My friend, let’s call her Fatima, loves Laotian food. Perhaps ‘loves’ is not the right word. It doesn’t quite capture the extent of her affinity to the culinary contributions of Laos to this world. As someone who has had the pleasure of enjoying this extraordinary cuisine, I completely understand Fatima’s appreciation, yes that’s what we’ll call it, ‘appreciation’, for Laotian food.
One Monday, Fatima worked from home, and therefore missed her then employer’s free catered Monday lunch, which she was ok with. She was ok with her choice to miss the lunch until she arrived at work the next morning to be told that she had missed Laotian food. Now, as you can imagine, Fatima was not pleased with this news. And this might be the understatement of the month. But, luckily for her, one of her colleagues informed her that there were leftovers in the communal refrigerator, and she was welcome to them. As you can imagine, this sudden turn of events brightened up Fatima’s dismayed spirits, and may I say, added a pep to her step.
Come lunchtime, peppy step in place, Fatima walked over to the kitchen, opened the communal refrigerator as instructed, and reached for the container she had been told contained the Laotian food. Perhaps the first indicator that something was not quite kosher should have been that it was in a plastic container, and not the usual styrofoam/ hard paper food packages that restaurants tend to pack their takeout in. However, seeing as she worked in a very ‘green’ and environmentally conscious company, it would not have been unheard of for one of her colleagues to find a clean plastic container to package the left overs. This would not only ensure that the food stayed fresh, it also kept the plastic container out of the landfill, therefore saving the environment one leftover container at a time.
Fatima took the food to her desk and found that it appeared to be a sushi-like roll. Who was she to question the Laoatian people as to their decision to start making rolls? She was but a religious appreciator of their cuisine. Whatever they chose to cook, she would appreciate immensely. Halfway through her meal, she heard a loud exclamation come from the kitchen. “Oh my goodness! someone ate my lunch!”
Maybe it was the tone of the exclamation, or the fact that deep deep inside, Fatima had her doubts about the existence of Laoatian rolls, but in that moment, she knew she was the “someone” who had eaten someone else’s lunch.
Now, we’ve all been the victim, or known someone who has been the victim of the heinous crime known as lunch theft. You slave over the stove and make what you consider edible, maybe great food. You can’t eat it all, so you pack some for lunch the next day. You leave it in the communal fridge and assume it will be there at lunch. At lunch time, your rumbling stomach leads you to the fridge, and you do a double take. Your lunch container is MIA. Gone. No goodbye, nothing. Hunger and anger marry in a quickie ceremony that would put Vegas chapels to shame, and hanger is born. You curse the thief in a string of four letter words. You even throw in insults in other languages. You hope they get explosive diarrhea and worms all at once. Everyone is a suspect. Come to think of it, Mandy’s lunch did smell suspiciously familiar. Brandon looked unusually full today, or was it the chronically dieting Liz who, at the sight of your delicious meal, broke her 2 day juicing stretch to indulge in your amazing cooking? Like I said, trust no one. Such are the workings of a hungry mind.
A mortified Fatima shot a quick email to her close circle of friends. “Omg. Oh! M! G! I have eaten Tess’ lunch”. Yes, the surprised voice coming out of the kitchen belonged to Tess, a colleague from a different department. “What should I do? Should I tell her?”
Note that at this time, it was too late to return the food as she had already started eating it, and she hoped that Tess didn’t conduct an impromptu check around people’s desks to see if she would catch the culprit In flagrant delicate. Fatima nervously checked her email, and on seeing no response from her friends, relied on what she calls ‘too many morals’ to make her decision. She stood up and walked to the kitchen, with significantly less pep in her step, to perform her mea culpa.
When she arrived at the scene of the crime, she approached Tess and below is the dialogue that followed:
F: I’m sorry I ate your lunch, I thought it was….
T: Grrrrrrrrr (looks at ground,deep breath)
After three more tries, Tess finally stopped interrupting Fatima long enough to let her finish her sentence.
F: I’m sorry, I really am, I thought they were left overs. I am happy to buy you lunch at any restaurant of your choice.
T: Leftovers? LEFTOVERS??? Those were hand-crushed sunflower seeds soaked in olive oil and hand-rolled in ORGANIC sea-weed.
F: I’m sorry. I really am, I will buy you lunch…
T: Grrrr (deep breath, avoids looking at Fatima). I am gluten free.
Tess stomped off and left Fatima standing there. When Fatima returned to her desk, her email was blowing up. The unanimous advice, which would have been super-helpful ten minutes prior, was “Do not say anything. Do not do it. Hide the container in the trash. Cover it with paper. Do not, under any circumstances admit to being the lunch thief. Eat the evidence and bury the container”
Well, it was too late. Fatima’s email pinged and Tess had sent a curt one liner also known as a nastygram.
“And you had better return my container.”
Right, return the container, in case Fatima was planning to eat it for dessert, like you do.
A few minutes later, Fatima saw Tess carrying takeout from a nearby restaurant, this after declining Fatima’s offer to buy her lunch in place of the pilfered hand crushed sunflower seed rolls. This restaurant was definitely not gluten free. But hanger is a strange thing. It can cause your body to forget that it is gluten free and happily digest wheat based food.
When Fatima’s friends finally met up with her that afternoon, she told them about her mea culpa. They were incredulous. What was she thinking, they asked. Had she lost her mind? Stealing lunch was no biggie, confessed one of her friends, let’s call her Alice. Alice habitually shopped the communal fridge for lunch. She informed her appalled friends that she had found food ranging from curries to dessert right there in the communal fridge. It was like a daily food fair, with different culinary experiences awaiting the daring palette. The highlight of her fridge browsing? A sandwich named Kevin.