Food King

I’ve been rethinking my hunter-gatherer protocols after the last two Whole Amazon expeditions topped the $300 mark.

Jeff Bezos does not seem to lack for steady income, I mused. Jeff Bezos never shoves a hand into a pocket and finds nothing in there but four fingers and a thumb, I surmised. Maybe I should start redistributing my* income, I decided.

The main thing Whole Amazon has going for it — as far as I’m concerned, anyway — is convenience. Whatever you want, no matter how ridiculous, there’s a strong chance that Whole Amazon will have it. Don’t need it? You’ll probably buy it anyway, just ’cause. You rarely have to do the Three Store Tango when there’s a Whole Amazon in town.

This one-stop shopping comes with a cost, of course. That hand in your pocket? It’s not yours. It’s Jeff Bezos’. He’s bored with rooting around in his own pants and wants to see what you’ve got in yours. Mine’s bigger than that. C’mon, baby, you know you want it.

Gullible’s travels.

And goddamnit, I guess I do. I’ve been test-driving some alternatives, which involved plenty of driving, and Whole Amazon remains the One Store to Rule Them All, especially when it comes to top-shelf organic produce, cheese, and booze, both real and imaginary.

Albertson’s stocks some of the items I favor — Aroma Coffee, Twining’s Irish Breakfast tea, McCann’s Irish Oatmeal, Taos Mountain Energy Bars — but while the bars and coffee were cheaper at Albertson’s, the oatmeal actually cost a buck more than at Whole Amazon.

And Albertson’s organic-produce section is a very small garden indeed, with other organic products scattered around and about, hidden among the pedestrian bits by category, instead of huddled smugly in their own tiny gated community.

Smith’s has an OK wine selection, but doesn’t carry my Clausthaler Dry-Hopped non-alcoholic beer. There’s an organics ghetto, but the produce is minimalist, nearly as thin a crop as at Albertson’s. It’s just a few minutes by bike from El Rancho Pendejo, but so is Hell.

Sprouts Farmers Market stocks Clausthaler, but only the original fake lager, and the wines are mostly the sort one drinks from a paper bag while sitting on a curb.

However, Sprouts’ selection of organic produce is second only to Whole Amazon, and it offers a house-brand organic plain English muffin I like (Whole Amazon recently re-engineered its English muffins into gummy inedibility).

Keller’s Farm Store has the league-leading meat counter and Sabroso Foods tortillas. I wouldn’t use a Whole Amazon tortilla to blow my nose.

The upshot of this unscientific survey** is that I can do without Whole Amazon, but only by shopping at Albertson’s, Smith’s, Sprouts, Keller’s, and Kelly Liquors (for my fake beer).

* “My” income mostly being “her” income.

** And yes, this is how I roll when Herself is out of Dodge. You can’t stop me! To-GA! To-GA! To-GA!


23 Responses to “Food King”

  1. Kat Hardt-Holoch Says:

    What about La Montanita Co-op? FYI–even here in the Bay Area I feel the need to go to a couple markets. And I have been avoiding Whole Amazon as I don’t like the changes since the acquisition and I have better produce at my local independent markets (but I’m lucky here in the Bay).

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      La Montanita and the entire Nob Hill area have been a huge pain in the ass to get to since the ART construction clusterfuck turned Central and the surrounding streets into a “Death Race 2000” obstacle course.

      I haven’t been to The Bike Coop in forever, or Two Wheel Drive. And we hardly ever go to Scalo anymore. That bus boondoggle really shit the bed in that part of town.

      The acquisition has not improved Whole Amazon, that’s for sure. In Bibleburg we had a couple viable options: Wild Oats (until Whole Paycheck snatched them up pre-Amazon); Vitamin Cottage-Natural Grocers; and Mountain Mama, a locally owned outfit that was just up Uintah from Chez Dog.

      There was also a really nice little family-owned outfit that started up on the north side of Bibleburg and expanded to Southgate before going belly-up in the Natural Foods Wars. Can’t for the life of me remember the name of the place, but it had all manner of good things, a real deli.

      • katholoch Says:

        Plus, drivers in ABQ where plain scary when I lived there. Not used to big city driving and subject to slamming on the brakes without warning.

