Adventures in catering part one

Wednesday’s vegetarian option is liver and onions. Sigh.

 Welcome to public sector catering. Saint Jamie of Oliver, your work here is not yet done.

 Let me share some stories with you. Are you sitting comfortably? Then I shall begin with the story of the vegetarian Christmas gravy.

 It is a truth universally acknowledged that a nut roast in possession of all the trimmings must be in need of veggie gravy. I don’t often venture down to the canteen as the resulting week-long indigestion isn’t really worth the effort. But last Christmas my colleagues and I decided the drop the bah-humbug attitude and join in with the office Christmas lunch. After queuing for a couple of hours (the catering assistants don’t do fast) I arrived at the servery and asked politely for my delicious vegetarian dinner. The assistant sighed heavily and went off in search of the nut roast, which she plonked onto a plastic plate.

 ‘Gravy?’ she demanded, wielding a meatily dripping jug.

‘Um, do you have vegetarian gravy?’ I asked, aware of sounding faintly ridiculous. 

‘We’ve got gravy,’ she growled, swishing the jug. I’m now aware of starving colleagues fidgeting in the queue behind me.

‘But it’s meat gravy, ‘ I said, ‘and I’m, um, well I’m a vegetarian.’


 She shifted her bosom up under her pinny.

 ‘THIS ONE,’ she bellowed into the kitchen, hooking her thumb at me, ‘WANTS VEGETARIAN GRAVY.’

 Everyone in the queue turned to glare at me. I slunk away, gravy-less.

 A few minutes later when I’d eaten most of my dinner, a catering size jug with a couple of litres of yellow-coloured water was plonked by my side.

 ‘It’s your vegetarian gravy,’ snarled the assistant. ‘Enjoy your meal.’

 Usually I bring my own packed lunch when I can be bothered to make one. Pity the participants of our courses who have no choice in the catering but are so intimidated by the huffing and puffing from behind the counter that they daren’t complain.

 I’d rather not have obsequeious staff in the kitchen (I’m British after all and I can’t be doing with all that have a nice day nonsense) but I’m sure we can do better that this. Can’t we?

 What have been your experiences of corporate hostility hospitality?


10 Responses to Adventures in catering part one

  1. Kevin CW says:

    Yup, I concur with that experience. Some notes for public sector (and indeed any) catering organisations:

    No, I don’t eat fish
    Yes, it does matter if my sandwich is pushed up a against a meat/fish sandwich and tastes of sardines
    No, it’s not a veggie option to have cheese sandwiches for me and ham, fish, beef sandwiches, quiche, pizza, chicken drummers for everyone else. That’s a veggie isolation machine
    If everyone is going to go for the veggie sanwiches first, maybe it would be a better idea to make more them and less of the meat ones in case I’m at the back of the queue

    A note to colleagues:

    Please don’t apologise for eating meat near me (I don’t have a problem with your choice…if you have a problem with it don’t do it, otherwise get on with it)
    Please don’t help yourself to the multiple meat options then look at me with pitty, point to the rancid cheese sandwich and say: “Oh well at least those sandwiches look nice”.

    Great post, again. Are you on Twitter?

  2. citizenr says:

    “Oh well at least those sandwiches look nice”. or… “ooh that overcooked pasta in an aribtrary tomato sauce looks almost as tasty as our slow-cooked lamb shank in red wine jus with honey glazed baby vegetables.”

    I do tweet but am trying to remain anonymousish in the tweeterverse in case my employers find out…

  3. citizenr says:

    ps please RT as much as you like though!

  4. Kevin CW says:

    I understand entirely, having spent many years hiding under various pseudonyms. Still, would be interesting to know you.

    If you’re not terrified I will blow your cover, feel free to email me (kevin*thatfunnysquiggle* or just add me on Twitter (@kevupnorth).

  5. JGH says:

    Oh yes, brings memories flooding back. My local authority’s concept of vegetarian was: oh, well we have lots of muslim staff and members, so we’ll do some strange deep-fried Indian onion’n’curry based “thing”. Aghh! What’s wrong with a bog standard sunday lunch, sans meat?

    Here, that’s vegetarian. No, that’s tuna.
    Here, that’s vegetarian. No, that’s egg salad.
    Here, that’s vegetarian. No, that’s chicken. Ye Gods!

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