King’s Bread At Work

by admin on January 9, 2012

In my country, January 6th is the day we celebrate the day the Wise Men from the East arrived to see Jesus. As most of the population here is Catholic, almost everybody celebrates it. The tradition consists of having King’s cake, a large piece of bakery with white figurines inside it. It’s very common that in workplaces they also buy this bread for their employees.

So anyway, this story involves a certain co-worker, “A”, who is pretty much known for taking everything he can. For instance, if someone takes their own chips to the break room, where many of us go have lunch, he will extend his hand to the bag before he can finish saying, “Can I have some? Please?” It doesn’t matter if the owner has offered to share or not. There was another time when, after lunch, someone suggested we go for an ice-cream before we got back to work. He was quick to ask another (too kind-hearted to say no) co-worker to buy his ice-cream.

Now, “A” just recently changed his religion and is no longer Catholic. That, of course, is not the problem. Just yesterday at lunch he went on to say he had received a piece of the bread mentioned earlier from his mother, and he said he had declined to eat it, because of his new religion, and that he couldn’t have it anymore. By the time I was really surprised and suspicious he actually did that, being the way he is, but decided to give him the benefit of doubt. The day before he even commented that, even though he wouldn’t be buying any, the bread was very expensive.

Fast forward to today, January 6: As expected, the place where I work has a brief break to eat the traditional bread. Yep, you guessed it. “A” was there, not only having a cup of coffee but also grabbing a big, fat piece of the bread. And all of the people that have lunch in the break room and that had heard him like me were also there. More than being surprised that he would come and actually eat some (because I was kind of expecting it), what really amazes me is that he went as far as saying all those things (not going to eat because it’s not my religion anymore) just the day before in front of the 7 persons that usually have lunch in the break room. I was about to say something snarky to him when I saw him grab a piece, but I haven’t read your site in vain, so I bit my lip. Some people are just incredible in a bad way…  0106-12

This is a tempest in a tea pot.  The King’s bread was provided to all employees by the employers and there was a break from the workday for all to partake of this treat.    The “host” and therefore provider of the treat is the employer who has made it available to all employees so if the host does not have an issue with employees enjoying this treat, no one else should be taking issue with who comes into the break room to enjoy it.   It would have been very ungracious to segregate employees by religion or any other criteria as not being invited to enjoy a company provided treat.

“A” may very well be a greedy gimme pig but in this instance, he’s merely enjoying some King’s bread like the rest of his fellow co-workers, courtesy of his boss.

{ 39 comments… read them below or add one }

Gabriele January 9, 2012 at 4:30 am

I don’t think the OP was talking so much about the company bread as about the way the man had said one thing (several times over) and then had gone against his new ‘beliefs’ that quickly.
However, the way the co-worker seems to be about food, I think I would pity him as I don’t think it’s greed so much as a deep emotional need….although I’ve worked with people who would bring nothing to a potluck and then be first in line…so I would be irritated by a gimme guy.
But to make a big point about one’s beliefs and tenets of a faith and then do a 180….yeah, I’d have to bite my tongue on that one, too.

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Aje January 9, 2012 at 6:36 am

I have just celebrated my first kings day and I had a cake too! I was staying in a hostel full of young people, where most are just passing through, don´t really know any culture of the country… just to see certain historical sites. I find this a little sad actually… especially if you happen to be going to the country during a holiday, why wouldn´t you try to get to know the traditions a little?
I thought it would be nice to buy a cake and share it with the group, so I did and set up a little card beside it, inviting them to take a piece and writing the tradition of the cake beside it. (a note to add… regardless of what religion you are, most people have the cake. It´s like eating turkey at thanksgiving… regardless of what nationality you are you will probably eat it because it´s the holiday food. And it´s freak´n delicious.)
Anyway, a little later I met one of the girls from the hostel in the tapas bar and the subject of the holiday came up. I didn´t mention that I had been the mysterious benefactor of the cake… maybe that´s why she felt comfortable enough to admit, -Oh yeah, that cake! It was great… I ate three pieces of it!- I had been very careful to cut so there would be enough pieces for everyone but thanks to the greediness a few people missed out. Sigh. There´s just something about cake that makes people pigs.

