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I read recently that we should not mistake food for emotions. For many people who crave food in times of crisis, this is easier said than done. Moreover, controlling food cravings in times of a global shift seems like a mission impossible. On the other hand, for many cultures around the world, food is emotion. Among many challenges we face today, having lunch at work while distancing may not seem like the crucial problem. However, signifying the most important break during a day, we feel lunch at work deserves more attention.  

What Does Food Mean to You?

“Once you try my pasta, you will start speaking the magical language of food”, my friend said. I laughed, having no doubt that her meal is to die for. I know because I enjoyed it many times in the past. I like neatly served meals, straight out of the stove food that smells heavenly. Even when I cook, I like to put effort in it and pretend that I am creating a small work of art which my family members will enjoy.

On the other hand, when I consume it, I like it to be in tune with my mood at the specific moment. For example, there are days when I do not feel so hungry and like to grab a bite on the go. Fast food is a guilty pleasure, but I go by the rule that says that even the poison can be beneficial in small portions. However, no matter if I am the cook or the consumer (or both) I always relate food with socializing, and mood – eventually meaning: emotions.

There is something special about gathering at the table. It provides us with the opportunity to spend time together and glance away from phone screens and laptops. Gathering at the table connects us as humans and has roots in ancient history. Namely, in many cultures eating together meant solidarity – the sharing of the same destiny and values. Above all, it signified gratitude.

Lunch at Work  

Nevertheless, the dynamics of our lives have changed drastically this last year. The priorities shifted and daily errands re-scheduled multiple times. Many of you are probably working from home, balancing the kids, the meetings, daily tasks and eating in between.

Lunch at work is simply not what it was used to be. Even if you go to work every day, the chances are you have been asked to eat either at your desk, or somewhere else where you can distance yourself from others. If so, run for fresh air, no matter where that may be – the park, the terrace in your office building – just to give you an example. If you are eating lunch at work alone, at least enjoy some oxygen.

If we take into account what eating lunch while gathering at the table signifies, it is not difficult to conclude that people are growing more and more apart. We spend the largest part of each day working. Eating while working could satisfy the basic craving. However, it takes away the eating ritual and its original meaning – bonding and sharing.

Once I came across the line that compared table to the stage and food to the drama. I liked this description because it points to the very core of what gathering at the table means. It is a play, although it doesn’t have to be drama necessarily. It can be the hilarious comedy, the parody, the love story, the thriller – you name it. Sadly, having lunch at work falls to neither of the categories nowadays. 

The Trap

When having lunch at work you will most probably not be in a position to eat the exact food you like (unless you haven’t brought some from home). Neither will you have enough time to exchange the vibes with people close to you, which may lead to loneliness. The worst possible scenario is that you take whatever comes to your hand and eat it just to feel good for about two seconds. Since majority of people work remotely these days, I am sure they can relate to this. And feel pretty low afterwards. I’ve been there and done that.

Secondly, being forced to distance from others when eating may be saving your physical health, but it ruins your psyche. Humans are social beings. Apart from being able and conscious to cook, we are also inclined to interacting with others. These are just some of the features that separate us from animals. Therefore, it is not strange to feel lonely and isolated in these times of imposed distancing. 

The Solution

If you are not in a position to demand justice for eating lunch at work with dignity, at least do your best to preserve the significance of it in your memory. There will come a time when we will be able to gather around the table again and continue where we left off. In the meantime, the best you can do is either enjoy the view and fresh air when eating lunch at work or skype someone while eating for some company and sharing of special moments.

Keep the faith, people! Eat, exercise and stay safe!   

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