I'm not sure how to feel about my newfound ability to buy designer salt a mere 5 blocks from my home, but Whole Foods has come to my 'hood.
My cousin called WF "seductive". I have to wonder if a serpent handed me the stunning heirloom tomato I bought today. When I cut the tomato, it smelled so good that I couldn't even bear to rinse the juice left on the cutting board down the drain: I poured it into the bowl with the rest of the tomato.
Then I ate it all plain, with salt.
Sea salt, bought in bulk from my local, family-owned, health food store, Bell Bates. Since WF arrived in Manhattan a few years ago, I've been riding the subway to WF for things that Bell Bates doesn't carry. (And a couple of items that I prefer, like olive oil and bulk almonds.) Now that WF is more easily walkable, I'll continue to direct most of my food spending to Bell Bates.
But that tomato! (And the early/late/weekend hours. Sigh.)
I also stopped in at Tribeca Hardware, another neighborhood institution. For once, they didn't have what I was looking for, but I reveled in the Bob Dylan soundtrack (either theirs, or maybe WFMU). And how it smelled like hardware stores I used to visit with my dad as a kid.
And in fact, Bell Bates also has a distinct scent, redolant of the bulk spices they sell and the food at the steam table. Real places, owned by real people.
In the New York Times on Friday, Susan Saulny covers variations of Community Supported Agriculture, profiling one Illinois organic farm that survives by selling "shares" in its output at the beginning of each growing season, and with labor provided by its owners and customers.
The CSA model acknowledges that there is no free lunch. If we want real places, owned by real people, and real food, we have to be willing to pay more in time and money.
I wonder if anyone has explored the CSA model for maintaining small, locally-owned business as part of our commercial ecosystems? (And I'll poke around on this one.)
Don't get me wrong: I'm a pragmatist and (mostly) a capitalist -- some businesses aren't meant to survive.
But I'd pay a fee to join forces with certain local businesses.
In the meantime, on a quiet summer Saturday afternoon, I was the only shopper at Bell Bates. One of the owners said, "Glad to see you."