back to article My fortnight eating Blighty's own human fart-powder

The very phrase "food substitute" is enough to strike fear into the hearts of the Full-English loving workforce, and perhaps rightly so. Way back in the summer of 2013, former Reg man Jack Clark took one for the team by surviving on nothing but Soylent for seven nightmarish days and wrote up his experiences so that others …

Voland's right hand
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Food is not only sustenance

Human civilization has grown up around food having a social function. Even lower primates share and enjoy food as a social function.

Deliberately avoiding that part of our ancestry (it is not even cultural - it is genetic) and enjoying the process of doing so strikes me as a clear indication that someone needs a visit to the psychiatrist.

No, thanks, I will have my proper lunch, not at my desk and in the company of other people *. Sociopaths can go eat their synthetic grub at their desk

(*) Michael Duglas has a lot to answer for. Lunch is not for wimps. It is for normal people

Dave 126
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Re: Food is not only sustenance

Hey Voland

We don't all live in France where everybody stops for a couple of hours for lunch with a carafe of red wine, the cafe abuzz with conversation. In the UK, so many of our lunch options could be considered 'food substitutes' - I'm talking about pale sandwiches, MacDonalds, Ginster's pasties, Nutrigrain bars and the like. Compared to that, spending £1.50 for something nutritious and not unpleasant seems a not unreasonable way to tide me over til i get to my own kitchen or pub. That a milkshake-like substance can be consumed whilst at the desk or driving seems like a bonus.

So yeah, I agree with you that food should be a sensual pleasure, and a social occasion. However, I feel the current problems lie with our work culture, so we should look for solutions there before we call for the shrinks.

Bronek Kozicki
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Flame

Re: Food is not only sustenance

@Voland's right hand, while I share your sentiment about social function of eating, I am also offended by the suggestion that eating alone might be a sign of a troubled mind. Some of us simply do not have a company to eat with, nor appropriate place to seek such company. Or simply prefer eating alone for whatever reason. While such preference might be justifiably called "unsocial", I feel you have crossed the line here.

Dr_N
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Re: Food is not only sustenance

@Dave 126

"We don't all live in France where everybody stops for a couple of hours for lunch with a carafe of red wine,"

Yeah, that rarely happens in France anymore. Why do you think France is now so more productive than the UK?

The lunchtime delivery/take-out food options do still knock English fare into a cocked hat though.

maffski

Re: Food is not only sustenance

@Dr_N

'Why do you think France is now so more productive than the UK?'

Because labour laws make automation more desirable? (Unemployment being twice as high in France)

Doc Ock
Thumb Up

Re: Food is not only sustenance

>Ginster's pasties

Eww, as Gordon Ramsay once said "Shit in a bag". They look bugger all and taste bugger all like a decent pastie, more like something I've wiped off my shoe.

Have an upvote for pointing out shit being misrepresented as food.

Uncle Slacky
Silver badge

Re: Food is not only sustenance

Used to drive past their factory every morning - suffice to say the smell is enough to put you off them for life. Not for nothing are they generally referred to as "nasty pasties".

Gimme a Philps any day!

Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese
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Re: Food is not only sustenance

"We don't all live in France where everybody stops for a couple of hours for lunch with a carafe of red wine,"

Yeah, that rarely happens in France anymore.

Whenever I go to visit my colleagues in France, lunch is *always* taken. Even if we're heavily constrained on time and running late, they will always insist we down tools and head to the canteen for a proper cooked meal (although there is the option of wine on draft, everyone seems to prefer soft drinks at lunchtime)

Paul Shirley

Re: Food is not only sustenance

On the infrequent times I work in the office, my lunch time is reserved for extremely violent socialising with coworkers in whatever LAN FPS is in favour. Crumb free snacking while waiting to respawn.

Anything else is just wasted time :)

Triggerfish

Re: Food is not only sustenance

I spend a lot of time talking to people, at work and in other companies, when I make a brew stopping and chatting in the corridors between offices happens as well as in our office during work. There's plenty of human interaction in my life, sometimes sitting down in a bit of peace and quiet and not having to talk to anyone and just having a quiet meal is better to recharge.

