Dear Henry, My Love is Going Sour

grapefruit

My darling. These kind of things are never easy to say. This is probably not the best way to go about it but there are really no good ways to tell someone you have lost the flame. We’ve been together so long now, so close. You were always there, day or night, when I needed you. I’ll never forget how good you smell in the morning… like the intoxicating aroma of fresh baked bread. And though I don’t know if I can completely give you up, I think it’s only fair to tell you I’m seeing someone else, and to try to explain how we got to this point. Actually, it’s not so complicated. I’m sure there are many others who are going through the same turmoil. It’s just that it’s starting to cost so much… How much can a woman stand before she starts looking elsewhere? I’m sure you aren’t oblivious to what I’m talking about. You’ve got eyes and ears. You were bound to find out anyway. I just wanted to tell you myself before someone else told you they saw me…

strawberries

at Vine Ripe!

Ha ha! Gotcha! No but seriously, I love Henry’s. I love where it is. I love the selection. I love the people that work there. I love how easy it is to whip in and out of there (except on, is it Wednesday the flyer comes out? YIKES! Abort mission unless you can’t avoid it). But I almost can’t afford to go there anymore. Especially when Vine Ripe is doing that .79 cent pineapple come hither thing. In the past two days I’ve been to both Henry’s and Vine Ripe. Even though I didn’t buy the same things, the trend is pretty much the same no matter what I happen to be buying: Henry’s is more expensive, Vine Ripe is cheaper.

Check this out. This is the comparison of what I bought:

Henry’s: two loaves of bread, no pulp orange juice, a package of Swiss cheese, a dozen eggs, 8 small juice packs, 1 lb of coffee, a box of squeezy yogurt tubes. Total: $36 (thir-ty-six smack-eroos)

Vine Ripe (mon amour!): 1 lb of (ripe) apricots, 1 lb marble cake, 1 lb orange cake, tablet of Lindt white chocolate  truffles, 2.5 lbs of (ripe) cherries, a (sufficiently ripe) pineapple, 2 lbs of (ripe) strawberries, and a $4.99 tub of Nutella. Total = $19. Meaning, if you take off the Nutella, all that was $14. (That was just for purposes of demonstration. No one should ever take off the Nutella.)

Vine Ripe entices. Am I right?

Maybe it’s like comparing apples and oranges. Henry’s has that organicky bins full of good stuff vibe going on, and lots of creams and make-up I’d love to try but don’t because if I’m gonna spend $40 it might as well be for a pair of shoes (well, a shoe). Vine Ripe has just what it says, things that are vine ripe, i.e. perfect exactly the way it should be today, and perfect exactly the way it should be for a 5th grade science experiment tomorrow. And cheap. One time I wanted to call every person in my cell phone contacts list to tell them that there were U.S.-grown organic heirloom tomatoes for .99 cents a pound. Pinky red and yellow ones with funky bulging shapes, needing nothing more than to be sliced in wedges and laid to sacrifice on a plate. They were gorgeous and ask for seconds delicious. But they had to be eaten that night. Or they would have been goo the next morning. Vine Ripe has a lot of products that you don’t find elsewhere – flat bread (baked in their wood fire oven) with a topping of sesame-thyme paste, labne (kefir cheese), a smorgasbord of fresh feta cheeses and homemade hummus’, lots of pickly chutneys… It’s essentially a middle eastern market with an emphasis on fresh produce but you will find labels with Russian, French, Spanish, and other languages whose alphabets defy my ability to identify them. Like the North Park Market, you’ll hear a wide variety of languages being spoken in the aisles. Why don’t I just go there all the time if I’m so impressed you ask? Well, mostly because they don’t have wine. I like having a glass while I’m making dinner or with a meal, which means I have to go to another store anyway. Also I don’t think they have a house wares section. Or if they do I haven’t noticed it. Anyway I would probably buy sponges or Ajax or other cleaning supplies elsewhere.

