seeded bitter breads; I love making bread pudding with these ends and cinnamon/nutmeg/Chinese five spice and chia/flax seeds. the sweetness helps make those butts quite a bit more palatable, lol.

      1. Not Your Sweetheart*

        One kitchen job I worked, I was in charge of making desserts. The black and white bread pudding was always a hit. The “white” was stale breads, of several varieties. The “black” was chocolate cake. Then I added chocolate and white chocolate chips and toasted pecans. It was really good!

          1. Be Gneiss*

            I can’t believe they “made up” an entirely non-standard bread pudding. The audacity! HR will hear of this.

    3. Stella70*

      My most heartful and sincere apologies you experienced such terrible treatment, Nanc.

      Now, cough up that recipe.

    4. Bast*

      If she doesn’t like it she can just… not eat it? The idea of “made up food” is also odd, and filing a complaint about it? I’m thinking of how many ways there are to make some pretty basic dishes ie: lasagna. Lasagna is popular, a potluck favorite, but can be made in many, many different ways. How do you police which one is the “right” way?

      1. Inkognyto*

        was it edible, yes, it tasted good. It’s done right. It’s cooking and it’s food.

        if it wasn’t edible, keep working at it, cooking is not a finite thing.

        1. MigraineMonth*

          Reminds me of the “authenticity” debate that excludes a lot of immigrant food. It’s food, it doesn’t need a passport or a pedigree.

          1. Garblesnark*

            One time I worked somewhere that had an “Italian” potluck.

            I made these really incredible Italian green beans with heaps of bacon that I simmered for like four hours.

            I was mocked because green beans, apparently, were not at all Italian, but Chef Boyardee absolutely was.

            Anyway my family really enjoyed those green beans.

      2. Tin Cormorant*

        All food is made up. People mix things together and if they taste good, other people make them too. A recipe being made for years by one family doesn’t make it any less real than a recipe made for decades by a larger group that she’s more familiar with.

        And isn’t the point of a potluck that people can show off their homemade dishes that they’ve tweaked and perfected to just the way they like them? If we wanted “official” things, we’d just have a catered meal from a restaurant.

    5. A Girl Named Fred*

      I thought this was going to end with nobody getting to eat your bread pudding there ever again, but I CACKLED when you doubled down the next year! Celebratory fist-bump for past you!

    6. londonedit*

      I don’t come from a potluck culture and I’d therefore have absolutely no idea what a ‘traditional potluck dessert’ was!

      Also, surely making anything with cake instead of bread makes it better? It’s like when my mum makes bread and butter pudding with panettone or hot cross buns – way better than just using ordinary bread!

      1. A Poster Has No Name*

        I do come from a potluck culture and I have no idea what a “traditional” potluck dessert is. Yeah, there are things we see often but if it’s tasty it belongs in a potluck.

        I’m petty AF, though, so I’d be organizing coworkers in future years to bring as many new things as possible and/or more standard things made with different ingredients.

        1. Miss Muffet*

          Obviously it’s green jello with pineapples in it
          … or is the green jello considered a salad dish?
          (Lutheran here, where potlucks are basically equivalent to communion) :)

          1. wonderl@nd*

            No, the green jello has to have shredded carrots in it (evangelical/lutheran/episcipol here).
            AND, if it has veggies, it’s a salad :)

            1. GoryDetails*

              (Lapsed) Episcopalian checking in – yes, the green-Jell-o salad with carrrots (and pineapple?) was very much A Thing. Mom would make it, so there’s a nostalgia factor there, but I never liked it. [My only tolerable Jell-O flavor was “red”; any of the red ones were good. But they couldn’t have anything else embedded in them.]

            2. Honor Harrington*

              Red jello, however, has applies, celery, nuts, and melted cinnamon red hots.

              My mom used to love that stuff. Blech!

          2. SemiAnon*

            Jello based dishes are a side/salad dish, not a dessert. Probably because they descend from aspics.

            For a traditional potluck dessert, I’m guessing squares/bars/brownies/loafs – the dessert parallel to a casserole, that can be made ahead of time, cut into pieces of arbitrary size, and eaten by hand.

            I have fond memories of a very multi-cultural Lutheran congregation whose potlucks did not feature jello, but did involve dishes like Spanish paella and Guyanese curry with homemade roti.

          3. Collinstown*

            Green jello is only to be made with fresh avocado slices and canned grapefruit slices. Served on a leaf of iceberg lettuce with a mayonnaise / lemon juice dressing.

      2. Ripley*

        There is no such thing as a “traditional potluck dessert.” I’ve been to many, many potlucks and really, there is no such thing.

      3. Ace in the Hole*

        Not sure what a “traditional potluck dessert” is either, but I can’t imagine something made from pound cake turning out anything like what I consider to be bread pudding. To me, “bread pudding” is unsweetened or only slightly sweet, chewy, something like a denser and moister version of french toast with raisins and nuts mixed in. Something that makes a good breakfast food or filling snack.

        Starting with sweet breads like panettone or hot cross buns makes a sweeter, more dessert-like pudding, but it’s not too different from a standard version. Using pound cake as a base would make it extremely sweet and very mushy – which might be good, but it’s not at all the same dish!

        The angry coworker was being ridiculous though. Who cares if someone calls their potluck dish a different name than you’d expect? Completely inappropriate to get huffy over it… much less complaining to HR (!!)

      4. MigraineMonth*

        I think it was Ireland that decided Subway bread doesn’t meet their legal definition of bread. So Subway sandwiches there are served on honey wheat or multigrain cake.

        1. Letters*

          Yup, just googled this. It’s to do with VAT (Value Added Tax) – there’s no VAT on staple foods like bread in Ireland, but bread has to have sugar content that is 2% or less of the weight of the flour used. Subway bread has 10% sugar to flour weight, so is considered ‘confectionary’. I notice Subway Ireland still call it bread on their website – presumably they can do that so long as they charge VAT to customers.

          1. Artemesia*

            I have never liked Subway sandwiches — I find them stomach turning — now I have a clue as to why. I love good bread. We are in Paris now and the bread is just so wonderful. In the US lots of bread is gross and has sugar in it — but 10% seems excessive even for America’s sweet tooth.

