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Credit: Whitten Sabbatini
The Way We Eat

The Couple with a Grocery Store Love Story

published Dec 8, 2019
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NameAshley Boyd
Location: Olive Branch, MS
How many people regularly eat together in your home? 2
Avoidances: Ashley has eliminated most meat from her diet, but her husband, Marlon, still eats meat.

Editor’s note: This post mentions infertility and pregnancy loss. If you are sensitive to these subjects, feel free to skip this one. We have plenty of other stories in our The Way We Eat series to share with you.

Ashely Boyd is an insurance salesperson by day/food blogger by night who firmly believes that having food on the table isn’t something we should take for granted. We talked with Ashley, who lives with her husband, Marlon, just 15 minutes outside of Memphis, about their sweet grocery store love story, what family holidays look like, and how her challenging upbringing changed the way she thinks about food.

Credit: Whitten Sabbatini

Can you tell me a little bit about how food fits into your day to day?
I grew up in a really tough environment with not a lot of stability in Jackson, MS. My mother was an alcoholic and drug addict and we moved around a lot. There were times where we didn’t know where the next meal would come from, so we’d have to knock on a neighbor’s door. That’s really shaped my outlook on everything. Now I have a husband with a huge family and a home — things I never thought I would have.

I use cooking and creating recipes as an outlet to channel my energy and to overcome any negative feelings. Becoming part of his very large and loving family has been such a blessing that I’m beyond grateful for. I love bringing all of us together with a huge, hearty meal and lots of laughter. For me food is healing, joy, togetherness, love, a sense of security, and a gift. It is a blessing to be able to feed our families. Many people out there cannot.

That’s so powerful. So for you food has been a source of struggle but also a source of joy.
That sums it up. Feed your family wisely and use mealtime as a chance to reconnect and bond. Take no meal for granted. My husband jokes all time that I can never leave him because no one else will ever cook like this for him! I like to make things from scratch. I’m not a professional chef by any means, but I like to buy all these ingredients and just head into the kitchen for like three hours and make a meal for two people. I love doing it. We sit, and eat, and talk, and have wine, and he’ll help me with the dishes. That’s a typical dinnertime for us.

Credit: Whitten Sabbatini

That’s really sweet. How did you two meet?
We actually met five years ago in a manager training program at Kroger. We started on the same day. When we walked into the class together, that was the first time we ever laid eyes on each other. We were friends at first — there was no romantic attraction whatsoever in the beginning. (He had a crush on me but I didn’t know it.) The job was extremely stressful because we would be assigned to different stores in different states and we’d have to pick up and move at the drop of a dime. We both got sent to tiny little towns with not a lot of people and bonded over it, like Why did we take this job? Then we went on a date (he came to visit me in the tiny town I was in at the time) and I just felt like this is what it’s supposed to be like.

I’m not crying, you’re crying! I love how you met in a grocery store, but not in the way that most people would think.
It’s so funny. My husband can go to the grocery store whenever I need him and he’ll come right out. I’ll write my list exactly how the store is laid out, and he’ll just check everything off. A lot of women can’t send their husbands, but I can because he used to be the manager!

Credit: Whitten Sabbatini

I love it. So you learned how to grocery shop like a pro at Kroger, but where did you learn to cook?
When we were younger, a lot of times we didn’t have a parent in the household or have much food in the house. I started then — throwing together whatever we had in the fridge. My dad and I were recently talking about how I’d turn white rice and barbecue sauce into a meal — that was all we had. I moved out when I was 18 and learned quick that either you eat fast food every day or you teach yourself how to cook. That’s how I started to learn to make different Southern foods. I learned quick that it was really fun when people would eat my food and say that it tasted good — I like that affirmation. From there, I started experimenting, watching a lot of Food Network and HGTV, like 24/7, and getting recipes from Pinterest.

Credit: Whitten Sabbatini

I hear you love hosting big family feasts now. What are those like?
The last gathering we had, there were like 40 to 50 people. We took the cars out of the garage, and cleaned it out real nice. We put heaters and rugs out and set up three long voting tables for extra seating. We also had people all over the house in the dining room, living room, just everywhere. I set food out on the kitchen island, buffet-style, so people could come and go. The cleanup wasn’t fun though!

We also had a big Mother’s Day celebration a few months ago. My mother-in-law loves how much I do things like this, and she was like “I just want Ashely to cook for me for Mother’s Day.” I was like, Okay that’s easy! We had this big spread of catfish with creole sauce, creole sides, mimosas. It was just a wonderful time. For her to say that that was what she wanted for Mother’s Day — it warms my heart.

