Over the Rainbow

Granted, we have a little fun with hippies in our cookbook, All American Vegan. But let’s be clear – if it weren’t for hippies, where would we vegans be? The collective labor of many a hippie is to thank for the natural food co-ops that can be found in every city and small college-town across America – the precursors of today’s large, natural food chains like Whole Foods Market where so many of us shop. Hippies not only imagined an alternative shopping reality, but most impressive of all, they brought them into existence. Because of hippies, we have an alternative to the soul-crushing banality of the traditional supermarket. Because of hippies – we have places to shop that cater to vegans. Thank you, hippies.

If you are ever in San Francisco, be sure to visit the mother of all food cooperatives – Rainbow Grocery. Not only is it vegetarian, but it keeps up-to-date on the latest and greatest vegan foods. Our favorite sections of the store include the pastry case – filled with a wide variety of vegan pies, muffins, cookies and tarts by local bakeries – and the wine section. It is quite large and the vegan wines are clearly labeled. For vegans, Rainbow’s wine “cellar” is the best we’ve ever seen. Here’s a glimpse of yesterday’s harvest from Rainbow, filled with new vegan items we are anxious to test.

We never bring our own bags when we go grocery shopping. We can’t, we need them! We use paper grocery store bags as our garbage bags, instead of plastic, and reuse the plastic produce bags as pooper scoopers when we walk our dog, Pickles. If we didn’t re-use our shopping bags this way, we’d have to buy bags to serve those purposes. We’ve mulled it over and that doesn’t make sense. But how must it look to others that we don’t BYOB?

At Whole Foods, we can endure the judgment of the bagger and the cashier who have no doubt found us wanting for failing to bring our own bags. After all, Whole Foods is a corporation and the customer is always right. But Rainbow is a worker-owned collective. They are their own bosses and they are mostly twenty-something San Franciscans – a potent mix of self-assurance and uncompromising idealism. Diego Rivera-inspired murals cover the walls at Rainbow, May Day is a store holiday, and there are “seed bombs”* in the gumball machines instead of candy.

So when it comes time to pack up the groceries (yes, of course you need to bag your own at Rainbow – I mean, just who the hell do you think you are expecting them to bag your groceries, you bourgeois yuppie scum? Workers of the world, unite!). Quite frankly, we can’t take the heat.  And so we use the boxes they offer for groceries instead of paper bags. They do the job just fine, and our cats enjoy sitting in them.


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* Seed bombs (also called “seed grenades”) are compressed balls made out of seeds and compost. You get them and throw them over fences and onto a patch of ground so they explode and flowers grow.

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