Whole Foods and Me: An Unlikely Love Story


I have not always been a big fan of Whole Foods. The thing is, I am easily irritated by institutions that take themselves too seriously, and Whole Foods can be a bit smug in its role as the nation’s more-holistic-than-thou purveyor of natural food and beauty products. It’s hard not to be annoyed by a supermarket that has a lofty, 3,000 word Mission Statement and is the exclusive distributor of a product called the “Save Your World Exfoliating Bar.” I have frequently felt compelled to roll my eyes as I wandered the store’s bright and shiny aisles filled with green tea-based body products, astronomically priced bibb lettuce, and a staggering selection of tofu.

But I no longer have a snarky attitude towards Whole Foods and this is why: I am a woman who is firmly entrenched in middle age. My kids are almost grown, I have clothes in my closet from the Reagan administration and my actual hair color is a mystery even to me. At this stage of my life I find that what I am after – what I cherish – is surprise. More than fun, more than professional satisfaction, more than close personal relationships, I crave the unexpected. I want experiences that jolt me awake – events that smack me in the face and announce “this hasn’t happened before!” Given that I’m not the kind of person who bungee jumps or hurls myself foolishly out of airplanes, this kind of novelty can be hard to come by.

Which brings me back to Whole Foods. Recently, as I was walking around my neighborhood shrine to overpriced organic produce, I passed a perky older woman giving away food samples. She was dressed in head-to-toe medicinal white, as if the Surgeon General himself had given his blessing to her savory offerings. As I walked by, she put a tiny wax cup with a toothpick-speared piece of meat into my hand and said something completely unintelligible. Bringing the fragrant niblet to my lips I asked her to repeat what she had said and I was just about to dig in when I clearly heard her say just one word: “rabbit.”

Resisting an almost overwhelming impulse to dry-heave, I quickly returned the meat to the cup and looked around for the nearest trash can. I apologized to the woman for wasting her sample, explaining weakly that I have a moral problem with eating bunnies. This being Whole Foods – a haven for self-righteous vegetarians, a temple to conscientious food choices, I expected nothing less than the woman’s whole-hearted and loving support – perhaps even a gentle blessing. Instead, she gave me a withering look and snapped “Oh, grow up.”

It was not at all what I expected. And that is why I have officially decided that I really do love Whole Foods.

Well, that and the outrageously good pumpkin muffins.

Image: That Other Paper