Joan's Blog

"Watch Me Pull A Rabbit Out Of My Hat"
MAY 22, 2010 10:29AM

Party At The Grocery Store

Rate: 38 Flag

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. 






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There's organic and then there's just plain crazy.
Be afraid. Be very afraid.

Here we have Fresh Market, and it's almost impossible to get out of there without taking a second mortgage. We go for the occasional indulgence but wouldn't dream of doing regular shopping there.

Yep. I think there was something in those brownies, Joan.
I love it when the samples are out. Did you get the "free cookie" when you were little? Did you hope they didn't remember you when you went back for a second one? ha, party at the Grocery Store, love that.

I wish I had been a fly on the Emu egg, Joan... this sounds like a great trip to a store far beyond my means!
Joan I feel your pain, our whole foods is 30 miles away and it is almost as fun as going shoe shopping......really. I have to stop myself from buying everything.
"I see my husband out the corner of my eye with a huge package. It is definitely not milk."

See, that's exactly it. You turn a little bit crazy in there. There are multiple Whole Foods near me. I don't go to any of them. At first, I thought they were the Promised Land for a cancer survivor struggling to be 100% organic. Now, all the other supermarkets have an organic aisle or two, and at them, I can get a bag of groceries for less than a hundred dollars, and am in and out in thirty minutes. That would probably not be so if it wasn't for Whole Foods, so for that, I am grateful.
Delight-full! Whole Foods Stores are group reincarnations of all the little corner mom & pop grocery stores that ever existed within the universe...and the flower carts outside them. What a terrific read! Perfect...I am hungry for more !
That's my kind of party! Fortunately here in Flyover, I am safe; we tried for three years to get Trader Joe's even to consider us, we would never dare aspire to Whole Foods.

That is a pretty good deal on the Sole...and truffles in any form make everything better. I'm just saying.......
This put a grin on my face (and I just polished off my free range egg omelet, so at least it didn't make me hungry!) I'm with greenheron--suspicious of Whole Foods, however. I think it's Wal-mart in sheep's clothing.(r)
it's like when i go to Costco for groceries and maybe a book and i leave with mr. forte's new shorts, enough fresh green beans for the entire neighborhood and patio furniture.

great piece, joan. i can see the madness in his eyes.
Elisa gets that look of madness at 2 places Whole Foods and DSW(a shoe warehouse) who'd have thought pumps and pineapples had so much in common. Great story.
Here, we call Whole Foods the 'circus of the grocery stores'. So much to see and covet and be seduced by!
I just read that pesticides have been linked to ADHD in kids.
Im gonna write a post on it sometime.
I loved this post. My first weekend at college I discovered that groceries stores could have more than ten aisles. It was a revelation. Unfortunately now I have discovered the Giant Wall of Desserts at Whole Foods, the one at Columbus Circle in NYC is THE BEST.
As you know from our President, we don't have arugula here in the Midwest. RRRRRR for memories and for current events.
Oh yeah, and I'll be over for the marinated Dover Sole. Yummmmmmy.
Oh, I hear ya. We have a Fresh Market in my neighborhood, which is so much worse (but not fakily holistic - Fresh Market doesn't pander to health) than Whole Foods (which my friend in Philadelphia calls Whole Paycheck): Fresh Market plays classical music and has wood laminate floors. The lighting is warm and almost dim, not a fluorescent glare. I half-expect someone to hand me a snifter of cognac. Walking in there feels like entering a dream of a beautiful life filled with beautiful things. It's scarifying.
Joan, so much fun! That's why people call it Whole Paycheck. That's my kind of party, but not my kind of grocery. (Though if you do go, their store 365 brand and weekly specials on meat and fish are actually the same price- or less- than Safeway.)
When I grew up we had the local grocery stores, with fresh locally grown produce, local meat,[no antibiotics or steroids] eggs, etc. We either got our milk from the "milkman" who came to our house, or got our milk from the farmer down the road. We would take as much of the cream off of the top of the [still tepid] milk and make butter, leaving us with low fat or skim milk.

Now we marvel at food that can be purchased that way. We have a Whole Foods and a Fresh Market close by - I find the former more overwhelming than the latter. Fortunately, living in the South we still purchase from local farmers a good bit of the year. My husband has been banned [by me] from Whole Foods unless I am with him. He has precious little self control in that place.'

Enjoyed hopping in your cart with you for your ride through Food Heaven.
We have a Whole Foods near us, affectionately known as The Food Museum. I mean, the fresh hothouse strawberries in January are beautiful, but who can buy them? My foodie-excellent-cook husband will sometimes go there for special ingredients for a dinner when we're having company, but that's about it.

Great post.

(Oh and I did buy a cotton collapsible net shopping bag at Whole Foods)
Why do they call it Whole Foods? ... When they give you half the food for twice the price...

(FYI: They have had food recalls just like all the other supermarkets, E. Coli-tainted beef, salmonella in raw nuts, etc.)

Oh how I wish I lived around the corner, or within a subway ride. Alas by the time I arrived the party would be over. Maybe this is a good thing. I might overstay my welcome.
i think you got off lucky
but the food IS marvelous
oz-like, indeed
i will pay boucoup buckeroos for "salmon candy"
Kathy, you said it!

Amanda, what free cookie?

Martini, shoe shopping and food shopping... we ned to figure out how to combine the two.

greenheron, it's a little crazy in there.

APM, Thanks so much for reading!

Kit, I appreciate you coming by!