Not a sociopath, introvert.

Anonymous Coward
Anonymous Coward

Re: Food is not only sustenance

Why do you think France is now so more productive than the UK?

Because someone has swallowed the French goverment propaganda?

Live there for a while and you'll see that "French productivity" is as much a myth as the 2-hour wine-fuelled lunch.

Dr_N
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Re: Food is not only sustenance

>they will always insist we down tools and head to the canteen for a proper cooked meal

Surprisingly not everywhere has a canteen, would you believe.

Do they spend 2 hours in the canteen?

Dr_N
Silver badge

Re: Food is not only sustenance

>Live there for a while and you'll see that "French productivity" is as much a myth as the 2-hour wine-fuelled lunch.

I have AC, for many, many years. And have observed the change away from

apocryphal 2hr lunch breaks.

Rich 11
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Re: Food is not only sustenance

seems a not unreasonable way to tide me over til i get to my own kitchen or pub.

You have your own pub? Jammy bastard!

Voland's right hand
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Re: Food is not only sustenance

We don't all live in France

Neither do I. I still take my 30-40 mins break to have a proper lunch and never, ever eat at my desk. I also use that time to socialize, talk to my colleagues, relax and get by brain together. Much better than doing the classic British open office thing of messing up everyone's else concentration and work via constant banter.

This also has something to do with having to deal with hundreds of keyboards with microbial infestation comparable to spreading a turd over them during my IT years. If you eat at your desk, I suggest disassembling your keyboard after one year and licking it. That should cure you of this habit.

Triggerfish

Re: Food is not only sustenance

That's nice but just because you do this, does not mean the rest of us want to or should.

Voland's right hand
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Re: Food is not only sustenance

Live there for a while and you'll see that "French productivity"

France is not the only place where Lunch is Lunch. Most of Europe is in fact. Most of them are more productive than the UK too.

If you go into an office there, you are usually shocked by how QUIET it is. The constant banter with several sociopaths socializing in the middle of the office loudly enough to spoil everyone's else work is non-existent. Want to socialize with co-workers - sure, grab an espresso or whatever else you fancy take your 15 minutes in the cafe OUTSIDE without f*** up everyone's work.

The end result is that people do 8 hours in office and do them solid, just punctuated by an occasional coffee or food break. Using standard measures of productivity which are "time spent" vs "work done" this quite obviously results in higher productivity than 12 hours out of which 4+ are banter or being distracted by somebody's else banter.

Voland's right hand
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Re: Food is not only sustenance

Surprisingly not everywhere has a canteen, would you believe.

There are countries that do not have them at all and where people still eat properly. The underlying reason is that UK is the only country in Europe to specifically make any company which tries to care about the health of its workers regret it. Taxwise.

In the UK a company trying to provide decent food for people who work for it is _PENALIZED_ by having to jump through the hoops of this being taxed as a benefit. People should eat sandwiches, develop the associated gastrointestinal issues and obesity. Courtesy of Gordon Brown and Tony Blair. Why - no idea, these two f*** never did something without someone giving Labour a backhander, no idea who and what gave it to them on this one. Would not be surprised if it was some pastry company producing some hideous turds destined for Joe Average Worker's lunchbox.

Elsewhere a company trying to provide decent food is _REWARDED_ for this via tax deduction. Some countries also force the issue of choice and quality by making the benefit payable as vouchers making the lunch break something all local food outlets compete for.

Eddy Ito
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WTF?

Re: Food is not only sustenance

Even lower primates share and enjoy food as a social function.

Well yes, being social animals with a substantial amount of their lifetime spent foraging for food and eating it would naturally be a social function. Then again given the lives of lower primates there isn't likely to be much privacy or alone time at all given the tendency of solitary members to wind up as food for another species. Perhaps even food for a pride of lions who will also dine together instead of a sociopathic leopard.

Anonymous Coward
Anonymous Coward

Re: Food is not only sustenance

Yeah, that rarely happens in France anymore. Why do you think France is now so more productive than the UK?

