Someone keeps stealing my lunch from the office kitchen. I think I know who it is, but I'm not sure I want to confront the person. What should I do?
Lunchless in Lincoln
Your plight reminds me of a balmy spring day several years ago when my dog Dickie and I did an on-site etiquette seminar on an oil rig in the Caspian Sea. As I demonstrated to the energy-efficient crew how to convert the simplest white paper bag into an elegant dining surface, a rare bird-of-prey swooped down and made off with one of Dickie's grilled sardines. I was so startled I nearly dropped the entire tin of Sevruga caviar into the crème fraîche.
Alas, your situation is all too common. The communal office refrigerator offers tempting delicacies from an array of international cuisines that foragers can barely resist. To safeguard brown-bag delights, the amateur chef must exert wit, charm, and patience.
Your instinct to avoid confrontation is to be applauded, for an artist must remain modest. Congratulations for resisting the temptation to give the thief a little poke with a tiny escargot fork. No doubt you are flattered by the attention you are receiving from this adoring fan, as well as by the risks he or she is taking in sneaking a nibble here and there. Yes, in avoiding a scene, you have behaved with grace and style. Fabulous.
But now you need some results. If you are comfortable with a passive-aggressive approach, try laying a trap. To your next pain au salade de thon (otherwise known as a tuna sandwich), add a dash of cayenne and half a scotch bonnet pepper. Not only will you be able to detect the culprit by his or her telltale body sweats and watery eyes, but you will also enhance your culinary reputation, since the scotch bonnet pepper, the hottest pepper known to humankind, is a favorite among today's up-and-coming chefs.
If the trials of the double-life of artist and employee become too much to bear, consider having lunch outside the office once in a while. A little fresh air and a brisk walk to the corner café will do wonders for your consternation. And as Dickie would say, the vitamin D you get from the sun can do wonders for a complexion that otherwise must derive its nutrients from office fluorescents. You'll return from your daily outing refreshed, sated, and ready to start your afternoon's work.