When the bff (Yes, I've two bffs. One lives in Shanghai, and this one lives in London.) wanted to stock up stuff at Whole Foods, my ears perked up. "Whole Foods? That Whole Foods? When did it come to London?" She rolled eyes. "Don't you know anything? They've been around since like 2004!" I made a face at her. Okay, no excuses, really. So, there was the first store on Kensington High Street. The second on Lower George Street in Richmond opened in 2010 and the demand for wholesome food has been unstoppable. Now there're five outlets.
With all the equal abundance of local produce and farmers' markets in England, I wonder how much competition Whole Foods might give, considering the chain is doing a great job at marketing and retail display. Reminded me of an article that I giggled over- Patricia Marx's "A Bushel and A Peck" in the January 16 2012 issue of The New Yorker. (Read an abstract here.) I love her writing. Witty, occasionally cutting, and to the point. This particular article carries the tagline "Navigating New York's food megastores." Dug out my archives, re-read that, doubled up in laughter all over again, and shared it with the bff and the Aunts. Of course in the article, Patricia Marx talked about Whole Foods.
Whole Foods is a gleaming sanctuary wherein only the purest, most nonviolent, non-cloned, virtuous, and pricey goods are said to dwell, a meetinghouse in which customers believe themselves to be imbued with a touch of divinity (95 East Houston Street and other locations). If that doesn't sound like nouveau Quaker-ism, I don't know what does. I wanted to hate these kale-venerating converts of the healthnik kind, who, in keeping with their mission to respect the planet, self-righteously say no to Hellmann's mayonaise, Kraft American singles, Heinz ketchup, NutraSweet, and bread made from bleached flour. (Me: "Do you have Velveeta?" Employee: "That's a juice, right?") But you know what? How can you be against a well-air-conditioned, wide-aisled, sensibly organized repository of blood-orange soda ($2.99), whole-wheat pizza dough ($1.00/lb.), local pork belly ($3.99/lb.), Bubbies Mochi (puffs of Japanese ice cream covered with rice paste; $9.69), and when they're in season, Meyer lemons ($1.99/lb.)? Plus, the ployees - they're called "team members" - will cheerfully walk the equivalent of a city block in this gigantic two-level store to help you find the cantaloupe-size ostrich eggs ($29.99 for one, available in summer) or the boxes of Ezekiel 4:9 cereal, a sprouted whole-grain mélange made from the ingredients listed in the chapter and verse of the Old Testament for which it was named ($5.49). With the efficient bank-style checkout system that directs shoppers to the next available cashier, you don't have to be bothered for too long by your neighbor as he peers into your basket, snootily noting that it does not contain a sufficient amount of tempeh, super-super-dark chocolate, steel-cut oats, or yoga supplies.