I can’t remember exactly who said a man may be judged by what enters his mouth. Hands up if you find yourself removing that pen cap from your lips. This delicious quote has now been stretched to cover topics as dichotomous as nutrition and starvation, and as contradictory as weight loss and weight gain. In any case, my guess is that it originated from Socrates or a frantic Mas Selamat after living on a low-fat, detoxifying jungle diet for three weeks.
You’ve already judged your colleagues according to what they say to their bosses, what they wear to work and what time they arrive in the morning. Why not add what they eat to the list? Here are some revelations from the consumption of food during lunch hour, all discerned in the context of local gastronomy.
1. Yong Tau Foo
One step up from having a salad or a miserable cereal bar, those who eat Yong Tau Foo religiously belong to the health-conscious (or extremely vain) tribe. These perpetrators are usually female and regulars at the company gym. Clad in body-con vacuum wrap masquerading as fabric, their figures scream, “If you eat Yong Tau Foo every day, you’ll look this awesome too!” The good news for the majority of us with a little layer of blubber for keeping warm in the centralised air-conditioning: Tofu ain’t gonna last anyone for long. Keep your eyes peeled when Yong Tau Foo eaters sneak a wholegrain biscuit or two (typically around 4pm) and shout, “Caught in the act!” Then, bury your head in reams of contracts and pretend nothing has happened.
2. Laksa + Mee Goreng + Prata + Curry Puff
No, this isn’t a chef’s attempt at racial integration. These are for people with a penchant for spicy food and complementary stomachs of iron. Plate after plate of chilli is thrown into the endless abyss of their cavernous throats like irretrievable CPF funds, and they come back after lunch smelling like the entire canteen. That is, until their food gets digested and there begins a noticeable alteration in the olfactory climate of the office. Want to complain about sitting next to them and spending 30% of your monthly income on Thirsty Hippo? Think again. The only idiom they remember from school is “variety is the spice of life”—and they’re not afraid to wield it against detractors from the aforementioned health-conscious tribe.
There are only three explanations for colleagues who still make trips to that happy, jaundiced prison of chattering schoolchildren and wax incarnations of Ronald McDonald. One: they swear by the superiority of Western fast food giants over anything the East has to offer. In more scientific terms, this is known as denial. Two: they believe themselves either to be eternally healthy 15 year olds grabbing a snack in between school and tuition, or NS recruits that salivate at the sight of a Coke can rolling across the street and into the drain—much less a happy meal. Three: they secretly have a crush on those teenage temps working there. This spells the beginning of a midlife crisis which, thankfully, will not last long since loyal patrons of fast food joints barely make it past adolescence.
4. Thinking Out of the Lunchbox
As they gingerly open plastic containers of salad, soup, rice and cheesecake, you wonder what the meaning of life is. How is it that some colleagues, even after ten-hour work days, can come into the office fresh as another SMRT breakdown, carrying their three-course homemade lunches like the latest It Bag? How do they find the time to wash grapes and arrange them beside apple slices and heart-shaped strawberries? Above all, how do they resist tucking into their lunches before 12pm? If you’re seated next to a person like that, always eat out. Watching him or her dig into all that perfection just ain’t worth it. Especially if you know getting offered a bite is as impossible as increasing viewership on Channel 5.
No, not literally of course! Unless it’s punishment for an eternally abyssal KPI, for which a leech diet is entirely justified—you little bloodsucker. What I’m referring to are the colleagues that flit around the entire rented space during or nearing lunch hour. They have an inexplicable talent for appearing less than 5 seconds after someone opens a packet of bee hoon or plunges a straw through some Gong Cha. Small talk will ensue, and very soon the leech will ask if he or she can try some (females accompany the question with generous amounts of hair-flicking). This is the point where one either says with a pained smile, “Sure, go ahead” (especially if the requester’s your boss), or abruptly kneels on the carpeted floor and breaks down, “Please don’t take my food again! You know how hungry I am on Wednesdays. Take my dignity, my pride, even the cactus on my desk, but leave my food alone!”
After all this well-substantiated analysis, if you’re still able to not think twice before choosing what to eat, you deserve to be Employee of the Month.