My family always made fun of my grandma for the way she behaved around free food. While the other grandmas would gingerly take two pieces of fruit and place them in the center of their plate, carefully avoiding the breads and desserts, my grandma had managed to tip the entire platter of mini-muffins into her old-lady-sized purse. This behavior was the butt of every joke at family gatherings. My tíos were always sharing new tales about how, this time, it happened at the Harvey Mudd Parents Weekend. Or my primas would ask “did you see how much she nabbed from the Fordham Graduation Dinner?” Yet despite the undeniable laughs these stories provoke, I can’t help but think that she’s onto something.
It was Michele Serros who first made me reconsider my position on free food in her novel “How to be Chicana Role Model.” Rule Number #1: Never Give Up the Opportunity to Eat For Free. I never used to take free food. It made me wildly uncomfortable to say yes, and I only said yes after the third offer even if I was seriously hungry. I often found myself hoping that they would offer it one more time so that I could take some without feeling guilty. As an intern working a part time job, taking 17 credits, and also trying to produce a live two hour show, meal prepping was not at the top of my To Do list. I could usually afford to pick up a sandwich from the bodega, but I often found myself skipping meals all day long and then pigging out on three bowls of Top Ramen when I got home at 1am.
I finally changed my mind on the matter when I heard the magic words: Bring tupperware. I had made friends with a woman from NYU. I didn’t expect to get along with her. At a glance, I expected her to be a boring straight, cis, wealthy white woman. So I was pleasantly surprised to find that in reality, she was a queer Jewish student on financial aid struggling with loans and helping her mom financially. She never hesitated to take what she needed from corporate events, even as the women around her politely turned down the offer. She pushed me to take the free food offered and always made sure she was next to me so that I wouldn’t feel uncomfortable at the numerous corporate buffets and product samplings. And then one day she took it a step further. She brought tupperware to a free luncheon. Let me tell you something, it was a game changer. Now here’s where we get into my advice for you.
DO: Take the free food. The company is providing it to make YOU happier about your (probably shitty) corporate experience. They’re bribing you to stay, and the free shit will make you happier, so why not?
DON’T: Bring your tupperware to the serving station. You’ll look like abuela stealing shit and putting it in tin cookie containers.
DO: Take a full plate back to your desk or table, where you can sneak the food from your plate into your tupperware without too many eyes on you. If a coworker whom you don’t trust begins asking questions, just say that your eyes were bigger than your stomach and you don’t like wasting food. Or pull an Abuela and say it’s for the dog.
DON’T: Waste that food. If you have your meals for the rest of the week planned out and don’t foresee eating this anytime soon, stick that shit in the freezer.
In short, Abuela ain’t no chump. She knows what she’s doing, and she’s been doing it for years. Sure, maybe she’s lost her ability to care what people think when they see her taking it, pero she understands that capitalism benefits the corporations while keeping the people struggling. You KNOW that Jeff Besos (or insert corporate/university leader here) has more than enough to share, so TAKE your share. That free food? It’s there for you. Don’t be afraid to grab it.