Slices of Life: Foods of the alphabet

Because this is my own made-up game, I get to make the rules.

Jill Pertler
Jill Pertler

Fact one: Because of a stay-at-home directive, we aren’t supposed to venture out into public unless we are essential or in need of essential items — like milk or eggs. Sometimes the shelves are bare.

Fact two: Many of us have had some time on our hands lately. We can’t do the things we’d normally do, so we fill in with substitutes.

Fact three: I love words, and words are made up with letters of the alphabet.

These three facts got me to thinking about food and doing without and making choices. At one point the shelves at my grocery store were all but empty. What if we didn’t have easy access to all the foods of our choosing? What if we were limited to just a shortlist for the rest of our lives? What would we pick if we were limited to just one item starting with each letter of the alphabet?

Because this is my own made-up game, I get to make the rules. Water, salt and pepper are givens. No need to pick them. The same goes for your favorite beverage of choice, except for milk and dairy. You have to include those in your limited list, if you so desire.


You can combine foods to create something new. If you choose corn, no need to choose popcorn. Tomatoes can be used to make ketchup, flour for bread and so on.

The following is a fairly comprehensive list from A to Z. My husband and I had quite the time discussing which items we’d pick and why. I thought others with time on their hands during these dire days might enjoy doing the same. Some letters are much more difficult than others. “C” was a doozy for me. Chocolate, chicken, cheese and crab and I could only choose one. (Coffee didn’t even make the short list.) Try it yourself. What would you pick if you could choose just one item for each letter? Ready, set, go!

A — apple, almond, avocado, anchovies, apricot, artichoke, asparagus, allspice

B — beef, broccoli, butter, bread, banana, blackberries, blueberries, bacon, basil, beans, beets, Brussels sprouts, bell pepper, bay leaf

C — chocolate, cream, chicken, cheese, cauliflower, crab, cherries, cabbage, cashews, caviar, celery, coconut, coffee, corn, cucumber, curry, cantaloupe, cardamom, caraway, cayenne, chives, cilantro, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, candy

D — dill, donuts, duck, dates

E — eggs, eggplant (Easiest one ever.)

F — flour, figs, fish


G — garlic, ginger, green pepper, grapes, grapefruit, green beans, guava

H — ham, honey, honeydew, hot dogs, horseradish,

I — ice cream. No choice here, but at least it’s ice cream.

J — jalepeno, jelly beans, jello, jerky, jicama

K — kiwi, kale, ketchup, kumquat

L — lobster, lemon, lime, liver, lettuce, lima beans, leeks

M — muskmelon, mayonnaise, mango, milk, mushrooms, mustard

N — nutmeg, nectarine, noodles,


O — onion, oranges, olives, oatmeal

P — pork, pineapple, peanuts, peanut butter, pecans, potatoes, pickles, papaya, peaches, popcorn, pasta, pears, peas, peppercorn, plums, pomegranate, pumpkin

Q — quinoa. With such a limited choice, pick a previous letter for a bonus choice.

R — raspberries, rice, raisins, radish, rhubarb, rosemary

S — shrimp, strawberry, sugar, sweet potato, sausage, saffron, sesame, soybean, squash, starfruit,

T — turkey, tofu, tomato, tarragon, thyme, turmeric, turnips

U — ugli fruit. Another bonus pick, if you so choose. Look to another letter.

V — veal, venison, vinegar, vanilla


W — watermelon, walnut, water chestnut, wheat

X — You can’t eat a xylophone, so pick a different letter and choose a bonus food (I’d recommend a look at letter C.)

Y — yams, yeast, yogurt

Z — zucchini. No bonus here. We all know you can never have too many zucchini.

How did you do? I hope this gave you something to think about and talk about with the people you are quarantined with. I hope it provided a respite or distraction to being immersed in a pandemic. Corny (no pun intended), but I hope it made you smile. Take care.

J ill Pertler is an award-winning syndicated columnist, published playwright, author and member of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists.

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