Today I worked out at one of our branches that happens to be located next to a Whole Foods. When I finished my shift at noon I thought to myself well, I guess I could go to Whole Foods and grab something. I wasn’t fully committed to the idea because I have a weird and confusing reaction to Whole Foods.
It’s not political at all. I mean, probably it should be, but that’s not it. I’m a sucker for high end grocery stores, and the feeling of guilty anticipation that accompanies any visit to them. What delightfully nonsensical product will I leave with today? I adore fancy olive bars and overwhelming selections of stinky cheeses. I love aisles of kitchen utensils I will never use. How have I lived without a personal sized butter churn? Yes I do need those fancy Macarena* Almonds with rosemary and Hawaiian pink salt for $22.50 a pound thank you very much. New Zealand Kumquat Berry Kombucha? Don’t mind if I do!
And yet, I cannot recall ever having a satisfactory experience with Whole Foods. It LOOKS like a fancy pants grocery store. It has all the trappings of one. It has the price tags of one. It has the giant deli, bakery, food court of one. But every time I go to a Whole Foods, I leave with that same feeling of wasted opportunity that you get from trying to make a lunch out of the selections in the vending machine in the staff area.
But today, when faced with a need for lunch on a rainy day in an unfamiliar part of town, I thought well, damn it. The world loves Whole Foods. You’re clearly not doing it right. Let’s try again. Reader, it was the wrong decision.
I entered the Whole Foods and made my way over to the pre-made food pavilion, bakery and deli. On my way over I passed the wood fired pizza counter. I looked at the choices. Eh. Not in a pizza mood today. I cruise past the made to order choices. There’s a Mexican option, but I just had Mexican last night. Sandwiches but I walked by a Subway and a Jersey Mikes to get here. Sushi and ramen, but there’s a line I don’t want to deal with.
Then I see the baked goods. There are some really pretty bagels there. Hey, I could grab a bagel and maybe some cream cheese. That would be ok. I grab a few bagels and put them in a bag, and I start to look for cream cheese. I look throughout the deli case area. Nothing. I go over to the dairy case. I identify some tofutti cream cheese, which is fine but not really what I want. I’m starting to get flustered. I mean, WHERE IS THE CREAM CHEESE? I was hoping for an individual serving size, but I’d settle for a container of Philly veggie cream cheese.
As I look at the dairy section I realize that there’s a really limited section of cheese in general, which makes me suspect they have the fancy cheese somewhere else. I walk over to the other side of the store where, sure enough, I find the wall of fancy, stinky cheese. This must be where they have the cream cheese. But, no. Some bizarrely expensive pimento cheese is there. “Just like mom used to make!” it promises. Except my mom made it with a brick of Velveeta that cost 1/16th of what you’re charging for this, which I don’t want anyway because I JUST WANT SOME CREAM CHEESE FOR MY BAGEL.
Ok, so, clearly I could ask someone. But my churlishness was starting to settle in. Oh, sure, I could ask someone, and they would look at me like, oh, how cute, a first timer, and then direct me to their cream cheese pavilion with a full time cremierista who would hand mix my $17.99 a pound cream cheese with whatever I liked and by the way would you like to sample our Cream Cheese Flavor of the Month Chipotle Melon? But, the thing is, it’s Whole Foods. So, it’s also possible that if I asked someone about the cream cheese they would look at me with horror and explain that cream cheese is the leading cause of rain forest depletion and tuna death and They Don’t Carry It, but they have Tofutti? If I’d like Tofutti?
So, I said fuck it and went back to the food bar. I wandered through the food bar choices and, as I have been on other occasions was both over- and underwhelmed with my choices. The food bars are filled with food, none of which seems to go together. Yes, that channa masala looks ok, but they’re out of the rice that goes with it. There are parslied and buttered noodles nearby which, I dunno, channa masala with parslied buttered noodles? Maybe?
I wandered. Every choice offered a dilemma. Hawaiian pineapple fried rice sat next to a German style apple, cabbage and sausage bake. Barbecue meatloaf and Asian greens? My brain was shutting down. How hard is lunch, people? I finally found that they had rice in big vats at the end of one of the rows, and settled on the channa masala with brown rice. As I was closing the environmentally sound brown paper food box, one of the glued ends popped open. It almost undid me. In the future, the citizens of University Place would speak in hushed whispers about the day the strange lady lost her mind in the Whole Foods and began flinging channa masala in the air while babbling about cream cheese.
However, I squared my shoulders, grabbed another box which I shoved my box into and headed for the checkout. It cost more than an order of channa masala at my favorite Indian restaurant. It was eh. The rice was kind of gluey. I ended up throwing half of it away. It took me a troubling amount of time to understand the quantum mechanics of how to sort into their recycling bins.
On the list of things worth caring about, this isn’t on it. “I’m going to take my business to one of the 3 other fancy grocery stores in town!” is peak First World Problems. But as I tried to figure out which plastics bin my fork belonged in, a calm settled over me. I just don’t get Whole Foods. It does not get me. Be free, little Whole Foods bird. I will trouble you no more.
* Yes I know it’s “Marcona” almonds, but Macarena almonds are way more entertaining to say AND eat.