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Dr. Frank's What's-it: Comment on An Organic Experience
Comments: An Organic Experience

dude... just move.

Posted by holy modal rounder at February 6, 2005 07:59 AM

well,quite a rant there,and truly i understand.
i mean i'm vegetarian but you really can be such without spending a million bucks. i don't know why every body thinks they should. i guess i'm one who likes the occasional organic food but has manged to avoid that self-absorbent attitude that many of those people possess. i buy what's cheap,while still treating myself here and there.
pasta,some kind of sauce,my cage free eggs,eggos veggies here and there,juice of a sort(maybe that horchata milk if i feel like it)and cheese if i feel i can afford it. once i found subsitute sour cream that was cheaper than everything else, but i don't know if it was actually labeled organic and it was really more like butter and not terrific. but it was cheap.

anyways,like i've said before,i think it applies,
i never thought i'd hear the term "liberal nazi"
when i came to claifornia. i mean i'm not even a nazi vegetarian much less organic. what's up with those people. i mean i think if you're not vegetarian its good to eat meat sparingly and other foods a little closer to there natural source than we do,but you don't have to be perfect about it.

no mayonaisse won't kill you,i enjoy it too.

Posted by just me at February 6, 2005 05:40 PM

yes, i'm aware that no matter how normal it types to my eyes your posting can be obnoxiously different. also aware its spelled their when i'm speaking of the posssesive.

just in case it matters.

Posted by just me at February 6, 2005 05:44 PM

come on frank, as bad as whole foods may be it's nothing compared to berkeley bowl. that is the worst place on the face of the earth.

that said- most of my friends try to make me feel guilty for shopping at non-union, non-organic places, but i guess that's just one of the joys of living in the bay area, and that's why i will walk the extra couple blocks to go to safeway rather than androgyno's.

Posted by kendra at February 6, 2005 06:28 PM

Cute post, but totally wrong. The truth is, forget the mayo and the ketchup and all the holier-than-thou snobs who think their expensive groceries make up for their gas-guzzling SUV they parked outside. Forget the disgusting potato chips that taste like cardboard at $6 a bag and the overpriced chocolate that tastes like an ash tray. If what you like is more ordinary stuff like hamburgers and steak, fish and chicken, I'd say that it's worth a trip to Whole Foods or some place like that. You can get your ketchup somewhere else. Here's why: I come from a long line of cattle farmers, cousins and uncles and the whole bunch, the kind of guys who look at vegetarians with the same scorn that vegetarians look at them, guys who have never been to Whole Foods in their life, but I guarantee they know the difference between prime meat and choice, and if they didn't have their own cattle to slaughter, and were shopping for a decent rib-eye, they'd go wherever they had to, to get something worth eating. So that's one reason. Here's another: I'll admit that organic produce doesn't taste any better than regular. Hell, I'll admit that half the time, it tastes worse. It's also ugly and beat up. But if you spend the extra money to get it, you are doing something worthwhile. It's not as abstract as you might think. Most of it, unless they've somehow slipped through the cracks of the government watchdogs, that ugly, not-as-flavorful organic produce grown without toxic pesticides. Maybe you don't care about toxic pesticides, but if you lived in Austin, TX, where I live, and your favorite natural swimming hole was shut down half the summer because of toxic fertilizer running off into the water, so you can't swim without worrying about catching something, not to mention being unable to fish, the organic question doesn't seem quite so abstract. Anyway, I'm not here to preach, but just so you know, there is, in fact, a real value to it, not just in the minds of yuppies. Sure, I miss the 39-cent-per-pound bananas that look better and taste better, but they fuck up my summer.

Posted by WSH at February 6, 2005 07:21 PM

Thank god that there's somebody else in the Exalted Bay Area who feels exactly the same way I do!

Thanks too for the hearty laugh. I really needed it.

Posted by nixie at February 6, 2005 10:11 PM

for future reference:
when your wife goes to whole foods, have her pick you up a big brick of non-organic monterey jack cheese for $3.47. i got some there myself last night.

Posted by cew at February 6, 2005 11:02 PM

Bless you Frank. I laughed all the way through that post because it's only too true. Don't forget to add the 'low-carb" garbage to that list as well. I'm with you on this one brother.