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Angela January 9, 2012 at 7:06 am

Um, I read this as “Guy can’t hold onto supposedly important religious strictures when free food is offered”, not “how dare the company offer a non-Catholic King’s Cake”.

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Mary January 9, 2012 at 8:39 am

I have a co-worker like this. She moves in on anyones food, sticking her fingers in your plate even while saying “Can I try a bite?” She often comes up short on meals (like pizza) that we allchip in on and eats more than her share. I’ve learned not to order food with her and, unfortunately, I often eat food for lunch that I know she doesnt like….just to keep her fingers out of my food. Short of smacking her hand….I dont know what else to do.

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BB/VA January 9, 2012 at 8:43 am

@Angela – totally agree!

It looks like his mooching tendencies outweigh his religious beliefs.

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Kovitlac January 9, 2012 at 8:46 am

I agree with Angela – I think our Admin missed the point a bit. The OP doesn’t seem to be complaining about the co-worker being allowed to eat the food – merely that the man was behaving like a boorish pig in the first place.

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The Elf January 9, 2012 at 8:53 am

I read it that way too, Angela. It’s not so much taking a slice of the bread but the hypocrisy of saying he can’t have any (which I don’t get – it’s not like King’s bread/cake is the eucharist), and then having some anyway.

I get why OP is griping! But I’m very glad he zipped his lip and didn’t say anything.

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Rap January 9, 2012 at 9:00 am

I’m no expert (ie not catholic) but King’s cake isn’t a religious ceremony. It sounds like the guy was a little overzealous about his new faith when refusing the cake from his mom and either realized he was being priggish about his new faith (it happens) or ahem, piggish about a free office treat. :) If its not an issue for the non catholics to partake in the cake at work, then there’s no reason for the OP to be upset over the guy having some cake – whatever his issue was religiously, thats really between him and his god.

Now is this guy exactly the sort of coworker I hate when it comes to office food? Yes. Its rude to take non communual food without *really* asking and its rude to always be the one who doesn’t chip in or who doesn’t have cash but still wants to order out. But the cake? If it was brought for everybody, while I understand the OP’s pique, I have to give the guy the benefit of the doubt because he may have misunderstood the strictures of his new faith, whatever it is. The eating of a King’s cake is not eating a holy wafer.

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Beth F January 9, 2012 at 9:02 am

I read it like Angela…with one step further, the man in question is an attention seeker and likes to say/do things that are sure to keep him on the radar.

If I were the OP, I would have casually mentioned his statement from the previous day and asked him what changed. :)

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L.J. January 9, 2012 at 9:33 am

I wish we could get rid of the idea of “too kind-hearted to say no.” When a gimmepig is around, those who indulge him/her are merely making it more difficult for others to say no.

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Jay January 9, 2012 at 10:15 am

Eh.. The guy ate a piece of bread, that was provided by the company for the employees. I can’t see how someone would be miffed about this for more than 3 seconds.. And I can come up with several reasons (peer pressure..) why someone would eat a piece at work even if he didn’t want one sent to him by his mother, which could’ve been some sort of passive-aggressive I-don’t-like-your-new-religion move by her, or whatever.

Either way, really not the OP’s business to judge. The only issue from “A” is his over-sharing the story in the first place..

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Enna January 9, 2012 at 10:16 am

I agree with Admin that “A” is allowed to enjoy the cake provided by employers but it does seem a bit odd that he refused it from his mother. Unless of course the employers are being culturally christain in providing the King’s Cake whereas his Mum may be doing it for more religious perposses. However given his previous behaviour he is always after free food. Maybe the OP should ask “A” what kind of celebration food that he has in his new religion? Maybe the employers could take this up as a suggestion so that way everyone is involved. Food is important for socilaising and understanding others I think.

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Jay January 9, 2012 at 10:16 am

@Angela: I’m not Catholic, and while I wouldn’t eat a Communion wafer, I certainly wouldn’t avoid a piece of King Cake, or a santa-shaped piece of chocolate, or anything else like that. It’s a tradition, not a sacrament.

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Cat January 9, 2012 at 10:27 am

I have been Catholic for forty years and never heard that eating King Cake was a religious ritual and was limited to practicing Catholics. Does having candy at Halloween make me a witch?

