Wednesday, December 27, 2006

The Health Food Store: Friend of Foe?

Is the local health/specialty food store your blood brother in the war against American food culture, or is he a secret agent sent by “the other side” just to take your money and make you look like a gullible hippie? Well before we talk about this, let’s define Health Food Store.

When I talk about Health Food Stores, I include any store, no matter how mom and pop or huge of a corporate affair, that sells hard to find items, products marketed as organic, and usually the highest quality of all of the above. I am talking about: Harry’s, Whole Foods, Wild Oats, Trader Joe’s, Earth Fare and the many others doting our landscape with more and more frequency.

Just to lend authorial credence to myself, I am the culinary specialist at one of these health food stores, and have worked there for years, not to mention being an avid shopper of these stores starting circa 1996. Basically, I love health food stores. I feel like I am being dipped in baptismal waters every time I walk through those doors and am hit with the slight smell of fresh fruit, brewing coffee, and essential patchouli oil. However, after having worked in one for so long, I feel it my obligation to help my fellow man navigate those deceptively uncalm waters.

Do Health Food Stores over charge their customers? Yes. Is there a certain amount of hocus pocus to a lot of the items sold under fancy monikers? Hell yes! But do the wonderful and magical aspects of these stores outweigh their cheekiness? In my opinion, yes they do; and ten fold at that.

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