Finding some good greens at the Austin, TX flagship Whole Foods (courtesy Whole Foods)Love it or hate it, the US-based grocery chain Whole Foods has changed how many Americans shop for their meals.

With stores open in Canada and the UK, their passion for nicely-presented, good food is now spreading worldwide.

This ain’t your crunchy Mom’s food co-op with a bunch of dusty jars of tahini spread, and it’s not cheap to indulge in all of their yummy products (hence the derisive term “Whole Paycheck.”)

No other store, however, can make a stack of yellow squash look quite so divine.

I remember shopping occasionally at the very first Whole Foods, when I was a student at the University of Texas at Austin and they opened in 1980. Just walking into the store made me want to stop eating processed garbage and start feeding myself only the best “natural” stuff.

That usually lasted until I saw the cash register total at the checkout line, but it was a noble idea, anyway. Back to the processed ramen, eh?

These days, the flagship store, along with company headquarters, is still in downtown Austin and has become something of a tourism landmark. It’s 80,000 square feet of every kind of food product that you can imagine:

  • an in-house seafood smoker
  • the most obscure locally-sourced goat cheese
  • an elaborate nut bar with nuts you’ve never heard of that you can roast right there
  • a fab walk-in beer cooler with handcrafted brews from everywhere
  • an olive and antipasti bar
  • a weekly farmer’s market in the parking lot and an ice rink in winter
  • a cooking school for mere mortals (Sainted Husband had a blast in their breadmaking class)

The bakery section is simply evil — just don’t go to the counter unless you can talk yourself out of various sugary delights. No, don’t try that “but it’s healthy sugary delights” excuse with me…. :)

I usually hustle in, grab my favorite rosemary-sourdough bread and then try not to do any further damage to my waistline or wallet.

Stop in and visit if you’re ever in Austin, and want a break from all the BBQ.

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