dimanche 29 mai 2011

Costco nation

Costco: I didn't know if it was day or night/I started buying everything in sight.

I am freaked out. Costco depresses me. I know everybody doesn't have the same opportunities I do to visit farm stands and little markets, but I will fight to the end for inspirational shopping. Costco doesn't even look like it belongs on our planet. It could be on the moon. It has no relationship to the outside world as I know it. The lighting, the temperature, the outrageous abundance. The store has no life and no contact with anything that comes from the earth. Everything is packaged, sterile, clinical. Nothing about the food is emotional. And there is a wicked genius at work, mixing the organic with the terribly processed.

That's not me I'm quoting, but it could be. It's Eric Ripert, one of many Frenchies who have made it in America as a master chef and television star. I don't know which channel he's on. It could be the food channel, or one of them (assuming there's more than one). I don't know because I don't watch television in general; and if I had to choose one thing to never watch, it would certainly be daytime television. He's been nominated for an Emmy, by the way.

I found the quote above by googling the words "Costco depresses me". I googled those words because I actually went to Costco yesterday, a rare event in my world. I am not even a member! That's like saying you are a Commie in this country. Well, I am pretty much a Commie. I believe all members of a community should share their gains instead of stocking up like maniacs at Costco and then hoarding it all. Anyway, Costco. What can I say? You get there and notice that on a rare sunny Saturday afternoon on a holiday weekend, the parking lot is full. What few places to park you see have people standing in them and saving a spot for one of the thousands of grocery getters driving recklessly around the parking lot.

You go inside and it is like stepping into the Twilight Zone or a casino in Vegas. You lose all sense of time, and not in a good way. There is no natural light whatsoever. It could be midnight. In fact, it is midnight -- the midnight of the soul. I always feel I am part of some end-of-the-world hoarding spree when I step inside Costco. For the record, we do not shop for food at Costco. That would be like.... an apt metaphor escapes me at the moment. Let's just say it would not be nourishing in any meaningful way. We were looking for some flowers to plant on the deck. A neighbor told me Costco had a good selection at incredibly low prices. In fact, Costco never has a good selection of anything, but it always has unbeatable prices. The quality of these plants was mediocre at best, which made me want to buy every single one and give them all a loving home. How healthy can it be for plants to live inside Costco, far from the light of day and nature?

I will spare everyone the depressing tally of what my fellow shoppers were stocking up on. But let me just ask if other people besides me believe that five-gallon bags of chips, even if they are labeled "organic", are probably not the kind of food item that is going to help America win the undeclared and mostly unfought war on obesity.

On the way home, Walt and I were ranting about all the bad drivers out on Saturday afternoon. I realized that the vehemence of my rant had more to do with the way Costco makes me feel: like the world is going to hell in a handbasket and that's not such a bad thing considering the state it is currently in. So I said, "Going to Costco makes me..." and Walt finished my sentence for me: "...hate Americans". Or maybe he said "hate America" or "hate the American way of life". Whatever. Yes. What he said.

Going to Costco makes me want to go to the nearest fruit and vegetable stand or farmer's market and just breathe in the odor of ripe tomatoes or ripe peaches. It's too early for either where I live. But I'm sure there are many seasonal olfactory treats at the farmer's market in my neighborhood. I think I'll head up there and take several really deep breaths.

France has a few "hard discount" stores like Costco, but not located inside city limits. It also has supermarkets and even hypermarkets. However, you can always find someone to worry that the the local marchés are an endangered species. Thankfully. I mean, for as long as people worry aloud about them, they stand a chance of surviving. I shopped daily in France without ever getting into my car. I didn't have a car, in fact. In Paris, it was always on foot. In La Rochelle, on foot or by bicycle.

Below, the open market in La Rochelle(the covered market, which you can see on the left in the photo, is superb); my bike in La Rochelle (the pretty mauve one with the basket); some melons.