Thursday, October 21, 2010

How this day went wrong: or, RESPECT THE FOOD, DAMNIT!

I spent a very greatly huge amount of my day in a training session for work. And I'll be honest, it was, mostly, a very good one. It was about safety training, which sounds like some kind of psycho pseudo-phrase for "how to annoy employees even further," but it really wasn't. Or, at least, it probably will annoy employees even further, but if properly motivated, is actually a really good thing. So. Yes.

So what's with the yelling in the title of the post?

Well, for all of its good points, this meeting had one basic problem, and that was time management. First off, it was a scheduled 4-hour meeting. This was twice as long as it really needed to be. At the outside this training could've used 3 hours and still had time to spare. And nonetheless, the presenters managed to run behind schedule, telling us lots and lots and lots of anecdotal stories that, while nice, were mostly superfluous.

This, in turn, resulted in The Way Things Went Wrong(tm). It happened when the lead presenter said, "Okay, in about 10 minutes we'll break for lunch.... and can we make this a working lunch?"


This pissed me off. A lot. Enough that it surprised even me. But on reflection, I realized that this stepped all over some of my most dearly-held bits of food ideology. If you've read here at all, you know that I am nothing if not a minefield of food ideology. And this guy just started hopscotching straight through that field.

What was my problem? Glad you asked!

{begin rant}

I found this request--simple though it may have been--to be so incredibly insulting that I actually had trouble articulating the reasons why, there were so many of them.
  • The presenters were incapable of maintaining a presentation schedule, and so the attendees were put-upon to fix the problem.
  • It was insulting to the people who prepared the food for us--many of whom were in the room for the training--to force the room to essentially ignore the food they'd carefully prepared for us in favor of the continuous stream of lecture.
  • It was insulting to the food itself, that we were being forced to not pay attention to in favor of the continuous stream of lecture.
  • It was insulting to the participants, who needed a break from the continuous stream of lecture.
  • It showed a complete disregard for the act of eating a meal in community, which I consider a very serious breech of etiquette. The midday meal was treated as nothing more than a minor inconvenience that could be easily run over by a continuous stream of lecture.
  • It showed a complete disregard for the health of the participants, who were being encouraged (practically required) to eat our food mindlessly, without attention or care. We were not even given the option of actually enjoying our food.
Am I weird? Yes, I'm sure I am. Everyone there cared far more about the fact that, by eating mechanically without paying any attention to our food, we would get out of the training sooner (which, as it happened, was false, but no matter).

And I think that at the end of the day, it was not just the presenters making this request, but the overall "Sure! No problem!" attitude of everyone else that got to me. That didn't really piss me off, it just made me sad. I don't think it even crossed anyone's mind that we were giving up anything by working straight through lunch. Even the people who cooked the food probably didn't taste it as they ate it, and probably also didn't notice that they didn't taste it. People wonder why we have such a weight problem in America (myself certainly not excepted here). Well, if the attitude of most Americans towards food resembles the attitudes of my co-workers, then it's pretty easy to see why. Food didn't warrant our attention. It wasn't worth it. Just shove it in your mouth while listening to horror stories about gangrenous infections at the safety lecture.

No prayers were said (and, I should note, I work at a Catholic Motherhouse). No comment on the flavor. No thought about how the food was grown, or harvested, or prepared. No gratefulness was felt for what was given to us.

I did my very level best to not pay a whit of attention to the lecture while eating. I will admit, I probably enjoyed the food more than I would ordinarily have, because I was so bloody-minded about eating it slowly and with attention. But I also missed out on a rare opportunity to chat with co-workers with whom I am rarely able to interact. I missed out on a little bit of a recharge, which left me feeling like I'd been hit by a semi by the end of the meeting. I missed what it usually my favorite part of my work-day--I missed my lunch. Maybe I'm spoiled. No, I'm certainly spoiled. But every day at my work, we sit down and eat in community. And no one works. No one even has to answer their phones, even if they ring. We eat. We talk. We find out about what's happening in each other's lives, and tell stories, and laugh. I could have done that with a whole new set of people today. But instead, we worked. Because, really, that's far more important, right?


  1. I must admit, as someone who is given literally 20 minutes to eat everyday (and I'm lucky, I'm not one of my students who has to not only eat in that time, but has to head downstairs to the lunchroom and get food to eat first) I wouldn't mind eating through a meeting if it got me out of a meeting. But then I read farther and I thought about how, in the hour between school and conferences, a bunch of us sat down and ate pizza together and chatted, and I realized how nice it would be to get that sort of time everyday. How healthy for us physically and spiritually. How, if we're supposed to be building a community as a school, we would be better served eating together than doing worksheets on character together!

  2. Ugh, I can sympathise. Admittedly, I normally eat at home, since I do much of my work there, but I try to always take time for lunch. And, when I'm not at home, I always take the time to sit down, usually with friends, to have a break and enjoy the food and the company. It makes me sad when things that are this important are so easily ignored or taken for granted.

  3. Its very annoying to have to admit after lunch that you can't even remember what you ate much less what it tasted like.

    Lunch should be just that. Not just an extension of whatever job you are doing.

    viv in nz

  4. Hey, just wanted to say: good rant! I think your bulleted points might even form the basis of something you could take to management on this issue. It's something that's worthy of addressing in the workplace, as you so eloquently expressed here. So, maybe after a cooling off period...?

  5. Since I was diagnosed with GERD, then lost my job and medical care - I take meal time a lot more seriously.

    Working through lunch - or dinner - generally results in indigestion and heartburn (i.e., acid burns to the esophagus). I don't get the community meals, but meal time is definitely a down time.

    And if your trainers had their heads on straight - something that whoever paid them needs to be aware of - they should have known that much of learning takes place in sleep and quiet times. By skipping that (major) break, they significantly diminished what anyone might take away from the presentation.

    Besides, the presenters didn't offer to pay you for the extra time out of your day.

    Blessed be.

  6. I'm totally with you. A lot of my colleagues eat in their offices, sometimes relaxing with the door shut, more usually grading or typing with their free hand. I've had to do that once or twice a week this quarter and I hate it. I want to get *out* of my office, see some other people, and chat a bit. (And sometimes even enjoy the food, despite ARAMARK. :) )

  7. This is a great post thanks! I've felt for years that food should take longer to enjoy than it did to prepare. Note here that I didn't say 'eat' I said 'enjoy'.

    I've found that by preparing food that I'm going to enjoy, I'll spend more care in the selection and preparation and then enjoy it even more. I hate working through lunch and don't do that anymore. Again, well said post!

  8. what a great blog!
    here is so many inspirations,

    have a nice time,