There is nothing quite like roaming through the aisles of a local natural food co-operative store. The feel of fresh, organic produce in all its colorful, rich and fragrant glory, glowingly beckoning you to the bins and refrigerated shelves where you can select a lovely head of red leaf lettuce, a succulent cucumber, or a real tomato-all organically grown, much of it locally.
Today, I got a very special treat. I took my 81 year old mother into her very first co-op experience. Fortuitously, she happens to live in Davis, of the greenest cities around. I knew they’d have a good Co-Op and indeed, I was not disappointed.
Since I was visiting and she usually doesn’t venture further than the familiar neighborhood grocery store we had to search G Street for the Davis Food Co-Op building. And there it was, unmistakable from quite a distance. The building was painted green, of course, and sporting that look of “used-to-be-some-other-business-but-this-was-affordable-for-a-co-op-to-buy” motif. The familiar helmeted cyclists were flocking in and young people wearing fashionable grunge with a little earth muffin thrown in, milled around in the parking lot. They were visiting with each other, strapping their kids into shopping carts and carrying their reusable cloth bags.
To her credit, my mom had two cloth bags of her own (I also spied some swoopy fluorescent bulbs in her kitchen drawers earlier along with stainless-steel water bottles in the fridge). I was secretly a bit proud of her, just then.
We stepped into the store and were immediately embraced by the familiar, fabulous, full salad bar. We got out the waxed paper boxes (no reusable containers yet) from below the cold table, and began filling them with spring mix, brightly colored yellow, red and orange cherry tomatoes, homemade tabouleh, chopped veggies and an assortment of organic dressings. She snuck some cubed turkey into her box. I was hoping it was free-range.
With our lunch in tow, we turned to the were marked commercially grown. We steered clear of those and made sure to look for the 9 preceding the PLU numbers that designate produce as organic. We found lovely, tomatoes, apples, oranges, zucchini, garnet yams, avocados and several varieties of lettuce. Tofu cream cheese, soy milk, and stevia sweetener were also added to our cart.
Having found that it was helpful for her insomnia, Mom needed some melatonin, the sublingual kind. This particular Co-op had their own, in-house brand for 75% less than the brand name bottle. Mom was discovering new and exciting apothecary items amongst the supplements, natural cosmetics and personal care doo-dads on shelves near the melatonin. I think she was impressed.
As she gazed around at the vast variety of natural products, supplements, food items, prepared foods, and healthy beverages, she started to get a sense of the slightly-moist feel and clear vibe that accompanies a conscious-eating emporium. At this point, serious thought about joining the ranks of the raw food, vegan aficionados began to enter her mind. She picked up a Davis Food Co-Op Membership Brochure.
We happily approached the checkout counter with our prizes and Mom was thrilled that she was given the deferential badge of respect: the senior discount. Both cloth bags were filled with wonderful goodies which we carted alongside to choose organic ingredient our table outside in the adjacent garden picnic area where we ate our salad-bar lunch.
While I munched on the tasty, olive-oily salad, listening to her murmur “Mmmmm” and again, “Mmmmm”, a sense of great gladness enveloped me. I was so very happy to have been able to share, with my dear mum, the particular feeling I get when I’ve gathered my food from a store I hope we will all be seeing soon in many more numbers on a great many more street corners: the customer-owned natural food co-op.