Posted by Zaphod at February 7, 2005 12:45 AM

Kendra, you're right: we'll always have Safeway. Until it gets taken over, too.

WSH: I see what you're saying. And honestly, if I really thought that doubling my cheese budget and eating weird faux-mayonnaise would actually result in your having a better summer, I would consider it. That's just the kind of person I am. Big hearted, I mean. Sadly, I'm pretty sure that I would never be able to eat enough weird expensive food to help you out there. Sorry.

finally, thanks for the tip cew: oh, the irony...

Posted by Dr. Frank at February 7, 2005 02:16 AM

Excellent stuff Frank & your most interesting blog post since the last MTX tour. (That was a compliment) Talking of the moral food police, my brother is a vegan, he is both poor and thin.

Posted by Danny at February 7, 2005 05:52 AM

I'm selectively omnivorous and both not-so-badly-off and a bit cheap (I like to think these are somewhat related, but they're probably not), and I detested the one South American organic steak I've eaten from Whole Foods, but your mileage may vary. I do like their fresh roast beef sandwiches, though at $8.50 a pop, they're a tad posh, even for L.A.

However, I get what WSH is saying -- but the fact is we live in a capitalist economy, and there's not a compelling enough reason for most people to pay double price for a commodity. By compelling enough, I mean "directly and demonstrably affecting one's own quality of life". What I would support is forcing the non-organic companies of the world to pay a tax for the environmental damage they cause. Ultimately, whether by such a tax, or by the mere fact of petroleum scarcity (remember, you can't grow non-organic food without oil), organic food is going to be less expensive. I've got no hankering to be ahead of the times in terms of spending money, but I do believe that's where we're going -- and quickly, by all accounts; within the next 5 years, according to Peak Oil advocates like this Caltech professor (http://pr.caltech.edu/periodicals/CaltechNews/articles/v38/oil.html).

So I say enjoy the easy life while you can, and either get cracking on cold fusion or start making plans for the day when things are going to have to get a lot more organic.

Posted by Wes at February 7, 2005 07:27 AM

I went to the Reno variant of Whole Foods last week -- Wild Oats? The hell does that suggest? -- and the whole place bummed me out. I like "community" as much as anybody, but I don't want going to the goddamned store to be turned into some PBS telethon. (My wife usually goes there; I do the Trader Joe's shopping and don't mind that place a bit. Their carnitas are very good ... and all that sweet, sweet, cheap wine .....)

Thing is, this Wild Oats Ye Ol' Market has a nice yogurt from Oakland called Pavel's. Can't find it anywhere else in Northern Nevada. It's fantastic yogurt, like the stuff you get in the Balkans or where-ever: you pretty much want to drink the stuff, and I do. Plus, if you give a spoon or two to the dog each day, he doesn't fumigate your house with dog farts. (My vet clued me in to this Hot Tip, and I can vouch for it.)

I don't know much about Organic. But I do like to buy food from local ranchers & farmers, and many of them can charge a small premium by selling locally grown produce & meat & dairy. Free enterprise! If I can help keep local ranchers in business, I get to see a lot more working cattle operations and such, and maybe the pretty ranch isn't replaced with another stucco development, and my hamburgers are tasty. (Again, it's the free enterprise part I like; if the farmers/ranchers can't produce something I want, fuck 'em.) And I don't mind spending 40 cents more for a dozen "cage free" brown eggs, not only because it's sad to think about chickens stuffed in wire cages, but because those cage-free brown eggs are mighty tasty.

Advice for Organic Food Stores: Please quit playing fucking Sting on the Muzak.

Posted by Ken Layne at February 7, 2005 08:32 AM

I don't give a rat's ass about pesticides or fertilizers. "The dose makes the poison" is the reality and yeah if you get bad runoff from fertilizer--any kind of fertilizer--it's no good for you. So what? Some of the "organic" methods wind up with more toxins anyway, last I read.

That said, I still find about half the stuff at Whole Foods places worthwhile. Usually the meats, the cheeses, and some of the fancier stuff. Also some of them bake nice fresh breads. Some of the fresh produce is nice. The rest is generally a joke.

