I have a bad habit.
Whenever I’m in the supermarket, I find myself become obsessed with the contents of other people’s shopping baskets. I wonder why they are buying what they are buying.
A lot of the time, the basket contents aren’t interesting. The sort of stuff you’d expect – a pint of milk, some kitchen roll, a loaf of bread, a jar of Marmite.
But sometimes – sometimes – you see something really interesting.
We work in Somerset House. There’s a Tesco Express just around the corner on the Strand. Sometimes I go in there on my way to the office in the morning. At that time, it’s mainly filled with office workers buying their breakfast. It’s predominantly fruit or yoghurt or pastry purchases.
The other morning, I was buying a kiwi, melon and strawberry fruit salad. I don’t mean to show off, but it probably counted as at least two of my five a day. As I scanned my item at the self-service checkout, I glanced at the basket of the woman next to me.
Two croissants and a whole fresh chicken.
Something about this precise combination of items fascinated me. It was around 9.30am. The croissants made sense. Breakfast al desko. But the whole fresh chicken was something else. It was obviously for an evening meal, but why buy it now? Why put it in the office kitchen fridge? Just buy it when you get home. You don’t want to be sitting on a bus with a whole fresh chicken on your lap, do you?
I’m sure the purchase made sense to her, but to me it was a mystery. I was fascinated by it. Two croissants and whole fresh chicken. What an unusual breakfast.
The contents of your shopping basket are a tiny window into a wider story. It’s the domestic made public. Often it won’t be an interesting story, but sometimes it will be two croissants and a whole fresh chicken.