You Collect What?

A few of my RSS and Twitter feeds (messages that come to my computer) give me glimpses (quick looks) from time to time (occasionally) into life in the U.S. and around the world. Some are funny. Some are strange. Some are heart-warming (give a good feeling) – like the friendship between an elephant and a dog at a “retired elephant” sanctuary (protected area) in Tennessee. Others are like the story of Bill Keaggy, funny and strange.

Bill Keaggy is a collector (someone who collects things) – we might even call him a compulsive (he can’t stop or control what he does) collector. His latest collecting habit is earning him some notoriety (fame for something unusual or bad) and, possibly, a little money.

In 1997, Bill Keaggy picked up a discarded (thrown away) grocery list (list of things to buy at a supermarket) at a St. Louis supermarket. He said it was interesting because it gave him a fascinating view into a stranger’s life. Keaggy was hooked (felt a strong need to do it again). He decided to pick grocery lists up wherever he found them.

In 2000, Keaggy posted (published on the Internet) his collection of about 40 lists on the Internet. In 2004 the New York Times Magazine wrote an article about him and his grocery list collection. By then, he had collected about 500 lists.

In early 2006, he started working on a book about the lost lists. When the book was published – in May 2007 – he had 1,600 lists on his website and thousands more that needed to be scanned (to make a digital picture of) and posted.

Keaggy’s book, Milk Eggs Vodka: Grocery Lists Lost and Found, features (includes; shows) about 300 of the best lists – the funniest, weirdest, saddest, strangest, unhealthiest, and more. It is a strange, fascinating, and funny look at other peoples’ discarded grocery lists.

Keaggy says he learns a lot by reading the lists. He’s surprised by how many people like onions. And he’s noticed that a lot of people have trouble spelling. Mayonnaise (a thick, creamy mixture people put on sandwiches) is always a problem – as are bananas, anchovies (a small, salty fish often put on pizzas or in salads) and yogurt (a sour food made with milk). But even common words – rost befe (roast beef), buter (butter), burd fude (bird food), krakers (crackers), londri sope (laundry soap), and birfday kard (birthday card) – can cause trouble.

Every year Keaggy chooses the top 10 lists of the year and posts them on his website. I looked at a few of them. If you’re the person who wrote the #1 2008 list – pasta, wht (white) rice, onions, carots (carrots), spag (spaghetti) sauce, and 5 bags of top soil (dirt that is good for planting) – I’m not sure I want to come over to your house for dinner!

~ Warren Ediger – ESL/EFL tutor and coach; creator of Successful English where you can learn more about how to improve your English.

photo by Kristen Rapp used under Creative Commons license

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14 Responses to You Collect What?

  1. emiliano says:

    Dear Warren, we need onions for nearly every cooking, without onions and garlic spaniards can not cook anything, so in our grocery lists are ever onions, garlic, perejil, fruits and some other green vegetables.
    But I think French, Italians and all Mediterraneans countries need these kind of products as a rule when they make their grocery lists.

    Without onions and garlic it isn´t taste in stews, potatoes with meat and so forth.

    Another subject is about “mayonnaise” that is the French name given to “Mahonesa” (from Mahon) by the french people.
    Before 1756 this sauce wasn´t known in Europe but just this year Richelieu and his french soldiers conquered Mahon (one of the Baleares Islands), and tasted the “all-y-oli” sauce that it was made overthere by the inhabitants of the island and Richelieu and his prominent men liked it.
    They copied the recipe and got it to France calling it “mahonnaise” along some years, but afterward they took off the garlic and change the name of the recipe to mayonnaise.
    As a matter of fact I like to make mahonesa with some garlic always, the same as my daughters or my wife.

    My father, who was a good cooker when he was young, get always angry when we called the sauce “mayonesa” and said us that the
    real name is “mahonesa” as this sauce comes from Mahon.
    Reading the Wiki I have seen that his speech was a real one.

    Of course this is a history topic and it could be discussed as true or false like everykind of history event or legend, but as
    a remembering of my father´s remark I like to post it.

    When I go to make my grocery´s I like to carry my list too, it is easier and faster to have the list and you don´t forget
    any food supplier………onions, garlic, oranges, apples, lettuce, tomatoes, potatoes, olive oil, vinager……..always.
    Just Mediterranean diet.
    Thank you Warren.

  2. emiliano says:

    My father is still alive, he is 96 years old, and I am sure that if he hears “mayonesa” again he gets angry and say to us..”the real name is mahonesa as it comes from Mahon and the French people have changed the name several years ago”.
    It doesn´t matter at all where the sauce comes but when I have seen your post Warren I have remembered him and his saying to us, as we were always calling the sauce as it is called now.

    The good taste of this sauce (mayonnaise or mahonnaise) is when it is made by hand, with fresh eggs, oil….too much oil, and a little garlic.
    Due to the danger of eating crude eggs (salmonella) it´s safe to buy it packed, but the taste has nothing to do with the one made by hand for a good cook.
    In fact I don´t buy ever this sauce packed as I don´t like the artificial taste, I prefer to make it with lyophilized eggs either.
    Here in Spain all the restaurants and bars are obliged by law to make “la tortilla española” and all kind of sauces with lyophilized eggs, but at home everyone do as they prefer taking some risks for the pleasure of taste……..