      5. Distracted Procrastinator*

        “Traditional pot luck dessert” is obviously Better than Sex Cake renamed something innocuous (like Better Than Anything Cake) and the maker has to whisper it’s “real” name to people so they feel like they have avoided any visits with HR but still get to giggle about being edgy at work.

        Also cupcakes and a tray of cookies from the grocery store.

    7. Needing Something Other than Pumpkin Pie for Thanksgiving*

      Not to be that person, but any chance you can gift us with the recipe for your delicious bread pudding?

      1. Nanc*

        I have to dig it out. I’ve been a remote worker for 20 years now so no work potlucks. I’ll pop it in the comments tomorrow.

    8. BellyButton*

      She filed a complaint! LOL! I love that brought bread pudding next time, so deliciously petty! LOL

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Speaking from the US pudding definition …

        Trifle in my family is assembled in the bowl. Cake, simple milk/egg/vanilla pudding, whip cream, and occasionally a drizzle of sherry. Wait for flavors to mingle.

        Bread pudding is cooked together.

        1. londonedit*

          Trifle in Britain is a layer of cake/Swiss roll/boudoir biscuits with fruit jelly (Jello) or jam, topped with a layer of thick custard, topped with a layer of cream. You can also soak the cake pieces in sherry for a sherry trifle.

            1. Regular Reader*

              Sponge like finger shaped biscuits, topped with sugar.
              You don’t have to jelly/jello in the trifle, I personally hate the texture it creates. I
              make mine with cake layer/ chopped up tinned peaches or fresh fruit such as raspberries /layer of thick custard/ topped with whipped cream layer.
              Cake can be soaked in sherry or fruit juice or a combination.

            1. LadyVet*

              I was waiting for someone to mention this!

              “What’s not to like? Custard? Good! Jam? Good! Meat? GOOD!”

          1. Seeking Second Childhood*

            Sounds like what my grandmother made…but I dwas a kid and didn’t realize the layering was more than presentation.

            (My grandmother was born in the US, but her parents & some siblings were from the West Midlands.)

          2. Media Monkey*

            and scotch trifle has no jelly (i make mine with amaretti biscuits – an ancient family receipe handed down from my gran’s M&S cookbook)

      2. Artemesia*

        A triffle is not baked. Bread pudding has the custard ingredients added to the ‘bread’ raw and the whole thing is then baked. I used to make it with my kids then grandkids when they were 2 years old. Still too young to be doing a lot of measuring but loved to tear up the bread and break the eggs. and sprinkle in the raisins. A triffle is assembled from the various ingredients after they are already cooked.

        1. sparkle emoji*

          You could make a honey-based custard for it, that actually sounds really good… now I want to make cheap ass bread pudding

    9. pally*

      So don’t bring the dish folks love, because-tradition?
      One can just pass this dessert by if it is not to their liking.

      Honest to Pete, this must come from some kind of sadistic streak that makes someone take a tactic like this.

    10. t-vex*

      Since you already offered to share the recipe with you coworkers… would you share it with us as well? Non-bread bread pudding sounds delicious!

    11. Alisaurus*

      I too join the chorus of requests for this recipe.

      And I love the way you came back the next year! It sounds (and clearly was) delicious too. Also, aren’t croissants technically bread?

    12. Alisaurus*

      I would also love this recipe.

      Also I love the idea of the comeback pudding the next year! Although I consider croissants to be a type of bread… clearly this woman and I do not see eye-to-eye (but I would accept pound cake bread pudding, so I already knew that).

      1. Alisaurus*

        Ah! Either my browser is having issues or my brain is. lol I couldn’t find my earlier reply and then added this, but now it seems I double-commented.

      2. Artemesia*

        pound cake seems like the wrong idea for bread pudding to me BUT you get to bring what you want to a potluck — and apparently this stuff was delicious — so who cares what it is called?

    13. Tammy 2*

      This is amazing! I’d love the recipe, too.

      I once made bread pudding with liege-style waffles. Fortunately it was for a family gathering so no one reported me to the authorities for breach of recipe contract.

    14. Flidais*

      I mean, you’ve obviously violated a very, very sacred rule. You described something delicious and didn’t give us the recipe. I will report you to HR!

    15. AngryOctopus*

      Love it! I made bread pudding with glazed donuts once. It was delicious. The Dunkin ladies were confused that I wanted 18 plain glazed donuts though. But I did explain what I was doing!

      Also I don’t know why I love the idea of one unhinged person telling you that it wasn’t BREAD pudding because you used CAKE and you have RUINED TRADITIONAL DESSERTS HOW DARE YOU, but it’s just so funny!

    16. Lucy P*

      Oh my! Bread pudding is one of my favorite desserts. Just made some this weekend, forgot to add the eggs, but it still came out great.

      My grandmother used to use leftover donuts for bread pudding, including the filled ones. Pound cake sounds like it would be amazing.

    17. Nameless*

      The funniest part of this is that cabinet pudding is a version of bread pudding that uses cake instead of bread, so her complaint is basically nonsense.

    18. starkradio*

      Argh how frustrating yet amusing, and Nanc, please may we have the recipe for this not-bread pudding, because it sounds amazing!

    19. GasketGirl*

      My mom always talked about the bread pudding that her grandma would make. It was made up of whatever leftover bread-like objects were available: donuts, cake, rolls (not the Cheap Ass kind), just whatever was basically to the point of being stale and benefitted from the custard. It was a good way to use it up so things didn’t go to waste.

    20. Artemesia*

      Reinforces my believe that HR tends to recruit the absolutely least competent and dullest twits in the labor pool. what possible reaction to a complaint that someone didn’t make a bread pudding for the potluck out of bread besides hysterical laughter?

