Ask the Critics: Is It OK to Eat My Stinky Food in the Office?

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Will your co-workers enjoy the ambiance produced by your Korean fermented salted anchovies?

For this week's Ask the Critic, the Fork in the Road staff tries to answer a nagging, stinking question of our own: What's the proper etiquette for eating super-smelly food in an office?

Rebecca Marx: If you're going to eat it, eat it quickly -- don't let it sit on your desk for hours, gassing everyone around you. And when you've finished, dispose of the waste outside -- as in, go outside of the building and find a trash can. Do not try to hide it in the bathroom trash can, because its odor will just mingle with all of the other questionable bathroom odors and grow into a Threat Level Red stench bomb. Just get it outside, period. Also, consider bringing a toothbrush. Eating stinky food in an office is like hiking: Leave nothing behind.

Robert Sietsema: I guess it really depends on whether you love or hate your fellow office workers -- and what kind of food you're eating. A meatball hero has a definite odor, but is it offensive? I'd be inclined to say it's not, and you should go ahead and eat it, even if it makes everybody around you drool. Something mega-garlicky? Why not? At worst, they'll just think you're someone of low breeding. But I'd probably have to draw the line at durian or stinky tofu, things that I'd eat that also make me retch. In other words, don't hesitate to make your companions envious, but stop short of making them vomit.

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