Thursday, July 13, 2006

Health Food

All I want is a little lemongrass. It's a fabulous Thai ingredient that's a lot of fun to play with. It's fragrant, it's light, if you get a good stalk, it actually smells more like lemon than lemon. Normally I pick it up at the Oriental Food Market in Salt Lake. It's a wonderful Asian market with (so I'm told) a butcher that only speaks Japanese. They have all sorts of fresh, frozen and dried ingredients from all over Asia. Unfortunately (for more reasons than this), Salt Lake is about an hour away from here. So I wait until the weekends and make a pilgrimage, hitting all sorts of fine shops that are in that area: Liberty Heights Fresh, Oriental Food Market, South East Asia Market (they stock frozen banana leaves that I've been dying to play with), and all sorts of other places.

But I thought I'd look around town here. There's some lame health food store on State Street in Orem that I visit on occasion. I call them lame because they really do have a poor selection, especially of produce. There have been times when I've wandered in there and wondered if they were going out of business, because they do such a bad job at keeping shelves stocked. So I asked around at work, and discovered that there were a couple more health food stores in the area. One is called Real Foods Market, on 800 North in Orem. For some reason, I thought it might be reasonable to find lemongrass at a health food store: a) It's exotic. b) It can taste really good in the hands of a good cook. c) It can be easily ruined by inexperienced health food nuts. Just like everything else they sell! You might note that "it's generally pretty healthful, or at least not bad for you" isn't on the list. There's a reason for that.

The store did not have lemongrass. But I did look around at the rest of the store, as I usually do when I encounter a potential new favorite place to shop. It was smaller on the inside than it looked on the outside. They did have fresh produce, which generally looked like it had been picked a month or two early and then left in the sun for a week. Okay, so it wasn't all that bad. But some of it wasn't that great. About par for a health food store. I ended up buying some wild rices which were about a dollar a bag cheaper than most other places have that brand, and some agave syrup, which most of us know as tequila (when it's fermented). Agave is a big buzzword in the health food world right now because it's all-natural, completely vegan (honey may be plant-based, but it's still processed by bees), has an extremely low glycemic rating (which is a measurement of how much sugar the body registers), supposedly has all sorts of other health benefits, and supposedly tastes just like honey (I just tasted some, and it's pretty close).

At the register, I got to hear the cashier talk to the customer ahead of me about how healthy coconut oil is, and how much happier she's been since introducing it to her diet. Did I mention that coconut "oil"is almost completely saturated fat? From what I hear, the rest of the meat of the coconut helps counteract the fat, making it not really that bad of a food when consumed all together. Don't quote me on that, it's just what I hear. Then it was my turn, and I decided to ask the lady if she knew anyplace around here to get fresh lemongrass. She gave me an interested look and asked, "wow, lemongrass? Is that anything like wheat grass?"

Trying not to laugh, I took the time to explain to her that it was nothing like wheat grass, and that it was a very common ingredient in Thai cuisine. Did I mention this particular store is next door to a Thai restaurant? She asked if it was something she should look into ordering, and I informed her that it was the very reason I visited her store in the first place. Feeling more than just a little disappointed, I left, put my food in the car, and walked over to Sonic Drive-In and ordered some kind of bacon burger that comes on Texas toast.

You'd think the story was over, but it's not! When I got back to work, my wife was waiting on instant messenger for me. She apparently met with some women this morning who felt it their duty to inform her of what she's doing wrong with her life. They told her that she should bring a bag lunch to work, because it's so much healthier. Have you seen what goes into bag lunches today? Processed granola bars that are almost more sugar than granola, non-carbonated and carbonated soft drinks with at least as much sugar, sandwiches made with bread comprised of mostly unpronounceable ingredients and filled with fatty mayonnaise and processed luncheon meats. And chips. I'm not saying that's what my wife would bring. I'm suggesting that's what these women would have her bring.

My wife talked to them about all the markets that we go to in Salt Lake, and they told here that there was nothing like that around here; just the one health food store on State Street and a place called Many Lands a few miles down the street from there. They continued to tell her how bad TV is because even commercials, apparently, are nothing but porn now. Something like that. I proceeded to inform my wife that she was not a horrible person for watching TV and not bagging lunch. I told her about the other two health food stores that I'd heard about, and informed her that if these women would put some shoes on and get out of the kitchen, maybe they would experience some more of the world, and maybe even get to know their own neighborhood.

Yes, I know I'm going to get in trouble for making comments about being barefoot in the kitchen. For those who get mad at me, I think you're missing the point. I'm not some wacko ultra-conservative jerk who believes that the old ways (if such a thing ever existed) are always the right ways. I'm saying you need to get out, experience the world, research things before you open your mouth, and stop trying to make my wife feel like a horrible person.

Thank you.


  1. I must say, it was an interesting trip. While in their I decided to sample their 'breakfast cereal'. I think Joe laughed as we walked out and I began to spit out barely chewable millet seeds. Bleh. Cracked wheat is *far* better than that crap.

    At least this store was cleaner/more professional than many others in the genre. The worst part though was the 'propaganda' posted all over the place about some guys research about native diets.

  2. Oh yeah, and about your wife :)

    Of course she's a bad person, example. At the interlug BBQ, I hadn't even said a word to her, merely made a small comment to a mutual acquaintance and she started saying bad things about my character and making a rude gesture (which I hear is somewhat common in her case).

    For some reason, I get the feeling she'll be doing that to me regularly. :)

  3. Your wife is very good person who felt terrible after the women left. They also invited me to a COOKING class from a woman in the neighboorhood...because I don't have access to that at home you knowqljadt

  4. For what it's worth, I think that the "Many Lands" place that the women mentioned is the place that I discovered last week. Not exactly what I'd call a health-food store -- more of a "collecting food from just about every country imaginable" type of store. Had some pretty fun stuff there. You might be able to find lemongrass there, actually. I was pretty happy because i found White Rabbits (one of my favorite candies). :)

    Anyway, to your wife: don't worry about what those other girls think about you. They're wrong, and there's no reason to let them affect you. :)

  5. I think they were just talking about markets (as opposed to megamarts), which is something that they grouped health food and ethnic food into. Of course, they also ignored the Latino market that shares a parking lot with the health store they did mention, and may not even know about all the other Latin markets in this area. There's actually quite a few.


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