    21. Nanc*

      Well finding this recipe was a whole lot of fun–turns out my sister had the cookbook it came from.
      From The Settlement Cook Book, 1976 edition.
      Bread Pudding
      2 eggs
      2 cups milk
      1/2 cup sugar
      nutmeg or cinnamon
      [no amounts given, I wing it, sometimes it’s a teaspoon, sometimes it’s a half teaspoon of each, sometimes I just grate or shake the container until it seems like it’s enough]
      4 cups dried bread or cake
      [I was gobsmacked when my sister read this–I was right all along, finance witch! FYI I made the pound cake from the generic brand mix carried by Lucky Supermarkets in California. I’m sure any pound cake mix would do, look for one that uses sugar and not corn syrup]
      1/4 cup raisins
      [I use dried cherries or cranberries as raisins are the Devil’s pet bunny’s turds]
      [doesn’t specify amount or type. I usually use toasted pecans or walnuts]
      Beat the eggs, add milk, sugar, and gratings of nutmeg or cinnamon if desired; pour liquid over the bread [cake] in a pudding dish. [I use my mom’s old Pyrex 2 quart covered round baking dish], let stand until thoroughly soaked. Add raisins and almonds, if desired. Bake 20 minutes or until firm in a moderate oven, 350 F [it doesn’t say to preheat the oven but I always do]. Serve with milk, jelly or any pudding sauce.
      Random notes: I usually make the pound cake a few days ahead. Once it’s completely cool I cut it into cubes, spread it on a cookie sheet and set it in the oven to dry out–no heat in the oven, just the easiest place so they don’t clutter up the counter. When I made it with chocolate croissants it was before they were a thing, I just happened to live around the corner of a little bakery that made a dozen or so each day. They were kind enough to bake me a batch and then cubed them and let dry out in their kitchen before I picked them up.
      The recipe does not mention greasing or spraying the pudding/baking dish.
      The Settlement Cook Book was a gift from my sister when I first moved out on my own. I could cook but it’s a great book because it has measurement conversions, substitution suggestions, great charts and explanations of cuts of meat, tips on how to pick out produce, explanations of cheese (including what melts easiest) and all sorts of other cooking and entertaining tips. The recipes in my edition are definitely a bit dated but I still use the book and have adapted over the years.

      1. You want stories, I got stories*

        Thank you Nanc, I can neither confirm nor deny I may have been stalking your name all day for this recipe.

  14. Reality Check*

    Not me, but a coworker. On his way to the office Christmas pot luck with an enormous container of shrimp and grits. Enough for 30 people. On the way over he took a corner too sharp and/or had to slam on the brakes. (I forget which exactly) At least a gallon of shrimp and grits dumped all inside the car. He never could get the seafood smell out afterwards.

    1. No Direct Reports*

      We had the same thing happen before last year’s chili cookoff – one of the guys had the crockpot on the floor of his back seat, took a corner too fast and spilled chili all over the place. His car still sort of smells like chili and its been a year!

      1. Expelliarmus*

        This wasn’t office-related, but a couple of years ago there was an event at my brother’s school where people brought soup that was served in bowls made by art students (or something like that), and some of our soup spilled in the car and MAN, it took a few months to get that smell out!

      2. dahope*

        This exact thing happened to me years ago. Even though I had rubber floor mats, I never could get that beef chili smell out of my 1994 Buick (luckily I drove it until its last breath, so resale value was not a concern). Combining a winter potluck and icy/snowy driving conditions is a recipe for disaster.

    2. anonymouse*

      I did that with a cake.
      A cake I’d carved into Snoopy on his dog house.
      His red icing dog house, his black nose and ears, my beige interior and a small part of my soul were destroyed that day.

    3. Seeking Second Childhood*

      I know that smell all too well although it was from bouillabaisse. That Honda went almost 200k miles and still there was a whiff on damp days.

    4. Clisby*

      At least the attendees were spared the shrimp & grits.

      Yes, I’m a born and bred South Carolinian, and I have despised grits since I was a child.

    5. Hell Kitchen*

      Green chile sausage gravy for biscuits and gravy. In the side vent/speaker of my car door. Still some remnants there today, probably 10 years later.

    6. Random Biter*

      Erm….driving home with my Mom after my cousin’s wedding. Mom was driving, I had the remains of the 3 tier wedding cake on a tray in my lap. Spider descends from the windshield right in front of me. Wedding cake and spider end up smooshed into the windshield, dash, and wherever chunks of cake and frosting could fly. I regret nothing.

      1. Cyndi*

        I destroyed an entire bookcase once, while trying to kill a large bug in my living room. I don’t remember exactly what I did that made it collapse (there was a softball bat and some screaming involved, and the bookcase was a flimsy flat pack deal) but my downstairs neighbor understandably wasn’t pleased by any part of it.

    7. cardigarden*

      Not quite spilling inside the car but: our cookbook of collected family recipes, on the entry for my great aunt’s shrimp cocktail, contains the specific instruction to leave the tray on the top of your car and then drive away because she did that all. the. time.

    8. Kayem*

      This was me last month with a large roast turkey. I did my best to clean the upholstery and thought I’d be clever and spritz some mint oil mixed with rubbing alcohol around to help deodorize, but now my car smells like a holiday potluck. If I get a bonus this year, I’m going to get it professionally cleaned.

      Though I’m grateful it wasn’t seafood.

    9. Charlotte Lucas*

      It was tres leches cake leak for me. Luckily, I have vinyl upholstery and was able to clean it all up, but it was touch and go for a bit.

      Always transport tres leches cake in another, bigger pan or tray.

    10. Zombeyonce*

      This is why my husband gently and lovingly buckles food into seats with a seatbelt whenever we take food anywhere.

      1. Azure Jane Lunatic*

        We get takeout from a specific place for Christmas Eve (my partner’s family traditionally had a Chinese dinner after midnight mass, our current household finds that mass is optional unless Uncle Father Bob is presiding) and our instructions on retrieving it involve the seatbelt and a towel since it tends to leak.

  15. Justme, The OG*

    Minor thing but catered lunch where the non-standard meals (like for people with allergies or sensitivities) were served well after everyone else had finished their food.

      1. Justme, The OG*

        Minor in comparison to some of the stories. I had ordered a vegetarian meal and instead ate the vegetables off of the chicken that was originally served to me.

    1. londonedit*

      I’ve had so many experiences of catered events where the ‘special’ meals either didn’t come out until well after everyone else’s, or where the veggie/vegan options have been co-opted by the meat-eaters as extra side dishes, to the point where there wasn’t enough for the actual vegetarians. The best ones are when the caterers invite everyone who’s veggie/vegan/gluten-free to come up first, so they can make sure they get the food they can eat before everyone else has a go.

