Thursday, June 16, 2016

Oh, for the days of Bread and Circus

Way back in the day, if you wanted brown rice or (for some unfathomable reason) kale, there was only one place to get it around here, and that was at Bread and Circus. I didn’t shop there a lot – there was never one all that convenient to where I lived or worked – but there were a couple in Cambridge, and I did enjoy shopping there. Not everything was great. Those carob cupcakes had no flavor at all. But there was something about the Bread and Circus experience that I loved. Why, if I remember correctly, you could even get a copy of “Our Bodies/Ourselves” if you had, say, worn yours out thumbing through it. (Oooh? Aha!)

And then, sadly, nearly 25 years ago, Bread and Circus (a.k.a., Bread and Wallet) was bought out by Whole Foods (a.k.a., Whole Paycheck).

Around here, no one was all that overjoyed to see these interlopers lope in from Texas. But life goes on.

When the Whole Foods replaced my trusty (but beat-up) Stop and Shop, I did most of my grocery shopping there.

It was mostly fine. But sometimes you just want Cheerios. Or paper towels that actually absorb a liquid spill.

So I’d make an occasional foray to the Shaw’s/Star Market – the name seems to ratchet back and forth – in the Prudential Center. This store, if not for its insanely dysfunctional layout, would be fine. The produce is decent, the selection great, and they do stock Cheerios and Bounty. But it was a bit of a longer schlepp than Whole Foods, so mostly I shopped at Whole Foods.

And then – miracle of miracles – a Roche Brothers opened on the site of the old Filene’s Basement. It’s about the same distance from my house to Roche Bros. or Whole, but Roche Bros. has both real, non-tricked up food, plus the good stuff, like Nashoba Farms bread and organic cashews. There are a couple of things I like at Whole, so sometimes I drift over. Or if I’m walking by on my way back from the train station, I’ll stop in. But mostly I pledge allegiance to Roche Bros. Great store. Great service. Great family. Great story. Think globally, shop locally.

When I was a Whole Foods shopper, I would, on rare occasion, buy some prepared food. But those rare occasions will become extra-rare, given some recent info:

The Food and Drug Administration has warned Whole Foods Markets to resolve serious violations found at a regional food preparation facility in Everett after inspectors discovered condensation from ceiling pipes dripping on food, as well as evidence of the germ Listeria.(Source: Boston Globe)

Whole Foods was – or feigned – surprise, claiming that they thought they had cleared all this up. (The findings were based on an inspection this past winter.)

FDA inspectors who visited the Everett plant, known as Whole Foods Market North Atlantic Kitchen, wrote that they saw condensation dripping onto surfaces where dishes such as pesto pasta and mushroom quesadillas were being prepared or stored, as well as uncovered barrels of egg salad “that were placed in an area below the condenser. Condensate was observed to be dripping at a rate of approximately once per second.”

Phew! I make my own pasta salad, never bought any mushroom quesadillas, and hate egg salad. (My husband loved it, so I may have gotten it for him on occasion. You don’t suppose…)

The FDA inspectors also found a type of Listeria that indicated the presence of a more severe form of the germ when they tested swabs of more than 100 surfaces throughout the facility. The letter said it found Listeria welshimeri, a form of the bacteria that the FDA said is an indicator of the probable presence of Listeria monocytogenes, a potentially deadly form of the bacteria.

Oh, and they over disinfected salad stuff. And employees didn’t use hot water to wash their hands. And all sorts of other gacky stuff.

I’m sure that Whole Foods will remedy all this, but, well, yikes!

I logged plenty of time in food service (of the restaurant variety), and I saw all kinds of things going on. But never condensate dripping on the egg salad.

Yuck upon yuck.

So happy that, last spring, Roche Bros. opened nearby. They even sell wine now. What’s not to like?

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