What We Talk About When We Talk About Food (in the office)

Have you heard of “food shaming in the office”?

I hadn’t, until a few weeks ago, via (what else) a Facebook status. Sometimes I ashamedly feel like Facebook is the only thing keeping me in tune with what’s important to other young people anymore. Without it, would my entire being just be stuck somewhere in 2004, worshipping Good Charlotte, watching The Ashlee Simpson Show and stocking up on “vintage” cereal branded t-shirts from Delia’s? Likely.

But thanks to this unforgiving social medium, I now know that food shaming is plaguing workplaces and communal refrigerators everywhere. I’m no expert and I likely have only 1/8 of the details, but it sounds like food shaming can take many forms – judging coworkers for eating a huge lunch or snacking too often, judging coworkers for “just” eating a salad without dressing, making bewildered comments about how coworker A retains her [insert shape] figure by eating deceptively salty [insert Trader Joe’s frozen meal] three days a week.

It may be a present issue and I’m sure there are people for who this struggle is real, but I’m here in earnest to plead and BEG that no matter what happens, let’s never stop talking to our coworkers about food completely? Make me that promise?

Because as stubborn as we strive to be, other people know things. Things that can make you question every single time you’ve debated whether to bake, broil or sauté those chicken breasts. Things that can reignite that kitchen lovin’ and make you feel like a natural anything.

If it weren’t for me airing my #dinnerproblems aloud in the open office one afternoon, I wouldn’t have known that boiling chicken is a viable kitchen method. My world wouldn’t have been cracked open to the possibilities of shreddable chicken, at home, from an obnoxiously impractical small glass-top stove.

Without public workplace food talk, there would have been no impetus for me to cross-reference 17 BBQ pulled chicken recipes because homemade pulled anything would’ve still (in my mind) been an ethereal object like Samoas – something that super ambitious, Sheryl Sandbergs-in-training make from scratch while the rest of us concede to the fact that they’re better out of purple cardboard boxes purveyed by small children.

Could people bear to stop being so cliquey about their Lululemon lunch totes? Maybe. But let’s never, ever, put an to end the colleague food dialogue. In today’s automated, virtual, “flexible” workplace, it might be the only thing keeping us human.

Pulled BBQ Chicken (on a bun or not)
Makes 6ish servings; adapted from Dinner: A Love Story

1 cup bbq sauce (I’ve found that Stubbs is well worth the investment)
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 of a large onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp adobo seasoning
1-1.5 lb of boneless chicken breasts
Rolls (Optional…I am fortunate enough to live in Stephanie Izard territory and her buns are by far the most magnificent, handheld pillows I’ve ever wrapped my mouth around…)

In a large pot, mix together the bbq sauce, vinegar, onion, garlic, adobo and a few shakes of salt and pepper. Add in the chicken and then enough water until the breasts are covered, stirring until everything is well incorporated. If you’re a heat freak, other peppers, hot sauces, etc. could be added at this point (or at serving time.)

Get that mixture to a boil then reduce and simmer for around 20 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked and you’re no longer at risk for my most feared food borne illness. Remove the chicken (leave the sauce! don’t touch it! stop!) and shred it up. The dextrous out there may use a fork and knife to do this, but a slightly shaky pair of petite, clean hands will suffice.

Bring the sauce (that you left in the pot) back to a boil and reduce/let it thicken up for around 10 minutes.  Add the chicken back in to the pot and do your thing. Slop it onto some potato rolls, eat it naked with a side of cornbread or maybe vegetables if you’re sophisticated. Freeze any leftovers and revive them for a workday lunch, a.k.a. a conversation starter.



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