      Similar thing happened pre-Covid when we had a summer party at work – the food was in the form of platters of deli stuff, and you went up and picked up a platter to share as a small group, plus bread and condiments and whatnot. There were vegetarian and vegan platters too, but somehow or another this got lost in translation and the first load of tables to go up assumed that there were meat platters *and* cheese/veggie platters, so took one of each. By the time this came to light, the veggie platters were gone and everyone had tucked in to the food they’d brought back to their groups. The vegetarians in the group were reduced to going from table to table asking whether they could have some of the food from the veggie selection – eventually someone made a run to Pret for some vegetarian sandwiches!

        1. londonedit*

          Yeah, I can’t really blame the people who took the food, because they genuinely thought it was an ‘and’ thing rather than an ‘either/or’ – but it definitely should have been more clearly communicated!

          1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

            Is it really a work meal if the majority of people don’t feel bad/awkward at some point?

      1. La Triviata*

        We have a couple of VIPs who are strict vegetarians so for any meeting they attend, vegetarian meals are ordered for them, staff are notified that they are specifically for them, so no one touches them. On occasion, after the VIPs have enjoyed their meals, some of us may snag an extra vegetarian meal, but they never go hungry.

        1. t-vex*

          Our admin is really good about hiding the special-diet meals so only us special-diet eaters have access to them. Much appreciated.

      2. Frieda*

        Went to a workplace catered lunch on a Friday where there was a specific effort to provide some non-meat (… fish) sandwiches in case there were some practicing Catholics who were giving up meat on Fridays, but no vegetarian food.

        In this specific group there were no Catholics who were giving up meat on Fridays but there were vegetarians, me among them. Note that vegetarian sandwiches would have served both the non-existent first group and the second group. I politely declined a sandwich with the meat peeled off and instead got myself a granola bar from my office, and got scolded later for not being understanding enough.

      3. Annika Hansen*

        As a vegetarian, I try to make it to the front of the line. I have had my veggie meal taken before I get to the food a few times. Just a few weeks ago, a meat eater was going to grab the last veggie sandwich right when I asked if anyone minded if I went to the head of the line to make sure I had something to eat. There was no malicious intent from the meat eater. The veggie sandwich just sounded good.

        Some caterers will put the person’s name on the box which works if it is an individual item.

        1. Worldwalker*

          It sounds like they should order a lot more veggie sandwiches. I’m an omnivore, but I’ve had so many terrible meat-containing sandwiches (dried-out sliced turkey is a building material, not a food!) that I’d go for the veggie option in a heartbeat if it wasn’t taking it from someone who didn’t have the option to eat the dried-out turkey.

          1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

            This is where I apply the 80:20 rule. As soon as one (1) vegetarian is to be catered for, 80% of the dishes should be vegetarian, and meat should be very obvious (eg an actual ham or side of salmon).

            1. londonedit*

              Absolutely. So many people still think vegetarians are an oddity and surely no one would want to eat ‘vegetarian food’…and then people see the hummus and falafel wraps, or the veggie pizza, or the halloumi skewers, and they think ooh yum that looks nice, I’ll have one of those. Not even thinking about the fact that those might be the only options for the people who don’t eat meat.

        2. BubbleTea*

          I went to a large, expensive conference and had specifically asked for a vegan lunch. I tried to collect my lunch bag a bit early, when they had been set out but before the pre-lunch session (that I’d left due to a headache) had finished. They wouldn’t let me. I went away in search of a quiet space (unsuccessful) and when I got back, all the vegan food was gone. I’m not ashamed to admit I cried.

      4. MigraineMonth*

        No lie, I originally went vegetarian because I attended a kids’ summer camp where vegetarians got to get their food first (because otherwise omnivores would eat it all).

    2. Nebula*

      Oh my God, it’s always ages before or ages after everyone else with that kind of thing, I swear. At a previous job, we had an annual conference with a big fancy dinner, and I, as a vegan at the time, and my colleague who kept kosher always commiserated together over this.

      1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

        I get the old story that a catered meal like that will provide something special (like fish or chicken instead of beef) if you ask, but they wait until the others are served so everyone at the table doesn’t jump on board.
        but why they don’t bring each table’s meals out at the same time makes no sense.
        Bob from accounting, “oh, that veggie lasagna looks good. Can I have that instead?”
        “I’m sorry, sir, no. You needed to order that option ahead. “

        1. Lady Ann*

          This is interesting, I once went to a fancy wedding where the only food option was rare prime rib. I don’t care for rare beef so I ate the potatoes and veggies and figured I’d live. When the waitstaff were clearing the plates, they noticed I hadn’t touched my beef and offered to bring me something else. I thought it was pretty stupid – so I’m going to just be starting my meal when everyone else’s plates were already being cleared? – and said no. I wonder if that was maybe what was going on.

    3. M. Magpie*

      I’m in the NE of England, and for my spouse’s potluck, I did sausage rolls by hand. I sent four trays: Traditional, vegan (mushroom based), GF (those I three for myself), and super spicy. I don’t know why I thought I bc should compete with Gregg’s, but I did.

    4. VivKeill*

      That’s so sad – at a prior job, the vegetarians and allergy meals were always served first and they checked them against a list to make sure they didn’t have any omnivores crash the line and take up special food; it’s not hard to make sure everyone gets food they can eat.

  16. You Can't Pronounce It*

    Well, the chili one is good timing. I’m organizing one for my office for next week as a fundraiser for our holiday family we are adopting. I just had to send out an email today changing the date due to information provided this morning about things going on in the building the day we originally planned it.

  17. Arcade Kitten 3000*

    Our last “Friendsgiving” was terrible. The people who signed up for things didn’t bring anything and some just forgot that they weren’t going to be in the office. So for an office of 50 we had one rotisserie chicken, some random lunch meat (!), the tiniest bowl of mashed potatoes, my ton of cranberry sauce (that I foolishly made) and a bag of cookies.

    This year will be catered but we have to pay $10. I fine with it.

    1. king of the pond*

      > some just forgot that they weren’t going to be in the office

      This is why my company has it the Friday before, when no one is traveling. My company also buys the turkey (which is from a great local restaurant, it’s expensive but absolutely mouthwateringly delectable) so even if some potluck disaster happens, we all get some great turkey.

