Sanctuary Store

We’re home. It was a nice little trip. My favorite part was a tiny detour to Whole Foods.

We don’t have any dedicated organic stores in our area. The nearest Whole Foods is about 1 1/2 hours southeast or northwest, take your pick. We’re in an organic dead spot in this neck of the woods. An inorganic space, if you will.

Our Big Grocery does carry some organic produce, and has four quarter-aisles of shelves dedicated to organic and natural packaged foods (read: the Hippie section). There are also four small organic freezers and an organic refrigerator case that stocks yogurt and milk, some cheese, and a host of soy-based foodstuffs. That’s about it. Oh, and the in-store bakery now carries four varieties of organic breads.

The remainder of the store, however, is conventional food. And I often alternate between joy that nearly 50% of my grocery take is organic and dismay that “natural” foods are still a novelty here.

To my way of thinking, it is bizarre that (a) we accept the garbage that the food industry drug peddlers are pushing and (b) that many shoppers still consider “natural” and “organic” to be an unnecessary premium option. I also find it fascinating that phrases like “All-Natural” are used as marketing tags. Our Big Store has a special section in the meat case for “All-Natural Pork”. Does that mean that the rest of the pork in the case is “Un-Natural”? If so, why are you selling it as food? Why aren’t you throwing it in the garbage pile, along with all the rest of the plastic that can’t be recycled?

Well, my visit to Whole Foods yesterday was a grocery shopper’s spa retreat. I reveled in the almost-obscene selection of organic – and conventional – produce, to be sure, but the highlight was picking out packaged items. For I never came across the dreaded food taboos in our house: hydrogenated oils and high fructose corn syrup. I could pronounce just about every ingredient I came across. I could either grow or get just about every ingredient I came across, too. I luxuriated in a case full of breads and bagels made with normal things like flour and water, salt and yeast. I even bought my kids some Easter candy made with – of all things! – sugar. Try finding jelly beans without HFCS, or chocolate without partially hydrogenated oil. Go ahead. I dare you.

Of course, Whole Foods is not a utopia. They use plastic shopping bags made of #4 plastic, which cannot be recycled in my community. They also make and bake an enormous variety of foods in their cafe, deli and bistro which will never be sold before they rot. (I would like to think that they donate those to a food shelter or something.) They use the standard open-case refrigerators, which are extraordinarily inefficient and wasteful. And the stores themselves are enormous, occupying a significant number of now-paved acres. Not to mention the number of food miles spent on such items as lily root, emu eggs, and organic water buffalo yogurt. Those things certainly can’t be found within a thousand miles of central Ohio. Nope.

But still, it was a lovely shopping experience. For a wonderful hour, I felt like I was breathing fresh. My skin felt tingly all over from the invigorating atmosphere. And for a little while, I pretended that I lived in a vibrant, organic, all-natural world.

Back home, I’m munching my all-grain bagel with cultured organic cream cheese, drinking a nice coffee whose lightener only has milk and cream in it, and enjoying the lingering memory.

Can’t wait to try the water-buffalo yogurt.

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