Posted by Dean Esmay at February 7, 2005 12:58 PM

Andy Rooney,

So spend the money in liquor. It's not as if good liquor is objectively better than good cheese. Why be offended by other peoples preferences?

Posted by josh at February 7, 2005 04:33 PM

Yeah, I know I'm a bit Andy Rooney sometimes. Mostly just trying to be funny. Really, I love all you organic folks. Though, as Ken says, it's hard to have four or more in the room together without feeling like you're in the middle of an impromptu PBS pledge drive.

Posted by Dr. Frank at February 7, 2005 04:43 PM

Dude, there was this one time I bought a head of organic cauliflower from Wildlarry's in Arcata. It was filled with an assload of bugs. Then there are those stories from a few years back of people getting home with their precious bundles of organic grapes, only to find live black widows in them. I'll take pesticides any day over instant death by fruit.

Posted by Emily at February 7, 2005 05:19 PM

Yeah any story that ends with "there was black widows inside" is especially believeable. It would'nt be just ants or anything like that. Has to be something especially creepy.
"and then when they cut the birthday cake, it was full of.. tarantulas!" give me a break.

Posted by mike at February 7, 2005 05:36 PM

Hey Emily,

_I_ liked your story. :D

Posted by DNB at February 7, 2005 06:01 PM

Maybe people just don't repeat stories about ants.

Posted by josh at February 7, 2005 08:39 PM

Dr. Frank,
I just thought calling you on your Andy Rooney bit would be funny. I didn't mean to sound offended or offensive.

Posted by josh at February 7, 2005 08:44 PM

Humorous, and true. Out here in the Northeast people don't mock you for cheap eating (at least not very often) but the organic stuff is rather costly. When it comes to eating $7 shallots or a $5 month's supply of Cup o' noodles I'm afraid the high sodium ramen w processed meat, and peas wins.

Posted by Rich at February 7, 2005 08:47 PM


yikes,can't do ramen anymore,and believe i have consumed it in mass amounts. i'm not a very a healty vegetarian. i'm on the all fat all carb diet. well,excepting i've just never liked meat very much. now kraft macaroni,that's good stuff.

Posted by just me at February 7, 2005 09:44 PM

the only organic i do is milk. and that's because it has that cool little cap on the side, so you can pour it out and seal it up easily... you don't have to try to pull the lip out of the top of the carton. because sometimes, it just doesn't want to pull out, and you have to jam something sharp in there, and make a hole big enough for your finger, so you can force it out. then it's all mangled.

i like the cool little cap on the side.

Posted by jodi at February 7, 2005 11:59 PM

it's called hyperbole, folks. a common tool of the humorist. not that vegan-organic-healthier-than-thou types usually have much of a sense of humor.

Posted by Jim Testa at February 8, 2005 12:42 AM

frank, i interviewed you a few times for "the stranger" in seattle several years back and was convinced then that you were the conscience of rock and roll. i found your blog and am no less convinced. glad to see you're writing a book for the teens whose lives need your input. as for whole foods, the only thing i ever learned there was that the children of the ruling class should never work in the service industry.

Posted by Larry Rosen at February 8, 2005 01:36 AM

Larry - I disagree. The children and adults of the ruling class should be the only ones working in the service industry (or else digging beets from the hard, parched soil while wearing unattractive burlap garments). It's their turn now.

Naw, but f'real, as a broke-ass junk-food vegetarian I've decided that there's nobody more tiresome than those who think that their diet elevates them spiritually. I don't want to eat meat, for reasons of my own; similarly, if I decide to refrain from eating the garbage foods I love (Doritos, Little Debbies, grilled cheese, and yes, mayonnaise) it'll be because they've given me a doughy midsection, not because some busybody said I should.

Posted by Jason Toon at February 8, 2005 02:34 AM

Hold on Frank! Wal-Mart will be there soon to rescue you.