    2. EvilQueenRegina*

      We had one planned once one Christmas, but the weekend before, it snowed, lots of people were WFH, and it was decided to cancel the potluck. Then on the day it should have been, someone had the bright idea to reinstate it for the next day. With the short notice, and the fact that there was still enough snow that quite a lot of people were still WFH, it ended up pretty much the same kind of amounts as you describe.

    3. Ace in the Hole*

      One time I was preparing for a thanksgiving potluck where we didn’t do a sign-up sheet, just requested all food be vegetarian and assigned people to bring either main course or dessert. I saw the local supermarket had a steep sale on winter squash. Being tight on money I thought that would be perfect – I know some great recipes for winter squash! Apparently I was not the only one to have this idea. Every single person brought a squash dish.

      We had glazed oven-roasted squash, butternut squash raviolli, stuffed baked squash, and creamy squash soup. There was curried pumpkin, pumpkin pie, pumpkin bread, and pumpkin pudding. Mashed squash-and-parsnips, honeynut squash greton, and spaghetti squash alfredo. EVERYTHING was squash. The only cucubrit-free foods at the party were dinner rolls and drinks.

      Individually each of the dishes was lovely. But all at once…. oy. A decade later we still crack jokes about the squash-pocalypse.

      1. Rob aka Mediancat*

        I would have been the guy bringing in the cranberry sauce. I positively loathe squash.

  18. Green around the gills*

    Alas, my story is less than fun.

    I went on a training day for retail managers in the city – we all had our travel paid for, and a day doing training, bonding, and team-building.

    For lunch we were served a cold buffet of pre-cooked beige – sausage rolls, pork pies, crisps and dips etc. We were all young and hungry so we dug in! And about four hours later I got on the Underground to go home and felt… not right.

    Friends, it was the worst food poisoning I have ever experienced, and I had a two-hour trip to get across London and back to my home town while unable to hold anything down. I pity the people who came across my during the journey, but not as much as I pitied myself.

    It wasn’t the reason I left that job, but it definitely didn’t hurt.

  19. Tina*

    The Chief Legal Officer at my former company was also the self-appointed Chief Food Rationer. We had a bizarre ritual where the C-Suite would order a massive spread for their long, recurring meetings with the Board of Directors, and no one was allowed near the kitchen until the meeting wrapped up. The CLO would then announce that everyone could come through in a tiered hierarchy. VP employees next, then Directors and Managers, then lowly peons like myself. You had to enter at one end of the room and exit the other end, where he would stand waiting to comment on how much you took. (I once watched him scold our IT support staff for attempting to bring back half a pizza for their group, but he felt sorry for me as a very junior employee and always tried to insist that I take more, but one can only eat so much cold pasta and brownies). You were always expected to murmur a subservient word of thanks to him and hold up your plate for inspection, as if he was the magnanimous priest of the Cheesecake Factory Shrine and had spent his own money on all of it. He would box up and consolidate most of it himself and would talk about how great it was for days later in a very self-satisfied way, repeatedly offering more to people in his good graces and taking up 99% of the office fridges with the assorted mish-mash of cold cuts, pasta, and rock-hard desserts until we were able to sneakily throw it out or consume it all.

    1. Single Parent Barbie*

      Were all the poor orphans singing “Food Glorious Food” ? Did IT go up and ask “please sir can I have some more” I am picturing a work house.

      1. Tina*

        No singing, but people made what was essentially a little half-bow to him and held up the food they intended to take with both hands for inspection. We stopped short at lighting the room with candles and wearing robes.

      2. Ellis Bell*

        Oh you beat me to it. Would not have been able to resist saying “Please sir, I want some more.”

    2. Seeking Second Childhood*

      That goes way beyond logical portion control. He should have just order pre-packed boxes if he was going to get that anxious!

    3. Don't Send Your Kids to Hudson University*

      “the magnanimous priest of the Cheesecake Factory Shrine”

      What a beautiful use of words, Tina. I hear a story like this and just have to wonder what on earth is going on in someone’s life to possess them to act like this. Thank goodness he seemed to be motivated by some weird sense of justice, rather than hoarding all of the leftovers for himself.

      1. Tina*

        Thank you. :D Unfortunately I think it was arguably worse than just hoarding all the leftovers for himself, because he was one of those “work perks in lieu of cost of living raises” type people. If we got a new flavor of Keurig pod he expected everyone to act excited and grateful for it, and we were expected to essentially grovel for our 1-2% yearly cost of living adjustment. Meanwhile he was making seven figures a year and drive a big shiny Porsche.

    4. Christmas Cactus*

      I was a very long term temp (14 months) in a place I despised but I had to pay my bills. There was a departmental meeting with a catered lunch. I was told I could not attend the lunch meeting since I was not an employee, even thought there was little meeting and mostly lunch.
      I ate my own miserable sandwich while I got stuck watchig the phones. After folks returned and the leftovers went into the kichen, some person, really trying to be kind, told me it was ok for me now to “get some leftovers”. I snapped back something along the lines that if I was not good enough for the meeting, I was not going to take their leftovers. So satifying.

      1. MigraineMonth*

        That seems like a pretty adversarial approach to your employer obeying the law. Legally, they can’t treat contractors the same as their employees, but you still could have had a free lunch.

        1. BubbleTea*

          If attending a single lunch meeting would be the deciding factor for employee status, they should probably have been an employee.

        2. Charlotte Lucas*

          They were a temp. This was a terrible company policy, and it’s fair to be unhappy about being treated like that.

    5. Artemesia*

      Decent management would of course make sure the meeting for which the food was ordered was well served but then if giving out leftovers would give priority to people at the bottom of the ladder not the top. The VPs can afford their own food — the peons often can’t afford the kind of treats served to the C Suite or Board.

  20. Robyn*

    I’m not sure if this exactly qualifies as “catered” but I was in a new senior role meeting a new important client for the first time. It was the VP’s birthday, so I offered to bring fancy cupcakes to the meeting. I picked up a dozen and since it was a lovely summer day, I decided to walk the mile from the bakery to the client’s office. I get there, meet everyone, shake hands, then go to present the fancy cupcakes and… apparently I had been swinging my arms while walking because they looked like they had been shaken vigorously. Half of them were upside down. All of them had their frosting smeared everywhere. None of them looked fancy. “Uhhh… happy birthday?” I said. Then they sat in the middle of the table looking sad and uneaten for the rest of our two hour meeting. And that VP never met with me again.

