“This,” my husband announces, “has to be dealt with.” He holds aloft a jumbo bag of what used to be kale but now looks like compost. I’ve never seen the bag before and don’t want to see it now. His words signal that tonight’s menu will revolve around an ill-advised purchase by a man who forgot we do not like kale and cannot make it taste like steak.
My spouse enjoys this little hide-and-seek ritual with fresh produce. He buys something, shoves it to the back of a shelf, and two weeks later “discovers” it soft, dark and sprouting, deep in the recesses of an overstuffed refrigerator. It’s like an Easter Egg Hunt except he is both the Bunny and the child with a basket.
When the hubby unearths a treasure, he plunges into the container wide-eyed and nostrils flaring, inhales deeply, and emerges to pronounce what is a surprise only to himself. “Whoa, this stuff is on its last legs.” I’m embarrassed to admit how many meal plans have been launched with just such words.
My husband loves shopping for groceries, but his generosity is a double-edged sword. It saves my time and energy, but he becomes a different person under the influence of industrial lighting, free samples on toothpicks and bins labeled “Oops, we made too much.” Just once, I’d like him to look into that bin and say, “Ew. Why did you make any?”
One might think a strict shopping list would solve this problem. But, alas, our shopper regards the list as little more than a suggestion. He leaves the house with a three-item list and returns with eight full bags that may or may not contain the desired items. “Ta-da,” he crows, “I hunted and gathered.”
The most dangerous time for him to shop for food is after reading a book on nutrition. A publication about the dangers of modern wheat produced The Great Gluten-Free Experiment of 2018. We still have boxes of garbanzo-bean pasta from that fiasco.
More recently, he fell in love with a book on veganism and announced that, as a first step, he would stop eating dairy products. This from a man who eats Greek yogurt and cottage cheese every day. That day’s grocery haul included almond milk, soy milk and coconut yogurt. Two days later, he rushed the yogurt out the door moments before it exploded. Because, sometimes, what’s reduced for quick sale is botulism.
While he does the shopping, I do almost all of the cooking. On those rare occasions when he prepares dinner, watch out, because there’s an ulterior motive. Most of his creations are soup and he hides ingredients in there. One day last fall, he declared his intention to make soup because the last of his homegrown Asian eggplants were “going south.”
“What kind of soup uses eggplant?” I asked.
“Any kind,” he chirped, “it’ll just disappear. You won’t even know it’s in there.” I wish.
Sometimes the ulterior motive for soup-making is to use up beans he found on sale. Apparently, there’s no maximum on the type or number of beans that can be made into soup, because Hubby’s latest concoction is called “13-bean bonanza.” It’s so potent we have to temporarily ban the use of open flames.
I don’t like to brag that my husband will eat almost anything because that’s a poor reflection on my cooking. Suffice it to say he would have thrived on the wild frontier. A picky eater like me would have been the first one thrown off the stagecoach.
During this COVID-19 pandemic, with restaurant closures and grocery shortages, my husband’s survival skills offer a ray of hope. If ever — God forbid — things get worse, like a nuclear blast or zombie apocalypse, you’re all invited to our house for dinner. The husband will be serving a bounty of semi-soft vegetables, gluten-free pasta, suspicious-looking soups and other foods that should have been eaten weeks ago. And, here’s a bonus: He’ll be available, too. I, the picky eater, will have already expired.
— Mary Kay Jordan Fleming
Mary Kay Jordan Fleming is a retired professor of developmental psychology at Mount St. Joseph University and mother of two grown children. She spends most of her time leaving notes for herself all over her home and office, and writes humor (and some serious stuff) in her spare time. She is the winner of the 2016 Erma Bombeck Humor-Writing Competition and has published at McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, Next Tribe, Boomer Café, Sammiches & Psych Meds and HumorWriters.org. Follow her work on Facebook.