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  1. Wealth
January 24, 2013

Minister for Public Health Says Eating at Your Desk is 'Mad', 'Wrong' and 'Disgusting'

By Spear's

Anna Soubry, minister for public health, criticises eating at desks, but she’s wrong when she says it’s because Brits are ‘weird’ about food

Without wanting to spoil the illusion that Spear’s writers spend most of their day sipping champagne and nibbling macarons, I should mention that I am typing this blog with a big coffee next to my keyboard, my lunch in tupperware in my handbag, and a promise to myself that as soon as I finish this task, I will reward myself by pestering Emily for some of the Russian chocolate kindly sent to the office by our Russian sister magazine.

According to Anna Soubry, minister for public health, this means that I, like most of the British public, have a ‘weird’ relationship with food.

The minister criticised the habit of eating at desks as ‘mad’, ‘wrong’ and ‘disgusting.’ I do see her point about it being a bit gross, there are definitely the remains of food spills on my keyboard. It would be good to use lunch away from the desk to ‘chill out’ to use her words. I can, however, guarantee that my desk-bound lunch is one of the least mad or wrong things I’m likely to do in an average day.

There are a few simple economic reasons why most people can’t afford the luxury of lunch out — it’s not that we’re ‘weird’ about food. With the economy so sluggish, few can afford to eat out for lunch every day, and those who can tend to be too overworked, and perhaps even nervous about looming redundancies, to allow themselves the leisure of a full hour off mid day.

When I worked in Libya, we had none of these worries. Most people were employed by the government, and their jobs were virtually guaranteed. Mine wasn’t a government job, or guaranteed, but working too hard would have been weird in the circumstances.

Once employees had eventually rolled into the office, they might spend an hour or so pretending to check emails, before heading out for a macchiato, chocolate croissant, and a few of Libya’s own brand cigarettes, called Riyadi, or ‘Sporty.’ After a few more hours work, they’d head back home for a leisurely lunch and a nap.

It was heavenly. I’ve never been so relaxed. I’ve also, incidentally, never been so fat — obsesity is something else that Soubry’s been talking about this week.

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Unless we discover vast oil reserves in Milton Keynes, this will never be possible in England. And that’s not because we’re ‘weird.’

Read more by Sophie McBain

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