    1. Jules*

      Those people must have no sense of adventure. Cupcakes are cupcakes, whether they’re upside down, smashed or whatever. Just eat (and enjoy the heck out of) them, people!

    2. Raida*

      I would have just pulled them all out of their pans, cut them all into four, and put out a plate of cake & icing

  21. Bend & Snap*

    I make a killer Texas chili and took it to a work potluck. I set it on a kitchen table with some other food and plugged the crock pot in. Sometime later, the top of the table broke off of the base and all the food hit the ground…including my new crock pot full of scalding hot chili. So not only was I unable to contribute to the potluck, I burned myself cleaning up that huge mess and was out a new crock pot.

    My current company caters everything which is way better.

    1. Eleanor*

      This just makes me think of Kevin from The Office and his chili disater… both sound equally tragic.

  22. Stephen!*

    I’ve told this here before, but it still amuses me:

    At former workplace: On a Wednesday, my direct supervisor told me that she was buying lunch for me and her other direct reports as a holiday party. Sounds good! Then she tells me it’s a secret and if anyone asks, to say it’s a meeting. Okaaaay, little weird but whatevs- free food.

    Thursday, as planned, we all go to her office. There’s food, but we’re all crammed into her office, the door is closed, and she mentions that her boss doesn’t know that we’re having this party and she doesn’t want him to find out. Errr, okay? She tells us that we’re doing a great job (yay!) no matter what anyone else might say (wait, what?) and to eat and enjoy. It’s awkward.

    At one point, there’s a knock on the door and my boss sidles up to the door and sticks her head out. It’s the person who handles payroll and she is clearly confused why she can’t come in the office, but nevertheless she tells boss that she has processed the paperwork for the raises and just needs my boss to sign off on them. So now we’re all wondering who is getting a raise. (Spoiler: It wasn’t me!) My boss is clearly regretting trying to hold stealth meeting/party and more or less kicks us all out after that.

    Nice thought, poor execution!

    1. Elsewise*

      I once saw a (joking) suggestion online to sow social chaos by approaching a random person at a party and saying “just so you know, I don’t have a problem with you being here.” I feel like your boss went to that school of management.

      1. desdemona*

        I’ve had this happen to me!!

        I went to a community event, and a person I had NEVER met or seen before came up to me and started talking about how brave I was for showing up despite everything, they were on my side, supported me, etc.

        When they finally took a breath, I said “I’m sorry, I don’t think I am who you think I am”. They tried to laugh it off and introduced themselves, but I was now VERY concerned that I had an evil twin who was hated by the other people at the event, and I wandered off to anxiously report this interaction to my friends.

        1. DenimChicken*

          This happened to me at a wedding! I happen to look like someone the bride had a falling out with and couldn’t figure out why I was getting side-eyed until the bride’s brother came over to confront me. “Wow [name of other redhead who looks like me], can’t believe you showed up,” he said. I then had to explain that I was a completely different person who also happens to be tall and have red hair.

    2. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

      Had an art class where the professor held a little end of term party. At a tiny Methodist college with very strict rules about alcohol. The class of maybe a dozen students crammed into her tiny office adjacent to a huge art studio so that we could sip our little plastic cups of sherry.

      1. Princess Sparklepony*

        A friend of mine had a professor give a little party. This was in college and a senior level class, so everyone was older. He served beer in dixie cups – the size you use for mouthwash….

    3. Just Here for the Llama Grooming*

      Former job, big law firm, lots and lots and lots of catered lunches. One partner, famous for his appetite, his bullying ways, and his ultra-control-freak nature, decided that the firm’s conference center staff hadn’t set up the chafing dishes to his liking.

      So they needed to be moved to the other side of the buffet setup.
      Which only he could do properly.
      While the little cans of denatured alcohol were lit. As in, flaming and open.
      A can dropped on the carpet.

      By some miracle (lightning speed move to fire extinguisher by conference center staff), no one was injured and the carpet damage minimal.

      Conference center used only electric chafing dishes thereafter.

  23. Eleanor*

    At my first job out of grad school, I worked in an office within a university. Out office parties would be to go out for lunch somewhere nearby, with food covered. Sometimes, people (including my manager) would have a drink or two, but then our manager also expected us to go back and work after lunch? Not the disaster, but something I just found strange. Why not let everyone just go home early?

    Anyway, one year, we went to a restaurant that was more “family style”. Lots of dishes were ordered that we all took from. A day or two after the party, many people in office came down with a stomach bug. The only two people who didn’t were myself and someone who was vegan, which led us to quickly realize that the appetizer of roasted corn with goat cheese probably gave everyone food poisoning. I hate goat cheese and the vegan obviously doesn’t eat cheese, so we were thankfully spared!

      1. Worldwalker*

        This past weekend, I discovered goat cheese with wild blueberries on a catered charcuterie board. I was good; I didn’t eat *all* of it! But now I’m addicted. My project for this weekend: seeking a local source. Or at least a local source of the proper blueberries so I can make my own.

        1. Miss C.*

          Trader Joe’s sells these little logs of goat cheese with blueberries, and I think a version with cranberries as well. They’re delicious.

    1. Ghoster*

      Not really sure what’s so weird about returning to work after a catered lunch out, it’s very common.

        1. Eleanor*

          Exactly, if the manager is going to drink and set the tone for others to do so, why expect us to work after lunch?

          She had a very “butts in seats” mentality and wouldn’t let people work from home. This really bothered me, since 98% of my job was being on a computer talking to no one, most people’s commutes in were at least an hour each way, so remote work would have been really helpful… And sometimes, she’d work from home. I guess I’m still a bit bitter about all that and I had to slip something about it into my story!

  24. LTR FTW*

    We were having an office party for our team and decided to order wings. The restaurant bragged on their site about having the world’s hottest wings (ghost pepper or something similar) so we figured we should DEFINITELY get a dozen of those. People found out and were so full of bravado, we decided we needed a second order so that we wouldn’t run out.