Posted by madhatter at February 8, 2005 02:38 AM

I found it true and quite funny, luckily up here in CT we still got 'super stop and shops' every fifteen minutes where I can stock up on my ritz crackers , cream soda, and canned cheez whiz to my hearts content (im sure it will eventually catch up to me but..oh well maby then i'll go organic) but the organic markets we have are insanely priced..I cant imagine what berkly is like. Alot of peopel here tough are into the organic pills those "take 3 every hour" giant cockroach sized pills that look and smell like compacted grass. Anyway if you ever need some cheese I would be more than happy to ship you out a few pounds of 'the good stuff'

Posted by Foarde at February 8, 2005 02:50 AM

Larry is right. I used to frequent the Whole Foods in St. Paul on Grand Ave, and the little Macalester-going bastages working there were less than worthless. All the puttering Victorian house-restoring housewives didn't seem to care, so it worked out, I suppose.

The saving grace of WF is the wall'o'bins. The macadamia nuts were only $8/lb and not covered in freaking salt. The carob almonds are also faboo. Huzzar! However, the organic shampoo and bath salt section, which seemed to cover half the store, can fuck straight off.

Posted by Dylan at February 8, 2005 07:54 AM

California sounds like a strange place. I don't know anybody who feels that their diet elevates them spiritually. If I ever met such a person, I woldn't expect them to be part of a larger food-cult.

I think organic food is an indicator of quility to some degree. I'm not sure that organic-ness contributes to the quality, but I think its more of a signal to the buyer that the product is made with quality emphasized to some degree more than cost (when compared to some other products) and like any other product, if people don't feel like they are getting what they pay for, the company won't last long in competitive markets. I never buy organic foods, but my girlfriend had some Horizon brand skim milk. It tasted as good as generic whole milk.

Posted by josh at February 8, 2005 01:57 PM

uh, mike...dude...black widows are natural predators of bugs that infest grape crops and are used as a pesticide-free alternative. I'm not making this shit up. You give ME a break.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/food/Story/0%2C2763%2C848518%2C00.html

Posted by Emily at February 8, 2005 04:36 PM

I disagree slightly with the Berkeley Bowl slams. It's horribly crowded most of the time, but the produce (even/particularly the non-organic) and meat are great (and as long as I can get veal there, I can believe they haven't gotten too hippy for their britches), and you can get cheap cheese there.

That said, I do all my regular shopping at the Safeway at 51st and Broadway--a true store of the people (you can tell because they have those special caps to prevent you from stealing the hard liquor).

Posted by sean at February 8, 2005 04:55 PM

Here's what you do:
Move to the suburbs, where there's a giant grocery store every couple of blocks, and no hippies or picket signs. Buy your food there. If your wife complains, tell her...I don't know; whatever you feel you need to.
See how easy that was?

Posted by Satan at February 8, 2005 05:30 PM

This is just a little off topic but oh well...I used to work at Safeway and I have to say one of the worst things ever is bagging groceries that you can't afford to buy for yourself. I worked there when I was spending about $4 or $5 a week for food which consisted of Ramen...I'll never eat noodles and water again. But, back on the topic, I've shopped at organic food places because I thought I'd find more food that I'd want since I'm vegetarian, but I really didn't. I found a lot of over priced veggie burgers that I could buy at a normal grocery store and even more over priced stuff that I either couldn't pronounce or would never buy because my boyfriend would call me a hippy. And I'd probably call myself a hippy. So, I agree. I lump in organic food with the whole kabbalah and low carb type of thing.

Posted by Amy 80 at February 8, 2005 05:40 PM

i used to be very anti-organic for most of the same reasons. but about a month ago i was shopping in one of those health supermarkets and they had free samples of produce. i ate an organic grapefruit and it felt like there was a party in my mouth but no one's invited cuz i want the taste all to myself. i ate the fuck out of that produce section that day, and it was really the best fruit i've ever had in my life. i figure if i don't complain when i buy a bag of "good" pot for 50 bucks i shouldn't be so dismissive of higher priced/higher quality fruits and vegetables.
and zaphod - the "low carb" stuff is pretty much the antithesis of the natural/organic food movement. perhaps they are both filed under "annoying" in your mental cabinet, but i can't think of two more different food stuffs.

