The headquarters for that bastion of politically correct groceries, Whole Foods, is in downtown Austin, Texas. So one day last week, during my sojourn through the Burnt Orange Nation, we drove about half an hour to experience the Temple of Food at its source.
On our way we passed a little restaurant that has a chalkboard outside with a message that changes every day. This was the day after Texas had been ranked behind Oklahoma in the BCS. So the message read, "Why is there a C in the BCS?"
Before that, we had stopped at a light next to a flatbed truck with a load of huge rusty chains. The chains had been anchored with some straps, one of which had come loose so it was dragging on the ground, a potential road hazard. The guy driving directly behind the flatbed jumped out of his truck, grabbed the loose strap and secured it quickly with a fancy knot.
Everyone in the car watched and commented on what a good Samaritan he was, while I found myself mesmerized by how nicely he filled out his cowboy shirt and jeans. And he wasn't some young buck either. His full head of thick, wavy hair was silver and gray. Not that I noticed much in ten seconds.
Is it just me, or are there more good-looking men in the Lone Star state? Or am I just easily attracted to shiny things like boots and belt buckles. . .
BUT!! I digress.
Two things happened at the Whole Foods store. The first was in the toiletries department where we were looking for hair product. I wanted something that I could use to style my hair when it was dry. This problem was the result of washing my hair and doing nothing with it the day before, a frizz disaster on a grand scale.
Like most stores there were dozens of choices. In keeping with Whole Foods' mission to march to a different drummer, none of the choices was a familiar mainstream brand. We asked the young woman who was stocking the shelves a question about what to choose. I expected her to mumble something unintelligible and point. She not only had the answer, but she was a repository of detailed information about each one of the products on the shelf.
I kept thinking of the old joke, "We're from headquarters and we're here to help." For once, it was true. It probably doesn't hurt that a large high rise with all the Whole Foods corporate offices is just out the back door, no doubt with some VP sitting at a bank of monitors watching and listening to EVERYTHING.
The second, noticeable difference was at the Whole Foods cafe.You can eat breakfast lunch and dinner at many groceries lately. Whole Foods is no different. Except that the preparation of your menu selection has not harmed any rain forests.
There were several food islands for everything from burgers to panini to salads to sushi. Most groceries I'm aware of outsource the sushi so you don't know who's making it, but there were at least four or five chefs, live and in person, at a sushi bar, making everything from scratch. And they were all Asian. That was a surpise, especially in the land of Tex-Mex. It was delicious too.
My final experience with Whole Foods was on another day, in the evening. The temperature had cooled off enough for my hostess to offer some hot chocolate. It was delicious. I thought it might be Ghirardelli, so I was surprised when she said it was Whole Foods' house brand.
I don't shop at Whole Foods usually, even though they just built one in my town. I go to a family run chain that specializes in personal service and a great deli. But since the temperature today will barely make it into the twenties, I'm thinking it might be time for another cup of cocoa. Or twelve.