Tag Archives: Guy’s Grocery Games

Love, Hate, and Food Fights

I don’t watch much sports. Except on the Food Network. Those competitions are the sports I both love and hate.

I love them because they are eerily involving. Even my husband, not a big fan of cooking shows, gets caught up in the action. “Chop the woman!” he’ll yell. “She left off the Japanese eggplant! Aw, I thought the old hippie was going to win!” (1)

I love them because people actually have to do something real to win, unlike many “reality” shows. There’s no prize for snagging a millionaire or pressuring small girls to dress like floozies and perform.(2)

I love them because people get the chance to try again. Many of the shows have “Redemption” episodes, or let eliminated contestants return as surprise competitors or sous-chefs. And many of the chefs appear on more than one of the shows. I’m sure I saw the Ukrainian woman from Beat Bobby Flay on Chopped and the uppity blonde with a posh accent from Chopped on Next Food Network Star.

But I hate the food competitions for the same reasons I hate most sports.(3)

The bragging, for one. Over-inflated self-confidence is so unappealing. And you hear the same inane platitudes from food competitors that you do from professional athletes. It makes me contrary.(4)

Just once I want someone to be realistic or unexpected or at least modest:

I brought my B- game today!

I’m going to give 75 percent!

I came to prove to my family I’m mediocre!

I’m not going to settle for anything less than 4th place!

I came to lose!

The war and violence metaphors. Most of these are clearly borrowed from the vocabulary of professional sports, and most of them just sound silly. Cupcake Wars – now there’s an oxymoron! Chopped. Cutthroat Kitchen.(5) Can we please have food without blood and mayhem? At least Guy has Grocery Games, and the violence is limited to (mostly) accidental ramming of shopping carts.

The snot factor. Settle down, now. Not in the food – in the contestants. One Top Chef contestant was so bad we took to calling him Snothead the Sommelier for his incessant unwelcome lectures on wine, whether the dish called for it or not.(6) One Next Food Network Star contestant got bounced because he smirked when he was pronounced safe. A judge changed her vote and we all cheered.

Sabotage. We’ll leave Cutthroat Kitchen out of this, since sabotage is its whole raison d’être. But honestly, there’s a lot of throwing people under the bus, especially when the chefs are supposed to work in teams.(7)  Then there’s plain pettiness – keeping all of an ingredient, refusing to clean the ice cream machine, pointing out that your dish doesn’t have the flaw the judges just dinged someone for.

One last general gripe: Food Network used to show you how to cook things.(8) Now such actually useful shows are relegated to daytime hours, while prime time is filled with competitions, road shows, and “Please Save My Business” shows.(9)

Still, with all their flaws, I can’t stop watching food sports. They’re addictive, like potato chips or cookies. Mmmm, cookies. ::drools::


(1) Unless my husband isn’t watching because they have to prepare live seafood. Then he goes all Buddhist until the crustaceans are cooked, when he’ll dig right in. (He still calls Emeril Lagasse “The Evil Cook” and refuses to watch him since he threw live crayfish into a hot pan and laughed about it.)

(2) Think Jon-Benet Ramsey. (What narcissist father names his daughter after him like that anyway, without adding “ette,” “ine,” or “le”?) And don’t tell me that pageants build self-esteem. Only for the winners.

(3) Except the Olympics. I don’t usually hate the Olympics. Just the media coverage of them. And the bikinis they make the women beach volleyball players wear while the men wear baggy shorts. At least on the Food Network, everyone wears chef jackets and aprons.

(4) Okay. Contrarier. (I like the sound of that word. Trademark!)

(5) I actually like Cutthroat Kitchen. Goofy and evil at the same time, like most of my friends. Although the Camp Cutthroat episodes were just over-the-top WRONG! I could barely watch them.

(6) Marcel Vigneron was a close second for sheer annoyance factor – so much so that the other Top Chef contestants tried to shave his head – but he improved with a little perspective and less extreme hair styling. Now he’s engagingly weird without pissing everyone off. Still has ego issues, but for chefs, TV personalities, and sports figures, that’s practically a requirement.

(7) Hosts make this worse when they set up the contestants by asking “Who do you think should go home?” or “Why do you deserve to win?”

(8) Not that I actually ever made any of the recipes from them. Except once I tried to make The Barefoot Contessa’s triple ginger cookies. I actually learned something from that experience, too: When she says, “jumbo eggs,” she really means jumbo eggs. Medium ones don’t work at all.

(9) Here again, there’s one I like – Restaurant Impossible. Part cooking, part decorating, part group (or family) therapy. Not to mention the theatrical sledgehammer scenes, which may be a metaphor for the whole show.