Actually this brings up something else. I go grocery shopping at 7 different places. Not all the same day. But my general strategy involves 7 stores. My record  might have been 4 of them in one day. (I can’t remember but I probably took a nap after that.) I wish there were one store, or at least one parking lot, that allowed me to access all the stuff I like. Any takers from you entrepreneurs out there? Here is a little break down of what I like and don’t like at my stores and some other (highly pertinent) information:

Henry’s
Good stuff: roast chicken, Alta Dena milk products, spices by the oz., pan de leche, French roast coffee, nuts/unusual flours/rice/legumes by weight
Pros: opens at 7, closes after 9, the smell of their bakery in the parking lot, easy to park, close, way friendly employees, very decent produce, employees who ask for my I.D. when I buy wine (can’t they see my elbows???)
Cons: my wallet feels queasy when I leave
Love Score: The boyfriend with a good job and a reliable car (with a ‘COEXIST’ bumper sticker)

Vine Ripe
Good stuff: wood fire oven baked goods, cheeses and yogurts, pickles and preserves, hummus, snacky cakes, ripe CHEAP produce, great array of fresh herbs (including hard to find ones like fresh chamomile), lots of exotic stuff
Pros: did I say cheap?, big jars of Nutella, a where-am-I?-on-a-staycation? feeling
Cons: no wine, the produce can’t hold, a hit or miss track record with the employee friendliness factor, their website is out of order and they need to “contact the billing department”…
Love Score: The boyfriend you met in Casablanca in the summer after graduating from college who took you flying along the coast in his old convertible under the stars to dine on couscous, fresh figs, and mint tea. (You could barely understand him, but who cares?)

Trader Joe’s 
Good stuff: the list is too long but here’s an idea – olive oil, various sauces, hummus, cold cuts, coffee beans, waters and juices, any milk product, frozen foods, chocolate, corn chips, toilet paper, and a special mention for wine which is well chosen and very very affordable
Pros: the monkey! every store should have one, super nice and helpful employees, excellent products, lines that go fast even when it’s busy, nice flowers
Cons: a parking lot designed by Attila the Hun, I haven’t actually seen it but I suspect there is a button on the cash register that says $75 on it and they push it for me no matter what I have in my basket
Love Score: The boyfriend who is excellent at throwing together beach barbeques

Valley Farm 
Good stuff: best butcher shop in the East county, home-smoked goods, really good fish, delicious smoothies (at stand in parking lot) 
Pros: they’re a depot for Julian pies, small and easy to get around in, my friend once saw a customer at the butcher counter wearing his employee t-shirt from Harvest Ranch…
Cons: the store itself always seems a little grungy even if it isn’t particularly grungy, there is also a general smell that I’m not fond of 
Love Score: The boyfriend who’s going to the River this weekend

Ralph’s 
Good stuff: regular stuff that for the most part is too expensive elsewhere – canned goods, baking powder, deodorant, housekeeping supplies, cereal, picnic supplies, charcoal, flour, sugar
Pros: can get almost anything there if you have to, open all the time, nice employees, discounted products with Ralph’s card
Cons: too big when you’re in a hurry, a general smell I don’t enjoy (again), fruit isn’t ripe
Love Score: The boyfriend your mother fixed you up with

Costco
Good stuff: San Pelligrino, carnitas, lasagna, Tillamook cheese, anything you need in a larger quantity than usual
Pros: good prices
Cons: another parking lot by Attila  & Co
Love Score: The boyfriend who sent you a dozen roses for each year old you are

Von’s
Good stuff: “Country Dijon” mustard by Maille, pretty much the same stuff as Ralph’s
Pros: next to Blockbuster, can get almost anything there if you have to, open all the time, discounted products with Von’s card, a pharmacy
Cons: parking is kinda a pain, fruit is pretty but not usually ripe, despite the number of registers it always seems like I have to wait in a line  
Love Score: The boyfriend who asked you out when you broke up with the boyfriend your mother fixed you up with

I have a few other boyfriends but they don’t live in La Mesa. One is North Park Produce. Another is 99 Ranch, fantastic for all things Asian. You’d think it’d be fun to play the field, but sometimes it’s a little exhausting.

Has anyone else broken up with Henry?

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