        I must say that one of my complaints about living in ABQ was the lack of good produce. I moved there in August 1994 and remember distinctly walking into the produce section of the market the day after Labor Day and all the summer fruit was GONE. I had been there a day or two before and it was there. Where did it go? The produce guy only said, “We don’t carry that after Labor Day and get rid of it.” That was the start of the beginning of the end for me and I had only been there 2 weeks at that point. Made no sense at all. ABQ was full of no sense at all moments for me. I do think things have changed a bit though.

      • Patrick O'Grady Says:

        O, the drivers here give me The Fear. Bibleburg was plenty bad, especially in winter, because nobody in Colorado is from Colorado. And with so many military installations and dudes getting set to deploy for their seventh or eighth tour you didn’t dare give anyone the finger for fear of drawing fire.

        But they’re aggressively bad here. Speeding, tailgating, braking for no reason, turning right from the left lane and left from the right (without signaling of course), and never saw a stop sign or red light they wouldn’t run. You have to count “One one thousand, two one thousand, three one thousand” before proceeding on a green and even then you want to look both ways first.

        It goes without saying that a solid plurality of them are drunk, stoned and texting. Also, a fair number are driving under suspension, without insurance, in stolen cars.

        • Kat Hardt-Holoch Says:

          The best NM DMV story: My niece was at the DMV in Las Cruces and said that this woman (in her 80s) was so elderly and in bad shape that she was being supported physically by her children in their late 60s. Took her forever to get to the window as she could barely walk, so they called her number multiple times. And they renewed her license!! I guess they figured if she couldn’t walk they better let her drive by god’s sake!

  2. Pat O'Brien Says:

    Sir, that sounds like a first world problem for sure. I do not know what counsel to give you. By the way, Bezos, like the Waltons, doesn’t get a fucking penny from me. If I was king for day, those folks would be in antirust hell faster than Bob’s Red Mill Steel Cut oats disappear around this joint.

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      It’s starting to feel like a reality-TV show to me: “The Real Rumormongers of the Comanche Foothills.”

      “God damn it, what do you mean you don’t have Crown Prince Natural Wild Caught Brisling Sardines in Extra Virgin Olive Oil? Do I look like the sort of trash that would eat any other kind?” Comedy ensues.

      I think the last money I dropped in Walmart was on my Timex Ironman, with which I’m making do until Santa brings me my Apple Watch Hermès. The old Timex croaked unexpectedly right before an Interbike show and while I was having the Fearsome Furster serviced I popped over to Wally World and scored another.

    • Pat O'Brien Says:

      Just got off Facetime with niece and nephew in law living in Daytona Beach. Told them you had a new post and couldn’t live without your Twinings Irish Breakfast Tea. Niece told me not to go there because she drinks it every morning. But, she works for Amazon. BTW, they loved the Backstage At Radio Free Dogpatch video.

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      The Twining’s is a daily dose around here, too. Two cups of joe and then one of the Irish. It’s like spraying ether into a carburetor.

      Glad to hear the kinfolk enjoyed the video. I don’t check stats so I have no idea whether these little multimedia extravaganzas find any traction.

      It’s kind of like being the deaf Beethoven, who couldn’t tell whether the audience was digging it. Only without all that annoying genius and talent and work ethic and stuff.

    • Geoffrey Knobl Says:

      I will second the implied compliment to Bob’s Red Mill Steel Cut Oats. That stuff is seriously good even if their subtitle is, well, problematic to D.O.M like me. So, Mr. O’Grady, if you have not had it before, check them out via my link or at a local store. They are usually cheaper than McCann’s, at least around here.

  3. khal spencer Says:

    We do the usual Multi Store Tango up here. Whole Amazon is sure to have virtually everything we want, but at a premium price and with the pleasure of mingling elbows with highfalutin assholes who think the rest of us ought to inhabit a lower level of the planet. All while having Jeffrey Bezos pick our pocket. I’ve fast tired of the uppercrust pompous crowd in the Democratic People’s Republic of Fanta Se.

    So we do the rounds of Montanita, Trader Joes, Albertsons, and Vitamin Cottage, only hitting Whole Amazon when needed and its definitely got good eats and drinks when we need it. The time sink nature of hitting multiple food targets drives me batty since I’m still fully employed on the clock and figure my weekends are my only time to ride bikes, blast away with the Weapons of War on public land, or sit on my ass and consume Brain Eraser. But there is a cost to avoiding Jeff Bezos, and we pay it.

    Sigh. Maybe its time to move to North Dakota, raise corn, and shoot deer.

