Thursday, August 18, 2011
You're Starting To Offend Me
"Bleeech! What's wrong with these?" Lindsey in gift-processing said after dumping her partially eaten pastry in the trash with the level of disgust you might put forth when shaking a dead worm from your finger. Continuing to wipe her tongue clean of masticated donut with a paper towel roughly torn from its roll, she added, "Who would bother bringing a whole box of those in here? Gross."
FlapJane has very peculiar eating habits; eating sugary and breaded foods one day and a handful of nuts and berries the next. Over the years of working with her I have to applaud her efforts to eat more like a squirrel and less like a midwesterner. It's not easy, especially in office culture. But she loves vegan donuts. At least, that is what I learned today. And she brought a box of them in this morning to share with the office staff.
Rewind to right before anyone knew who had purposefully insulted our pallets with a food, free of animal byproducts: I had to check in with my boss about day-to-day office stuff. As I was wrapping up my questions I turned to leave his office and asked, "Where did those donuts come from? They tasted weird."
"They're left over from a meeting."
"A meeting of people without tongues? The donuts just didn't taste very good," I continued. "Something wasn't right."
"FlapJane ordered them. They're vegan or something." Then, yelling to FlapJane who sits within earshot, "Hey FlapJane, where did you get those donuts?"
"Huh," she said, pulling her earbuds out of her ears.
"Urgh, you brought those in? They were awful," came a voice from a nearby cubicle. "I couldn't finish mine," came another. "I put it in the trash!"
My boss repeated the question, yelling out his door from his chair, "Were those donuts vegan?"
"Yeah," FlapJane said sheepishly. "You didn't like them?" A chorus of "no's" came from around the bullpen of desks. FlapJane looked deflated. At the heart of it, she had done a nice thing for us all. But food can be a personal thing for some people. Many of us take offense when we try to eat something we might recognize as one thing and our tongues recognize as crap, furiously wanting it aborted from our mouths. If you've ever once substituted brown rice pasta into your child's traditional spaghetti, you know what I'm talking about.
Feeling bad and wanting to come to FlapJane's defense, I tried to soften the blow. "Yeah, they weren't horrible, just didn't taste very good, and I like lots of vegan sweets. Maybe it was a bad batch."
Then, Gregory, who is as mean and offensive as his crop-dusting, came over. "What's a vegan donut? What's the point?"
"I really love them. They were left over from a meeting this morning," FlapJane said.
"Were they leftover because they were extra or because no one liked them?" Gregory pushed as he scratched his bare belly through an opening in his button-down shirt.
"I don't know. You're starting to offend me." People slowly started to gather, peeking their heads over their cubicles like meerkats looking out for a bird of prey. "Don't eat them if you don't like them."
"Thanks. We won't," Gregory said with finality as he pivoted on one heel and went back to watching YouTube at his desk.
And just when I was feeling sorry for FlapJane she defiantly said, "This is what I like to eat. The donuts you bring don't taste good to me and make everyone here overweight." (I should mention here that FlapJane is the size of a whippet and no one likes to be nipped at by a whippet.) Playful ribbing quickly went south. Her statement wasn't a direct attack on anyone's figure per se, but we all felt shamed. The women in their Talbots and Lane Bryant blouses slowly lowered back in their seats. The few men that were listening in, threw back their heads and went for more coffee. I headed back to my office (I had important blogging to do).
I don't have any problem with a vegan diet and as someone who enjoys cooking, I love the challenge of preparing any dish that calls for a substitution or limits the use of traditional ingredients. It keeps things interesting. Mixes things up. But, in that mixing I would never verbally shame someone else for using butter instead of margarine, frozen over fresh or comment on their food choices in relationship to their bodies. That's what the arts of being polite or quietly-judging-and-outwardly-smiling is all about--arts I feel must be forced down FlapJane's throat, even if she doesn't care for the taste.
Posted by Rye at 12:12 PM