Fish cookies, anyone?

December 6th, 2012 · 60 comments

It was a Friday and Meredith in Lexington, Massachusetts was pretty much running on auto-pilot when she made the mistake of microwaving leftover tacos for lunch — FISH tacos. Much to her horror, Meredith says, “The smell immediately permeated the office and got everyone talking and wondering who had committed one of the worst office kitchen taboos — second only to burned microwave popcorn.”

In an attempt to make things right, Meredith says, “I then asked some software engineers, who like to bake frozen cookie dough in the toaster oven, if they would help me cover up my secret shame by baking some sweet-smelling cookies. This is the note they left for all to see.”

Trust us, this smells better than Meredith's burnt fish lunch. (She sits that way ?). She is very sorry and will never do it again!

related: To spray or not to spray?; Eau dear

FILED UNDER: etiquette · fish · Massachusetts · microwave · odor · office · oh no you didn't · public shaming

60 responses so far ↓

  • #1   nauseous

    we have a guy at work who blends up tinned mackerel for his lunch. he blends it up in our airless teeny wee kitchen and the smell is verrrry lingery! smells like old peoples pee pees. (i work in a hospital so know only too well how old peoples pee pees smell :( )

    Dec 6, 2012 at 3:37 pm   rating: 90  small thumbs up

    • #1.1   sockpuppet

      I think the smell of someone’s lunch is the least of your problems

      Dec 6, 2012 at 8:14 pm   rating: 90  small thumbs up

    • #1.2   Tesselara

      Okay, I thought these two notes were hilarious! Those software guys have a tweaked sense of humor. But maybe I just know too many geeks.

      Go Meredith for trying to remedy the situation!

      My boss would cook absolutely foul concoctions. She was famous for stinking up the entire office, and acting indignant and haughty when she talked about how the “secretarial” staff was offended by the odor.

      Once, she came to our educational center, during an event where my coworker was running a historical program, and had just made cornbread and invited the parents–she had this great vision of everyone walking into the room and loving up the great homey smell of cornbread. And then, my boss decided that this would be a fantastic time to cook her heavily spiced fish dish. It smelled like vomit in there. Thank god our parents are very polite people.

      Dec 8, 2012 at 6:59 am   rating: 90  small thumbs up

  • #2   SilentPsycho

    Kill the software engineers, they appear to have douchebagitus. With a laser from space if possible – it’s the only way to make sure…

    Seriously, if someone doesn’t like it, they can open a window or something. You shouldn’t have to feel bad because you like something that other people don’t. I don’t like fish myself, but if someone brings in fish leftovers to eat, I don’t care.

    Dec 6, 2012 at 3:40 pm   rating: 90  small thumbs up

    • #2.1   Mac1dsr

      Chris Knight tells me that lasers from space will not burn popcorn.

      Dec 6, 2012 at 3:51 pm   rating: 90  small thumbs up

    • #2.2   Josie

      That’s assuming there is a window. There are no windows in my office that open, and people continually burn toast and popcorn and re-heat seafood. They are the WORST.

      Dec 6, 2012 at 3:56 pm   rating: 90  small thumbs up

    • #2.3   H for Toy

      I was thinking of something along those same lines, Mac1dsr, but now I can stop thinking.

      Dec 6, 2012 at 4:07 pm   rating: 90  small thumbs up

    • #2.4   Red Delicious

      I have never worked in an office that had windows that opened, let alone one in the kitchen.

      Just obey the rules of office etiquette and this shit won’t happen. Don’t try to do it anyway, and then claim you forgot, or explain it away like it’s okay you did it. Just don’t do it.

      Dec 6, 2012 at 4:46 pm   rating: 90  small thumbs up

    • #2.5   Roto13

      No. Sorry. Don’t cook your stank-ass food when other people have to smell it. It’s disgusting and rude. Hell, even if you like fish tacos, smelling other people’s fish tacos is horrible.

      The subject of the note even knows she made a mistake and tried to fix it.

      Dec 6, 2012 at 4:56 pm   rating: 90  small thumbs up

    • #2.6   kat

      How does one know what food will smell offensive to others? I would rather put up with smelling coworkers lunches than there perfume!

