This morning, as I was walking around in a city I’m not from, I spotted a natural health foods store, and I didn’t walk in. For most of my life, health foods stores, especially granola ones like this one, were my sanctuary anywhere I was. Ten years ago, I would have walked in just to be in there, to feel refuge from the unknown city in a space that would feel familiar despite never having known it existed. Today, the place struck me as elitist and self-righteous and, for lack of a better term, very white. I still love kombucha and sprouts and fair trade chocolate, and would go buy at any health food store that has something I can’t find elsewhere, but I no longer identify with it like I used to.
Part of it is simply that the 90s are over and nowadays shopping in immigrant stores is more exciting and edgy and generally the current marker of a socially conscious, forward-thinking individual. Tie-dye shirts out; hipsters buying local homemade kimchi is in.
But a big part of what that bothers me is the concept of “health foods”, as if you have to go to a special place to buy food that is good for you. As if bananas and kale from the supermarket aren’t truly healthy foods — for that you have to go to this place to buy spirulina and goji berries and whatever other crap is not marketed as being *especially* good for you. That the nutrition from regular fruits and veggies are inferior to the nutrition you obtain from a different kind of store. With the massive problem that we’re having in North America in getting people to eat right, I find it pernicious to insinuate that nutrition is any more outside the reach of regular people that it already is.
So while I’m sort of tempted to open an immigrant-run Marxist food co-op, I think I’ll keep doing my groceries in the cheapest place I can find.