Saturday, October 08, 2011

A Meditation On Whole Foods On A Friday Evening ...

Holy hell.

Have you ever been to a Whole Foods on a Friday evening?

Right around 5:30, just as office buildings everywhere are disgorging workers for the weekend?

It's a kind of madness.

And I'm no supermarket manager, but perhaps the best time for the produce guys to be stocking isn't when the store is mobbed with people, since it's hard enough to navigate the narrow aisles and spaces, even with two-tier mini-carts.

I was just along for the trip, as Doreen was doing a bit of shopping for the weekend? The week? I'm not sure how long her provisions last. Fruit doesn't have a very long shelf life, especially when it's organic.

We stopped by the meat counter so she could pick up chicken (surprisingly affordable) and some lovely ground beef. The man behind the meat counter changed gloves in between.

"They should have a 'beef' guy and a 'chicken' guy and a 'pork' guy," I said. For all of Whole Foods' eco-consciousness, it seemed absurd for the meat men to go through so many pairs of rubber gloves. Why not just move down the case and have different people wait on you? The chicken guy could fetch your chicken, then the beef guy, well, you get the idea.

I noted that the beef tenderloin steaks – aka beef tenderloin cut into hunks – were $30.99 a pound. Ah, Whole Paycheck, you continue to earn your reputation.

We thought we'd pick up dinner there, but, as usual, I had no idea what I'd want. We strolled around the prepared-foods section, and I settled on ... cheese.

I always want cheese. A handsome cheese-monger man asked if he could help me.

"Do you have Parrano?" I asked, knowing full well that he did, just not knowing where.

He came around from behind he counter.

"Would you like a salted caramel?" he asked, which was a perfectly fine response to my cheese query.

I always want a salted caramel.

He handed me two.

Did I mention he was handsome? A handsome man who trades in cheese and hands out salted caramels is one of my ideas of perfection. And I didn't even know I had that idea of perfection until last night.

He showed me the stash of Parrano, many wheels of it stacked with cut, wrapped wedges on top.

I thanked him and set about selecting my wedge, a wee wedge, with minimal rind.

Doreen appeared, having returned from elsewhere in the store. I handed her my second caramel.

She spied some, in a bag, near the cheese counter.

She asked the handsome cheese man if they were the same as the ones he had shared with us.

Indeed, they were. (He handed her two more samples.)

And into the cart they went.

We made our way to the checkout lanes and got in the least foreboding line.

Doreen transferred her goods from the cart to the belt.

Our cashier wore a very large name tag. His name was Julian.

"Julian looks like Clarence," I said.

Doreen looked up and nodded. "He does."

When it was our turn, Julian greeted us and I told him that he reminded me of Clarence Clemons.

Julian thought for a moment and then smiled. "Is it the hair?" he asked, of his hair which was decidedly '50s and not at all Clarence.

"No, it's your face," I said, noting his sapphire-blue eyes. Contacts, I presumed. I hoped. They were a bit unnerving.

The bagger piled all of Doreen's loot into one of her reusable canvas Whole Foods bags and out the door we went, to hail a cab, lest her frozen blueberries defrost on a walk home.

Once there, she set about putting things away and snipping flower stems while I sat on the other side of the counter noshing Parrano and fresh figs.

Later, she broke into the caramels.

They were bigger than the ones we'd had in the store, and soft, unlike the samples from the cheese man, which were cold.

When I was leaving, she asked if I'd like to take the cheese home.

"If I leave it, will you eat it?" I asked.

She said she would, with the figs.

So I left it. (She had paid for it, after all.)

Though I'd have eaten it with the caramels.

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