      Dec 6, 2012 at 7:21 pm   rating: 90  small thumbs up

    • #2.7   TRT

      This is the kind of thing software engineers fantasise about, it seems.

      Dec 7, 2012 at 3:31 am   rating: 90  small thumbs up

  • #3   QBall

    better it comes from the kitchen than the loo

    Dec 6, 2012 at 3:56 pm   rating: 90  small thumbs up

  • #4   shwo! bang

    Is Meredith’s burnt fish lunch before or after her blooming red flower?

    Dec 6, 2012 at 4:02 pm   rating: 90  small thumbs up

  • #5   Jolly

    It is one thing if someone is a serial fish-stinker, but this happened at work the other day and I was absolutely fucking mortified by the ridiculous whining coming from two of my coworkers. Watching grown-ass adults act like obnoxious middleschoolers because someone made food they don’t like the smell of is WAY more nauseating than fish smell. Sorry you work with douches, Meredith!

    Dec 6, 2012 at 4:17 pm   rating: 90  small thumbs up

    • #5.1   shwo! bang

      If she worked with douches, that fish smell wouldn’t be a problem.

      Yeah, I’m kinda mortified at that joke, too.

      Dec 6, 2012 at 5:39 pm   rating: 90  small thumbs up

    • #5.2   redheadwglasses

      I agree, Jolly! And I sit pretty close to the lunchroom, and I smell it all. Microwave popcorn seems to smell bu rned even when it’s not, but I’d rather smell THAT then listen to the kvetching of the tortured souls who walk by and can’t keep their mouths shut for the three seconds it takes to walk past the smell.

      Dec 6, 2012 at 9:00 pm   rating: 90  small thumbs up

    • #5.3   Ace of Space

      Shwo, I han a supervisor who came out on the floor one day and announced that he could smell fish. He kept saying it, over and over again. Finally, one of my workers piped up and said, “Well, you know Ed, there’s a lot of girls in here”. He ran back in his office and slammed the door. Didn’t see him for the rest of the day.

      Dec 7, 2012 at 1:08 pm   rating: 90  small thumbs up

    • #5.4   Kieron

      Comment win!

      Dec 7, 2012 at 5:42 pm   rating: 90  small thumbs up

  • #6   Jami

    You want to know how to get rid of the smell? White vinegar and lemons. Slice some lemons into a bowl of white vinegar and boil it on the stove top for the smell or in the microwave. The latter has the added benefit of it helping to loosen up crud from other people’s dishes and make cleaning it easier.

    Dec 6, 2012 at 5:07 pm   rating: 90  small thumbs up

    • #6.1   H for Toy

      Jami, I love your practical, down-to-earth comments. While the rest of us are trying to be clever, you’re all, “I got this,” and then you fix it. :)

      Dec 6, 2012 at 6:39 pm   rating: 90  small thumbs up

    • #6.2   Purr Monster

      Jami, thank you! My husband loves to use our deep fat fryer, but I hate the smell it leaves. I’m definitely going to try your method!

      Dec 6, 2012 at 6:47 pm   rating: 90  small thumbs up

    • #6.3   Jami

      Well, I’m not always the cleverest person in the room. But I watched a lot of How Clean Is Your House and have Kim & Aggie to thank for that one.

      Dec 6, 2012 at 8:53 pm   rating: 90  small thumbs up

    • #6.4   The Elf

      If you don’t have lemons, microwaving only vinegar will take the smell out too.

      Dec 7, 2012 at 6:31 am   rating: 90  small thumbs up

    • #6.5   H for Toy

      Maybe you should start a “Dear Jami” blog. I’d visit it!

      Dear Jami,
      My coworkers keep microwaving leftover fish for lunch. It stinks! What should I do?

      Dear Reader,
      First, try posting passive-aggressive notes around the break room (be sure to take pictures and submit to PAN). If that doesn’t work, lemons and vinegar.

      Dec 7, 2012 at 7:51 am   rating: 90  small thumbs up

    • #6.6   Jami


      What can I say? I mean, I could make crude vagina/fish smell jokes, but I wasn’t in the mood. And there’s always a chance the submitter will read this and learn how to prevent this event in the future.

