The 5 Smelliest Foods You Should Never Bring to the Office

Two things happened this week that predicated this post.

Number one: We brought a vegetable tray to our weekly staff meeting. This was onerous enough in and of itself, as the Houston Press staffers are accustomed to chips and cookies of indeterminate but fatty origin. But the broccoli inside the vegetable tray -- while tasting perfectly fine -- gave off the distinct and aggressive odor of flatulence. It was bad enough that our editor requested the broccoli be ignominiously removed from the room and tossed into the trash.

Number two: Someone -- you know who you are -- microwaved what is likely the 832nd bag of hideously burnt popcorn in the past year, sending acrid waves of stench throughout the building.

Enough is enough, right? Most of us aren't lucky enough to work from home in our pajamas, eating whatever nasty food we want and stinking up the place in the comfort of our own privacy. Most of us work in an office. With other people. Who have noses. And who may or may not hate you, depending upon what you've been cooking up in the breakroom.

It goes without saying that you shouldn't eat foods like the dead corpse-scented durian, Limburger cheese, natto or really any other fermented food product in the office. You must have some olfactory common sense that would make you avoid those foods out of politeness to others, right? So here is the list of the top five more common foods you should avoid eating / cooking / reheating in the office at all costs. Don't say we didn't try to teach you better.

5. Popcorn: Like we just said, it pisses everyone in your office off when you microwave popcorn. Why? Two reasons: Number one, most people burn the popcorn. For whatever reason, microwaves seem hellbent on nearly incinerating a bag of Orville Redenbacher no matter how short an amount of time you cook it. 30 seconds? BAM. BURNT. And number two, on the rare occasions you don't burn the popcorn and stink up the whole place with an odor that clings to the walls like 1970s Holly Hobby wallpaper, another smell takes its place: the smell of FOOD WE CAN'T HAVE. Unlike other people who are quietly sitting at their desks, odorlessly munching on a bag of peanut M&Ms or a Special K bar (losers), you're letting everyone in a 50-yard range know that you're eating food they can't have. Delicious, buttery, crunchy, movie theater food. That's not for them. Jerk.

4. Curry: Maybe you don't live in an area with a high concentration of curry fans. But if you live in, say, the United Kingdom or Houston -- where we have lots of curry eaters -- you know the aroma of a freshly-microwaved bowl of Indian food. It's the person eating it. To everyone else, the strong scent of the curry punches you in the face with a force that makes your eyes water and your nose run. Worse -- like the burnt popcorn smell -- the overwhelming aroma lingers for days, making your entire workplace smell like the line cook's clothes at Bombay Brasserie after pulling a double. (No offense to Bombay, of course, whose saag paneer we love).

3. Tuna Fish: Of all the sandwiches you could bring to the office, you have to bring the one that smells like a wharf? Do you realize that we can't escape that odor? That now the entire cubicle area smells like a fishing boat after a 30-day slog through the Gulf? That's not a pretty smell. Don't make us start bringing in other food-prepping-and-killing-area sandwiches to counteract the scent. Slaughterhouse sandwich? Pig sty sandwich? Barnyard sandwich? We'll figure out a way to make one... By the way, this goes for any fish. Do not bring fish into the office. Capiche?

2. Smelly Veggies: The biggest culprits here are asparagus, onions, cabbage and -- as we found out -- broccoli. It's most offensive when you're cooking/reheating them, of course. Asparagus, cabbage and broccoli smell like someone let a flatulent dog into the office and fed it a can of beans. And onions, well...they smell like onions. Raw, they make your eyes tear up until you can't see. And cooked, the greasy yet acrid aroma haunts you (and your work area) for the rest of the day. Stick to carrots, celery or otherwise inoffensive vegetables if you value your life.

1. Mexican Food: Our number one offender. No other cuisine captures as many strong and offensive aromas as Tex-Mex. Stinky onions? Check. Acrid salsa? Check. Greasy cheese and chips and chile con carne gravy? Check. Malodorous beans? Check. The inevitable gas that comes from eating all of the above ingredients? Let's just say your coworkers won't be thanking you for either the Taco Cabana platter you brought back to the office or the indelicate scent you left in the bathroom an hour later. If you need a Mexican food fix that badly, stick to table service. There's a reason that Eating Our Words burned all of our clothes after working in a Tex-Mex joint -- the showers from Silkwood won't take that stank away.

What are your number one office food offenders, readers?

KEEP THE HOUSTON PRESS FREE... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Katharine Shilcutt