YES A STICK OF BUTTER IS THREE TIMES THE PRICE, BUT IT'S ORGANIC AND WAS BLESSED BY A SHAMAN, SO...
(Photo: Morning coffee musings)
I've gotten into a terrible habit of thinking that Whole Foods is the only supermarket around - it honestly doesn't occur to me that I have other options.
Sure, when I'm looking to pick up quality meat or produce, Whole Foods makes absolute sense - great, organic produce and meat I can feel good about eating. I mean as good as any California carnivore can feel about eating meat - it's a vegan world out here, and we just live in it.
But when it comes to picking up a loaf of bread, a pack of sugar, or a tin of tomatoes, the idea that I drive straight to Whole Foods, spend twenty minutes going round and round a parking lot, trying to find a spot before another, decidedly un-zen Yogi gets it first and then somehow end up spending $30 on three yogurts and a juice that promises me happiness and complete detoxification (wait...what?), baffles me. I'm generally a smart girl, but this just seems dumb.
Why is it that I forsake the aisles of the more reasonably priced and perfectly acceptable markets within a stone's throw of where I live and work, for a place that makes me feel like an asshole for forgetting to bring my own bag?
Perhaps it's because Whole Foods just makes me feel so damned good the minute I walk in. I mean, like, instantly virtuous.
(Photo: The intoxicating plenty of the produce department)
As I enter through the automated doors, I am greeted by a blast of cold air so forceful that it practically lifts my skirt, and sends my (somewhat) coiffed hair into utter turmoil. Irritating, yes, but I'll let it slide, because the essence of wholesome goodness lies spread out before me.
And as I make it past the wind tunnel, I realize that, symbolically, it probably cleansed me of the filthy, non-organic and undoubtedly GMO'd world that lies beyond it. That's one theory, anyway.
Scoping out the produce department, I gaze out at a multi-colored sea of jewel-toned fruits and vegetables, and instantly realize that it's made up of, among other things, equal parts Meyer and Lulu Lemons. And here, right off the bat, I learn my first lesson. If you think Whole Foods is simply a supermarket, you're mistaken. Whole Foods is a lifestyle. You buy what it has to offer, take it home, consume it (preferably raw), then come back to shop for more, dressed in spandex and lycra to show off exactly what this lifestyle will do for you. To find someone in non-work out attire, is like trying to find a grey hair in Tom Selleck's moustache - much harder than the laws of the universe would suggest.
I look down, in mild panic, to check my attire, and realize I'm in leggings, sneakers and a mildly sweaty, post-work out tank top - a sigh of relief.
As I make my way from produce to meats and seafood, I glance at the cases filled with gleaming, glassy-eyed fish and plump, pink steaks and I think 'tonight, I will feast!' I envision a Game of Thrones style banquet spread across my kitchen table. Legs of lamb, whole baked fish and steaks the size of platters, all perfectly prepared for gluttonous indulgence.
(Photo: The seafood department)
Then I see that a rib-eye is $42 a pound, and I think 'I should probably cut back on my meat consumption.' Aren't cows a huge problem in this country, anyway? All that methane gas. Global warming. I mean, did you watch Cowspiracy? Even though the cows, chickens and pigs of Whole Foods all had names, roamed on more real estate than I do, and probably volunteered for the ultimate sacrifice, I'd better just do eggs tonight. Eggs are responsible. And the eggs here come from 'happy chickens,' so everybody wins.
Next up, it's dry goods. Now, this is where I really get into trouble. This is where I pick up tins of garbanzo beans, tomatoes and coconut milk, along with a bag of brown rice and a packet of toilet paper. This is where the brain cells start to falter a little. Did I really just put toilet paper from Whole Foods in my shopping cart? Yes, absolutely. It's totally recycled and comes from 'happy trees.' (OK, I made that up. But I'm telling you, once your step through those doors, you start drinking the Kool Aid.)
Then there's the moment when I can't pick between the lesser of too many evils. 'Ok, so gluten is the worst, right? So, I have to get gluten-free. But if I'm replacing wheat with corn, am I making an even bigger mistake? What about rice? Is rice ok? And what the hell does guar gum do anyway? I'll just get the organic one. Wait, they're all organic.' Total. Panic. So I grab a bag that has the healthiest looking packaging, and realize I'm about to spend $8 on a pack of noodles. I consider putting it back, when I remember that I'm investing in myself, that you only live once, and that you should strive to be the best version of yourself you can possibly be. The noodles are coming with me. (I think they pump something in through the vents. I swear.)
