Thursday, April 8, 2010

The Whole Foods experience through European eyes

The first time I told a couple of friends back in Europe that I was buying food at the organic supermarket Whole Foods (or Whole Paycheck, as many call it, considering the prices), I could hear them laughing through the Ocean. You see, "Tuscan Foodie" and "organic" never exactly went hand in hand, back in the days. So I guess that the idea of me pondering over which organic eggplant to chose for dinner can be quite funny.

But there is a catch. There is always a catch in life. You see, here things are different.

What I hated - and still hate - about the organic food movement in Europe is that it is heavily politicized by the left and it is very hypocritical. An example? Jose' Bove', the French activist that dismantled - literally - MacDonald restaurants in France. This is the same Jose' Bove' who advocates for the European Union to spend millions and millions of European tax payers' money to maintain an agricultural policy that keeps cheaper produce from developing countries out of Europe, so that European farmers can keep their prices higher and screw European consumers. In the meantime, people in developing countries die of famine, because they can't sell their products to Europe. Nice, isn't it? But then we say we care about developing countries. BS.

Also, let's be honest, European friends: the organic movement in Europe is profoundly - not entirely - motivated by a strong antiamericanism feeling. Most of the people who hiss at you for going to MacDonald do so because they hate everything American. Is this American? Then it is evil. You like a burger, and you do not eat a baguette with brie cheese and butter made of milk from the farm next door? You are a vicious capitalist, potentially fascist and a real traitor. And I will violently oblige you to eat what I tell you to.

Now, you see, I have a problem with that.

So what's so different in the US, you may ask. Well, things here are similar on the surface, but profoundly different underneath.

First and foremost, the organic movement here is not antiamerican. It couldn't be, for obvious reasons. So, if you buy organic food the reason is not because you hate America and its alleged symbols (MacDonald, the burger, Pizza Hut), but because you want to eat what you perceive as healthier and/or better tasting food. You want better fish than what you find at your regular supermarket, and better meat (the meat and the fish at Whole Foods are AMAZING, compared to the other supermarkets we had tried).

Of course there is politics. There is always politics! But don't be fooled by European standards: those who shop and work at Whole Foods are not necessarily all lefties like you would expect in Europe. For instance, you may find funny to know that the CEO of Whole Foods, a vegan, is actually Republican and against Obama's healthcare original plan. You don't believe me? I know, this is unconceivable by European standards. We are used to easy mental associations that, alas, are actually true in the old continent: vegan=communist; colored tattoo/piercing=left-wing. Well, get with the program and read this.

Also, forget all the bullshit about color tattoos as political left wing symbols. Chances are that if you meet a girl with beautiful color tattoos on her arms and body, she cares more about motorbikes and pin-ups from the fifties than politics. And if she does care about politics, she may be on the right-wing side. Sometimes REALLY on the right-wing side: look no further than Sandra Bullock's husband's mistress, Michelle Bombshell McGee (by the way, the name this lovely lady chose for her own twitter profile is "EvilCunt": no comment).

Not convinced? Let me tell you this story, that still makes us laugh hard at home. My wife and I are chatting with the Whole Foods' cashier. He looks like the guy you would expect at Whole Foods: tattooed head-to-toes, with a hairdo for which he would have probably be put in prison back in Italy. When he asks me where I am from, and I say Tuscany, his eyes shine. I think he is the usual case of Tuscan lover, but nope: he looks at me and says "Oh, Berlusconi". I am prepared, I keep a low profile, and just comment "yep, he is an interesting man, to say the least". I wait for his smirk remarks about our old Lothario, but nothing prepares me for his words: "yes, he is such a great man: you should go back to Italy. America's greatness is long gone. And with the Commander in Chief we have now [i.e. Obama] things are only going to get worse".

A tattooed cashier at the largest organic retailer. Can you picture this conversation in Europe? I didn't think so.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

I think a lot of people, like the young cashier, are anti-Obama not because they are right wing but because they are quite leftists and perceive Obama himself to too far right, which he is in some ways.

Tuscan foodie in America said...

Hi Anonymous, welcome and thank you for your comment. I don't know about that: this would still not explain why he would think Berlusconi was a good man...

But I guess you are right, there probably are people that don't like Obama because they consider him to be too on the right...

Toni said...

Hi, stumbled upon your blog through Google.

One comment: I'm European, and although I try to buy as much organic stuff as I can, and I associate with people who are 'organic food activists', I've never heard about the organic movement being associated with antiamericanism. No-one has ever mentioned nor implied that these two are related. People are antiamerican for completely other reasons.

Tuscan foodie in America said...

Hi Toni, welcome! Where are you from in Europe? The political connotation is heavier in certain States (France being at the top of the list) than in others...

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