    • Hurben Says:

      Or move to New Zealand, (don’t shoot the deer)

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      I’ve never grasped the allure of Trader Joe’s. To me it seems like a 7-Eleven for the well-to-do.

      Vitamin Cottage-Natural Grocers was good in Bibleburg, less so here. A produce section the size of a dorm-room refrigerator’s crisper and the worst parking lot in town. Better you should stay home and pound dents into your own car with a ball-peen hammer.

      • khal spencer Says:

        Until Whole Foods was bought by Amazon, TJ’s was a lot cheaper than WF and very convenient. The Vitamin Cottage was on the south side of town (it just moved into the old Wild Oats store near Whole Amazon) and somewhat limited. Albertsons is pretty good too and a stone’s throw from our place, as is Montanita but again, Montanita is somewhat limited in selection of stuff. TJ has been a good compromise for a single place that had produce, other foods, and brain eraser. Bottom line is my better half does the food department. If it was up to me, I’d still be eating like a graduate student.

  4. larryatcycleitalia Says:

    I’m trying to feel for ya – but for 20 years in Sioux City, Iowa I too had to visit Whole Paycheck, Cost+ World Market and Trader Joe’s to find anything decent to eat or drink. But all those were 100 f–king miles away in Omaha, NE!

    We DID have a local organic dead critter shop and a farmers market in the summer (when we were in Italy so…) but to get any decent wine I had to spend more than a year to DIY it.

    But I fixed all that – now we shop here and I buy our vino at a “sfuso” place 500 meters from there where I show up with my recycled 2-liter water bottles and they fill ’em up with a pretty decent Nero d’Avola or Grillo or a nice rosato for less than $2 a liter. La vita e bella!

    And none of these corporate f–kers get a dime out of it!!!!

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      That’s a good piece about you and the wine club, Lorenzo old scout.

      Did you see this bit in The New York Times? I’ve cooked a few David Tanis recipes and liked ’em, but like Jim Harrison I am a savagely incompetent baker and have grave doubts about successfully making my own sfincione dough.

      • larryatcycleitalia Says:

        I checked that out – that’s more of a Palermo thing than what we enjoy here on the eastern side of the island. The west side is much more Arab influenced while the east is Greek.
        We’ve enjoyed slices of sfincione while in Palermo, but it’s not something we see much of over here. This would certainly seem to be the origin of the Chicago “deep dish” idea, but of course ‘Muricans, even Eye-talian ‘Muricans gotta throw a lot of melted cheese on top. I think I know the origin of the Philly Cheesesteak too, one of the street foods in Catania is a sandwich very, very similar except the meat is HORSE rather than cow. They put a slice of cheese on the top to melt in when they serve ’em. Very tasty.
        I hate to differ with the author but there’s one adult beverage to go with sfincione – birra. Certainly none of those wines from outside of Sicily for damn sure! Pizza and beer – end of story. It’s a casual snack/quick lunch so let’s not try to turn it into anything Noo Yawk snooty, OK?
        I can claim to have done extensive R & D here on the pizza subject including trying a new place a few days ago – but our favorite still is
        Starting next month we’ll be living in Napoli while La Professoressa works on her Fulbright activities, meaning some serious R & D will get done in the birthplace of pizza. We’ve already done a bit of research ahead of time –

        • khal spencer Says:

          Hey Larry, if you find yourself bicycling up in Villarosa, stop and kick the tires for me. That’s where my grandmother was a kid before they emigrated to the U.S. Her maiden name was Ferrara, for what its worth.

          • larryatcycleitalia Says:

            That’s a couple hours away by car (which we don’t have) and not really on the way to anywhere. Nearby is Enna, the coldest place in Sicily other than atop Mt. Etna.

          • khal spencer Says:

            I got the impression from my cousin Lori, who researched it, that grandma grew up in the middle of nowhere in Sicily. I guess you confirmed it.

  5. jtr Says:

    The problem with whole foods, beside the already mentioned biz issues is Nutella. They don’t stock it cause its not good for you, or something, but that necessitates a secondary trip to the piggly wiggly and probably results in a lot more bad for me stuff.
    Couldnnt healthy stores have a guilty corner? I’d pay a small premium to avoid a second store stop or even worse, Nutella free morning.

  6. khal spencer Says:

    What we really need is more food science rather than food advertisement. If people don’t know how to eat nutritiously and inexpensively, they are at the mercy of the food industry.

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