El Sprouts Farmers Market

So you see, this weekend I was out and about, roaming at large, shopping, buying crap, stocking up for stage 2 of my East L.A. Makever in the beautiful and balmy O.C. It was a welcome respite from the 90 degree scorching I was enduring in the hood and it’s always pleasant to see how the other half lives.

The white folks in Orange County are the most well-mannered, conscientious-driving people in SoCal. They may be a bunch of right-wing freaks but it’s always a pleasure heading down there to revitalize my spirit and rekindle my faith in the human race because frankly the ghetto-tude and posturing where I live can be a bit trying over time.

Another great thing is that I can pop in to Sprouts Farmers Market, a Trader Joe-sie, Whole Food-sie type of store, regionally located in the Southwest.

I love Sprouts; stocked with a large assortment of natural and organic products and lots of clean foods, you won’t find too many Kraft or Hostess products lining these shelves.

My favorite is the several aisles of fresh items you can purchase by the pound: every imaginable nut and legume, flax seeds, rolled oats, assorted grains, the list is endless. And since you buy by the pound, there is no packaging per se. You pull out the small hand shovel and pour exactly what you want into a plastic bag, close it up with a plastic fastener which has a piece of paper affixed on which you write the code of the item so they can check you out correctly. Yesterday I bought about 2 pounds of raw almonds and raw walnuts…on sale for $4.99/lb! That’s a killer deal.

As is customary when I wander this store, I get that Very Obvious Outsider vibe. I’m usually one of maybe 3 people of color in the store…the other 2 being Asian. There are literally NO other Mexicans in that store. Ever. I’m it. The sole Latino contingent, marching the aisles of some health food store in lily white Republicanville-by-the-Sea. It’s quite an experience. I’ve been in so many situations over the years where I’ve found myself in environments which lacked any brown shading at all, so I’m mostly unfazed.

But that’s not my point. That’s just a trite observation which really serves no purpose.

I get in my car, tuck my nuts away in the darkness of the car floor (heh heh), away from direct sunlight, and head back to joyful East L.A. With that little slice of Orange County in my car. I carry the Sprouts bags into my apartment, like a treasure pilfered from a distant land…this is what Marco Polo must have felt like.

It took about 35 minutes for me to reach home. If I were to drive to Trader Joe’s in South Pasadena, that is a 30 minute trip. Whole Foods in Pasadena? Probably 40 minutes. East L.A. and environs is no place for the clean eater, the junk food-ophobe looking to venture out into the many choices available to those looking to expand their diet with natural foods you most likely won’t find in chain grocery stores. Why is this?

It’s not that TJ’s or Sprouts are that much more expensive. Hell, in many cases, they are cheaper. I bought a tray of blueberries for $2.99 which would have cost me about five bucks at Ralphs or Vons. And to be quite honest, my area is full of “Mexi-marts” as I call them…Latino-aimed grocery stores and the fruit they sell is super cheap but just as good as the large chains.

But why is it that if I want a pound and a half of flax seed I have to drive a 1/2 hour? Why?

I’m not pointing fingers at Sprouts or any of the other similar-minded stores. If they could make money and turn a profit in East L.A., I guarantee you that you’d find a Sprouts opening up on Whittier Boulevard, Mexican mural and all, El Sprouts. But no, that will not happen.

Most discouraging to me is the preponderance (and success) of generic supermarkets which specialize in WIC and Food Stamps and sell nothing but canned and boxed items, where 90% of the inventory seems to be processed food.

El Sprouts. Haha, I can just picture it.