I have read before that only a true foodie will drive miles out of their way simply to buy specific foods. I do it in the hopes of becoming a better person. Some people do it with volunteer work, I do it with the purchase of arugula.
It is a happy day when I have the opportunity to go to my favorite grocery store. That would be Harry’s Farmer’s Market in Marietta, which is the equivalent of Whole Foods. The actual Whole Foods is about fifteen to twenty minutes away from Harry’s.
Harry’s has so many different types of food that you just can’t find at a Kroger or, god forbid, Wal-Mart. If you asked for some of these things at your local grocery store the workers would look at you like you were asking for plutonium. “Figs? We don’t carry that kind of thing. What’s a fig?” Whenever I actually get to go to Harry’s I feel like shopping there is doing something wonderful for my family. I am giving them the chance to eat out of the ordinary, unprocessed, organic foods. That right there should add years to their lives, right?
Shopping just the produce section at Harry’s makes me feel worldly, higher on the food chain even. What’s that, rhubarb? Yeah, I know how to cook that. You usually cook it with fruit. Asparagus? That’s best steamed. You can even drizzle a little Hollandaise over it. Yucca? Yeah, that’s kind of like a potato. It’s a starchy root vegetable. I KNOW these things so it makes me feel like I belong there. The fact that I have never cooked any of these things is not the point. I could if I was so inclined.
Even though I love to go down each produce aisle and gaze longingly at each item, I rarely ever buy any of those. I’m too afraid that I’ll let it go bad before I get around to using it. And I can do that with cheap green beans from Kroger. I don’t have to go buy haricots verts to let them rot in my crisper, because they will.
I love that there are so many different kinds of apples on display. Some are eating apples, some are cooking apples. Frankly, I initially thought that all apples were for eating. It’s just a technicality. There is also about a ten feet stretch of cooler filled with nothing but mushrooms. You just don’t realize how many categories of edible fungus there are. I steer fairly clear of them.
After the produce, you have the wall o’ olive oil. Any kind of olive oil you could want is right there before you. They have garlic infused, rosemary, lemon, light, pure, virgin, extra virgin, uber virgin...the list goes on and on. And the bottles they come in are so cute! Yes, I have been known to buy products based upon their packaging.
The next aisles are divided up into their origins of cuisine. There’s the Japanese aisle which sports wasabi peas and instant miso. There’s the Thai section which is mostly peanut sauces and noodles. The Mexican aisle has mole sauces and tamale wrappers. My favorite international aisle is the British aisle. Such strange tastes, those Brits. Sure, places like Thailand have unusual tastes as well, but the British are so much closer to us that it makes their love of Shrimp Cocktail potato chips that much more of an enigma.
The British aisle has the most candy and chocolate. There are Mars bars a-plenty, Dairy Milk, Double Decker, Curly Wurly, and the one called Yorkie. The Yorkie is a little bit of a mystery to me because in the middle of the name there is a symbol banning women. The side of the bar itself says ‘It’s Not For Girls!” Naturally I have yet to try this confection, partially because I’m a little scared and partially because it says I can’t. Is chocolate in England sexist? That’s a topic for another day.
A perpendicular aisle to the international sections has the cardboard cereals which I pay no attention to whatsoever. The other perpendicular aisle is stocked with water. Sounds boring, I know, but it’s not. If you have an affinity for designer water, this is your place. There are bottled waters of all shapes and sizes. It’s also a good idea to learn the difference between sparkling and distilled. Since to a lot of people, water is water, this is a chance to buy for packaging.
Along the wall is the DIY nut butter section. There are six or seven different grinders set up with different nuts in them. They have almond, cashew, peanut, honey roasted peanut, dark chocolate peanut, and like pistachio or something. These are good if you like them, otherwise you’ll get some just to use the grinder and then it’ll turn rancid in the cabinet.
The back wall of the building is where my husband goes when he feels he deserves a reward. It is a thirty feet long meat case. It is the altar at which he would pray. Dave could never be Hindu....or Jewish...or Muslim for that matter. All these religions seem to have prohibitions on meat.
Even I have to drool a little at this meat case. There are critters you’ve never tried to eat before trussed up and ready to be roasted. Any kind of steak you could want starts the far end, any beef. Then there are lamb chops, rack of lamb, lamb that has been frenched, marinated lamb, leg of lamb. It’s no where for Mary to visit. Then there are various cuts of pork, chops, tenderloin, roast, shoulder. Then they have ready to grill kebabs, skewered jewel-like touches of raw meat, chunks of vibrant bell pepper, and juicy cherry tomatoes. Beside those are cuts of meat covered in dry rub or marinade. Toward the other end of the case is where it starts to get a little weird if you’re not used to it. They have rabbit, squab, quail, and quail eggs. I guess you could call it the wild game. Critters you have to stalk in the woods.
The other side of the aisle is the frozen food, which I pay no attention to. I am not in the market for gluten free lasagna. Sorry. I don’t feel like I would be bettering anyone by buying that. The middle of the aisle has a station to dip your own hot soups into containers. Usually there is some type of chili, maybe a chowder, but if you’re really lucky you’ll find the chicken tortilla soup. Grab for the biggest container if you find this soup. It is fantastic.
The next big section is kind of bisected. The freestanding part is the alcohol. Rows and rows of wines and artisan beer. If I drink this would be a great place to be. I do cook, though, and I am told that you should only cook with wine that you deem good enough to drink. I don’t know what that is so I go for what’s cheap and pretty. Beaujolais sounds nice. The section lining the wall is the seafood. I generally have to hold my breath and sprint to the next section. I don’t want to see grouper looking at me next to the shrimp. They all still have eyes. Your food should not seem to be judging you! Would you eat a steak that had a hoof in it? Of course not.
Next to the seafood for some reason is the fancy chocolate, including my favorite German choco brand Ritter Sport. They’re square. There’s all types of chocolate here. Black chocolate, green tea chocolate, chocolate that saves the gorillas. Oooh, they have Lindt, too.
Around the corner is the bakery section. If you bypass the case to grab your own fresh baby-head sized muffins, you will see the little tarts and cookies. They also have fresh baguettes. I have been known to shop around the store holding a half eaten baguette. Be careful, though, a properly made baguette will cut your gums to ribbons.
Attached to the bakery is the cheese counter. Yes, they have a counter dedicated solely to cheese. Not just a bacterial process anymore! They have all the crazy cheeses that you can’t pronounce and you can buy them in wheels. Actual wheels of cheese. They have the cheeses with the power to knock you down with their odors. Now that’s real cheese.
Next you come to about twenty barrels of fresh coffee beans, all different. Grind it yourself of course. The dairy is next, with their lime kefir, soy milk, almond milk, and Greek yogurt.
The last stretch is a cooler with a lot of the regular products that are just chilled, like the fancy waters and the fruit juices. The other side is basically a big take-out counter. They have a huge salad bar in the middle of the aisle.
The very last thing you see is a big room with all different types of flowers in tubs. The weird ice creams and gelatos face the checkouts.
I like Harry’s because it makes me feel like a better person. That I’m not just another pedestrian shopper. It makes me feel proud because I actually know what to do with a lot of these things.
However, at the end of the day my cart contains half a cup of almond butter, three or four obscure British chocolate bars, Greek yogurt with honey, goat milk ice cream, a three yard long sugar cane, two or three bottles of artisan water, and a 26 ounce Porterhouse steak. And I’ve spent $173.29.
So I’m a better person even though my Greek yogurt has caused buyer’s remorse.