Thursday, September 23, 2010

When Home is... the weekly shopping list

How do you write your shopping lists? On the back of an envelope, just a few key words to remind you of the most necessary ingredients; or on a sheet of paper with products listed in order of the aisles?

I have always enjoyed people-watching at the supermarket. Every Friday morning I see an elderly man at Coles, his walking stick in the trolley, always wearing a shirt and tie. He attaches a little wooden clipboard to the trolley handles. On it is a sheet of paper with a list typed out on a typewriter: red ink for the quantity and black ink for the product. Once he has collected his 2 X cartons of milk, he crosses it off his list with a biro. So precise. I doubt he ever forgets a key ingredient, such as the rice when you are making a curry... like I may have done last week.

And I have to admit to observing what other people put in their trolleys. You can make up a life story straight away based on brand choices alone. This game probably started during my teenage years working at the checkouts at Woolies but it’s still one way of making the boring weekly shop less monotonous. How can I not make up some romantic story when an attractive young man in a well-cut suit is buying olives, French cheese and stuffed peppers at the Deli counter while I wait for my sandwich ham to be sliced? Oh look, in his basket are strawberries, cream, fresh basil and tomatoes; is it a first date? Or maybe he is planning to propose? I wonder if he has the ring picked out...

So, I was pleased to bump into a passage about ‘trolley reading’ in a book by English chick-lit author Adele Parks a while ago. Turns out I’m not the only one; there are fictitious people who do it too!

In her book The Other Woman’s Shoes, two adult sisters do their grocery shop together. One sister, Eliza, is a free spirit living with her musician boyfriend while Martha has the perfect home, perfect marriage, perfect children... I’m sure you can see where all this is going to lead:

‘Eliza turned her attention to trolley-reading. That woman was bulimic: two apples, one carrot and a box of Milk Tray. This one was cooking dinner for a lover: salmon, a selection of florets on a microwave tray that cost an entire trust fund per pound, tubs of Häagen-Dazs. That couple was happy: mozzarella, tomatoes, avocados, fresh pasta and pesto sauce. That couple was waiting for payday: baked beans, sliced loaf, tinned fruit.’

‘... There were a number of low-fat, low-taste products for Martha. Eliza looked at Martha’s groceries and began to doubt her ability to read trolleys like books. Because Martha’s trolley said she was repressed and that she undervalued herself, which simply wasn’t true. Eliza knew Martha was a happily married woman with a fulfilled life. Martha was always saying as much.’

What’s on your list this week?!


Anonymous said...

Hi G. Me again (Jan). Would you believe me if I told you that my master shopping list is a table in Word, compiled by food type (dairy, meat, frozen etc.)?! There's a column for me to tick if the product is required. But, as it's a drag to fire up the pc to print one off every time, I've taken to compiling my list in the 'Notes' function of my mobile phone and then I wander round the supermarket looking like a gormless teen, staring at the phone screen while bumping into other trolleys. Hope I don't have my mouth half open too! :)

Kim Wiles said...

Hi G I so relate to this as I confess I read trolleys. I wonder if it extends further than that? I assume a great deal about people things and places on account of my interpretations or projections as if my lense is absolute and shared by the universe. I surprise myself as to how my lense is actually turned in and these are just reflections of my own unfed or unseen truths.

Freshie Beach looks a picture today. Kimxxx

Claire said...

this is hilarious - so glad everyone else seems to do this too.. reminds me of when my mum was cooking for camp - 100 kids, 10 days, and emptied the milk fridge near enough.. people saw what was in her trolley and rushed to buy as much as they could see too in case she knew something they didn't! I always feel naughty when I've already done the fresh food shop then have to run in for other basics - a trolley with no fruit or veges feels like a guilty secret!
Oh, and usually I'm walking around saying to whichever child is with me, I've left the shopping list on the fridge - who knows what we need.. forgetting rice is often the least of my problems! :-)


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