Because they need to catch up with all the work they drop when they have yet another strike?

Doc Ock

Re: Food is not only sustenance

>Gimme a Philps any day!

Now that is a proper pastie, bloody marvellous. Dammit I could just kill one now.

Dave 126
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Re: Food is not only sustenance

Just to clarify, it is Brittany that I am most familiar with, and the Bretons don't consider themselves to be French, especially with regards to international rugby tournaments. They save their real contempt for Parisians, though.

The food is simple and delicious - especially if you like pork products, crepes and horse and chips.

MJI
Silver badge

Re: Ginsters

I take it then that you have never tried Pork Farms or Walls.

Ginsters are not great but they are better than a lot of similar packeted foods.

We can't all live in Cornwall.

Ginsters 5/10, Pork Farms 2/10, Rowes 9/10, my Mums were 10/10

Anonymous Coward
Anonymous Coward

Re: Food is not only sustenance

@Voland's right hand :

I often skip lunch. Other times I take it at 3pm. Sometimes at my desk, sometimes not. I can assure you that my keyboard is in excellent shape, because I have the habit of moving it before eating. I have cleaned enough of the filthy buggers when I was in the trenches.

What I don't understand that you actually got upvotes after your first post. Calling people sociopaths for preferring to lunch alone ? Really ? I have not lunched with *any* colleague in almost 2 decades, with the exceptions being a)abroad and b)at an event or conference. It's amazing really that I haven't killed anyone (yet) or am able to function as a normal member of society.

What do you for dinner by the way ? I always cook for me, the missus and the sprogs. Fresh ingredients. We always eat together with the family, books, tv and phones/tablets are not allowed as a general rule. Maybe you have something similar, maybe you don't. In the latter case, should I assume you're a sociopath ?

allthecoolshortnamesweretaken
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Re: Food is not only sustenance / licking your keyboard

Okay, who else thought "keyboard sanitizer"?

...which, as I have learned recently, is actually a thing. As are telephone sanitizers; at least in Switzerland.

Tikimon
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Happy

Re: Food is not only sustenance IN KEYBOARDS

Here's a surreal take on that. Check it out!

http://english.bouletcorp.com/2016/07/29/when-the-world-crumbles/

***

Boulet is an awesome webcomic artist. Here's another for us IT types about mouse trouble.

http://english.bouletcorp.com/2015/06/09/of-mice-and-men/

Triggerfish

Re: Food is not only sustenance

Even lower primates share and enjoy food as a social function.

Primates will hide food from others and eat off to one side, it's a way of making sure members of the group above them in the pecking order do not steal their food. There's thoughts that these sort of habits, can be partially responsible for rises in intelligence evoloution wise.

TheVogon
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Re: Food is not only sustenance

"Why do you think France is now so more productive than the UK?"

It isn't. According to the World Bank, the UK is 22nd globally by GDP per person and France is 26th.

Only ~ 8 of the 28 EU countries are more productive than the UK - and France isn't one of them.

eesiginfo

Re: Food is not only sustenance

I believe the writer of the piece, talked about mixing the two - a nutrient filler and a sit-down meal.

This could make sense, as productive members of society are now increasingly choosing how they work.

If the creative urge is upon you, the last thing that you want to do is 'break the moment'.

The key is to run with your productive flow, and that often doesn't conform to a noon break.

Therefore, grabbing a nutrient drink that leaves you satisfied, may be far better than ordering in a Pizza (presuming that it is actually a healthy alternative).

Perhaps you can then get the job done and piss off early, and later sit down with your family or friends for a good nosh up.

Personally, I have a full English to set me up for the day, and then don't eat again until the evening meal (but I do get the concept of a midday filler).

What would stop me is the pricing.

It sounds crazy.

It looks like everything is dry goods, that is simply ground up, and bagged.

It doesn't get any cheaper than that.

Even buying individually packaged wet goods, transported to a supermarket, and sold at a profit, is cheaper than that.

