Sam Venable 

Department of Irony

Lately, I’ve taken on some of the grocery shopping duties for the House of Venable.

“Some,” I reiterate.

Airborne Apples in Produce Section…Th’ Missus, long a veteran of the supermarket wars, is far more efficient—not to mention economical—than her husband. She has her list. She navigates quickly from aisle to aisle, department to department. She buys what the list dictates—nothing more, nothing less. Then she’s out the door. Bada-bing, bada-boom.

I tend to take a more casual approach. If I see something of interest on the shelves, I pick it up, read the label, think “Hmm, looks interesting” and toss it into the cart. Which may explain why our refrigerator contains any number of once-tasted-and-quickly-forgotten containers, but that’s neither here nor there.

Nonetheless, the more times my shadow crosses the threshold of a supermarket, the more questions arise in my pea brain. Perhaps grocery-getters with more experience can explain:

Why does state law require I show my driver’s license when buying non-alcohol beer, but not for vanilla extract?

According to their respective ingredient lists, non-alcohol beer has less than 0.5 percent alcohol by volume, while vanilla extract has a full 35 percent. In fact, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration says 35 percent is the minimum amount of alcohol that pure vanilla extract can contain.

Which makes me wonder: Do some Baptists have vanilla breath?

And another thing. Who glues those hateful produce bags together?

Yes, it’s rather easy to yank an individual bag from the roll, thanks to a pointed metal doohickey that cuts the seam as the spindle turns. But that’s when the work really begins.

Even if you start on the “OPEN HERE” end, the bag refuses to cooperate. You stand there, whipping it through the air or pulling it like taffy. All for naught.

Oh, and you can rest assured I quickly discovered that a partially opened bag is more dangerous than a closed one. It might as well be spring-loaded. Drop an apple or potato into a half-opened/half-sealed bag and prepare to shout “Fore!” as the projectile arcs into the void.

Back in the years B.C. — Before COVID — a quick finger-lick was the solution. But now? No way! I’d rather lick a frost-covered metal pole!

Ever the experimenter, I finally found the secret: You know those disinfectant tissues at the storefront, for wiping down the handles of your buggy? Keep one and go immediately to the produce department before it dries. It should stay moist enough to give your fingertips plenty of traction.

Whatever happened to small chicken breasts? When did they get the Dolly Parton treatment? I’m not talking chicken tenders, either. I’m talking the entire bosom.

I remember when a single chicken breast was an ample serving. It was possible to grill six or seven chicken breasts at a time.

But these days (unless you have a grill the size of a sofa or enjoy manhandling a slab of meat that appears to have been carved from a pterodactyl) stick to pork.

Lastly, why are there so many varieties of Cheez-Its?

At one store, I counted 18 different styles of this yummy snack besides your basic “original.” Some of the more bizarre included queso fundido, jalapeno-cheddar jack, bacon-cheddar, hot and spicy, toasty, cheesy taco, and last but not least, plain ol’ whole grain. I gained two pounds by osmosis just standing beside the shelf.

Sure would help if each supermarket appointed its own Commissioner of Cheez-Its to interpret, referee and direct traffic.

Sam Venable is an author, comedic entertainer, and humor columnist for the Knoxville (TN) News Sentinel. His latest book is
“The Joke’s on YOU! (All I Did Was Clean Out My Files).” He may be reached at