Let me start by stating that I am a fan of Whole Foods Market, and a firm believer in paying more for a tomato that tastes like a tomato. During two recent trips to the new South Miami branch, however, I was surprised to find that a number of items on my shopping list were unavailable. For instance, the store was out of frozen orange juice concentrate (which, if you must know, I use for glazing, not gulping). When they were out again the second time, an employee explained, “We sell a lot of that.” There was no liver on hand in the meat department. Nor chicken wings. Nor beef shank bones for soup. The produce department was out of yucca. Paper plates were in stock, which I considered purchasing, as dishwashing gloves were unavailable.
It was while perusing the spice aisle that a woman approached me and asked if I’d seen any five-spice powder. “No”, I answered, “but it’s a fairly common spice these days. I’m sure they have it.” I was involved in my own search for lemon extract. “That’s what I thought,” she continued, “but I can’t find any.” At this point, having carefully inspected the extract selection in vain, I scanned the hundreds of little containers for five-spice. There was none. “It’s like Baskin-Robbins not carrying vanilla,” she said, and then added that they didn’t stock any frozen blueberry bagels, either. “I’m sure they’ll have five-spice in Publix” I assured her, but at this point my credibility was pretty much shot.
I moseyed to the deli section for a sandwich. They’ve got plenty of cold cuts, which they sell by the pound. A brand new slicing machine. A bakery department’s worth of accessible bread a mere ciabatta's throw away. But they don’t make sandwiches. Instead, they have pre-assembled subs and wraps in a cooler. The former looked astonishingly unwholesome. The ham, for instance, was two-toned: Pink and gray. But even fresh fillings couldn’t save these monstrosities, as the elongated sub rolls they use are so soft, white, and cheap they make the bread at Blimpie’s seem artisanal.
While driving home, I wondered when it was that orange juice concentrate became so goddamn popular. --Lee Klein