Pot Luck Etiquette
I need a reality check. The office where I work has frequent pot lucks. We each bring dishes and snacks and generally eat them during lunch. We have a kitchen and what usually happens is instead of folks getting their food and moving out of the way so that others can get theirs, people congregate (hover IMO) over the food. Directly over the food. They talk, laugh, and eat standing up over the food.
If you don't get there right at noon, you'll spend time asking folks to move over and move out of the way because people park right where the food is. Can you tell this ticks me off?
Also, they often take food with their hands. If they take the last of something--potato chips, let's say--they don't throw the bag away. If someone brings food that others are unfamiliar with, people will often pick up the food, hold it up to their nose, and smell it. Excuse me, but I don't want people's noses over food I might eat!
I also don't want to:
* Navigate an obstacle course of bodies to get to the food.
* Eat food people have had their hands on.
* Eat food that's been sprayed with people's germs because they don't have the decency to back away. (Some guy on Oprah said that germs can travel up to 9 ft. simply from talking.)
* Reach for food only to find that the bag or box is empty because someone didn't throw away the container.
Whew! I feel better just typing that. LOL! Am I making a mountain out of little mole hills? Is there some kind of etiquette for pot lucks?
My issues with an office potluck aren't so much the health & cleanliness factors--although I'll certainly be more tuned in after reading this thread, thank you--but simply because I can't always identify what's in a particular dish. I'm a fairly picky eater, so I tend to steer myself towards the stuff I can readily identify. And sometimes I have to resort to eating the pre-packaged chips, veggies, dip and salsa because the homemade dishes are such a mystery.
Office settings are very diverse. Folks have religious, allergy, and dietary issues along with plain likes and dislikes. I love chili, but not knowing whether the protein in a crockpot of chili is beef or pork or turkey or soy would be enough to keep me from sampling it. And that's a shame.
In our office, a simple solution is that all potluck dishes are accompanied by an index card identifying what they are, key ingredients, and the name of the person who created it. Socialization (isn't that the point of a potluck?) is stimulated through face-to-face ingredient inquiries, compliments and requests for recipes. Nobody should go hungry simply because they don't know what's in the dish.
We used to have potlucks at work all the time. I usually made something that was relatively expensive and always home made. There was this other guy who would bring a jar pickles. He wouldn't even open the jar, just set it on the buffet...towards the back. Nice times out of ten he'd take his unopened jar of pickles home, after eating more than anyone else. What a character!
My office -used- to have potlucks seemingly every other month. Of course, any major holiday got one. As time went by, the potlucks seemed to change. At the start, we -all- worked hard, made very good food- very little was store-bought crap. Little be little, the quality of food changed. People got lazy AND entitled (odd how those could go together) that SOMEBODY would bring "this" and "that". More than one person would wimp out and just buy 3 big bags of chips and fatty dip and when I came in at 3pm (I work late swing-shift) it was a picked-over wasteland of junkfood. Apparently, the boss also noticed this, and the potlucks STOPPED. We all found out how much the office came to -dread- the darn things! With the weight lifted from out collective shoulders, we had none for a whole year, save for the winter holiday one. People put out so much more care and effort for that one, it was very very nice.
I personally ran into the problem of having to bring food for BOTH day shift, and swing shift. The old biddies on days would get to the point of physically accosting me when I came in, demanding to know "what did I bring??" I learned to split food into 2 trays, one for them, one for nights. Yes, a bit more work, but less headache in the long run.
Also, I started bringing in healthier veggie platters with fat-free dip, a very welcome change from what was allready out. I normally would stick and eat only what I brought as well. As for noisy, standing around people; if they happened to be near my desk, a very polite "I'm on a call, could you be please be a little quieter/or go to the breakroom" Of course, that only works if you really ARE on a call! *LOL* Easy enough for me, as the job is being on the phone.
Potlucks CAN be fun and enjoyable. But, I found out they are more a pain in the butt than anything.
I never participate in pot lucks at work for all the reasons you state above, plus the fact that most of the food is crap. I know some people like them, but I don't eat things like boxed au gratin potatoes or broccoli drenched in ranch dressing, I quit eating like that years ago and 99% of the food at things like these end up being stuff I just don't eat. If you are trying to stay away from processed foods, potluck is no place to eat. In addition to the poor manners and "who knows what" has touched the food or what's in it, I just avoid them.
You cannot change these people and how they behave, it's too large of a group. If they are boorish, you should just avoid the potluck. Tell them you're dieting and bring your own food.
I'm not sure if you want to retain the good will of your coworkers and don't want to participate, or if you really do want to participate but just wish they would cease doing the things you listed in your original post: Reality check is correct:
News Flash: They are never, ever going to act any differently and if you are the only one who feels this way and you bring it to their attention, they will either laugh at you, think you're annoying or resent you. There is no correcting them b/c apparently they reenforce each other's bad behavior. The only way out, if that's what you want, is to go with RockandRoller's (above) suggestion and avoid participating. Since I'm getting the sense that the only 2 things that REALLY bother you are the crowd congestion in front of the table and the empty containers/bags, I'd agree with your own solution: Get in early. Once you're there, don't be surprised if you find yourself lingering in front of the food. You'd be amazed how different the view is from the cat bird's seat...:-}
there's another thread about peer pressure and drinking and this is an analogy to the oher thread. As jfood mentioned on that thread that he does not drink and just says 'no" likewise this situation is a "no" in jfood's book. He does not partake of salad bars or buffet as well. When they needed to place sneeze screens on salad bars jfood felt vindicated.
so jfood suggests if you want to bring a dish, do so, drop it off and return to your office and take the sandwich out of the bag and eat while looking a chowhound. we have much better manners than your co-workers and promise not to sneeze on your sandwich.
work in a restaurant kitchen if you want to really worry about how food is prepared!!! I have worked at several and have seen the following on numerous occasions
food dropped on the floor and used
hands in food
sneezing over food
talking over food
disgusting rags being used to wipe down surfaces then plate spills and tidying up plates
debatable whether all staff wash their hands after going to the bathroom
hairs picked out of food
unwashed fruit and produce
poorly washed spoons and containers
poor refridgeration policies
handbags and clothes left on food surfaces
touching hair then food, or scratching ears then food
The bit that would irritate me would be where everyone congregates around the food leaving no space for others. Perhaps make a show of coming in for your share with a "make space, hungry person coming through" or something along those lines.
I hear you, Boddie. But that's why they call it a pot luck... it's a bit of an ugly thing, though it can be fun. We just need to take a little extra OCD meds before venturing into the kitchen LOL !!!
Obviously, that's the way people behave, and it aint gonna change. My advice is get in there early, taste what you want fast, then take a few steps backward and watch the show!
I would also have to agree that if it causes you such angst, it is probably better not to go, or be one of the first people through the food.
I have worked in offices where food was brought in, and typically I would either not participate because I was too busy, or I was not interested. I am also not very trusting of food made by others I dont know(cleanliness of their kitchen, and choice of ingredients are the main reasons). I also had co-workers in the past that would take half a bagel, half a piece of coffee cake, or half a doughnut, getting their hands over food someone else could possibly eat. Not acceptable to me. As for the social aspect of a potluck, I'd rather go bend an elbow after work at the local bar to get to know them, than in a hurried office setting.
Who are these people? LOL I think any potluck does contain a certain amount of risk whether it is a picnic or office setting. But, many try to overlook that for the chance to try new dishes,show off a new recipe, or fellowship of friends or coworkers. If that isn't what is happening for you then why go through it? It sounds like you aren't comfortable with all the smelling, touching and handling of the food so rather than have to "police" the situation perhaps the best plan of attack is not to go.