      And yeah, vinegar by itself also works. When my oldest brother still lived at home he’d often go tuna fishing then spend an entire day canning his own tuna. The entire house would stink of tuna. Even bath towels and clothing in the closets would smell. So I’d follow his canning with vinegar boiling to freshen the house. The lemon thing came, as I said, from Kim and Aggie, who showed how boiling lemon slices in water in the microwave can loosen the various baked on crud that gets stuck on there when food that hasn’t been properly covered “pops” all over and isn’t wiped up right away.

      Not to mention vinegar is a natural disinfectant and grease cutter. Good for killing fleas and other bugs as well. (A little in your dog’s bath water when they have a flea problem can really help.) Can clean glass. And because it’s a food product it’s safer to use than products made specifically for cleaning.

      Dec 7, 2012 at 12:25 pm   rating: 90  small thumbs up

    • #6.7   tofupuppy

      Jami: have you heard my favorite bug-killing vinegar trick? Pour some apple cider vinegar at the bottom of a bowl and add a drop of dish soap. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and poke a few small holes in it. This makes an incredibly effective fruit-fly trap. The flies are attracted to the vinegar, and the dish soap lowers the surface tension, so when the flies land on the vinegar, they fall in and drown. Can clear a kitchen of fruit files within a couple of days. Amazing!

      Dec 7, 2012 at 1:25 pm   rating: 90  small thumbs up

    • #6.8   Jami

      I haven’t heard of that, but I know we used to make yellow jacket traps in a similar manner when camping. They were attracted to the smell of the fish guts when we’d clean our day’s catch. So we’d put water and dish soap in a bucket, put a rock that was big enough to stick almost halfway out of the water in the center, put some fish guts on the rock, yellow jackets and horse flies would come to feed, fall into the water, and drown.

      Dec 7, 2012 at 2:34 pm   rating: 90  small thumbs up

    • #6.9   Seanette

      Frankly, I’d rather smell fish than hot vinegar.

      Dec 8, 2012 at 2:21 am   rating: 90  small thumbs up

    • #6.10   Purr Monster

      I wonder if vinegar kills stink bugs?

      Dec 8, 2012 at 9:40 am   rating: 90  small thumbs up

    • #6.11   Jami

      The right amount of vinegar will kill any bugs. I’ve used it on ants, spiders, fleas, ticks, wasps, and probably a few others I can’t remember.

      Dec 9, 2012 at 1:18 am   rating: 90  small thumbs up

    • #6.12   Purr Monster

      Jami, you really should start your own blog!

      Dec 9, 2012 at 11:14 am   rating: 90  small thumbs up

    • #6.13   H for Toy

      Attracting More Flies With Vinegar Than With Honey, by Jami.

      Dec 9, 2012 at 8:36 pm   rating: 90  small thumbs up

    • #6.14   Joe Blow

      We used to have a janitor at work that would clean all of the kitchen and bathroom fixtures with vinegar. It smelled way worse than temporary food smells..

      Dec 11, 2012 at 10:41 am   rating: 90  small thumbs up

  • #7   Blinx

    I LOVE burnt popcorn!!!
    Fish cookies…not so much.

    Dec 6, 2012 at 5:50 pm   rating: 90  small thumbs up

  • #8   Mar

    We had these “health nuts” (if your fish smells fishy it is NOT fresh and NOT good!) reheating fish in the microwave at work. It would STINK STINK STINK, no windows , old building and my office is across from the lunch room. No manner of “can you not bring that to work” to them and in the newsletter worked. So I started to prance into the lunch room whenever the offenders offended and said “OH Who is having the dirty PANTY party in here” they haven’t reheated fish in months! ha ha ha.

    Dec 7, 2012 at 5:52 am   rating: 90  small thumbs up

    • #8.1   H for Toy

      If it smells fishy before it’s cooked, it’s not all that fresh, but even fish directly from the lake will give off some what of a fishy smell while it’s cooking. I just think there’s something about a microwave that brings out the worst in fish. I never brought leftover fish to work, unless I planned to eat it cold. The “dirty panty party” makes me laugh. If you’d written it down, someone would have submitted it here.