Posted by christ opher at February 8, 2005 07:01 PM

As it happens, my family grows about half the organic apples in California. Theyre' right there in the great big bins when you walk into WF. The Fujis & Pink Ladies. Cuyama Orchards. Yes, its true, Certified Organic is a marketing gimmic with some much debated standards. And we are certainly taking advantage of it. But there are real benefits to produce and orchard quality, as well as to the environment.

Also, Ken's point about helping local farms is true. Smaller, more isolated farms can successfully grow organic & distribute through the smaller chains & stores. Buying produce from Ralphs, Safeway, etc tends to be a bad deal for the consumer BTW. The markups are steep and the big chains will only deal with the big orchards in Washington who have lots & lots of standardized, kinda crappy tasting apples.

That said, last time I was in Whole Foods and getting the rockstar treatment for our apples (a big seller there), I kind of blanched at the prices on meats & other items.

Posted by Lloyd at February 8, 2005 07:19 PM

Organic fruit tastes so much better than conventional fruit, because it's fresher. Plus, here in San Jose, organic milk, eggs, meat and produce are cheaper than their conventional counterparts. (At least at safeway, where no one buys organic.) My guess is that since it is organic, it has a shorter shelf life, and is therefore priced to move.
Since I became pregnant, I won't touch meat or milk that is not organic. Those hormones are terrifying. The dairy industry began adding RBST to milk in 1990, and the average onset of menses went from 13 to 8. Or something like that.

I agree with the Rare Andean Spelt Vegan Mayonnaise thing, though. Whole Foods has a lot of rich "hippies" fooled. I say make your own at home. It's nice when your food can remember where it came from.

Posted by Katie at February 8, 2005 08:32 PM


i have to confess,i have liked a funny mayonaise,not that one though i'm pretty sure.
this one is miso based(which i thought might be a tasty treat)and its doesn't look like you have to have a million dollars to buy it. i didn't feel all high-fluent(okay that might be a perfect spelling exception)buying it,which was good.

it was tasty too.

Posted by just me at February 8, 2005 08:45 PM

DF: "I'm going to have to find a Lucky's or something."

You won't find a Lucky. They all vanished in 1999.

What a wonderful, curmudgeonly rant that was. And I enjoyed the entertaining replies. It kinda reminded me of the olden days when I looked forward to turning on my computer. Ahh, it was an innocent time.

I'm a little confused by the claim, "Organic fruit tastes so much better than conventional fruit, because it's fresher." Um, isn't freshness a quality related to the age of the fruit, not necessarily the method it was grown?

On that note, everybody remember to ask for fair trade coffee the next time you go to Starbucks. I think it's fresher or something.

If you are feeling nostalgic, read about Lucky Stores here:
http://www.groceteria.net/lucky/

Posted by j francis at February 8, 2005 09:47 PM


i'm am afraid of anything with the word "spelt" in it. Should I be ashamed I don't even know what that means?

Posted by just me at February 8, 2005 09:52 PM

Good work, Frank!
I know these organic foods may be a little better and/or virtuous, but c'mon.
My indebted, college-loan payin', own apartment living, minimum wage friend insisted on shopping at Trader Joes. When she found she only had two bags of food for close to 50 or 60 dollars, she quickly gave up the organic lifestyle.
There's nothing inherantly wrong with it, but most of it is just so excessively priced when it is likely not too different than regular things.
And I too have noticed all that stuff slowly seeping into my neighborhood Vons, which now has a fancy deli section that looks like it's straight out of the Shire.

Posted by Megan at February 9, 2005 12:19 AM

Just You,
I think I know the word but it's spelt differntly. OH!

Posted by christ opher at February 9, 2005 04:34 PM

Well, I buy organic food to help prevent destruction of the planet, and for health/taste reasons. I'm certainly not one to do something to be elite or cool. Lot's of mainstream stores/brands are going natural/organic with some stuff, like Frito-Lay, and Full Circle. I actually get my milk from an organic farm, right from the tank, raw and unpasteurized. Price in the store: $6.00 and up, price from the farm: $2.50. Don't move to the suburbs, move to the midwest. ;)

Posted by Pete Prodoehl at February 10, 2005 03:33 PM

Hitler was a vegetarian
Didn't you know?
He also was an anti-smoker
Militantly so
So don't mind me
if I go downtown
For a plate of barbeque
'cause Hitler was a vegetarian too.

