Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Super Walmart for the Well-to-Do

The Husband and I made a trip to the new, ginormous Whole Foods last night down on the corner of Forest and Preston across the street from the old, unnormous Whole Foods. Overall, I give it a resounding, “meh.”

Usually when we go to Whole Foods, we head there right after work and have dinner from the little deli dealio before we shop. The little deli dealio offered prepared foods that you could buy by the pound and take home and put in your own dishes and pretend like you cooked it. Or, the person behind the counter would make a plate for you and heat it up in their crappy microwave, and you could eat it in the store.

I enjoyed this. The counter person was always friendly and patient and helpful. Most of the time, they gave you your food on a real plate with real, reusable silverware. Well, the new Whole Foods has a “hot food bar” where you dish out your food yourself onto a paper plate. I was open to this new procedure, despite my issues with change and the anxiety it provokes. And, I have to admit that the “hot food bar” had its advantages.

However, when we went to the seating area and got our silverware, I found that they only had plastic forks individually wrapped in plastic. Does this not seem like it should be against everything Whole Foods stands for? I really started to feel like they had sold out to the Central Market crowd.

Compounding my silverware dread was the crowded, hectic, loud atmosphere. I found myself having to tamp down a rising panic. There was just too much noise, too many hyper children, too much too much. But then, I noticed a woman carrying a music stand approach a staff member who was sitting nearby and tell her that it was time. Suddenly, most of the people began to drift away and the noise died down. I could see that several of the children were carrying instrument cases.

It turns out that they were all heading upstairs to a balcony overlooking the store to play Christmas music. Oh, they were terrible – out of tune and off tempo. But, it was also very charming, and once the tension of all those children waiting for the concert to start had dissipated, I could feel myself relaxing. It’s amazing how people’s emotions can fill a room and affect those around them.

Once we finished eating and started our shopping, I realized that the store isn’t really all that different. It had most of the same stuff we always bought, PLUS some things we used to buy but had disappeared from the old store. Like organic, all-natural, bleach-free pads – with wings! And Veat – the only meat analog product The Husband likes to eat! Not just Veat, but the bite-sized Veat, which tastes way better than the nuggets for some reason!

The rediscovery of Veat means we can start making one of our favorite, easiest recipes again – Veat Stew. Basically, you take a butt-load of minced garlic and sauté it in a butt-load of olive oil. Then you put in a can of diced tomatoes, some sliced green olives (with pimentos), and half a box of Veat. Then, spoon it over quick-cooking brown rice. Sounds weird, but it’s tasty and fast, which is better than gourmet as far as I’m concerned.

Anyway, some of the new features included a dessert bar and cases and cases full of beautiful chocolates and pastries, a New York deli, and a spa. Yes, a spa. I did not venture upstairs to investigate the spa situation; however, I heard a rumor today that Whole Foods will have someone do your grocery shopping for you while you spa. I couldn't even bring myself to splurge on the shoulder massages they offered in a dark corner of the old Whole Foods, so I probably won't be having a servant-boy pick out my organic beet greens while I get a facial anytime soon.

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