The entrance to the cafeteria inside NATO’s old headquarters.
Photo: Emmanuel Dunand/AFP (Getty Images)

Diplomats strike me as formal and sophisticated, worldly and impeccable in their tastes. If you’d asked me to imagine the cafeteria at NATO—the fancy-pants intergovernmental military and diplomatic alliance headquartered in Brussels—I would have described a gleaming international food hall full of fresh sushi and organic vegetables. The reality is, apparently, the exact opposite. Politico quotes a number of anonymous NATO employees who describe the cafeteria’s food as, essentially, a crime against humanity.

“It’s a violation of the chemical weapons ban,” one employee told Politico, “and also human rights.”

Said a NATO official: “Maybe [Aramark] could end up in The Hague,” a reference to the International Criminal Court headquartered there.

Ouch. Aramark is the catering service contracted by NATO to provide 4,000 daily meals, which Politico describes as overwhelmingly beige. A recent offering included turkey schnitzel in an unnamed brown sauce, served with scoops of mashed potatoes and carrots. This sounds closer to an elementary school cafeteria than an international dining hall.

The allegedly terrible food is even more egregious when it attempts to replicate the cuisine of some of the diplomats’ home nations: An Italian chef called the pizza “not edible.”

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Hopes were high that the new NATO headquarters might mean a change in the dismal food offerings, but the same company has been awarded the cafeteria contract there, and is reportedly raising prices. Still, the cafeteria food—however sad—seems like a bargain: Politico reports a bowl of soup goes for 35 cents.