      Dec 7, 2012 at 6:44 am   rating: 90  small thumbs up

  • #9   The Elf

    Tip: If you’re having fish for lunch (or curry or whatever freaks out the co-workers), microwave it at home and put it in an insulated container. Still warm by lunch. Some dishes taste great room temperature (the bento way) or cold.

    If you must microwave at work, do it for very little time. Your fish will be warm and the smell will not be as overpowering.

    Also, some fish doesn’t smell as much as others. Salmon seems to be the least stinky.

    Dec 7, 2012 at 6:46 am   rating: 90  small thumbs up

    • #9.1   Kim

      That’s what I do. I nuke Tilapia, Cod, or Salmon for 45 seconds or so and I stay by the microwave while it’s cooking. I’ve never had any one at work complain about a fishy smell. :)

      Dec 7, 2012 at 11:06 am   rating: 90  small thumbs up

  • #10   KD

    I’d rather smell fish than the five to ten sprays of perfume most people like to wear.

    Dec 7, 2012 at 7:44 am   rating: 90  small thumbs up

  • #11   Brian

    1. Am I really to believe that this woman didn’t know that microwaving fish wouldn’t result in an overwhelming fish stink through the immediate area? I have a hard time swallowing that. More likely she didn’t expect the response.

    2. I love the individualist / collectivist debate that this brings up every time I hear it. Does someone have the moral right to offend the senses of their coworkers? Is it OK to do something that benefits you, at the expense of others?

    3. I do agree people go way overboard. Yes it stinks. Yes, you are forced to be there by the need to pay the rent. No, it’s not in any way the same as a chemical attack.

    Dec 7, 2012 at 8:14 am   rating: 90  small thumbs up

    • #11.1   Poltergeist

      I think she knew there might be a bit of a smell around the microwave, but didn’t realize how pungent and permeating it would be. As was said before, microwaves seem turn otherwise slightly smelly foods into stink bombs.

      Dec 7, 2012 at 12:57 pm   rating: 90  small thumbs up

    • #11.2   nurgleth

      1. Well for starters, I didn’t know that microwaving fish generates stink. I’ve never tried to microwave fish. Maybe I’m a rare species, but I wouldn’t think that it’s not possible that other people have led the same microwaved-fish-less life as me.

      Dec 8, 2012 at 1:32 pm   rating: 90  small thumbs up

  • #12   Eat.Shit.Sleep

    When someone said to “open a window” to get the fish smell out…I was thinking offices don’t have windows so they’re employees won’t commit suicide.

    Also, someone can call in sick for fish headaches, that make you want to vomit.

    Dec 7, 2012 at 9:13 am   rating: 90  small thumbs up

  • #13   Fireseeker

    What’s up with heating up raw cookie dough in the toaster oven?

    Dec 7, 2012 at 9:20 am   rating: 90  small thumbs up

    • #13.1   The Elf

      I believe it is called “baking”.

      Dec 7, 2012 at 1:10 pm   rating: 90  small thumbs up

    • #13.2   tofupuppy

      Yup, I’ve got coworkers who do this too. Smells amaaayyyyzing.

      Dec 7, 2012 at 1:27 pm   rating: 90  small thumbs up

  • #14   NullPointerException

    This is the kind of note I might leave. But then I also work in software development.

    Dec 7, 2012 at 3:14 pm   rating: 90  small thumbs up

  • #15   crystal

    is anyone else getting the Pillsbury doughboy cookie dough ad? lol

    Dec 7, 2012 at 4:32 pm   rating: 90  small thumbs up

  • #16   Wrench

    My feelings on my office can be summed up thus: On my last day, I plan to microwave tinned sardines and a bag of popcorn for 20 minutes on my way out the door.

    Dec 7, 2012 at 4:58 pm   rating: 90  small thumbs up

  • #17   OceanBlue

    I had a co-worker who would reheat some variation of seafood at least twice a week. The smell was so vile it actually made me sick a few times and I had to leave the office. She would act apologetic when I came back, but a few days later she’d do it again. Just have a little decency. I have adjusted my lunches to suit allergies of co-workers, so I don’t think it’s out of line to keep fish, or other strong-smelling items, at home.