  3. elcomandant says:

    Each one can do the thing feels like the most, and spend your free time as he or she want. Collecting things could be amusing, I know that, however I don’t like at all. I think I’m in the opposite side. I throw away all I don’t need.

    In fact, this is a big problem I have with my wife. She likes keeping everything she gets, for instance, brouchures of any travel she asked for, the tiket of movie we went to see, the slip or tiket of the pharmacy, the dress she wore when she was younger and never she will wear again, and so forth.

    I understand the my wife’s behavior, but up to a point. Once in a while, she is agree with me and lets me I get rid of something, but always with a big heavy heart.

    That’s why I like collecting nothing.


  4. Tania says:

    Hi! Only not to be The Bone Collector. You know the movie with Denzel Washington and Angelina Jolie.

  5. Tania says:

    Hi! Oh, Emiliano! You describe the mayonnaisse in detail, so I am already hungry. We use the mayonnaisse ,too. But without garlic . I do not use it very often only occasionaly. But as you said: it is a very good sauce.

  6. roberto says:

    Don´t worry, Emiliano!

    From this day, I will begin to say the word “mahonesa” instead “mayonesa” because I didn´t know that beautiful story or real history that your father said to you.
    I agree with you: onions are garlics are very useful in Mediterranean diet.

    Thank you Warren for the topic and Emiliano for his History lesson.

  7. Aécio Flávio Perim says:

    Dear teachers and friends all over the world
    If you were from Brazil your grocery lists would be pretty different. You would find things like black beans, white rice, pumpkins, carrots, beetroots, string beans, onions, garlic, fish, meat, pork, banana, tomatoes, lettuce, cauliflower, olives, chayote, orange, grape, manioc flour, red pepper etc. You would find invariably one hot drink said “cachaça”, that made in Brazil and wanted by people from the four corners of the world. With such a list, just put the ingredients into a pan, a flame underneath, some time, some spices and everything will be perfect for a celebration.
    My best regards

  8. emiliano says:

    Hi Tania, octopus and some other kind of seadfood like prawns, or lobster are delicious with mahonesa. In Spain at Christmas we like to eat them
    this way.
    Also with cooked hake or other cooked fishes mahonesa souse fits perfectly well.
    Here in Madrid people who live in this city like to eat fish every day, at diner or supper……we all madrilenians love “fish” food.
    Living before with my parents and after as married with Cuca we had fish every day like good madrilenians, but now that I cook we have less fish than ever.
    It is so tired or complicate to clean it or to go to the fish shop so frequently that I pass, yes I know what are you thinking now……..¡men¡
    I have to cook but I don´t care too much about the meals, now we are only two people and Cuca never complains about my style of cooking, ja, ja
    she is happy always about my meals.

    Thank you Roberto, it seems to be true but who knows?.

  9. Tania says:

    Hi! A problem of family , dear Elcomandant. You are right.

    I think I’d like the Brazilian food.

  10. Tania says:

    Hi! It isn’t a shock , it is the reality : the teenagers do not know the grammatical rules. They respect nothing on the net. They are in a hurry all the time.
    So, writing “carot” or “buter” it is a minor mistake.

  11. Tania says:

    Hi! Dear Warren, if do we suffer from the future shock? But we , the Romanians, are always shocked. First with a dictator, then the “revolution” in 90’s, the wild capitalism implementation, and now the terrible financial crisis.
    I think you are curious to know if I have heard of Alvin Toffler in this unknown country. Yes, I have heard. We have a very different system of studying. We study up to 12 courses , maybe more. And the literature , every year.
    So, our literature teacher told us about Alvin Toffler. We can find his works in our bookshops. I recognize I didn’t read them but I read about “the America’s best-loved business futurist” and his impact in the world.
    And now I have accessed “Alvin Toffler and the Third Wave ” by Michael Finley – the most visited Toffler sites on the web to improve my knowledges.
    It is true that ” in the competitive third wave (the Information Age) you must be a rocket scientist to survive”.
    If you have a rich dad, husband, lover… then you become a very good businesswoman .
    Or better if ” the multiple intelligences are finally identified and given their due”.

    All the best for you all, without any shock,


  12. fayssal says:

    hi all

    Sometimes i busy myself by collecting things and at others i throw away white elephants because they take lot of space….

  13. Farahnaz says:

    I collect nothing except photos of mime, my family, my friends and some photos of flowers or natural views. These photos remind me all the moments in my life, so they are valuable for me.
    Warren, don’t worry. I think that list is better than my list. What do you think of my list? Would you like to come over my home for dinner?
    My list is: meat, some spinach, onion, rice, olive oil, some cookies and insecticide.
    Thanks Warren,
    Very interesting text,

  14. Sanaz says:

    Day after day, in the new modern didgital era, we become more and more forgetful. So the more we are forgetful, the longer and the more our lists become!
    I collect nothing except the ESLPod podcastes, Prof. Bloom’s lectures, and interesting underestandable English books. You definitely know what I mean, Warren:))).
    Thanks for the post!

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