Elisa, you guys would have fun.

Ann, truffles make anything better only if one knows how to cook!

dirndl, Wal-mart in sheep's clothing? Them's fightin' words.

femme, ha ha, patio furniture. I have got to find a Costco one day.

Philip, welcome to my blog! There must be some way to combine food with shoes for profit!

Nick, yes, truly food porn...

Stellaa, apparently I have a smidgen more restraint than my husband.

mypsyche, seduced, yes.

vzn, I read something about that too the other day.

Bernandine, great, now I must see the Whole Foods at Columbus Circle! Yes, the sole was fantastic.

C&V, "Fresh Market" sounds absolutely wonderful. We don't have them around here.

Linda, thanks for coming by!

joyonboard, it is amazing that all food at one time was like this. Fresh, natural, wholesome. We act like we invented it today!

Froggy, ha ha, the Food Museum. I love it.

Larry, don't be a party pooper.

Lady Dove, the more the merrier. How soon can you get here?

dianaani, please explain"salmon candy"

Almighty, Exactly!
Great post--it's like we were right there with you!

I recently came across a blog by a woman who spent $1/day on food and bought most of her items from Whole Foods. (mostly from bulk bins) I think the blog is called less is enough.

She explains that while extreme & certainly not an ideal diet, she was just making a point that healthy food can be just as cheap as junk food. It was an interesting read, but NOT as fun to read as your posts...
I love those parties at the grocery store. It is all there for you and the taking. But we do have to be wise today and eventually they will all see that is all good and not be afraid to buy it. I love your expressions about the food and your husband. Such a lovely experience. Thanks - Jali.
That's quite a party, and fun and funny! We have no Whole Foods, just Fresh Market. I go once a month to stock up on San Marzano tomtoes and some cheeses I can't get anywhere else. I've learned to be brutal, to wear blinders. I don't dare take my husband with me. Because he is also a frugal man, but easily sold a bill of goods (which is -- after all-- how he ended up with me!)
I obviously have rage issues because Whole Foods gets me in a lather. Trader Joe's, I understand.
A terrific read though. I felt as if I was right there (and all that entails.)

free marinade. YAY.
Oh what fun. There's no Whole Foods in my town, but I try to visit them when I travel, if only for the absolutely pornographic fruit and vegetables. Really, the produce looks airbrushed. It is the department store of food.
I think we have something called Fresh Mart here, don't know if it has the same concept as I've never stepped into the store. Something to do with the size of my wallet. We do have plenty of "farmer" markets here. Don't go to those either. Shame on me. But the variety that you mention is mind-staggering, and budget-blowing. I remember splurging (again, size of my wallet) on Amish bread at Union Square. I swear, the best tasting bread I have ever had. It's been over 20 yrs and I still remember my feeling of awe when I first tried it.
Absolutely delightful. You are a wonderful storyteller. I laughed out loud at "You need intervention, I think."

Plus I envy you this store. We live in a rural area and have a store that thinks it's like yours - and it's not bad - but, nuh uh. No ostrich eggs.
Joan, this was so funny. I bet you make friends everywhere you go.
"I am quite clever at this little pasta party. I decide to make friends over at the cheese samples."
salmon candy is smoked with some brown sugar glaze, almost as dry as jerky, and it is sweet, smoky, fishy, and tasty!
@dianaani, thanks for the explanation. I will not be running out to get some anytime soon, however!
Your first mistake was passing up the free hot dog. R.
I made a long comment a couple of days ago and didn't show up. Maybe I forgot to click "post this comment." Entirely possible. Anyway, I was just saying that loved your story. Hilarious and fun. I live in Austin, the home of Whole Foods and they opened up a new flagship store here a couple years ago. OMG! Don't even get me started. So, I totally related to your story.
Funny, but so true. So True. I love those little cups they serve it in.
I only do Buy One Get One Free.
Our Whole Foods is right across the street from the Safeway grocery store and every once in a while, I say to myself, "How bad can it be?" and I go in there. Good golly, I spend as much on produce as I would a pair of Jimmy Choos. (He's shoes, right? I can't afford anything with his name on it, I'm sure...) The mango sticker shock does the trick for six months or so...
Hahahaha. You are so funny. When I step inside Whole Foods I feel like I'm at Disney World or someplace like it.
My sister and I "troll" Wegman's on the weekend for the free food, then, if we're not too full, we head on over to Trader Joe's, where the new wine section has everyone a little giddy.
Nikki, Wegmans was THE store before WF blew into town! I love Wegmans...
We call it 'Whole Paycheck' here, too. When we lived in the city, we were within walking distance of it. We had dinner there at least twice a week. It was ridiculous.

I live in the country now - it is absolutely gorgeous! We have a farmer's market every week and I have chickens so we get our 'free range' eggs right from our own backyard.

Good, nutritious, succulent food - a real treat. Just like you and just like this post.
"I am not spending twenty dollars for an egg."
That is not an uncommon sentiment in those glorious stores!
I've likely said it a time or two myself!
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this!
I love this! You paint the party scene so well. My usual trips to the grocery store are anything but fun and here in the UK they don't usually give out samples. It's all too seductive. Like you, I would be afraid.
you are very funny, and spot-on.

Every Single Time I go to WF (which is not often, for I don't much like the founder) I'm seduced.

But it's like paying to get laid. And what do you call that?
I, too, have heard the siren song of well-packaged food and been seduced by supermarkets. rated.