Alas, I gave my Jewish principal a Hot Cross Bun on Good Friday, never thinking I was violating her religious beliefs. She, in happy innocence, ate it. I hope God has a sense of humor.

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Kitty Lizard January 9, 2012 at 10:29 am

Unfortunately, some people are just greedy when it comes to food. Although this astounds
me, I see it all the time. (In my family, we were taught to share food (including cake and
candy) and it’s second nature.) In my husband’s family and my son-in-law’s family, things
are quite different, and it’s everyone for themselves. The young woman who took three
pieces of cake obviously didn’t think of anyone but herself. In my family, if there’s one of
something left, I will either split it, or, more likely, give it to whoever wants it most. Of
course, this is why I still fit into a size 4 at my age. (Har, har.) It sounds like a really great
custom, though.

Kitty

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Green123 January 9, 2012 at 11:20 am

Yeah, like Angela I also read this as ‘greedy guy takes free food from all and sundry, despite extolling his religious beliefs – this is annoying and rude’ rather than any sleight intended on the company’s provision of a religious or non-religious symbol.

To the OP – stop letting this guy steal your chips and stop buying him ice cream. He’ll soon learn!

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Sarah Peart January 9, 2012 at 11:32 am

@Aje I think people do not always realise that cakes have been cut into a certain number of pieces and just help themselves until the cake is gone assuming that if someone wanted a piece they would have taken it! This is especially true if the cake is in a communal kitchen area where people enter individually or in small groups to have a coffee or tea and help themselves to a piece or not. Maybe you should include a light hearted reference to this fact – “Hi, I thought this was a lovely local custom, not to mention delicious and wanted to share it with you. Please help yourself, (I have cut it so that) there is a piece for everyone!” The bracketed part makes it a little more explicit! Of course it is like most gift giving, once it is given you have no say in how it is used! Do not let it make you less generous, it was a lovely thought!

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Airelenaren January 9, 2012 at 12:19 pm

“he had received a piece of the bread mentioned earlier from his mother, and he said he had declined to eat it, because of his new religion” –> I don’t know if he told the truth, but if he did, and I knew about this fact and _then_ saw him eating the cake with his coworkers, I think I’d be a little offended too, if only in place of his mom.

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Xtina January 9, 2012 at 1:00 pm

As long as “A” is an employee and his employer is providing the cake, then he is entitled to have it.

However, “A” is a hypocritical food grubber, apparently, with no manners and apparently not much care of his religious tenets to boot. I also wonder if he’s got some kind of weird fixation with food, since he seems to be intent on grabbing as much of what’s provided at no cost to him as possible.

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--Lia January 9, 2012 at 1:23 pm

Religious belief and practice is one place where I don’t expect people to be consistent. I take it as normal that we humans will question our whole lives and change our minds. So it doesn’t seem terrible to me that a man who recently converted might be thinking about whether eating king cake fits into his belief system or not. Maybe he refuses king cake from his mother because he doesn’t want to give her the false impression that he still sees it as religious symbol, but he eats it at the office where it’s seen as a festive treat unrelated to religion.

I’m more interested in this guy’s assumption that other people owe him ice cream and potato chips. Unfortunately, he’s being consistent there. It sounds like he could use some help learning good manners. If everyone in the office was kind enough to say “we’d love to have your company, but we’re each paying our own way” or “no, these chips are mine” (while swiftly removing the bag from reach), he has a chance to learn better. But the first step in getting that polite spine such that you think to say these things fast is to remember that it’s nicer and kinder to say NO to moochers.

I’m also interested in his choice of conversation topics. He really thinks it’s appropriate to talk about what he ate at home and why? I can imagine reporting on what you served at a child’s birthday party or sharing a good recipe. I can imagine reporting that you’ve been feeling better on a new diet. I can even imagine reporting, in a general way, about growing comfortable with the habits of a new religion. I can not think it good manners to give a blow by blow report about what you ate at home and how it relates to religion. Talk about boring! And talk about not giving the listener anything to say in return! How are you supposed to respond? “I’m so happy for you” is all I can think of. It’s not like you can tell a similar story about deciding not to eat king cake from your own mother. That’s a conversational dead end.

