Whole Foods Market: A Big Hairy Paradise
I decided to try shopping at the Whole Foods Market at 10700 N. Rodney Parham Road in Little Rock recently.
There wasn’t any particular reason except I wanted to see what they had by way of sugar free sodas. Actually I was looking for a diet soda that doesn’t have an artificial sweetener in it (found one called Zevia that I like pretty well).
But a funny thing struck me when I pulled into the parking lot. It’s not exactly that I felt unwelcome, it’s just that I had this impression that I didn’t belong there. I guess my main anxiety when I walk into a store like that is that I become highly aware that they cater to a sub-culture that I’m not part of. It’s sort of like being a glow-in-the-dark white guy (which I am) at an African American church service. Nothing bad is happening, nothing bad is going to happen, nobody is going to be anything less than friendly, but you still feel like you’re someplace you’re not supposed to be.
At least at first.
My expectation as I walked in the doors was that the place would be overrun with permanently stoned granola-eating ponytailed holdovers from the sixties. And it was, but they were friendly and harmless and there were also an awful lot of other kinds of folks there as well, soccer moms, bikers, twenty-something slackers and a surprising number of elderly women.
Despite finding out that the place is not as homogeneous as I expected, shopping in a store that caters to the hippie food crowd still entails navigating a whole set of customs that I’m not familiar with and I hate feeling like I may not be smart enough to shop in a store.
For one thing I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to bring my own bags. I saw an awful lot of folks who brought their own reusable canvas bags. For just a minute I was almost certain I’d get to the cash register and get tossed out of the store for not being a good citizen of the earth and bringing my own canvas bags. I’ve certainly no argument about it being less wasteful than taking home plastic bags and throwing them away every time I shop.
But then I looked around and they had plastic bags all over the produce section just like at Kroger’s. There is even a whole section of bulk grains and nuts and dried fruits that you have no option except to pack in plastic bags because the scale at the register would charge you something fierce if you had your own container. When I finally did checkout all they had was paper bags which I’ve always preferred anyway since they hold more than those flimsy plastic grocery bags.
The big secret that I want to let out of the bag is that although the place caters to the vegan/vegetarian crowd, they also harbor the finest selection of dead animals in town. The meat is all top quality and meets these guidelines that they have posted on their website.
Basically it boils down to no antibiotics, no supplemental growth hormones and no animal byproducts in their feed. The result of all that is that I bought two of the best steaks I’ve ever had in my life. The cost is a little higher than most other chain groceries but absolutely worth it to me.
Another thing I like about the meat section is that it is set up like an actual butcher store. They have someone right there to wrap your meat up in actual butcher paper immediately after they give you exactly what you want. And if you want something trimmed a little out of the ordinary they seem to be pretty good about accommodating special requests as long as it’s possible.
And that seems to be true in every department in the store. All of the employees I have dealt with have been very helpful and courteous. It’s a weird juxtaposition in my mind that, by and large, they look like the freakiest of the freaks with their tattoos, nose rings, face studs, and screwball hairdo’s, but they have manners that would have fit right in on Leave it to Beaver or Ozzie and Harriet.
I have been spending a little more money since I started shopping at Whole Foods Market, but that is at least in part because they have a lot of products I’m totally unfamiliar with and I seem to be susceptible to impulse buys when I’m surrounded by so much tasty food.
Now that it’s been a few weeks I have managed to limit myself to only buying what I actually need. On the other hand the artificial sweetener that I bought today cost fourteen dollars for a bottle of liquid sweetener about the size of a bottle of nose drops. Granted, it claims to be 300 servings; still it is the single item that pushed my total over the $100 mark. What it boils down to for me is that there are many products found at Whole Foods Market that regardless of whether or not they are greener than the name brands found at the large chains, are much, much better tasting. If that costs a couple dollars more, well, that’s also why I prefer El Porton to Taco Bell. Now if they would just start serving Margaritas at Whole Foods Market, I could really commit to it.
Edwin E. Smith is a poet, heckuva writer and all around swell guy. Send him an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit him on the Internet at edwinesmith.com