Saucisse de Strasbourg 10 cents

1 egg 11 cents

bacon portion 15 cents

Tomato portion 15 cents

Mushroom portion 15 cents

2 slices of wholegrain toast - 10 cents

Potatoe - almost free @ 30 cents/Kg (1 saved from last night to re-fry)

Drop of mustard - almost free

Stick all that in a decent frying pan on lowish heat, and by the time the tea has brewed, and the computer booted...

... and for way less than a quid... 80 pence tops... you are sitting down to a great meal, and checking out your news feeds.

...... All that, involving special packaging, vacuums, inert gas, food management etc.

Yet a bag of ground, dried food, hits £1.30 per meal (ie. a bit of mass-produced powder)!!!!

On top of that.... your PC hasn't finished booting and loading your apps, and your tea hasn't even brewed after boiling the water.

.... and where's the toast?

Okay, I get that it is cheaper than ordering a pizza delivery.... but everything is cheaper than ordering pizza..... even a top quality steak... and don't even mention griddled kidneys and onions (almost free).

So... as a midday filler at 40p a pop... fine.

But at those prices, I'm not going to give up on a decent breakfast to set me up for the day.

Seajay#

Re: Food is not only sustenance

Productivity is not GDP per head it's GDP per hour worked.

By that measure, France does beat us. That's not necessarily a good thing though. They could just be keeping their less productive people unemployed. Arguably not great socially.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_GDP_(PPP)_per_hour_worked

Dave 126
Silver badge

Re: Ginsters

>I take it then that you have never tried Pork Farms or Walls. Ginsters are not great but they are better than a lot of similar packeted foods.

Agreed, and that's kind of the point: walk into any convenience store or petrol station in the UK and your chances of finding anything actually edible are slim.

In any case, the best pasties come from Barnstaple in Devon. East West Bakery on Butcher's Row - next to the covered market. Strangely, my Cornish friends still speak to me!

Voland's right hand
Silver badge
Devil

Re: Food is not only sustenance

It isn't. According to the World Bank, the UK is 22nd globally by GDP per person and France is 26th.

It is. That is GDP per capita, not per capita per hour. You forgot to normalize per hour worked so it describes overall work produced, not productivity (which is how much do you produce in a unit of time).

UK is the most rabid violator of the working hours directive and the only country where you have difficulty crossing the door on the first day without signing a waver for the limits set in it. On average a UK office worker spends 20% more in the office than any of its European counterparts.

So if you normalize that versus average hours worked UK ends up with one of the worst productivities out of all major economies. Not surprising - just spend 30 mins in a UK open plan office and the same time in let's say Germany, Spain, France or Eastern Europe and you will immediately see why. The "eat at your desk, because you should be chained to it" is part of that disease and we should fight it, not beat ourselves in the chest with pride about it.

Mike 'H'

Re: Ginsters

Everyone's mum makes the best food :)

dan1980

Re: Ginsters

Here's the summary:

If you can (with all that implies - time, resources, location, facilities), then a properly balanced diet composed of real food and fresh produce, consumed in healthy portions is not only good for you, but often cheaper (depends) and provides additional benefits such as satisfaction, taste, some small measure of exercise and activity in preparation and also an opportunity for socialising.

But all that is a governed by the mighty 'if'.

IF you have the time - not just to prepare but to eat it. IF you have the resources. IF you are in a location where preparing - or even bringing - fresh food is possible. IF you have the know-how (some people are really bad at cooking). IF you have the knowledge to choose a properly balanced and healthy diet and the will-power to do so. IF you are in a location and situation where you could and and want to socialise during meals.

The simple truth is that, whatever the reason, vast numbers of people are not in a position to do this, at least not for three meals a day, seven days a week. And the reality is that those meals that don't qualify are often either skipped or end up being less than healthy.

You decades, meal replacements have been utterly woeful - being aimed either at helping people lose weight or to supplement a poor nutritional intake. Anyone who has been on one for any length of time will attest that the result is often less energy. A replacement designed, from the ground up, to be a full, every meal of you life diet is needed, not so people can actually live on it, but so that those people who do, for whatever period and for whatever reason, decide to use it as a meal replacement, are getting something that is not deficient, nutritionally, when compared with 'real' food.