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Serenity S. January 9, 2012 at 1:57 pm

Well, it might be odd that the man made a big deal of how he can’t eat the King’s Cake and then ate some, but it wasn’t rude of him to eat some. It was for all the employees.

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Tracy January 9, 2012 at 1:59 pm

I agree with Angela. The issue wasn’t that the company offered cake to everyone, but that Greedy Gus had announced the previous day that he no longer ate that cake due to his religious convictions, and yet couldn’t resist showing up and grabbing a (big) piece.

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Thel January 9, 2012 at 2:37 pm

In Catalonia we celebrate the Three Wise Men and have the King’s cake on the 6th, and although the tradition is certainly Catholic (with Roman roots, though), the tortell is gleefully eaten by Catholics and non-Catholics alike. There is also the tortell de Sant Antoni (St. Anthony’s cake), which is eaten on the Sunday before St. Anthony (Jan. 17, so this Sunday we’re headed for more sweets!) and contains a broad bean and a figurine of an animal, since he is the patron saint of animals (particularly farm animals). The King’s cake contains a broad bean and a figurine of one of the Three Kings -the person who finds the broad bean has to pay for the cake (though this rarely happens, IME!) and will have good luck for the rest of the year, while the person who finds the King is crowned King of the day with a golden paper crown provided with the cake.

At any rate, there is certainly no religious obligation for Catholics to buy any of the tortells (they’re yummy optional extras) and it is not frowned upon if non-Catholics partake; it is a festive treat. So I gather that it was the coworker’s new religion that banned him from partaking, since it does have Catholic origins. Thus, I agree that it is not really etiquette related, he had every right to eat the company-provided cake. But in light of the other examples of his gimme-piggyness, it is probably a case of “free food trumps religious tenets” (presumably, not to take part in any non-X religion activities), which is a matter that he should discuss with his priest/pastor. I understand the OP’s frustration, but there’s no etiquette mishap that I can see in this instance.

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Amber January 9, 2012 at 2:38 pm

Eeeh, I see this as an instance where the LW’s annoyance at A is so strong that even small stuff like this ticks him/her off.

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Library Diva January 9, 2012 at 2:51 pm

But I think the point is, anyone in the office is always entitled to partake of food offered to everybody. It was kind of strange of him to make such a big deal about not eating this particular type of food due to his beliefs prior to King’s Day, but I guess he had every right to change his mind since the King’s Bread was for everyone. I think his co-workers should stop giving into his greed during the res tof the year, though.

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ellesee January 9, 2012 at 3:35 pm

I think admin meant– it would be very ungracious of the OP to point out his lack of adherence to his beliefs and segregate him from the rest of the coworkers. I agree, it is not her place to say who can or cannot eat when she is not the hosting the event. If OP brought up to the higher ups, how will that look? “Oh, A says he doesn’t practice our religion anymore, so he shouldn’t enjoy food/event/etc with the rest of us.” Sounds horrible.

Last time I check, free food is free food….open to all. “A” is just a gimme pig. Even if he had taken a small piece of bread, not praciticing what he preaches only reflects his integrity. I’m not sure if that is a etiquette factor since his disservice is only to himself.

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C.W. January 9, 2012 at 3:40 pm

While the OP does point out how greedy this particular individual is, I think the real gripe in this instance was that he made a big deal over not being Catholic therefore not eating the King’s bread his own mother gave him but he had no problem taking some at work. If you can’t eat a treat in one instance then why is it okay to eat the same type of treat in another?

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Cordelia January 9, 2012 at 4:07 pm

Is it possible that the King bread A’s mother sent had been blessed by a priest or something like that? Maybe that’s why he couldn’t eat her bread but could eat the bread his employer gave.

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Janos January 9, 2012 at 4:44 pm

I’m more bothered by the whole “Oh I don’t believe in that anymore! so I don’t plan on eating it but when it comes to it , takes a huge hypocritical slice of the cake’ Aspect…the guy’s greedy no question…

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Sarah Jane January 9, 2012 at 6:28 pm

The mooching is definitely bad manners.

