I was a Whole Foods Market frequent shopper for two years between residency in Las Vegas and Los Angeles, and visited several locations in between (Manhattan, Raleigh, Portland, etc.). Whole Foods is “America’s Healthiest Grocery Store.”
Clutching my reusable paper Whole Foods bags (and my credit card), I used to marvel at the colorful assortment of exotic, organic fruits and vegetables, camp out in the aisles reading the information-filled labels of superfoods, and devour my carefully selected salad bar assortment that never disappointed my tastebuds. My bank account didn’t necessarily agree with my healthy food spending habit at Whole Foods Market, but nonetheless I kept going back.
This week, a few of my fellow Health Coaches were discussing shopping at Whole Foods market. Recently acquired by the world’s largest internet retailer, Amazon, the market is promising to lower prices. The coaches were discussing whether they’d seen price changes or not. I felt a pang of jealousy that my contribution to the discussion was that I don’t shop at Whole Foods anymore.
Because I live in Asia now! Whole Foods doesn’t exist here. But local Malaysian markets do!
The market I now frequent is nothing like Whole Foods.
It all starts when the sun goes down. An assortment of aromas tickle your nose, from raw chicken, to fried fish balls, to my favourite coconut-filled mini pancakes. The sounds of foreign busking fill the air as a blind man sings over the nearby generators’ constant roars, which power lights to the entire market. It’s noisy and dirty, absolutely no air conditioning, a fraction of the selection, likely wouldn’t pass a U.S. health inspection, nothing is labeled “organic,” and there’s barely any English spoken.
It’s really different. Really, really different.
My partner and I are a minority in many senses of the word. We get stared at, and when I take notice I make sure to give a friendly smile.
Last week I noticed a very young boy staring at me as if I were some sort of friendly alien (can’t blame the guy – I pretty much am to him!). I posed no threat, but I must have looked unusual. He caught my eye from about 10 feet away and continued to stare. As he passed me, he reached out his arm touch my leg, as if I were a porcelain statue in an art museum you’re not supposed to touch. I looked down as I squealed a bit in surprise and his big brown eyes continued to stare even after we’d passed each other. I definitely felt like his friendly alien.
Some people may be freaked out by this sort of attention, but I always try to remember that I do look different than most here, and people love to look at things that are different. Generally speaking, it’s a healthy curiosity.
Now to my favorite part of the market – the coconut-filled pancakes. Six pancakes for RM1 (approx. $0.25 USD). My partner and I share them – it’s our local treat.
The elderly woman who makes them is all business, making around 36 mini pancakes at a time, filled with your choice of shredded coconut or crushed peanut (I think). Behind her is a large plastic bin filled with the stock of batter, rested on an upside down stool (pragmatic engineering at its finest). She spoons them in near perfect circles, fills them, then pinches the sides together fresh off the griddle (I envy those teflon hands)! There are queues of people and an assistant taking orders. It must be the local treat for everyone else, too.
What’s the most interesting market you’ve shopped in? Do you shop at Whole Foods Market? Have you seen the prices drop at Whole Foods?
Share your thoughts in the comments below.
Check out this video to see the pancakes in action!