Thinking Twice

This is how I feel.

There used to be a great little shop a few blocks from us that only sold local food. In the depths of winter, there wouldn’t be quite as much on the shelves and you couldn’t go there with a recipe in mind, which is sort of freeing. You could always get delicious pre-made dishes, and the meat was out of this world. Unfortunately, after the shop changed ownership about 2 years ago, a belt-tightening economy that doubly dubbed grass-fed beef a luxury (and I’m not saying it isn’t) caused them to shutter rather quickly. I guess the fact that the shop was adjacent to a tanning salon emitting puffs of burnt skin smell along with the A/C couldn’t have helped. Or maybe it did?  That house-rendered leaf lard suuure makes for some good tanning oil.

The original shop owner had an excellent, albeit militant, manifesto posted on his website about eating locally and sustainably. It’s gone now, which is a terrible shame because more than most literature of its nature, it called out Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods for some pretty shady corporate games. Didn’t stop me from shopping at both establishments, I’m afraid to admit, but it made me think twice and start asking questions.

Want to know what raises more questions? First, this investigative piece (clip below) from a Philadelphia news station (thanks Mom!). It’s wrapped up in some nauseating zooms and peppered with cringe-inducing commentary, but the meat of the piece is pretty eye-opening.


And this article is a worthwhile read. It’s over a year old but contains at least a glimmer of what that shop owner was pontificating about. The storyline continues today, displayed in this piece in the New York Times.

Bananas Spectacular

Here’s a revelation: The best time to shop at Whole Foods is 8:45 p.m. on a Wednesday.  Here’s another revelation: Whole Foods in East Fenway has upped the ante with their new banana display.  I’ve never seen anything like it.  They’ve dedicated at least 20 square feet of what is a very space-limited store to begin with solely to the banana display.  Ten square feet of conventional, another ten of organic. It’s a veritable banana jungle!

This is only one quarter of the Banana Spectacle.

So you should probably hit Whole Foods up at 8:45 p.m. on a Wednesday, because that means you’ll only have to scare away one and a half to two timid people from grabbing a bunch because they don’t want to get in your multi-angled shots of this spectacular spectacular.

The other cool thing about going during the off hours is that only the fish counter guy will witness you spill two scoops of bulk bin quinoa and Israeli couscous on the floor. However, it also means that when the custodian comes around with the broom and you’re still standing there sheepishly, there is no mass of harried shopper bodies to shield you from his (extremely justified) glare.

There are a couple of staples we get at the store that I’ve yet to find elsewhere (with minimal searching):

  • Robusto cheese: Goes well with everything and is interspersed with little salty crunchy bits that I love in gouda-style cheeses. Try a few room-temperature chunks with a McIntosh or Pink Lady apple at that 4 p.m. slump time in the workday and you’ll be very pleased.
  • Redwood Hill Farm Goats Milk  Yogurt: Will blow your mind. It’s a thinner, tangy, more liquid-y yogurt. We’ll eat it for breakfast mixed with a spoonful of red currant, raspberry, or fig jam, wherever sour cream is called for, as a butter substitute in baking, and dolloped on soups.
  • Batch ice cream: You know how if a baby is stuck under a car, the mom can get a surge of adrenaline strong enough to lift the car and extricate said baby?  That’s what happens when I see there are only a few spoonfuls left of Batch and have to fight my husband for it.  I always win.  They sell Batch at a few places, but all you non-Massholes are out of luck – you won’t find it out of state. If you to Boston, try the Cinnamon & Chocolate Bits or the Mocha Chip.

I realize that shopping at Whole Foods can be a little controversial (Whole Foods is COR-POR-ATE). And it’s not cheap. We go because we know we’ll find organic versions of just about everything, the staples list above, a variety of bulk whole grains and flours, etc. When they’re open, we get our fruits, vegetables, meats, eggs from farmers’ markets. There are some amazing local companies (Batch included) that peddle their wares around town too.  I guess our bottom line is – shop local, then shop organic, then shop Russo’s.  But go to Whole Foods for the bananas.  You won’t be disappointed.