When Jenessa told me about her favorite grocery store, Berkeley Bowl, she said, “It’s dirt cheap and they have eight kinds of pears, but I have to meditate in the parking lot before going in because it’s just so insane. These Berkeley women with their shopping carts!”
She proceeded to do an impression of a dreamy soul standing in the middle of a crowded produce aisle, mesmerized by Manila mangoes and completely oblivious to the traffic jam building up behind her.
Later in the day, I was having lunch with Annette when, unprompted, she did the exact same impression.
“But I go there and I see the 40 kinds of self-serve granola and I just think, ‘Wow, I am at the epicenter of granola,’” Annette said.
I had to see this place. And no, Berkeley Bowl is not Berkeley’s best kept secret. The word is out and the place is packed, although, Jenessa informed me as we nudged our way past cute dyke couples and little kids and Rastafarians, it was actually pretty slow for a Saturday afternoon.
“I really wanted you to have the full chaotic experience,” she sighed.
But I had no complaints. A good grocery store is a beautiful and sensual experience, and Berkeley Bowl was a full-on bowlgasm. Twelve types of radishes. Dried pasta you can buy by the scoop. Fresh pasta by the bag. Mix-your-own trail mix. Free samples of candied almonds and gouda cheese. A taqueria. A fish aisle that smells like fish and a coffee aisle that smells like coffee. An olive bar.
And, unlike Whole Foods or Bristol Farms, which are aesthetically delightful but also pretentious and overpriced and fake-country-grocery-store-y, Berkeley Bowl is very democratic. My hand-scooped low-fat strawberry raspberry granola only cost $1.62, and a sort of scruffy utilitarianism pervades the displays. No sexily posed star-fruit here, just acres and acres of scoopable food in clear plastic bins with little signs that say “no sampling” (though of course people do—I didn’t, however, because I decided I’d had enough crime for one weekend).
Tonight Jenessa and I are making fresh spinach pasta (which we had to ask how to cook, having only dealt with the dried stuff before) with fresh pesto. Then we’re going to see an International Clitoris Day Celebration in the city, after which we plan to go to the Lexington and see if we can pass Jenessa’s boyfriend off as a butch dyke.
I’ve thought about moving to the Bay Area before, but at times like these, I think, No, I couldn’t handle it. Life would just be too easily wonderful.