Credit: Whitten Sabbatini
  • Biggest challenge in eating? My biggest challenge is juggling working a full-time job and finding time as well as quality ingredients to prepare and cook healthy meals.
  • How much do you cook at home every week? I cook most days of the week and order takeout only a couple times per month.
  • 5 things on your grocery list every week? Eggs, salmon, green leafy vegetables, Morning Star veggie patties, and baked chips.
  • Where do you shop, primarily? Kroger grocery store.
  • Top 3 default dinners? Baked or pan-seared salmon with veggies and rice, quiche, and homemade pizza.
  • Favorite drink? Coffee with cream and sugar.
  • Best underrated snack? Toast.
  • The last grocery item you splurged on? Twenty catfish fillets for Mother’s Day brunch.
  • Best underrated snack? Pickles.
  • Most ingenious cooking tip anyone ever taught you? Salt everything!
  • Most-loved kitchen tool? KitchenAid stand mixer.
  • Your best budget tip? Write a list and stick to it.
  • What’s the best cookie of all time? Peanut butter!
  • Who does the dishes? Both my husband and me.
Credit: Whitten Sabbatini

What was the first dish you felt like you mastered?
Fried chicken! I think it’s just because it’s such a staple in the South. Wherever I went, people were frying chicken. The first few times I made it, it was awful. It was horrible burnt on the outside still bleeding on the inside. It was disgusting. I kept trying and finally got it right. Nobody taught me how to do it. I learned by looking up different recipes and taking different things here and there and making it my own. I use a buttermilk brine and then coat it in flour and seasonings. I make mine pretty spicy. Then I like to fry it in a cast iron deep skillet and finish it in the oven to make sure it’s done all the way through but not burnt. (I don’t cook it very much, though, because it’s not healthy and I don’t eat chicken or many other meats anymore.)

What led you to cut back on meat?
It started almost two years ago. I watched this documentary called What the Health and honest to God, was like, What have I been putting into my body all these years? One of the fears I have is poor health. Here in the South we have a lot of obesity and high blood pressure. I don’t want to raise a family that isn’t healthy, so I made the personal decision to cut out everything except fish and shellfish.

Another more recent struggle of ours has been dealing with infertility. We have been trying to start a family for over a year and I was recently diagnosed with PCOS. We sadly just suffered two miscarriages and it’s been one of the toughest storms we’ve faced as a couple yet. I feel like everything we put into our bodies affects every part of our health — even fertility issues. I’m trying to figure that out. I have eliminated chicken, pork, beef, and turkey from my diet in hopes that it will help with my hormone abnormalities and ultimately my fertility. Marlon still eats all meats and I don’t make him feel any different for it. My goal is to become completely vegan one day and I know that’s something I can accomplish.

Credit: Whitten Sabbatini

Is it hard to cook for two people with separate eating styles?
We work together. I cook a ton of salmon — a ton. It’s a staple in our house and I cook that the most out of anything. We’ll have it baked, or sautéed, or I’ll make it into burgers. Basically I try to think out of the box to create different dinners with it. We plan our lunches during the week too, so we don’t eat too many unhealthy things during the week. I’ll have veggies, rice, and beans, things like that. Marlon will get frozen dinners or we’ll grill some chicken for him.

Does he benefit from recipe testing that you do for your food blog, Pink Owl Kitchen?
Ha, yes! I started it pretty recently, in June of this year. We had a brainstorming session and Marlon was like, food is your thing. You are such a great cook, you love to talk about food — why don’t you create something? I sat on that for a long time, thinking about my full-time job in insurance sales, like I don’t have time for that. But it came about one day because Marlon said, just start. If you don’t, you can guarantee that nothing will happen.

Credit: Whitten Sabbatini

What’s the story behind your blog name?
I’ve always felt like a caged bird working in corporate America, but I’m free when I’m cooking and entertaining. Our favorite bird is the owl. My mom passed away when I was 25 and she wore hot pink lipstick every day, even if she never left the house. So Pink Owl Kitchen is the perfect name.

Thanks so much for sharing, Ashley! Everyone: Follow her on Instagram and visit Pink Owl Kitchen.

The Way We Eat is a series of profiles and conversations with people like you about how they feed themselves and their families.We’re actively looking for people to feature in this series. You don’t have to be famous or even a good cook! We’re interested in people of all backgrounds and eating habits. How do you overcome challenges to feed yourself? If you’d like to share your own story with us, or if you know of someone you think would be great for this series, start here with this form.