I’m not going after Whole Foods because EVERYONE goes after Whole Foods. Plus, I’m pretty sure that the people who seriously shop at Whole Foods either a) are so rich that paying anything less than $5 for one heirloom double-organic, individually shrink-wrapped potato would be truly unthinkable or b) already know they are terrible and just don’t give a damn (which I for sure respect). Whole Foods knows what it’s about, and it’s not ashamed.
What I’m talking about is the current gentrification phenomenon known under numerous names (around my area) such as Mariano’s, Caputo’s, and the collections of “[differentiating word] Fresh Market.” Fuck. These. Places. My first trip to a Mariano’s taught me that my head was not quite far enough up my own ass to ever feel comfortable there. And you can probably already tell that my head is pretty far up my ass as it is. There’s a sit-down sushi counter and a sit-down BBQ restaurant and a sit-down oyster bar and a person that’s paid to play live elevator music ON A GRAND PIANO. AT THE GROCERY STORE. The worst part about these places though is the carts, which have a special holder for wine glasses. WHAT. And the biggest sin of all was that people were using these wine glass holders U N I R O N I C A L L Y.
I used to live in a town where Jewel was the most upscale grocery store. And my family didn’t shop there, because my mom found the sticker price of name brand, Tollhouse Nesquik Nabisco Kraft Betty Crocker Campbells Jennie-O and Bush’s Baked Beans all to be personally insulting. So my childhood nutritional consumption consisted of various goods from motherfucking Aldi. Old Aldi—pre-non-GMO-healthier-option-competitor Aldi. I’m talking Cheese Club individual string-cheese packs and Casa Mamasita taco night. Moo Toob knockoff Go-Gurt that tasted like strawberry-infused sewage and Marshmallows and Stars cereal which was supposed to contend with Lucky Charms but fell sadly short in terms of magical breakfast fun. No prize awaited me at the bottom of my cereal, just ashy marshmallow dust to remind me of my own eventual expiration. Being the kid with Aldi food gave me social anxiety. It introduced me to the unfairness of capitalist society. I’d show up with my Benton’s Everyday chocolate chip cookies and Baker’s Corner swiss rolls and plain bologna sandwiches while the Jewel kids happily ate their Chips Ahoy and Hostess Ho-Ho’s and Lunchables. So many Catholic grade school lunches spent hiding my Clancy’s “Nacho Cheese Flavor Tortilla Chips” behind my non-insulated lunchbox while classmates flaunted their Dorrito’s in flavors like Cool Ranch, Caviar, and Rock Lobster. For all the other things we couldn’t purchase at Aldi, we went to Westbrook Market and Ultra Foods, where we scoured their clearance meat bin and found some god damn DEALS on good shit like chicken and pork chops that maybe weren’t the freshest but also not expired and I didn’t even get really sick off any of it once. Simple.
Anyways, these name brand assholes decided they needed to spend even more for their bullshit while ALSO shopping in an environment that’s akin to something that seems vaguely European. I guess. So they closed the Ultras and Westbrook Markets and even some of the Jewels and erected these monsters, breeding grounds for Vineyard Vines logos and beige Michael Kors purses that are beacons of the battle cry “I’m completely fine with everyone knowing there is absolutely nothing unique about me.” Every middle-age mom-type person in those stores has some family dinner kale-involved recipe pulled up on their phones while they fill their cart with Milano’s and Wonder bread and fresh butter pie an actual vat of pure high fructose corn syrup and maybe just one bag of dried cherries, because they’re watching their weight and Parmela at Curves said these were just so great for when you feel those pesky urges to snack!!
I hate Mariano’s and its inbred grocery cousins. I stopped shopping at Aldi when I became an adult because I thought I was better than it. But now I can’t afford to shop at these extravagant places and maintain my dignity all at once, because yeah I’d love another sample of that feta & spinach filo cup but I also can’t spend $23 on the frozen bag of 5 even though I seriously considered it. Maybe I hate those stores so much because they do a great job of exposing my crippling habit to impulse buy stupid shit. Deli ham for $25/Ib? Sure. 30 random olives from the assorted olive bar? Yes. An entire cake decorated like an art-nouveau painting that only looks good aesthetically? Absolutely. Brie cheese? Every time I’ve tried it I’ve fucking hated it but the packaging is edgy artistic so why not give it another chance for $18?? I can’t be doing that BUT I CAN’T STOP.
All I’m asking is they bring back the clearance meat bins. Long live clearance meat.