    Party rolled around and everyone dove into the mega hot wings… and they were legitimately insanely hot. Nobody could eat more than one wing. I literally had one bite and my mouth was in pain for hours (and I can usually eat pretty spicy food). We had someone run out and get bread, milk, yogurt… anything at all to chase these things down and tamper down the spice. Nothing helped. People were in AGONY. Grown men were crying.

    We never even opened the second container of wings. Every single person on the team had massive regrets. Eventually the burning pain in our mouths died down… but we all went home dreading the inevitable second phase of hurting we knew was coming once everything made its way through our digestive systems.

    Let’s just say we never ordered wings again.

    1. BellyButton*

      I recently learned a trick– sugar! Instead of water, bread or milk, take a spoonful of sugar and hold it in your mouth. It actually works!

      We had a similar thing happen, you know that world’s hottest chip that eventually got pulled from shelves? Someone had the bright idea to buy a bunch and after some drinks people tried them. It was not good.

      1. Fishsticks*

        Yeah, I would have been the one asking politely if we could have just ONE order of perfectly normal buffalo wings…

        1. Princess Sparklepony*

          I’d be hogging the carrots and celery sticks with the blue cheese dressing. You can have all the wings.

    2. Siege*

      I’m normally a pretty slow eater, but I will forever remember with fondness the time I went out to lunch with my college boyfriend and a roommate of his. We went to a mission-style burrito joint and they got very competitive (d*ck-measury) about getting ALL the hot sauces. The habanero, AND the hot sauce, AND did they have anything hotter, and blah blah blah here’s a ruler, whip ’em out.

      I still treasure that I was finished with my burrito, which I ate as slowly as I usually eat anything, a full 45 minutes before they were done, because I actually COULD eat my burrito. It was hilarious (to me).

    3. Kayem*

      This wasn’t at work, at a Friendsgiving potluck put on by a friend, which included friends, coworkers, and extended family. That year, I went bananas making jams, jellies, and preserves. Like, there was over 40 different varieties. One of the things I made was a cranberry apple butter, so I planned to bring some big jars of it that I had made. And then I thought it would be a great idea to bring a crate filled with an assortment of all the different kinds I made and let people take whatever they wanted.

      One of the jams I made was called Spooky Scary Scorpions, which was made of half ghost peppers and half scorpion peppers. My friend took a jar for herself and people were trying it out. I had barely taste tested it because just a tiny drop burned my tongue for quite a while and I cautioned people to start small. This was despite all the sugar added, which cuts way down on the heat.

      My friend’s teenage nephew decided there was no reason to be cautious because he eats spicy food all the time and can handle it, unlike us old people. Despite multiple people warning him, he slathered a ton on a piece of toast and took a huge bite.

      We all watched as the heat kicked in. His eyes got wide, he got very quiet, his face turned red, and he started sweating profusely. Friend was alarmed and tried to get him some milk or anything to help, but he absolutely refused because his reputation was on the line! Somehow, he ate the whole slice of toast, but he was in agony the whole time and I didn’t see him for the rest of the party.

      1. Emma*

        Oh, teenage boys…

        This one is a fairly gross story, be warned:

        I had a pack of chicken once that was absolutely gone by the time I opened it. It was still in date, so I wrapped it in two plastic bags (the smell was unbearable) and walked back to the shop I’d bought it from to return it.

        I explained the situation to the teenager at the till, who got his manager. In conversation with the manager he asked if it was ok to take the chicken out of the bags, and I warned him about the smell. The young lad was listening the whole time, and asked if he could smell the chicken, because he hadn’t encountered bad chicken before and thought it would be useful to know what it smelled like. Sensible enough… except that he picked up the pack, held it right up to his face, and INHALED.

        Poor kid staggered out to the back of the shop, retching, while the manager and I just stood there and stared in shock.

    4. And thanks for the coffee*

      You had me at “grown men were crying.” Sometimes it’s best to eat boring food.

    5. Meh*

      The best thing for counteracting spice like that is actually pineapple or citrus, surprisingly enough.

  25. HailRobonia*

    At a Thanksgiving party in my old office we had a HUGE cheese & fruit plate that had a giant mound of whole figs. Several people in the office had never seen a whole fig before – one asked “what’s this” someone else said “it’s a fig” “a what” “a fig. you know, a fig.” “what’s a fig?” others joined in (possibly emboldened by the wine that was available) “A fig is a fig is a fig!” “are you figging kidding me, you don’t know what a fig is?”

    Finally someone shouted “I don’t give a flying fig!” which prompted someone to throw a fig. It became a game of dodge fig. Luckily the skirmish was restricted to figs, which are easy to clean up (and I have no problem with wiping off a stray fig and eating it – no sense in wasting it).

    One colleague evidently collected a lot of them and over the next few months people would find figs mysteriously appearing on their keyboards, in their desk drawers, in their mail boxes…

    1. Washi*

      Many years ago I was one of a cohort of 20 Americorps volunteers. The nonprofit I worked for had a yearly fancy catered event for the donors and board members, and it was mandatory to go, circulate, and talk about your service…but not eat the food. The first year I worked there, there was no food provided at all for staff to eat while at this 3 hour dinnertime event. After some negative feedback, the second year there were a couple containers of stuff like Safeway cookies in a storage room so if you got hungry you could sneak out and have a clandestine snack but we were sternly warned against lingering in what was basically a closet.

      This was my first job and honestly at the time the reasoning “we know you are all paid poverty wages and therefore will eat too much of the nice food” seemed normal. It’s only now I realize how bananas it is that the organization would not just fork over another ~$500 once a year to actually have food for everyone.

    2. ??*

      maybe it wasn’t really a fig. I have a fig tree, and figs go bad really fast. there’s no way a fig would last a month, or survive being thrown around-they are very soft fruit.
      even refrigerated they might last a week.

      1. Artemesia*

        This. They are delicious but they are worse than avacados in fragility — they are ripe for 30 seconds and must be eaten them and they are easily bruised or destroyed. I have bought them to serve with balsamic honey sauce and goat cheese on a Friday and found them past their prime on Saturday when I want to serve them.

