What’s in your grocery cart?
Author: Bill Keaggy
We all do it. Given the inevitable turmoil of modern existence we all make lists to help us keep track of life’s myriad crucial details. But there’s one place where list making reaches the apex of utility. The grocery store. Whether one needs to be sure to remember the cauliflower, the Tabasco sauce or the chocolate Malt-O-Meal, it’s likely that a grocery list is part of every shopper’s routine. But there’s only one guy who’s turned the ubiquitous grocery list into an obsession. To date, Bill Keaggy has collected over 3700 grocery lists that have been left behind in markets around the world and sent to him by anonymous supporters. In Milk Eggs Vodka, he presents some of the highlights of his ever growing collection, giving a humorous new life to the mundane.
Keaggy divides his presentation into twenty chapters, focusing on a different feature – from bad spelling to apostrophe catastrophes to nutritional atrocities – in each one. The lists – a couple hundred in all – are displayed in their original, unaltered state and accompanied by snide observations by the author, making light of whatever comes to mind – penmanship, dietary preferences, writing surfaces and so on. The vast and varied panoply of human list making is quite a thing to behold.
In addition, Keaggy includes fun facts about the food industry on each page, revealing details about the invention of Life Savers candy, American avocado consumption on Super Bowl Sunday, North Dakota’s official state beverage and plenty of other interesting bites of trivia. He also provides some list-making and grocery shopping tips, a few recipes and a free copy of the “best grocery list every made.”
I have to admit, looking at a bunch of other people’s grocery lists starts to get old after the first few dozen, but that’s when Keaggy’s talent as a writer of pithy comments seems to shift into a higher gear. As soon as the gimmick starts to get old, the lists and the writing get funnier. I actually enjoyed the book more as it went along, absorbing some of the author’s eccentric enthusiasm. At the end, the hilariously detailed index of all the lists fully solidified my respect for the man’s devotion to his cause.
Humans are natural snoopers. We tend to get a thrill whenever we get peek into other peoples’ personal lives and a grocery list can be pretty personal stuff – prunes, Ding Dongs or mouse poison, anyone? Keaggy’s humorous and unusual collection feeds into this innate curiosity and proves to be both interesting and entertaining. In Milk Eggs Vodka, he successfully turns one of the most ordinary of human activities into a unique commentary on human existence, as silly as it may be.
— D. Driftless
bananas picture by Steve Hopson (stevehopson.com)/Pop Tarts by Evan-Amos