Train food: the rules

A strict code of etiquette governs eating on proper* train journeys, and as today is a busy day for travelling I thought it only appropriate to publish these guidelines for the first time.

1.    Train food must either be made at home, or purchased from outlets at the station. No other food can be consumed other than the inferior fare available from the buffet car.

2.    Train food should be more varied than a standard packed or desk lunch. So exotic items such as mango and pineapple chunks can be added to crisps, sandwiches and the like.

3.    Regular calorific regulations do not apply when eating on a train. Large bags of crisps, maxi-packs of chocolate and ‘Percy Pig’ type sweets are essential parts of Train Food. Healthy items like mango and pineapple chunks can be added to give the impression one is eating in a better way, provided the less healthy items are consumed in full.

4.    On boarding, Train Food must be taken out of any plastic bags and carefully arranged on the tray table in front of you. If you have noted rule (3) this will mean your dinner will easily cover the table, and spill over onto the person’s next to you. If you have a proper table, you will end up drawing imaginary lines on the table with the person opposite you. Do not engage in conversation about this. It is you against them. The loser risks having their food pushed onto their laps.

5.     Train Food must not be consumed until the train is moving.  This is the golden rule of Train Food. Anyone opening a can of pop or box sandwich or even scoffing a sneaky crisp should be the subject of hoots of derision from fellow passengers, including strangers. No hooting in the Quiet Zone carriage, where silent mockery is in order.

6.    Due to rule (4), you will find that moving out of your seat while eating, once you have begun, is quite impractical. Therefore expect eating even large amounts of food to take up a reasonably small part of your journey.

7.    Someone near you will have something that looks nicer than yours. The only way to deal with this is to ensure you eat all yours, quantity trumping quality.

8.    You will finish your meal to find that you have a large amount of detritus surrounding you, and no obvious way of disposing of it. The annoying person from rule (7) has probably finished before you and put their empties, which once looked and smelt so nice, in the little bin between two seats. It will now begin to not smell so nice. You can either wait for the man or woman with the enormous bin-bag who thunders down the train as you approach the terminus of the service, or take your empties with you.

9.    Eating a full meal on arrival at your destination is generally still appropriate.

*Those of 60 minutes or more. Less than that and you risk spending more time buying your picnic than riding the rails eating it.

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