Posted by shafe at February 10, 2005 04:17 PM

WSH is bullshitting you, Dr.

They first started shutting down Barton Springs in the early 80s on account of excess levels of E. coli after the bluffs above the creek were developed. Need I draw the connection between E. coli and organic gardening? I didn't think so.

Factually, the adoption of organic gardening/farming on a large scale would ruin our planet's water and kill most of the people in the Third World. If that sounds like fun, go for it.

Posted by Richard Bennett at February 10, 2005 06:04 PM

Not to mention make the world significantly poorer. It's a luxury item, folks. Telling the world to farm organically is a little like saying "Let them eat cake" to the impoverished parts of the world.

Posted by josh at February 10, 2005 07:29 PM

Dear Frank,
Thanks for the incisive rant about elitist food, but what comes across most clearly is that you thrive on your contempt for Bay Area culture. I tried living up there once and hated it for many of the same reasons. However, I didn't get enough of a charge out of my hatred to actually stay there. Admit it: If your region weren't full of self-important navel-gazers, you'd have less to write about and maybe even an identity crisis. Go on, admit it.

Posted by armchair adny at February 11, 2005 09:26 AM

Here in Manhattan, I've become accustomed to the area farmers at the farmers' market carping about the fact that most of their clientele has begun to patronize the Whole Foods megastores that purports to purchase locally grown produce.

Apparently watching your customers (and revenue) depart for a nicely packaged, clean corporate sham is pretty grating.

Posted by nick at February 12, 2005 12:10 AM

You gotta wonder what gives in the minds of the organic food zealots given that a global transition to organic farming means either 1) the clear-cutting of the rain forests for arable land or 2) the starvation of about three billion brown people.

Posted by David Gillies at February 13, 2005 08:28 AM

First of all, I don't always shop at WF stores so maybe I'm a bit of a hypocrite. But I do like to buy a lot of organic food at my local co-op. This puts some more of my money directly into the pockets of locals instead of mainly the big corporations who already have too much money and influence. Also, the whole genetically modified organisms thing kind of scares me, so I like to support those who won't use this technology; I'm told that, at least here in Vermont, organic means non-GMO. People should also realize that a lot of meat producing animals are raised in really cruel ways- not usually so with organic farms. If someone convinced me that "organic" is all bunk, does more harm than good, and my beliefs are untrue, I'd stop buying organic. No doubt, there are many people who buy organic because it's a sort of fasion statement, but there are many who do so because it feels good to do something to try to make a bit of a difference.

Posted by Dan at April 28, 2005 03:47 AM

I totally agree. Come on. Organic potato chips, with Sea Salt? And they are better for me because they are cooked in something like peanut oil. Cut the crap, give me my regular, high in trans fat chips. We're all gonna die anyway. Let me stomach at least be happy. And really, are the organin corn flakes so much more healthy than General Mills?? Maybe, somehow, these organic, fruity people think eating organic is gonna make them so much healthier. Yeah, whatever. Idiots. Sea Salt. Come one.

Posted by john at February 22, 2006 10:41 PM

Hallelujah! (Did I spell that right?)

I came home with my two kids today after having spent $100 bucks at Whole Foods for just about nothing. On occasion, we have lunch there, because they have tables and some kiddie toys. Half of the stuff I bought was regular stuff that I buy at our local Roche Bros. supermarket (Annie's bunny mac & cheese, "Clifford" crunch cereal, Stonyfield yogurt...) The difference today was, everything cost me at least 10% more.

What irked me most was when I went to the deli, noted, happily, that they had American cheese for our grilled cheese, and got a holier-than-thou comment from the DELI CLERK about how this cheese was "real cheese" too. "You do know that the cheese you buy in regular supermarkets is all chemicals, don't you?" Actually, I didn't. Maybe it's from hormone cows or something, but at $2.99 a pound versus $5.99 a pound, I guess my grilled-cheese loving 2- and 5-year-olds are going to have to make do with super estrogen Bessie cheese.

Posted by Judy at February 28, 2006 11:11 PM