The Temp: Defined by food

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The Independent Culture
SO I'M working for a company where most of my early afternoon is spent trailing round the shops filling people's lunch orders. In my experience, you can tell a lot about the state of a company from the lunching habits of its employees.

As a temp, I have to adjust to different regimes on a weekly or fortnightly basis, grabbing snacks whenever I can, sometimes not eating at all because I've not been able to work out the right moment to take my break.

We are creatures of habit, and our eating habits reflect the state of our psyches more than we think: I'm not talking the simple misery-obesity here, or the attempt to impose rigid control over one's body that is anorexia, or the sense of overwhelming chaos that expresses itself in bulimia, but more mundane things.

A company, for instance, like this one, where the employees never take time off to eat, is usually an unhappy one: where the atmosphere is one of insecurity, where people feel that if they turn their back on their desk, it mightn't be there when they turn round.

Companies where the staff always take lunch, for precisely an hour, and always separately, are getting a bit run down and need to do something about morale, fast. Companies where all the staff go out and take lunch together are either creative outfits of some sort or fronts for cults.

But there's more. The very things you elect to eat during your working day say a lot about you. After an exhaustive survey of the nation's eating habits conducted through the offices of the capital, I have become something of an expert in this field.

Further observations, honorary degrees or full-time research jobs cheerfully accepted at the usual address.

What your lunch says about you:

Waldorf Salad (vinaigrette dressing), carrot salad, fruit salad: you can take this health thing too far, you know.

Pie and chips, Mars Bar: I am still young and haven't had my first intimations of mortality.

Cereal-in-a-pot, Nutri-Grain Cereal Bars, hi-energy drink: I am a sucker for advertising.

Two chocolate bars, Doritos, Creme Egg, Diet Coke, mid-afternoon snack of chocolate-covered flapjack and double latte with syrup: I am depressed. Please help me.

Mashed banana with cheese-and-onion crisps on wholemeal bread: I am pregnant.

Nothing but 10 Marlboro Lights on the doorstep: I pretend I'm a bohemian type, but actually I just hate myself.

Sausage and onion bap, fat cola: I have a hangover.

Vegetable flavour cuppa-soup, beef and tomato flavour Pot Noodle: I am saving for the deposit on my dream house and am prepared to sacrifice everything to this ambition.

Fresh fruit for pudding: I care about my health but I don't want anyone to make an issue of it. Either that, or I'm worried about my bowels.

Soup, roll and a piece of fruit from soup outlet: I am afraid I'm getting old.

Home-made white bread sandwiches with wafer-thin sliced meat and processed cheese, multi-pack yoghurt, water, five days running: I am pathologically mean.

One pint of beer: I fancy a break.

Two pints: I've found a friend to "eat" with.

Four pints: I am an alcoholic.

Pick 'n' mix from Woolworths to share with everybody: I am a sweetie. No, really.

Hamburger, medium fries, soft drink: I have so little imagination that I even have to get fast food joints to choose my lunch.

Lunch out: pizza- I am a junior executive.

pasta- I am a female junior executive

starter- main course, pudding, coffee: get back to your desk, scumbag: I'm the one that eats out around here.