The joys of walking down the grocery aisle

Amazon Whole Foods
A Whole Foods Market purchase awaits placement in a car trunk, outside the Jackson, Miss., store.

 

When I heard that Amazon bought Whole Foods, I had mixed feelings. On one hand, I appreciate technology and the convenience and time-saving it affords — and it might be cool one day to have a drone drop a bag of groceries on my doorstep.

But I must admit I enjoy the food-shopping experience.

These days, with my kids grown, I’m mostly just shopping for two. So now I shop frequently, popping in and out rather quickly, choosing whatever tickles my fancy. Practically, I’m not sure how comfortable I would be buying groceries online. I know what a six-ounce can of tuna looks like and I could specify the particular brand I want. But I need to touch my apples and eye my seafood.

If the salmon looks especially fresh, I feel confident in my selection. I don’t think I could trust someone else to make that choice for me. And wouldn’t something get lost in the transportation?

On the welcome occasions that the kids are coming for dinner or I’m hosting company, I find grocery shopping even more fun. So much of it is impulse buying. I get to select special things that I know each kid enjoys but that have long been left off my regular list. Steamed and grilled artichokes are a favorite go-to appetizer meant to impress guests, but only if the artichokes are big and green, not brown. Guacamole is another crowd-pleaser, assuming the avocados are sufficiently ripe. Could my type-A personality allow someone else to do the choosing?

I also find strolling the aisles relaxing and at times nostalgic. Foods I once bought on a regular basis — string cheese, juice boxes, Cheerios — now bring back memories and a smile. I feel the angst of a harried mom with a tot in the cart, who constantly urges his parent to fulfill his wish list. When it’s not my kid pulling chips off the shelf or hurling a half-eaten cookie down the aisle, it’s amusing. It’s nice to recall those days fondly.

For that mom, I’m sure, a drone delivery would be most welcome.

This Whole Foods news was big in my family, especially for my new daughter-in-law. Part of my son’s vows in their wedding in November was that he “promised to make her as happy as Whole Foods did.” In her vows, she included, “I promise to smile every time you walk in the room as big as I do when I walk into Whole Foods.”

Though her obsession with the store was adorable, I didn’t understand it at the time.

When I lived in the burbs I was loyal to Shop Rite, appreciating the huge selection and regular sales. With a loyalty card, I didn’t have to clip coupons, but I loved the savings that automatically came off the final tally.

That’s also part of the appeal of food shopping for me. Unless I really care about a particular brand, I tend to go for the item on sale. Chicken of the Sea vs. Starkist — I don’t really care. I’m the type who comes home from the store bragging about how much I saved. It’s sport for me.

Now that I’m living in the city, I understand my daughter-in-law’s love of Whole Foods. I’ve never seen a brown artichoke there, and though more expensive than other stores, the chicken is always juicy, tender, and delicious. The flower selection is top notch and few stores can compete with its cheese display.

But therein lies the rub of buying those things online. Choosing flowers is a visceral experience. How do they look? How do they smell? Will they last a week or just a few days? Sure, I’ve had flowers delivered before as gifts for special occasions and they’ve been gorgeous and long-lasting. But they were pricey, not your once-a-week bouquet.

I recognize the many benefits to virtual grocery shopping. Time savings. Convenience. And I can still choose items on sale. But I would miss the smells of baking chocolate chip cookies or chicken frying, the feel and sight of ripe red tomatoes, and the joy of choosing the specific treats that I will cook and feed to my family.

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