    Dec 7, 2012 at 8:08 pm   rating: 90  small thumbs up

  • #18   kermit

    This is why I am a staunch supporter of removing the microwave from office kitchens everywhere. If you want to heat up your lunch, there’s nothing wrong with using the toaster oven to do it. Burnt stuff in the toaster over doesn’t smell nearly as awful as microwave burnt stuff. And I don’t know if it’s just me, but I find stuff cooked / warmed in the microwave to always taste a bit off, no matter if the microwave is clean or not.

    Dec 7, 2012 at 9:00 pm   rating: 90  small thumbs up

    • #18.1   StephM

      Wouldn’t Tupperware melt in a toaster oven?

      Dec 9, 2012 at 4:17 am   rating: 90  small thumbs up

    • #18.2   kermit

      Probably. But plastic containers make food smell weird anyway so I don’t know why anybody would store their food anyway. Break-resistant glass/ceramic containers are getting more affordable and they’re easier to clean than plastic. And besides, if you have a sandwich for lunch you don’t need a container to warm it in the toaster oven.

      Dec 9, 2012 at 2:32 pm   rating: 90  small thumbs up

  • #19   ulu


    If you want to leave work early use the stairs,sliding down the bannister causes an unearthly fishy smell.

    Dec 8, 2012 at 9:01 am   rating: 90  small thumbs up

  • #20   Escapist

    How about you stop being such damn sissies and man up. Fish smells like fish. If you don’t like the smell of fish, ignore it. I personally don’t like the smell of mint, but I still brush my damn teeth with it without throwing a tantrum.

    Dec 8, 2012 at 10:52 pm   rating: 90  small thumbs up

  • #21   Vulpis

    Of course, then there’s the whole problem of someone else cooking something that smells *good*, which makes your stomach increasingly gnaw your insides with hunger while you wait for their slow a** to come back from their 90 to 120-minute lunch ‘hour’ so you can take your own…

    Dec 9, 2012 at 12:27 am   rating: 90  small thumbs up

  • #22   Trekkie Gal

    I can sympathize with the people in Meredith’s office. I worked with a guy who heated up his leftover salmon loaf in the toaster oven. The reek was overwhelming. Everyone who was able to leave the office left, and those of us who had to stay opened every window (fortunately we were in a building with windows that opened) to try to get rid of the stench. Some things should just not be heated up in the presence of others…or ever!

    Dec 10, 2012 at 10:59 am   rating: 90  small thumbs up

  • #23   Joe Blow

    I don’t like the smell of most people’s lunches, so I don’t really care if they don’t like the smell of mine. People in offices are usually whiny douches to begin with, so carefully walking on eggshells in everything you do in an attempt to make sure you don’t offend anybody is way more effort than it’s worth. And sometimes still doesn’t work.

    Usually, just being aware of those around you and using some common sense is enough. Other times, you just have to suck it up and deal with it..

    Dec 11, 2012 at 10:47 am   rating: 90  small thumbs up

  • #24   Amy in Toronto

    There’s a guy in my office that I call Burnt Toast Guy because every day at 2pm without fail, he makes a few slices of whole wheat toast and eats them with sliced apples. Every day at 2:05 pm, the smoke alarm goes off on our floor.

    I personally like the smell of toast; I find it very homey-smelling. Burnt toast, not so much.

    But microwave popcorn is a godawful stink. I refer to that as Chernobylcorn.

    Dec 13, 2012 at 3:34 pm   rating: 90  small thumbs up

  • #25   Fedka the Convict bang

    I worked in a mid-town Manhattan high-rise with a really wonderful Korean lady. We all got on well; the only problem was at lunch time when she’d open her lunch which usually included generous helpings of Kimchi.

    The stink of kimchi wafting through the ventilation system would drive the entire floor outside for lunch; she for the most part was unconcerned.

    Dec 22, 2012 at 4:14 pm   rating: 90  small thumbs up


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