An opera pump in a birkenstock world

I am someone who, at least for the purposes of this blog, likes to keep his opinions on the weighty issues of the day under the surface. After all, about 40% of my pals fervently disagree with me on most things and 90% disagree strenuously on some things. So, as dear to my heart as these things may be, I don't use this blog as a soapbox to vent my spleen on the matter of tax reform, the gold standard, The Things Kids Do These Days, going to church, etc.

However, sometimes events happen that, given the mission statement of this blog, simply demand description and dissemination.

Astute readers will also know I am a serious foodie. In that capacity, I am very fortunate to be quite close to a VERY nice supermarket (similar to the now bought out Bread & Circus stores in Bahstahn) that carries things like free-range veal, organic/heirloom produce, etc. But sometimes they will be out of stock of something. In this case I was out of whole wheat pastry flour. I could have ordered it from King Arthur Flour, but spending $8 on shipping for $3.25 of flour seemed ridiculous, to say nothing of the 7 day wait.

So I went to one of those organic/sustainable chains that happens to be within a reasonable drive from my house. The evening was clear and cool, my car was running in excellent fettle and traffic was invariably light. So off I went.

What strikes me about these places, beyond the vegan cat food (because that's the way to keep a carnivorous animal healthy) and all the old VW microbuses seemingly held together against the likelihood of rusting apart by bumperstickers of the "Legalize it!"/"Question Authority" vein, is the crowd which provides such emporia their custom. These folks are the sort who look as if they would tar and feather Ben AND Jerry for not having enough one legged Chicano transsexuals on their Board of Directors. Of course, the feathers would have to come from free-range poultry and the tar sustainably made from recycled oil spilled by people who likewise deserve to suffer the same fate as Ben and Jerry.

There were a good deal of men in (I assume) their late 50s and early 60s, who sported shiny pates and grey ponytails, on the principle, I'm guessing, that one does not prune a dead tree. One particular specimen, with a faded Che Guevara t-shirt (his safety would be a far dodgier thing in a different part of Miami), was not only bald and grey and ponytailed...but what little remained of his tonsorial glory was corn-rowed. Fight the power indeed...but first, some prune juice.

Lots of the women there were clad in black, devoid of the slightest hint of makeup and with hair that bespoke a disdain for conditioner, it being clearly a tool of the patriarchal hegemony that subjugates us all, including corn-rowed septuagenarian communists.

The food, might I interject, is ALWAYS impeccable and the employees (even if they had the tragic fate of being the children of those who went--or claimed they went--to Woodstock, thereby being saddled with names like Jared, Caitlin and I shit-thee-not Tapestry) are unfailingly curteous and helpful, even to an obviously capitalist tool like me. So I grab my flour, a few other impulse buys and I head out to the register.

The register is another interesting variation on the supermarket experience. They have the usual gum and candy and magazines, but the gum is made from Indonesian chicle trees grown sustainably, the chocolate bars are made from cacao harvested in a way that protects the habitat of some semi-threatened species in the Amazon Basin from offshore drilling (without explaining why drillers want to cut down cacao trees) and the magazines have names like Modern Chakra, to say nothing of frightful bilge like the Utne Reader.

You may ask yourself how this sort of store differs from the usual gourmet emporium. The differences are slight (not in the clientele, where the gulf is vast), but it can be summed up in the Label Manifesto. At the gourmet store the chocolate milk powder tells you the story of the cacao from the moment of harvest, through the roasting, conching and packaging (regaling you all the while with the complete excellentness of it all, such as the micro-climate, the precision of the roast and the choice of cacao varietals), whereas in the earth-mother store the label will tell you about the plight of indigenous Elbonians and how buying THIS chocolate bar will help preserve the emu population.

You see, the gourmet place showers its patrons with specificity of origin, whereas the earth-mother store provides a surfeit of specificity of intent. The gourmet shop asks that each morsel be an epoch-shattering delight, while the "crunchy" place wants to respect you.

And they both charge $8 for a gallon of milk.


Badger said…
You know those people who shop in the crunchy granola stores? Well, picture an entire medium-largish city made up of those people, and that is Austin, TX.

But the good news is you can buy whole wheat pastry flour pretty much any damn where around here, including at the semi-normal supermarket a mile from my house (which also has an enormous and impressive wine/beer selection, because around here we like a little shiraz or hefe-weitzen with our granola).
Joke said…
There are, of course, whole enclaves throughout the land where people are crunchy-granolaish. Madison, WI and--most famously--Berserkeley, CA spring to mind. Places where reality is, perhaps, viewed differently than it might be in even other, ostensibly progressive places like New York or Boston.

All in all, though, I live in the sort of place people are more concerned with which neighborhood in Siena baked the biscotti in their hand, than whether the Bolivian Common Thrush is allowed to wet its nest.

Grocery emporia (even the big ones) tend to cater to the major ethnic groups, as opposed to the major philosophical groups. So, whie WW pastry flour may be a shade hard to come by, starfruit, assorted mango or guava varietals, soursop and assorted others are no big deal to find.

And then there are the stores that cater to people who still thing South Florida is part of the South.
jujube said…
I have a rule: I only buy red meat, wine, beer, chocolate, and potato chips at my crunchy food store.

(OK, that's not exactly true, but sometimes I do like to limit my purchases to combinations of those items.)

--jujube (
Badger said…
Hahahaaa, Jujube! While wearing leather and/or fur, I presume?
jujube said…
Badger--of course! Sometimes I take Republicans in tow too, just to add some additional frisson.


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