  26. Irish Teacher*

    Not exactly a party or anything, but I once worked in a school that had a tradition that each Friday, a member of staff would bring in a cake. In theory, it was meant to be something you baked, but in practice, this wasn’t at all strict and people were happy so long as they got some treats.

    Anyway, the deputy principal didn’t bake, so he decided to bring in a chocolate fountain (ye can probably see where this is going) and a load of strawberries and marshmallows. A couple of us helped him cut up the strawberries and put the marshmallows and strawberries on sticks.

    Then he turned it on to test it and chocolate went everywhere, down his shirt on the carpeted floor… He ended up having to go home to change and a sign saying “do not turn on” was placed in front of the fountain.

    We still dipped the marshmallows and strawberries in the chocolate and ate and enjoyed them though!

  27. Anon no longer in that state*

    Many years ago I was working in the marketing department of a startup company. I was the only female employee.

    That meant that I was assigned to plan the company Christmas party despite my pointing out that I had never planned a party larger than 4 people.

    I got a lot of help from the owner’s wife, I got food poisoning from a sample tray at the caterer’s storefront, and I got let go shortly after I was too sick to attend the party I had planned.

    Sure felt like I was being punished for “not wanting to go to the party”. But believe me after all the time I put into that shindig, I WANTED to go.

  28. BellyButton*

    I WFH so no longer have to suffer through these things. But I shared the story of cheap-as$ rolls among my friends and family, so now, no matter what kind of rolls or bread we are going to serve, someone calls them cheap-ass rolls. In group texts about what people are bringing, someone always says they will bring the “good rolls” and no one better show up with “cheap-as$ rolls”.

    AAM classic!

    1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

      I was just telling that story to coworkers this morning.
      They called shenanigans.
      I assured them it wasn’t even in the top 20 of the most outrageous, out of touch moments.
      And then Alison posted this. I can’t wait to share the link!

        1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

          I’d tell them to click on the “what what?” option in the navigation column!
          off the top of my head:
          -Leap year birthday
          -Coworker has been getting rides for ten years
          -that recent one with the boss calling the psychic
          -the “ideas man” corporate visionary
          -my employee was not obsequious enough the third time the company screwed up her pay check
          -my best employee quit to go to her college graduation
          -the employee I demoted work she did before I hired a stranger off the street who told me my employee sucked

          1. Artemesia*

            Duck club is plausible; leap year birthday remains for me the most unbelievable example of managerial incompetence just as ‘give my brother a kidney’ remains the most unbelievable example of managerial abuse of authority.

    2. Butterfly Counter*

      Our last holiday pot luck was pre-pandemic, but I remember my boss bringing in what looked like regular gray-ish dinner rolls. Had I known the term, I might have made the joke back then. However, it turned out they were rolls homemade by his wife based on a family recipe that were legitimately the best bread I’ve ever eaten in my life.

      So don’t judge a cheap-ass roll by it’s appearance!

  29. Mrs. Not-Loving-It*

    My husband used to work for a theatre company which had an imfamous fruitcake. Back in the 70s the props person left on bad terms after a production of A Christmas Carol. There were a variety of real consumable foods used in the show and the holiday party was directly after closing, so leftovers were added to the potluck roster. Including The Fruitcake. It was very hard and just looked weird. But without the props guy no one could say for certain if it was real food or a mass of deceptive foam and spackle. So was born a hilarious feud. To this day everyone who works there picks a side in The Fight. There are even t-shirts! They still have the original fruitcake (it’s kept in a special box) and every holiday party they make it the centerpiece and hold a vote to see which side in winning that year. For the record my husband and I are both Team Real Cake.

      1. Tin Cormorant*

        Ah, the third side. “Yes, it’s a real fruitcake. No, it’s not edible.”

        I’m hoping there isn’t a fourth group that thinks it’s a fake but wants to eat it anyway.

    1. NotBatman*

      My theater company had the Debatably-Real Bone! On the side of real, it had a weird texture and smelled bad. On the side of fake, it was 10+ years old and too large to be from a chicken dinner or a pet store. I will never know the truth.

    2. Shy Platypus*

      How is it possible that nobody took a bite that night? Or juste cut a piece? I mean this is how I’ll never get a nice workplace mystery I guess, I’d be too curious to accept not knowing.

    3. Emma*

      My partner’s company did a production of Night of the Living Dead: Live recently, which required a jelly brain which was eaten on stage by several actors. The prop person made one for each night, it was very realistic-looking on stage, and apparently while it tasted of nothing, the texture was *vile*. Of course, everyone tried it after the show!

  30. Somewhere in Texas*

    I went through a huge phase where I would make a dip out of chopped up candied jalapenos and cream cheese. A little spicy, a little creamy and a great dip. I brought it to a work potluck once and in the hubbub the dip got separated from its chips and someone thought it was potato salad.

    Oof, that was not great– too much spice and not enough different flavors to be palatable all by its lonesome.

      1. Ace in the Hole*

        You can do something similar with cream cheese and hot pepper jelly: brick of cream cheese on a plate, pour hot pepper jelly on top, done! Decorative and tasty (and will not be mistaken for potato salad). Plus people can spread their preferred ratio of cream cheese vs pepper jelly.

  31. I'm celiac and I hate it*

    I’ve been to two different (small) conferences where they either did not ask about dietary requirements ahead of time or ignored dietary requirements.

    The first was a quarterly meeting of people in a professional development program. Same group of less than 50 people each quarter for 2 years, so dietary requirements should have already been on file since we were asked about them at the start of the program. The lunch for the second-to-last meeting was Panera sandwiches. I’m celiac, so the only thing I could eat was the chips. Thankfully some of the people at my table swapped with me/gave me their chips.

    The second was a program for updating compliance regulations for employers in our region. For this conference the organizers had not bothered to ask about dietary requirements ahead of time. The breakfast on the second morning was fresh fruit salad (e.g., grapes, strawberries, cantaloupe, etc.) and breakfast sandwiches (think Egg McMuffins, sausage biscuits, that sort of thing). Fresh fruit is all well and good, but it’s not exactly enough to make a meal out of if you don’t want to be rude and take a giant plate full, and even then I need some protein at the start of my day. Thankfully I had leftovers from dinner the night before (not catered by the conference) that I was able to eat instead.