‘Woe betide anyone who gets between a sub and a pizza slice’

Kilian Doyle, assistant news editor on his office eating habits

“Be a journalist,” they said. “It’ll be all long boozy lunches with sources, then off to the pub to scribble 400 words onto a beermat that you can then bark down the phone at a copy taker before scurrying off to dinner to quaff heavily of the finest wines known to humanity. And all of it on expenses. You’ll love it.”

How well they knew me. To a 20-something me, journalism sounded a most splendid profession indeed. Particularly the drinking bit. For I really loved booze. Food, not so much. But most definitely booze.

Well, here I am, 20 years later, and there is no drinking. Not one drop. Come to think of it, there’s precious little food either. Worst of all, when you are an office-bound deskjockey such as I, not a crumb of it is on expenses.

Which, as it happens, is immaterial. For, as a denizen of the newsdesk, food is something of an afterthought during my day.



Pah. Lunchbreaks are for civil servants.

Breakfast – which can be at any time between 5am and noon, depending on which shift I’m on – is a double espresso. Followed by another. I might have another a few hours later, if I’m feeling flaky. Unless you count a snatched few moments at my desk to shove down a fridge pie – namely some random surplus organic matter that I’ve scraped out of the big white box in the corner of my kitchen into a Tupperware box – I don’t do lunch at all.

The only time I get a change of diet is when some misguided PR firm sends us in edible bribes in the vain hope it’ll influence our coverage of their clients. It never does, but don’t tell them that.

You have to be quick though. For all the free stuff gets dumped on the table in the communal kitchen on the newsroom floor, also known as the Killing Fields. There, subeditors and hacks, whose skill at sniffing out freebies rivals a tiger shark’s ability to sense blood, descend like ravenous wolves on it, tearing and scratching and yowling as they lose themselves to the feeding frenzy. Woe betide anyone who gets between a layout sub and a slice of pizza. Fingers have been lost. And worse.

I'd forgive you for thinking I'm exaggerating. I accept it all sounds rather implausible. This is The Irish Times, the last bastion of probity and decency and good manners, after all.

But I kid you not. To illustrate, let me regale you with the sorry tale of the unfortunate reporter who left a box containing the birthday cake he’d lovingly chosen for his wife on the table of doom while he nipped off to make a phone call. Rookie mistake. The vultures, assuming it was fair game, swooped in seconds. By the time the poor chap returned, mere minutes later, all that was left were a few crumbs, scraps of cardboard and his good intentions.

That said, food is largely ignored most of the time. When one is simultaneously scanning your emails, correcting semi-literate copy, answering three phones and snorting at halfwits on Twitter while placating the three story-touting journalists who’ve converged en masse on your desk, taking time to eat is not a luxury one can afford. Or even want.

It can get quite fraught. The fact is, food and stress don’t mix, particularly as the newspaper deadline begins to loom. Which is usually about the same time in the evening as normal people are sitting down to eat their dinner.

But not I.

When my synapses are fizzing wildly and the adrenaline is pumping through my veins like molten lava, I’d rather do the tango through a conclave of Islamic State executioners wearing nothing but a pair of hotpants and a Jesus Saves tshirt than eat anything.

Perceptive reader that you are, you’ll have deduced by now that food and I enjoy what could most kindly be described as a dysfunctional relationship. So be it. Such is the lot of the hack. I’ve made my bed and all that.

My advice to a younger me? Be a lawyer. True, it may be boring and involve selling your soul to the devil of your choice. But at least you’ll get to eat lunch.

By the way, if there are any PR folk reading, send more jellies. Not because it’ll make a blind bit of difference, but because I love jellies.

When I come home from work, spent and exhausted, I like nothing better than curling up with a large bucket of Haribo. And I make no apology for it. For what is a man without a vice to call his very own?

Kilian Doyle

Kilian Doyle

Kilian Doyle is an Assistant News Editor at The Irish Times