Ala Carte

On the Wolfsie refrigerator, next to a photo of me hugging Goofy at Disney World (I was a mere 57 years old at the time) is Mary Ellen’s list of items to be purchased on her next trip to the supermarket. Needless to say, there is frequent updating, like if we consume the last of the mayonnaise or the dog got into the pantry and gobbled up all the raisin bran. Our beagle did that frequently. The good news is that it made him very regular.

Mary Ellen’s list is a model for all Americans who want to eat healthy. There’s skim milk, low-fat cottage cheese, broccoli, skinless chicken breasts, and granola. Here’s the question: If that’s pretty much what the list always looks like, how did all the other crapola we eat end up in our kitchen? Who smuggled in the chips, the hard salami, the doughnuts and the creamed spinach soufflé—which contains an alarming 27 grams of fat? I am the culprit, of course, and that is why I avoid food shopping with my wife. When we do go together, I’m on a very short leash and the chances of getting any treats are zero, even if I beg. I wish my wife would treat me more like a dog. I deserve it.

We used to go to the store together all the time. She was confusing its significance with the aisle we walked down 40+ years ago. But there’s a huge difference: After I said “I do” in 1980, Mary Ellen didn’t say, “I don’t think this is good for you,” or “Are you sure this is what you really want?” and when we kissed during the service, she definitely didn’t say: “You still have plenty of this back home.”

I’m second-guessed about everything I put in the shopping cart. Here are some of Mary Ellen’s favorite expressions:

No one still living eats white bread.

Yes, we do need baked beans, if you don’t count the 24 cans on top of the pool table.

Why are you buying low-fat trail mix bars? You know you’re not going to eat them.

Why are you buying cheese puffs? You know you’re going to eat them.

Mary Ellen has junk-food radar and more often than not, she’ll locate my hidden cache with just a glance. I try to sneak things into the basket, but it’s tough to hide a large Tombstone pizza under a can of peaches.  Having to put an item back on the shelf is the most humiliating thing that can happen to a guy—at least in public.

Recently I ran into a friend at the grocery. “Hey, Dick, doing a little reverse shopping, are you? You must be here with the wife.”

To avoid future embarrassment, I told Mary Ellen that this week I was going to go to the store alone. She said that was fine, and Saturday morning she handed me a sheet of paper.

“Thank you, Mary Ellen, but I don’t need a shopping list.”

“Oh, it’s not a shopping list. It’s a permission slip.”

– Dick Wolfsie spent his career sharing his humor, stories and video essays on television, radio and in newspapers. His columns appear weekly in The Paper of Montgomery County. E-mail Dick at [email protected]