Thursday, September 3, 2009

Yum yum globalization.

This is just bizarre to me:

That, my friends, is a Whole Foods store in my old neighborhood in London. I knew there was the big outpost in the Barkers building on Kensington High Street, but I didn’t know that American Corporate Organic had started to reach its pebbly Twiglet-tentacles out into Zone 2. That’s just surreal.

I remember when I was a kid living in Paris and the excitement I felt when a lone store opened that sold (at exorbitant prices) American staples such as Kraft macaroni and cheese, Oreos, and Nestle chocolate chips. Before that my mother had let me load up my suitcase with such culinary delights whenever we took a trip back to the States. Otherwise, I would have had to make do with snacking on my Parisian concoction of potato chips in a dip I fashioned from mayonnaise, mustard and some paprika, or with the giant bars of Milka chocolate I would devour in an hour of sitting on the couch after school watching French music videos or playing Atari.

By the time I was an adult and living out in my neighborhood of Battersea known as “Between the Commons,” there was plenty of processed American kids’ food you could buy at specialty shops in central London, but not too much out in my neck of the woods. That was OK with me; by then my love for UK supermarket fare had long surpassed any desire for the chemically created “food” I’d learned to crave from a childhood full of Saturday mornings in front of the TV. I could dither in a Marks and Spencer food shop for hours, loading my basket with chicken tikka masala, jacket potatoes with tuna and sweetcorn, and other such exotic ready-made fare.

Organic food wasn’t really on the radar as a big marketing tool in London in 2001. There was one sort of “health-food” shop in Notting Hill that had a grotty ambience I associated with dreadlocks, B.O. and bedsits, even though it sold expensive meat and produce and probably had quite a wealthy and “enlightened” clientele that spent its winters on yachts in the Balearic islands.

Now, however, it appears the push to market the expensively healthful, whole-grain lifestyle has arrived in England full force. Ain’t globalization grand! Now I just need an unadulterated version of my favorite Prêt-à-manger right here in Cowtown.

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