An article in the Baltimore Sun examines the complications that can arise when workers bring their lunch to work and eat at the office, such as food left in the fridge so long it starts to sprout, fish reheated in the microwave that leaves a pungent odor, and the unholy stink of burnt popcorn. And some people have a real panic attack when they see pumped bottles of breast milk in the communal fridge.

Packed lunches tend to be cheaper, healthier, and quicker than running out for a bite. But as anyone who works in a cube farm can avow, you’ve got to be sensitive to the fact that you’re eating in a business environment (according to our etiquette columnist, what you eat for lunch could even affect your career advancement). Those hard-boiled eggs that seem like such a delightful healthy snack to you are making your neighbors want to retch. So with that in mind, here’s my list of foods that should not be eaten or reheated at the office:

1. Cooked fish, canned fish, or food with fish sauce: tastes great. Stinks to high heaven, and the smell lingers. Eat your tuna sandwich on a park bench. Sushi is just barely OK if it’s very fresh, but don’t eat it at your desk, slopping soy sauce everywhere. Go to the kitchen for God’s sake, you’re grossing everyone out.

2. Food that gives you heartburn: chili, Indian food, big dripping bacon cheeseburgers with a side of poutine. If it’s savory, rich, fatty, and spicy, those smell molecules are going to hang on long after the last bite has disappeared into your mouth. Tomorrow morning, your co-workers will come in, smell your lunch from yesterday, and hate you.

3. Food that smells like farts: no Brussels sprouts, cabbage, broccoli, or hard-boiled eggs.

4. Food with vinegar on it: Pickles are so stinky they could wake up the comatose. Your hot-and-sour soup looks great, but the smell makes my stomach turn from across the office.

5. Food that drips all over the place: pizza, spurting sandwiches, spaghetti; all better eaten somewhere other than over your keyboard.

6. Food you have to eat noisily: Slurping is not considered rude at a ramen joint. We cannot say the same for your desk.

7. Anything you have to eat in a sensual manner: Save the chocolate-covered strawberries and frozen bananas for your hot dates. We’re getting fouled out watching you flick your tongue like a porn star.

8. Microwave popcorn: I don’t care if they sell it in the vending machines, and I don’t care if it’s the healthiest choice you can find. Even when it’s not burnt, the chemical-laden micro-stuff smells exactly like an infant’s dirty diaper (ask any parent), and when it is burnt, the smell can singe the hairs off the inside of your nose.

Any ones I missed?

Image source: Flickr member Phil Sexton under Creative Commons

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