We have this game we play at home called Grocery Chef Roulette. The objective of the game is to cook dinner with groceries someone else purchased. It usually starts like this: 

“If you grab some groceries at the store, I’ll make dinner.” That’s my voice, sounding super chirpy and grateful that I don’t have to make a list, figure out what ingredients I need for a particular recipe, and wander aisles to find them. You see, I believe I can make a meal out of just about anything. 

Charlie, my person, likes to challenge this. He comes home with a basket as follows: 

  • 2 pounds of barbecue pulled pork 
  • 2 pounds of ground beef 
  • 3 beets 
  • 1 bunch cilantro 

“Were you craving these things or did you see a recipe you wanted me to try?” I naively asked. Had he not brought me some chocolate, the discussion may have digressed from there.  

 I believe when Charlie is dealing (groceries), the objective of the game is to see how few ingredients I can use to make something edible. It is exactly the opposite if I ask him to make dinner. That conversation goes like this: 

“Hey honey, I have all the ingredients for dinner, but I’m super busy writing a story about that time you bought beets. Can you throw the meal together? It’s Chicken Jalfrezi on a bed of saffron rice with blanched almonds—only you’ll have to blanch them because they were out at the store.” 

“Who is Blanche?” 

“The almonds.” 

“I thought we were having chicken.” 

“And use the coriander seeds—the mortar and pestle are on the sill.”  

The objective here is that I expose my future husband to as many exotic herbs, spices, kitchen tools, methods, and flavor combinations as possible. Mostly because I think it’s super hot when I see him walk out of the pantry with a food processor in his arms.  

I believe he’s onto me though, because he’s started offering to shop and cook a meal. He has discovered the secret ingredient to making anything amazing: butter.  

Because he’s marrying a nutritionist, he knows there must be some sort of vegetable presented. I’ll hover around the kitchen or subtly pass through, as though I’m on some alternative errand, just to have a peek at what vegetable is being prepared. When I see a spread of asparagus on a sheet, my blood pressure drops about fifteen points. Apparently I have some foundational belief that if I skip vegetables in a single meal, I’m just a diabetic cardiac event waiting to happen.  

By the time the meal is served, it’s too late for me to ask if the tri-tip was roasted in butter and how many cubes went on top of the asparagus. Because butter is a lubricant and the food is sliding so smoothly, so deliciously, into my gullet, I don’t even want to stop eating long enough to talk about how many calories my vegetable side actually contains. Instead, I clean my plate and use my fork to pick up little pieces of butter-soaked garlic from the sheet.  

At this rate, he’s going to win every time.  

Ammi Midstokke is a nutritionist and author living in North Idaho, where her solar-powered, straw bale cabin keeps her log-peeling and wood-chopping skills honed. Last month she wrote about the black hole of her ceaseless appetite for mostly cookies and cake.