Woody, the Oreo and Coors enthusiast pictured above, is just one of two dozen characters created and embodied by performance artist and author Hillary Carlip in her book A la Cart: The Secret Lives of Grocery Shoppers. A firm believer that we are what we eat, Carlip developed the characters—from a former porn star who directs senior-citizen smut (Cockoon), to a guy obsessed with Ozzy and animal torture—based on found shopping lists she’s been compulsively collecting for decades.
Some of the lists in A la Cart seem too bizarre to be real.
I couldn’t make some of these up if I tried. Like one list just says, “mouse traps, cheese, mouse.”
What’s next after you find a list?
I imagine the person by looking for clues. It’s like detective work. The other day, I found a list that said, “Tortilla 1 P T.” I was like, “Is that a pint of tortillas?” Another item was “WW yogurt.” Suddenly, I thought, Weight Watchers yogurt. And in Weight Watchers, people count points. Suddenly, the list came in to full view. I totally saw this overweight woman living alone—everything else on the list was like “one onion.” Grocery lists do tell stories.
Carlip reads Thursday 20.