If people can't see value in that then they need not ever use it.

And certainly, anyone who worries that such options will cause the human race to become anti-social and devolve into pre-human savages can rest easy. Well, at least they can stop blaming meal replacements because if someone who otherwise could have nice social meals of healthy food in properly balanced portions chooses to eschew that so they can live alone, shunning all human contact, you can be sure that the reason is not the availability of this meal-replacement or its cousins. A person so inclined will do that anyway, it's just that most will resort to less-optimal diets and so put a strain on the health system later in life with all the problems that come with poor nutrition.

And, while I'm at it, plenty of people where I work (and sometimes myself) go to the gym in a group during their lunch break and then scoff a shake afterwards, spending next-to-no time actually ingesting any nutrition. I can vouch that there is a lot of socialising and that the result is a good work-out, a de-stress from the morning's work and a healthier body. We have a laugh and there is a lot of 'bonding' and good-natured ribbing along with mutual encouragement and genuine celebration of each others' goals - all the better to spur ourselves to do better.

I'll also mention that 'shakes' - on the train from work no less - has allowed me to meet up with friend for our indoor cricket matches that I would never be able to make, had I gone home and had a nice social meal with my partner first.

So don't discount the idea that taking drastically less time for a meal somehow automatically means that one is missing out of important social, emotional and health benefits.

John Brown (no body)
Silver badge
Unhappy

Re: Food is not only sustenance

"That a milkshake-like substance can be consumed whilst...driving seems like a bonus."

Please don't. Just. Don't. I have enough twats to deal with out on the road as it is.

John Brown (no body)
Silver badge

Re: Food is not only sustenance

"Much better than doing the classic British open office thing of messing up everyone's else concentration and work via constant banter."

I don't actually work in in an office but my work does does take me into other peoples offices at times. The big open plan offices seem to be far more noisy with banter as people take their staggered "lunch" breaks any time from about 11:30am to 2:30pm.

And there's nowt worse than trying to do a job next to some ignorant twat with no manners who eats like a cow chewing the cud and talks with their mouth full of food.

Anonymous Coward
Anonymous Coward

Re: Food is not only sustenance

Please don't. Just. Don't. I have enough twats to deal with out on the road as it is.

I think it's OK. At least a shake doesn't try to have a deep conversation with them whilst driving, it's staggering to see just how many people phone or even text whilst driving.

Anonymous Coward
Anonymous Coward

Re: Food is not only sustenance

Most of them are more productive than the UK too.

As always, it depends on how you measure it, and how accurate the inputs are. OECD data refers to "GDP per hour worked" in production. In USD the UK comes in at 101.4 compared to France at 104.3, Germany at 104.7 and Spain at 106.2. I find it hard to believe that Spain is more productive than Germany in any real measure.

More interesting are the figures for "compensation per hour worked" which show the UK at 2, Germany at 2.3, Spain at 0.79 and France at 0.76. This could imply that French "productivity" comes on the back of very low wages, but France in general seems to have a similar standard of living to the UK and Germany.

In my experience, living in France, it's much more likely that a very large amount of work is "au noir", i.e. undeclared and paid cash-in-hand to avoid the 35-hour week limitations. That makes the official compensation figures nonsensical, and means that the number of hours worked is far above the officially declared figures, so "productivity per hour" is much less. That fits with my personal, albeit anecdotal, experiences.

Anonymous Coward
Anonymous Coward

Re: Food is not only sustenance

Elsewhere a company trying to provide decent food is _REWARDED_ for this via tax deduction. Some countries also force the issue of choice and quality by making the benefit payable as vouchers making the lunch break something all local food outlets compete for.

I can only speak for France, but this simply isn't the case there. All companies above a certain size (50 employees, usually) are required by law to provide subsidised food for their staff, either by an onsite canteen or by subsidised vouchers usable in local outlets under very strict rules. The only tax benefits are around VAT, which isn't payable, but since employer social security contributions in France are much higher than the UK or US the companies still end up paying hugely for this. A French employer pays around 43% of gross salary to the government per employee, compared to an EU average of around 24%, UK of 11% and US of 8%.