My Guy’s Grocery Games*

I stared at the list. My mission: To see if anything was missing. My challenge: Deciphering what was already on the list.

“You can’t buy Google at the grocery, and even if you could we couldn’t afford it,” I said. “And what is this? Yom? Is it a Pennsylvania Dutch expression for yam?”

It was clear what was missing: legible writing.(1) I won’t say Dan’s writing is bad, but it does look like he could be a recent graduate of either a kindergarten or a medical school. Sometimes I think he channels a spirit who writes in Farsi.

“Google” turned out to be “goodie,” which is shorthand for anything on the quick sale bake table.(2)

“Yom” was really “UPM,” which is shorthand for “useless people meals.” These are frozen meals that we can nuke when both of us are too useless to do real cooking.(3) Dan buys whatever ones are on sale, so UPMs are also meal surprises, sort of like tomato surprises, only in a bag or a paper tray instead of a tomato. I always cross my fingers and hope for Stouffer’s mac-n-cheese, but it’s usually On-Cor salisbury steak(4) or the frozen burritos that impoverished college students subsist on.

After we settled on a revised list, I made the mistake of saying, “Try to keep it under $75.” Dan burst into hysterical laughter.

“You’re mocking me. I can tell,” I said, glaring. “I can tell by the mocking.”(5)

“Honey, everything on the list so far adds up to way more than $75.”

“I know. It’s a ritual phrase. I have to say it. Just like when you come back with $200 worth of groceries, you have to say, ‘OK, what do you want me to take back?'”


On occasion I make the shopping trek with Dan,(6) which you would think would cut down on the cost, but doesn’t. We divide up the list. One of us starts at the back of the store and the other at the front. We keep each other posted with our cell phones. We meet somewhere near the middle, usually by the beer and wine, where we linger for a time in happy contemplation.

It’s not the stupidest shopping system ever.(7) We used to divide up the aisles into evens and odds, until we realized that meant both of us would have to navigate the entire length of the store, which is gargantuan, there and back again. The frozen food alone takes up four aisles and the pet food, two.


Once our cart is as loaded as we will be later, it’s time to have fun with the cashiers. Once I bought an eggplant. The cashier held it up, pointed at it, and asked, “What is this?”

“It’s an eggplant,” I said. She rang it up.

I turned to Dan. “She believed me!” I exclaimed. “I could have told her anything! I could have said it was an avocado or a rutabaga or something really cheap!”(8)

I close my eyes when the total comes up and hand over a check for the automatic printing machine. I hope Dan makes sure the totals match, but by this time I am in complete denial. I keep muttering, “$75. Come on, $75.” It’s never $75, even if we only popped in for milk and bread.

I wonder if Guy Fieri and his wife have this much fun at the grocery?


*Guy Fieri has a TV game show on the Food Network called “Guy’s Grocery Games.” People run around in a supermarket and then cook. Guy is evil and springs surprises on them. He’s not as evil as Alton Brown on “Cutthroat Kitchen,” but entertaining nonetheless.
(1) Also fresh vegetables, fresh fruit, and toilet paper.
(2) I’ve asked Dan to buy only one goodie at a time, and that only once or twice a month. This time he came home with scones, sticky cinnamon rolls, and a whole carrot cake. He said he had to fight an old lady for the cake.
(3) This happens lots. We also have Useless People tableware, which I’m sure you’ll guess is not made from any kind of ceramic or metal or glass.
(4) Which I bet really pisses off the people of Salisbury.
(5) My other possible response is, “Laugh while you can, monkey boy!” Bonus points for getting that reference.
(6) I have a bad back, so I get to use one of the store’s scooters with the basket on the front. They don’t hold much, but they’re as much fun as a go-kart or maybe a bumper car. They zoom along and have a really annoying “audible signal” for backing up. Some day I shall achieve my goal of knocking over a display of canned chunky soup and a heap of cantaloupes, then escaping, merrily beeping in reverse, savoring the yelps of people fearing for their toes and the plaintive announcements of “Cleanup on aisle six. And twelve. And four.” (I would circle back for more canned goods.)
(7) The stupidest shopping system ever is the one my sister uses. She purchases items in the order they appear on her shopping list (which is not written with the contents of the aisles in mind). Her path through the store is reminiscent of a drunken chicken on a scavenger hunt for a magic bean somewhere in the barnyard. Of course I would never really make that comparison about my sister. She doesn’t drink.
(8) Young clerks are fun too. Once in a drugstore I asked, “If I were talcum powder, where would I be?” and received a blank stare. “I don’t know what that is. What’s it used for?” the clerk asked. I thought about telling her, “I put it under my boobs when I sweat and get heat rash” (i.e., the truth). But I restrained myself and said, “You know? Like Johnson’s baby powder.”