Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Whole Foods, Semi-Nuts

I ventured into an organic food store this weekend – I won’t say the name but it rhymes with WHOLE FOODS – and it made me wonder about a few things, like how anyone can shop at Whole Foods on a regular basis without ending up wholly broke. Personally, I was only there to buy some super-powered probiotics, because it’s hard to maintain optimal levels of bile and venom unless you reinforce your stomach with mega-doses of amicable bacteria from time to time. At any rate, here are a couple of my random musings, with the maximum dosage of CSC units (cynical, snarky comments) per observation.*

First of all, does every stray herb, mineral, plant, fruit, vine, weed, berry, thorn, bacteria, bean, and clump of dirt to ever grace Gaea’s green earth have "miraculous" healing properties that some remote tribe has utilized for "thousands of years?" It seems that even the ones that look like they could kill you deader than my site traffic (stinging nettle, anyone?) possess amazing "regenerative and healing" properties. Wow! Fancy that.

You would THINK there would be at least one or two herbs that just f*ck your ass up and don’t have much to recommend them, but health food stores give me the distinct impression that every herb does something beneficial, if you look hard enough. What, none of them are just inert? You know, they don’t do a damn thing one way or the other? Apparently not. I think when all else fails, they just slap the old "refreshes your spirits" on the label. I normally leave that to my bartender, but hey, who can argue with "refreshes your spirits?"

Also, why is it always "thousands of years" of health benefits? I guess "cooked up by our marketing team a few weeks ago" just doesn’t have the same ring to it. Can’t you just see the research team at Eden’s Natural Garden of Bountiful Organic Harvest coming up with their latest "miraculous" product? "


R&D Guy 1: Hey, what the hell are these berries?

R&D Guy 2: I don’t know, but they taste like ass.

R&D Guy 3: That means they’re bursting with anti-oxidizing properties.

R&D Guy 2: Tastes more like pro-ass-tasting properties.

R&D Guy 1: If this is anti-oxidizing, I am definitely pro-oxidation. Go oxidation!

R&D Guy 4: Those are heineyassa berries. They’re extremely rare.

R&D 1: Thank god.

R&D 2: So what do they do?

R&D 3: Well, nothing is proven, but several studies suggest heineyassa berries may increase the tensile strength of one’s nostril hair by as much as 3 percent.

R&D 4: Ok, it’s not much, but I guess we can work with it. What kind of dosage are we talking in order to achieve the desired effect?

R&D 3: Six hundred and sixty eight billion grams a day.

R&D 2: Six hundred and sixty eight billion grams!!!

R&D 3: Roughly equivalent to filling a ’73 Gremlin with heineyassa berries. Including the trunk. And the glove compartment. Maybe a couple strapped on the hood.

R&D 4: *Sigh* Well, can we do a concentrated form? You know, one one of those nasty drinks that never mixes properly?

R&D 1: You mean the ones that leave a mound of purple sludge at the bottom of the glass, even if you stir it until your arm comes out of its socket? And then you have to take our overpriced glucosmaine supplements until your arm heals?

R&D 4: Yeah, those.

R&D 3: We could do that. Then you’d only have to drink about 2 oil drums of heineyassa juice a day. However, you WILL have the strongest, thickest, and most manageable nose hair on the block.

R&D 2: By 3 percent.

R&D 1: Literally by a nose hair.

R&D 3: One other problem: They’re grown in Florida.

R&D 2: So?

R&D 4: Yeah, that’s bad. Florida is too pedestrian. We need to come up with some exotic sounding locale where the natives are shrouded in a mystical aura simply because they’re not American.

R&D 2: People who wouldn’t be caught dead eating heineyassa berries, but can be safely exploited from a distance.

R&D 1: Right, and make sure the label has a lot of "spiritual" looking symbols like birds and people dancing. Or some crap like that. I’m telling ya, people eat that sh*t up.

R&D 2: They sure do. Hell, if they’ll eat heineyassa berries they’ll eat anything.

(Everyone laughs as they pile into an SUV and then drive over to McDonald's for Big Macs. With extra large fries.)


Can't you just see it? Can't you? Huhn? What do you mean "No?" Ah, go eat some heineyassa berries, why doncha.

Another thing: it always gives me pause when I see products which have supposedly been in existence since the dawn of man, yet amazingly no one has heard of them. You know, ones like "Raphael's Toenail Tonic" or "Trenton Tom's Backwater Soda Pop." These are the guys that proudly broadcast their longevity on the label with phrases like "Since 1543," "Family Owned and Operated Since 1102," or "The Trusted Name in Ear Lobe Ointments Since 5,648 B.C."

Now, I'm all for the little guy and privately owned small businesses. Not every cookie (for example) has to be tasteless mega-conglomerate paperboard like Chips Ahoy! On the other hand, doesn't it strike you as a little curious that some dude's family has been making anise flavored tea biscuits since before the Salem witch trials and yet they've remained relatively anonymous? Wouldn't an impressive feat like that seem to demand some national attention?

How have they managed to fly under the radar so long? Is there a cookie conspiracy with "Big Cookie" operatives who systematically eliminate anyone who threatens to bring "Andy's Anise Delights" to the masses? Are the owners of Andy's consciously keeping their business "small" and resisting larger forms of distribution, or do their cookies just suck? Most small businesses are lucky to last a year or two, and yet somehow the unknown biscuit guys from Hoboken have been semi-flourishing for half a millenium. How does that work?

And don't forget the obligatory, self-congratulatory "Our Story" which has to appear on the back of EVERY single organic, "homemade" product out there, with the squiggly lines that look like they were drawn by a two year old riding a bronco and the half-ass pictures of cows strewn throughout the borders. Nevermind that we've got cows on a bag of licorice or a jar of coconut oil. Cows are organisms, you know, and therefore "organic."

Is it possible, and I know this is a crazy thought, that some of these companies aren't quite as small, folksy, and "quaint" as the packaging would suggest? Is it possible that some of the "organic" imaging is just a little bit cynical and calculated? Are all these companies really motivated by "lifting your spirits and purifying your mind?" More to the point, can the "down home community values" embodied by such products exist comfortably with the capitalist/consumer mentality and the demands of being a publicly traded company in corporate America?

Hey, I just ask the questions; I don't have the answers, folks.

* These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration, because they can't hear anything lodged way up Big Pharma's backside.