Anonymous Coward
Anonymous Coward

Re: Food is not only sustenance

UK is the most rabid violator of the working hours directive and the only country where you have difficulty crossing the door on the first day without signing a waver for the limits set in it. On average a UK office worker spends 20% more in the office than any of its European counterparts

Officially. In France you can't legally have a waiver, so people simply work the extra hours illegally and don't declare them. Many low-paid workers have an official job for their legal-max 35 hours, and then do another 20-30 illegal hours, paid under the table. They work just as many hours as similar low-paid UK workers, but because they're doing them illegally they have no social security protection for them, no minimum-wage protection, no health & safety cover, etc.

Phil O'Sophical
Silver badge

Re: Ginsters

Everyone's mum makes the best food :)

Which is never quite as good as Gran's food, though :)

Voland's right hand
Silver badge

Re: Food is not only sustenance

I find it hard to believe that Spain is more productive than Germany in any real measure.

I am not. I have worked with Spaniards for years and they only look laid back.

Sure, they do not start before 10 and hardly ever do anything after 6 (which should be 9 and 5 if they had the right TZ). However in-between that they bulldoze a staggering amount of work out of the way.

The fact that someone likes having a life and does not sleep in the office does not mean they are not productive. Just the opposite (having a life is an expensive thing, you have to work sufficiently to be able to support it).

macjules
Silver badge

Re: Food is not only sustenance

Don't think the instructions regarding not taking a 2 hour lunch break have reached the Cote D'Azur yet. They might have brought it down to around 1.5 hours, but everything still comes to a complete halt between 12:30 and 2:00pm.

Vive le difference, as they might say

Paul Johnson 1

Re: Food is not only sustenance

For some yes, but there are a lot of people for whom cooking and eating is a joyless and solitary chore. If you live on your own then spending an hour or two every evening cooking, eating and cleaning gets old real fast.

Boring Bob

Re: Food is not only sustenance

You need to change companies. I have lived in France for over 20 years and everywhere I have worked has always stopped work for at least an hour at lunch.

Anonymous Coward
Anonymous Coward

Re: Food is not only sustenance

I still take my 30-40 mins break to have a proper lunch and never, ever eat at my desk.

You lucky sod! Try working for IBM, they consider your lunch time as unproductive time that they can use for meetings training etc. The project managers are happy with this as it means it doesn't come from the "project" time budget.

They call them "Brown Bag Lunches" and it means you have to supply your own lunch, it becomes a real problem if you don't bring you lunch to work and need to go out and buy something. They consider that you are "letting down the team" as people have to wait on their own time while you selfishly buy your lunch.

If you refuse to "Brown Bag" then this is reflected in your performance appraisal. Bastards!

Dagg
Coat

Re: Ginsters

Everyone's mum makes the best food :)

No way, mine was Scottish and everything was either deep fried, boiled to oblivion (20m or more) or burnt. You should have seen her steak eggs and chips. The steak was black and hard, the egg was rubbery and chips, well it is quite difficult to stuff up chips but there were times when they were so crisp.

As least my dutch father could cook.

Anonymous Coward
Anonymous Coward

Re: Food is not only sustenance

I have lived in France for over 20 years and everywhere I have worked has always stopped work for at least an hour at lunch.

Not everyone wants that. I interact with my colleagues all day, in meetings, phone calls, emails. Lunch at my desk is a chance to close the office door for 45 minutes or so of peace and quiet, when I can read the paper, check personal email etc. Much more relaxing than an hour in a noisy cafeteria, trying to make small talk about football, politics or children's illnesses.

Yeah, I'm an antisocial old git. Sue me. :)

rototype

Re: Food is not only sustenance

A colleague of mine always gets his lunch from the canteen as a carry out and always eats it at his desk - he has found that this is the only way to avoid having the users pestering him with IT issues that should be logged in the proper manner (ie helpdesk) while he's trying to eat.

illiad

Re: Food is not only sustenance / licking your keyboard

There are plenty of **waterproof** keyboards about... even the new dell ones have HOLES to drain the water out while you run it under the tap|!!!

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