My next door neighbor doesn't eat food. In seven years, I have never see her eat a bite of anything. Not a nibble, not even sucking Ranch dip off of a carrot stick. We have food events in our department at least once a quarter. And I've never see her eat. EVER. She chews on frozen Gatorade 'ice' cubes shaped like miniature stars. She keeps her special star-shaped mold in our departmental freezer with a note saying, "Don't touch! Gatorade at work." I'm sure she eats at home (given that she doesn't appear to be dying of starvation), but she doesn't eat at work. Instead, she dips her fingers into a cup, withdraws her star-shaped treat, and C-R-U-N-C-H-E-S all day. The crunching doesn't puzzle or bother me so much as why she needs her Gatorade frozen and in star shapes. When asked, she simply laughs and says, "I'm weird."
A past colleague (to whom I've referred in an earlier post) brought her snacks in individual baggies. Each apple slice had its own little baggie. In fact, I learned that Ziplock bags came in tiny sizes because she often shared a single wedge of orange or a single cube of cheese with me by simply handing me a baggie with the individual item inside. The only things that didn't get individual baggies were goldfish crackers (ten to a baggie). I think she was counting calories, but she never explained her choices and acted like it was normal to keep each portion individually wrapped and separate from the other segments of orange or whatever.
One of my colleagues only eats raw food. She's not vegan, per se, because she will eat sashimi and smoked salmon, but if anyone is in charge of the veggie or fruit tray, she requests that they wash the veggies and fruit in a special vinegar-and-water solution (not a big deal) to kill salmonella more than simply washing with water. She usually is the one to volunteer to bring veggies or fruit to our departmental gatherings (mostly grown in her own garden). She's not annoying about her food choices and doesn't seem particularly environmentally savvy or driven, but if we do go out to eat, she requests a restaurant that has a larger-than-usual salad menu.
Another colleague stores, yet never seems to eat, items in our large refrigerator. Costco-sized tubs of Greek yogurt vie for space next to her two cartons of soymilk. I've never seen her eating the yogurt or drinking the milk, but they disappear and are replaced by new tubs of yogurt and cartons of milk every few weeks. These are not the user-friendly miniature yogurt cups that break apart into individual cuppies. These are the giant industrial-sized portions that take up the whole top shelf... the whole mix of dairy and non-dairy puzzles me.
Finally, another of my colleagues (we share a building, but not a department) eats popcorn voraciously, cramming it into his mouth two fisted, shoving as many kernels as he can into his cheeks before crunching down. I've seen him down a bag of microwave popcorn in under two minutes. He's proud of this fact. He doesn't always eat microwave popcorn; sometimes he brings in a giant bag from the store, or he brings his own, but not a week goes by without the scent of popcorn wafting down the hallway.
When we do have departmental events, we arrange a bevy of culinary treats, a balance of Cheddar, Brie and goat cheeses, crackers, dips, chips, veggies, fruit, sliced or hot meats, chicken wings, meatballs, desserts, and drinks, which the students always enjoy. When we do whole meal-type events, we bring suitable dishes like potato salads, lasagna or quiches, showing that we know what is acceptable food behavior on a group level. And yet, individually, we have some really odd eating behaviors. I know that much of this is due to a busy lifestyle where food, despite being important, isn't a priority. We go for convenience over other options. Since I live in a rural area, we don't engage in much fast-food eating (the nearest fast-food joint is a 20-minute drive away).
Mostly, from these examples, I wonder about the hidden quirks that we don't see. If THESE are the quirks we're willing to share, what kinds of pathological behavior are we keeping hidden from the public, our colleagues, and especially from our students? Am I making too much of the fact that picky eaters or weird eaters (or non eaters) may have other hidden quirks that are way worse than the ones they share at work?
What kinds of "food behaviors" do you or your colleagues engage in? Do they puzzle or bother you? I'm not so much bothered (so this is less a post about misery than it could be) by the behaviors, but I am puzzled by what we consider 'normal' food behavior at work. Given that no movies or TV shows focus on the NORMAL foods that others consume at work (I know we have a whole Food Network, and yet that doesn't seem to focus so much on what we regularly eat at work), I wonder where I get my notions of "normal food behaviors," as well. And lastly, if you've stuck with me through this, do you have a thesis statement for me?