Saturday, March 25, 2006

i (and everyone else) heart berkeley bowl

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.


Tracy Lynn said...

The clitoris has it's own day? AND a party? I don't think my clitoris could stand the excitement; it's not really used to that much attention from total strangers, no less.

thelastnoel said...

Wow, this Berkeley Bowl sound awesome. I'm getting into healthier foods, though I'm far from becoming a Granola Gay.

Cheryl said...

We missed the play and saw The Heart is Deceitful Above All Things instead. I would have MUCH rather celebrated my clitoris while eating granola.

erin said...

actually not everyone hearts berkeley bowl. when we first moved to berkeley, it was the closest grocery store to our teeny tiny apartment and since we didn't have a car, that's where we went. we had to load up the buckets strapped to our bikes and balance grocery bags on the handle bars to get the goods home. unfortunately, going there so frequently in the first year of our berkeley existence completely broke erin... she won't go there anymore. never never ever ever. she hates crowds. she rolls her eyes at pseudo-hippies. she openly snarls at pretentious berkeleyites who simply won't shop anywhere less berkeley than the berkeley bowl. i think if she completely lost it and became homicidal... that would be the place. even i... who love the berkeleyist of berkeley things... find the berkeley bowl a bit much at this point. i think this is one of those cases where too much of a good thing is really bad.

Anonymous said...

My lovely wife summed up my feelings about that horrible place. What really did it for me was the little kid with dirty, sticky hands digging through the bulk rice one day. You, Cheryl, are much more patient than I and can appreciate the Organic Mecca that is the Berkeley Bowl. I had a meltdown every time I hit the produce section--despite all the dyke eye-candy.

Schrodinger's Kitten said...

really, it's all about the sexily posed star fruit. No sexy fruit, no sara.

Daisy Mae said...

Wah! I want to go to Berkeley Bowl! Although I don't think I want any bulk rice after what Anonymous wrote. That sort of thing happens everywhere though. We only pretend that it doesn't.

Cheryl said...

I'm going to pretend that little kids with snotty hands are completely uninterested in lowfat strawberry raspberry granola. Glad you girls have a car now (especially since it enabled you to come hang with me in Oakland)!