Across the street from the very successful Fresh Market on University Parkway sat a tract of land that was undeveloped due to its ‘Wetlands’ designation. This full-featured swamp was the home of a multitude of endangered, mud-loving creatures. Here you could find eight varieties of Garbanzos, including the frog-like purple Kroak; and the extremely rare Albino Gecko. This is the strain that had mysteriously lost its ability to change color. It’s rumored in certain tree-hugging circles that this tragedy of nature was caused by careless housewives using too much Clorox in their laundry. The knee-deep, muck-covered 20-acre site was a treasure trove of discovery for fanatical environmentalists.
But along came the eco-conscious Whole Foods chain. They lusted over the success of The Fresh Market in this high-end shopping Mecca, so they decided to build a store on the virgin Florida bog. They used a loophole in the state’s land development rules to get around the wetlands designation and built a huge supermarket, some satellite stores, and even a Wawa gas station. And to quiet their detractors, they added a few electric-car charging stations.
As both a vendor and customer of Amazon, we received a special invitation to visit the store. Our first experience was awe-inspiring. The place was lit up like a Broadway stage, with displays everywhere. In order to navigate the store, you must first go through the produce department, which of course has the highest price markups. You never saw such a huge collection of chemical-free fruits and vegetables in your life. Or so many store associates in one area constantly picking up and discarding the anemic, preservative-free produce that was wilting in front of your very eyes.
When we got to the end of our tour, exploring every department, we came to a dining area. It was Whole Foods’ version of a cocktail lounge. It was set in the corner of the store with two walls of full-length windows looking out to the picturesque parking lot with those electric charging stations. And it was as brightly lit as the rest of the store. There was a bar that served beer and wine, along with some small-plate, prepared food options.
Sara looked at me and said, “Hey, it’s already after five, so why don’t we have some wine?” We sat down and asked for two glasses of chardonnay.
The effusive bartender said, “Welcome to the Good Earth Lounge. Today’s Happy Hour special is Butterflies and Bumblebees Organic Chardonnay. It’s grown in a vineyard adjacent to the Costa Rican Rain Forest. And it’s made with desalinated water from the uncharted depths of the Pacific Ocean!” I took my first sip and shuddered. It tasted like diluted camel sweat. Sara looked at me and made a face. I leaned over and whispered that we’d better have something to eat or we would never hold down this wine.
Checking the bar menu, we rejected the vegetarian chickpea sliders, the organic tofu salad, and the alfalfa sprout, gluten-free tacos. We settled on the air-dried guava leaves sprinkled with Bangladesh sea salt. I also asked for a glass of water to wash down the remains of the wine. The heavily-pierced bartender proudly explained that the water, which costs more than the wine, was sustainably collected from a melting glacier in the northern Alaskan Tundra. When I drank it, I detected a slight hint of volcanic ash mixed with polar bear urine.
Sitting next to us were two young women just gushing over the vast array of healthy food offered by this bastion of ecology. Never being one to miss an opportunity, I leaned over and asked why they were so enthusiastic about organic food. In a breathless, near-orgasmic response, the one with the purple hair said, “Oh, did you try the Andes Mountain Chanco cheese? It’s made only from the first squeeze of the teat of the GMO-free alpaca herd that has been raised with no hormones, entirely on hand-harvested organic flax.”
By now, I’m feeling the effects of the 2% organic alcohol in the wine, so I jumped on that opening. “Listen, Doll Face. How can cheese made from tits not contain hormones? And when you say ‘GMO-free’, do you realize the farmers in Peru, as well as the rest of the world, have been genetically modifying crops and livestock for thousands of years? Why do you think they have a hand-picked bull to impregnate the most milk-producing cows? Why do you think they cross-pollinate crops to improve the strains of the produce they grow?” The two women looked at me like I had already been infected by the brain-eating amoeba. This only served to encourage me, so I kept going. “Are you aware that the pesticides and herbicides we use actually make our produce stronger and more resistant to harmful bacteria? They help prevent deadly, food-borne illnesses such as E. coli and salmonella? And they keep your food from going rotten before you get it home.”
With that, the one nearest me screamed, “Get out of here, you freak! You’re going to die a horrible death before you turn 60.” When I told her that I was well past that milestone, she threw her plate of edamame pods at me. With that, the bartender sprang into action, asking us to leave, as he dialed Security. Getting away from those two incensed women made me realize that not eating organic food could be a danger to your health.