Finally, I make my way through the cheese and deli department (with ease, I might add - it's the one area of Whole Foods I seem to get past without much trouble), only to see lines of the city's healthiest, happiest and most spiritually fulfilled individuals queueing up to pay, and I think, 'ugh, why didn't I go to Trader Joe's? Nobody cares what's in your basket, and they have dill pickle flavored popcorn!'
The reality is, where you shop to stock your fridge has become a bit of a statement on where you are in life. I mean, when did a grocery store become a scene? When did we start having to dress up to buy toilet paper? And for that matter, when did dressing up, mean wearing work-out clothes, you may or may not have worked out in?
The answer is, I'm not sure. I think it may have happened somewhere around the same time we became aware of the fact that relying on a diet of dill pickle popcorn and processed freezer meals, probably isn't the key to longevity.
Yes, it's a positive change. Yes, I wear yoga pants just like rest of them (usually because I just worked out, but let's be real, they're super comfortable, and you look great walking away). And yes, I will continue to shop for most of what I consume at Whole Foods, because despite all the anxiety this place subliminally induces, and the fact that it quietly judges you as you wander its aisles, it's (mostly) a healthier way forward. Or at least its ethos and much of what it contains, is a healthier way forward.
All I'm saying is, paper towels are paper towels. No matter how many times they've been recycled (which is probably best left a bit of a mystery), it's perfectly acceptable to spend considerably less on their equally recycled counterpart, somewhere else.
As I walk out the door, $12 happiness/detox juice in hand, the anxiety induced by the last 20 minutes of critical decision making seems to melt away. I jump in my car, turn the key in the ignition and realize I'm about to make a dinner so wholesome, it will literally turn back the hands of time.
(Apparently, it's a slow come-down.)
My Guess is that The OC, NYC and BH ladies Don't know how to make a 'frozen Cheese Ring'
Full disclosure: On a night off, when I'm too tired to think and the thought of reaching for a can of dry shampoo and an eye liner sends a wave of mildly agoraphobic panic down my spine, I shut the curtains, open a bottle of wine and (after glancing over my shoulder to make sure the curtains really are tightly sealed) I turn on an episode of Bravo's The Real Housewives.
Don't judge me, I've got that covered. "I was just so exhausted last night. I spent the evening on the couch watching 60 Minutes and most of Lars von Trier's canon of work." Total. Lies. I sat in a pool of entertained disgust and watched privileged, grown women be 'real' in situations so unreal, I can't believe they haven't changed the name, based on semantics.
The only way I can possibly justify this, is by reminding myself I'm so tired that it would actually be detrimental to the health of my brain, to exercise it in moments like this. I'm just listening to my body, dammit. (Right??)
So, yesterday, with an evening off and a brain so fried, I couldn't possibly subject anyone else to it, I found myself at home with a bowl of pho and a few blissful hours of 'alone time'.
Before sinking into the couch, I glanced at the contents of my bookcase. Amid a vast collection of cook books, I spotted one I had forgotten I owned, and before I knew it, I was tuned into an entirely different breed of housewife.
A Book of Practical Recipes for the Housewife was given to me years ago by a good friend, who picked it up at a used book store, and thought I'd love it. He was right, I absolutely adore it. Though I cannot figure out what year it was published by The Detroit Times, it was long enough ago that the pages are yellowed, musty and filled with gems like 'chicken a la king', 'jellied cucumber salad' and what is referred to as a 'frozen cheese ring'.
Though I'm up for trying anything once, I can't say that the thought of combining canned pineapple, maraschino cherries, pimentos and walnuts with mayonnaise, cream cheese and gelatin, has me breaking out the mixing bowls. Yes, I'm sure it was all the rage at the time, but some things are best left frozen and jellied in the past. Like almost anything in aspic and half the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills' faces.
Another one that caught my eye, was the 'eggless chocolate cake' - then's answer to now's flourless chocolate cake. A simpler time, when restaurant-goers would look at a dessert menu and ask, "umm, do you guys have anything eggless but full of gluten and dairy?"
Along with a fun collection of throwback recipes, the book also includes helpful tips on how to be the embodiment of what would now be referred to as a domestic goddess. Things like removing blood, bluing and medicine stains - skills essential to the day-to-day goings-on of a functional household.
As I leafed through the pages of this small, rectangular time capsule, filled with freeze frames of a time that had no interest in molecular gastronomy, fusion cooking or anything topped with foam, I felt an immense sense of comfort. It made me think of my grandmother, of how my parents always seem to have a practical and confident answer (no matter how off-base), and of how I, myself, adult through my day as the housewife of my own solo-household.
Does this mean I'm going cold-turkey on those RHW turkeys? No, probably not - they're entertaining AF. But it's a nice reminder that all that silly frivolity, doesn't hold a candle to a big pot of Chicken a la King and a bottle of red with friends, no matter how tired I am.