I don’t think his eating the cake after making such a big deal about it is an etiquette faux pas, but it certainly makes him look phony.

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Acadianna January 9, 2012 at 7:13 pm

We also have the King Cake tradition in New Orleans, although we eat it for the entire Carnival season, which runs from January 6 until whatever day Mardi Gras falls on. The origin of King Cake lies in the Catholic religion (the baby figurine baked in a New Orleans King Cake represents the Christ Child), but they’re eaten by everyone regardless of religion. The custom seems to be spreading — I can now buy King Cakes here in Austin, so my sister doesn’t have to mail them to me!

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Bint January 10, 2012 at 4:40 am

Mary – I would definitely smack that colleague’s hand! How dare she come up and stick her fingers in someone’s food without asking? I’d smack her hand by reflex action, probably shrieking, “Get off my food!” Bet she wouldn’t do it again…

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Edhla January 10, 2012 at 7:18 am

I think you’re being too harsh on this guy based on his past mooching. For the situation at hand, I don’t think anyone has the right to dictate to this guy what his conscience finds acceptable to eat or not eat in light of his religion. I have a friend who is extremely inconsistent with her own diet. She claims to be a vegan (for ethical reasons) but I’ve seen her eat burgers before, and she generally wavers between “vegetarian” and “pescatarian.” I remember once we were in a Chinese restaurant and she ordered beef and blackbean sauce. She looked across the table at me and exclaimed “don’t judge!” I told her I wasn’t, especially since I’m an omnivore who enjoys eating meat so have no room for censure. Other people’s self-imposed dietary restrictions, whether they be for religious, ethical or other reasons, really aren’t anyone else’s business.

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Typo Tat January 10, 2012 at 9:07 am

The way this story was going, I totally expected something along the lines of this guy trying to pack half the cake to take home. But eating a piece of a company-provided treat? Come on! The guy might be a hypocrite, but he has as much right to eat that cake as any other coworker.

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Tracy January 10, 2012 at 9:17 am

ellesee said: “I think admin meant– it would be very ungracious of the OP to point out his lack of adherence to his beliefs and segregate him from the rest of the coworkers. ”

If that’s the case, it seems unnecessary to chide the contributor for something she did not do. As she said, “I was about to say something snarky to him when I saw him grab a piece, but I haven’t read your site in vain, so I bit my lip.” How about a “good for you” instead of a finger wagging “tsk, tsk”?

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Angela January 10, 2012 at 3:54 pm

You know, I never for a moment considered that it might be considered (by the guy or anyone) rude for a non-Catholic to eat King Cake. I’m not Catholic and have eaten it from time to time, as have friends. Now I’m really wondering about his religion!

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Jelly Rose January 11, 2012 at 2:38 am

I have worked with gimme-pigs like that in the past, it’s no fun. One guy was always first in line at company pot lucks, while bringing nothing of his own and if there was cake he would always make off with multiple slices or just one big slab.

The one time that really stuck out to me was a time I had bought a dessert from a local gas station (forgot lunch and had just enough time to pick something up on break) a girl came up to me, claiming how she was feeling sick (she looked feverish) and hungry and without even saying anything anything other than ‘Oh that looks good!’ stuck her fingers into the food then walked off licking her fingers… Can honestly say I wasn’t feeling like finishing it.

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Dani313 January 12, 2012 at 3:04 am

It can be annoying when people claim to not celebrate a holiday but then choose to partake in the benefits of the holiday. A friend of my mom’s who is a teacher does not celebrate Christmas due to her religious beliefs and will not allow the students to decorate the classroom. However she will happily accept all of their gifts. She also believes that any celebration of a person is selfish and conceited. However this past May she showed up to my graduation party, ate , tried to convert my guests, and took 4 plates home.

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erica September 10, 2012 at 7:25 pm

I think admin missed the point on this one.

I think the OP was just pointing out that A. is a moocher who makes a huge stand about his new religion and how he cannot have Kings Bread…because of it and then greedily took a big chunk the day after stating that fact. And making a production out of it.

I hate moochers. But I like people who stand up to moochers and are not drawn into their current sob story of why everyone should give them what they want, share what they have and do it in a nice but assertive way as not to embarass the moocher.

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