Prepping the leafy greens. Sorting out the supplements. Counting the bags of Pirate’s Booty. Working at a natural foods store in Maine was one of my favorite jobs ever. I learned a great deal about healthy living, and even more about human behavior:
- Organic produce really does taste better. Before I started eating organic fruits and vegetables, I doubted that there was any real difference between organic and commercial. But then I started eating organic every day. When I would go back to eating non-organic produce, I could easily taste the difference. And it wasn't good.
- However, the word “organic” can function as a healthy-living halo that gives otherwise conscious consumers permission to buy and eat very unhealthy products – like organic Jellybeans by the bagful.
- Some vegetarians go crazy for meat-free products that taste like meat. One day we received a new product for a meat-like veggie “jerky” in three different flavors. It was juicy. Several vegetarians were working at the store at the time, and they went ape over the veggie jerky – eating several packages each. “It takes just like meat!!!” they raved. About an hour later, they were all sick and puking. Moral of the story: never eat juicy jerky.
- People will take health advice from anyone, including young, ignorant, natural foods store cashiers who adamantly disclose that they have no idea what they are talking about.
- “Ma’am” is a four-letter word outside of the South. I was raised in Texas where the “ma’am” is a sign of respect, something that every child is taught to say. Outside of the South, however, it can be interpreted as a blatant insult and public proclamation of a woman’s old age. I started saying “miss” instead, which connotes youth and doesn’t offend anyone… not yet, anyway.
- The gluten-free lifestyle has come a long, long way. When I worked at the natural foods store in the early 2000s, people would drive far distances to reach our store for its selection of gluten-free products. Now, gluten-free everything is probably the biggest health trend around.
- People want an easy cure for everything, including the normal ups and downs of life. One particularly bleak February afternoon, a lady came in and wanted a supplement remedy for feeling “a little sad.” My co-worked replied: “It’s February – we’re ALL a little sad. It’s called WINTER. How about a hug instead?”
- Bulk bins can be gross. Why? Because people stick their hands in them ALL THE TIME to help themselves to a free sample. Kids are the worst, but adults freely jam their grubby paws right into the bins as well. And I know buying bulk items reduces the need for packaging, but let’s face it: often bulk items are simply not as fresh compared to a package of food that you open yourself.
- You can find great deals on the clearance rack at the natural foods store. These products aren’t expired (they couldn’t be sold if so) – they just didn’t sell well, and they need to go to make room for products that will.
- Finally: Never, ever recommend to a vegan that feeding her cat a little bacon grease is a quick and easy way to get rid of its hairballs. Never mind that you had no way of knowing that the woman was a vegan in the first place – or that her cat was, too. Freak-outs may ensue.
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