The grocery store of my childhood was Star Market. I used to hang out at the magazine section reading Mad Magazine while my mother pushed her cart down all ten maybe eleven aisles.
The choices of my childhood were simple. Bread aisle, dairy aisle, a cookie aisle which was every bit as forbidden in our house as a Mad Magazine.
The grocery stores in my city are a far cry from what I grew up with. My tastes in food have evolved with the stores themselves. Organic and locally grown are the norm. Fresh and wholesome are what the families in my neighborhood have come to expect.
The newest Whole Foods opened last week. It is in an area which also boasts a Neiman Marcus and a Saks Fifth Avenue. A Cartier and a Jimmy Choo. The people in this neighborhood are not looking for Ring Dings and Little Debbies. I appreciate wholesome food. I buy organic and locally grown. The new store here has taken it up a couple of notches. And I am afraid.
My husband and I went to the Grand Opening of the new Whole Foods in this neighborhood. We went to take a quick look. We were in the area anyway. We needed milk. This is what we told ourselves.
The seduction began with the free (and nitrate-free) hot dogs being given at the entrance. My husband is a sucker for free but we passed them by. We were just there to get milk.
The roses, the peonies and the lilies surrounded us at the entrance. We walked down a few steps and blinked. Remember the scene where Dorothy sees Oz for the first time? Exactly.
The pineapples beckoned. The mangoes called to me. Raspberries, blueberries, strawberries, oh my!
We were feeling a little giddy. We joked with people we ran into about this being an event. Don't judge me, but this is our dinner, a friend with her two kids said to me. Dinner? There were enough samples to keep us full for days.
We walked around twice. We ate enough organic short ribs and free range chicken samples for a family of four. I sidle over to the man with the chef's hat. I wait my turn for a plate of handmade pasta with vodka sauce. We all nod in agreement. I say something silly and the crowd laughs. I am quite clever at this little pasta party. I decide to make friends over at the cheese samples.
I see my husband waving his arms. He has discovered the eggs and needs to show them to me immediately. Eggs are usually no big deal. But this store has taken eggs up several notches. My husband is holding an ostrich egg.
Tell me you are kidding. He puts it down and picks up another enormous egg. This one is green and from an Emu. No, I tell him. I am not spending twenty dollars for an egg. I see his eyes glazing over. He has had too many short ribs and brownies. He is falling under some kind of spell.
I point him towards the three for a dollar free range chicken eggs from a local farm. That's all you are getting. I say it firmly. There was something in those brownies, I'm thinking. My husband is a frugal man.
I am running into all sorts of people I know. People I haven't seen in years. Former students, former neighbors, everyone is here for the party. I see my husband out the corner of my eye carrying a huge package under his arm like a football. It is definitely not milk.
Dover Sole is on sale for $8.99 a pound. And look, free marinade. I will admit, that is a darn good deal. But I don't like the way he is eyeing the sea salt. He picks it up. You need this, he says. Now I am frightened. The salt is Black Truffle Sea Salt and it is $64.99.
You need an intervention, I think.
I steer him to the check out where we make it out of there for less than thirty dollars which I consider a small miracle. We are so full from all the samples at this surreal party we cannot move.
That was fun, my husband says. His eyes are starting to look more normal in the daylight.
Sir? Would you like a free hot dog? No nitrates!
There's that look on his face again. He eats his hot dog on the way to the car.
We forgot the milk, he says.
Keep driving, I tell him.
The party is over.