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Danny Wallace: How to put a stop to workplace lunch snobbery


I am in my office feeling tired, cold and low, when I realise what I need to perk me up. “A minestrone Cup-a-Soup!” I think.

This is not my normal pick-me-up, but there’s been a lone packet sitting against a wall for six months, and I’m sorry if that’s made your mouth water. It’s looked sadder each day, as each day has not been the day I have wanted a six-month-old minestrone Cup-a-Soup.

“Well, today’s the day!” I think, and I’m pretty pleased with my own resourcefulness as I take a mug down to the little kitchenette where there’s one of those appetising hot taps you can use for drinks (I’ll put the recipe on the website).

I’m like Bear Grylls, I decide. Surviving alone in a cold office by pouring readily available boiling water on to pre-bought powdered soup I got from a corner shop.

Meal ready, ego exploding, I toss the packet away and turn around.

“Heh,” says a guy, suddenly there. “Cup-a-Soup.”

But it’s the way he says it. An ironic detachment. A muted contempt. A sad, slow, shake of the head, before he pushes to the sink, to make his mint and kale egg tea, or whatever he’s into.

I don’t know what to say, so I look at my Cup-a-Soup and say, “Yup.”

Back down the corridor, I find myself bothered by this.

“Heh. Cup-a-Soup.”

Don’t get me wrong. There’s the beginnings of a great slogan there. But what did he mean by it? I think we all know exactly what he meant. He meant “I can’t believe you have sunk to such culinary depths.”

This is the height of pomposity. What is it about Cup-a-Soups – or Cups a Soup to be just as pompous back, only grammatically, which makes me superior – that irks him?

Was it not Cup-a-Soups that fed our astronauts as they trod the salty sands of the moon? No. But I’m 80 per cent sure it was a similar idea.

“That guy thinks he’s better than me because I’m having some soup in a mug,” I think. “But it’s him that’s the mug.”

Ha! Boom! Burn!

“This is a brand name soup! I bet he just eats a sad sandwich at his desk,” I sneer in my head, pityingly. “My meal is entirely mobile. I can take this mug anywhere. I could stand in reception, welcoming strangers in as I sup from my mug of soup. I could wear a big jumper, too, and just look really at home. You can’t carry a sandwich around!”

Please don’t ruin it.

“I could spend the afternoon leaning against the wall,” I continue, “with one leg bent and my foot against the wall, looking relaxed, drinking my soup. Visitors to his office would be like, ‘Hey, anyone know who that cool cat was, leaning against a wall and drinking soup the whole time I was waiting for a visitors’ pass?’ and he’d splutter into his Pret bap or Benugo prawn tuba, and say, ‘He’s a friend of mine!’ and then he’ll try to talk to me to impress his colleagues and I’ll be like, ‘No way, mate, you dissed my liquid lunch!’ and wag my finger and walk away. And he’ll think, ‘Wow, he called me “mate”!’ and he’ll be delighted, the saddo.”

None of that is likely to happen.

What does this guy want from me? Did he want me to apologise? Or does he expect me to make my own homemade soup each day on a whim? The kitchenette has a hot tap, but there’s nowhere to chop chicken, nor allow for maintaining a constant simmer on the pan. Nor a pan. And there’d be so much veg! That’s why I like minestrone Cup-a-Soup: 7 per cent vegetables. Any nutritionist would agree that’s about right. I’m basically vegan.

I finish my Cup-a-Soup and re-attack my work, this time with renewed vigour. I’m warmed up and raring to go. Nothing seems grey or cold any more. Turns out a Cup-a-Soup is just my cup of tea. Hey, that’s a far better slogan than “Heh – Cup-a-Soup.”

But after a while my office starts to really stink from the Cup-a-Soup sludge that now coats the bottom of my mug, like some disgusting orange minestrone worm.

I take it back to the kitchenette, and who should I pass on my way but the man from earlier.

“I enjoyed my Cup-a-Soup,” I say, dripping with meaning. I wanted to add a “Heh” but I’m worried I’ll sound like I’ve got hairballs.

Even without it, this is a ‘screw you’ to that guy. Yeah. I had my Cup-a-Soup and I enjoyed it. Maybe I’ll go home and have spaghetti with parmesan. By which I mean a Pot Noodle covered in Dairylea.

I wait for a reaction, but he stares at me like he can’t place me and doesn’t know what I’m talking about. Like what he said was just a passing comment he did not think about, which did not play on his mind all afternoon like it did mine.

Oh, well played, sir. Well played. But now you have made a real enemy and the battle begins.

On the way home, I stop at the corner shop to buy a lot more Cup-a-Soups.

Temptation is tempting 

Danny Sidebar

Daniel Houst has spotted what could be considered a minor flaw in Boots’ plans to help people trying to lose weight.

I wonder if you can tell what it is? And, while you’re there, could you fetch me some crisps?

Don’t balls it up 

Danny Sidebar

Kevin Stout has one of the hairiest bodies I’ve seen. He has a hairy bottom, back, legs and a little hairy knee. Or, he did! Now he’s narly hairless! I asked him how he did it. “It’s my Nads, Dan!” he said, loudly, and a policeman charged him £50 for lewd conduct.



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