Lettuce Sticker Shock You

I am a  foodie.  Therefore, I feel lucky to have several national grocery stores and large independent farmer’s markets within ten minutes of home.  As a result, I’m able to comparison shop for value, quality and variety.

Despite my food obsession, I rarely buy lettuce.  I enjoy the leafy green but seldom think about it when planning a meal.  After one meal, the salad mainstay usually sits in the fridge until it becomes a slimy, gelatinous glob. 

However, one foodie characteristic is craving a particular dish.  Once the hunger for a dish sets in, the foodie won’t rest until they eat it.  And, the other day, the idea of a grilled steak salad became embedded in my brain/appetite.  The idea of charred beef, crisp greens and an acidic vinaigrette consumed my daily meal planning.

Another foodie trait is desiring a variety of foods.  However, lately, I had slacked off in the diversity department (lack of motivation) and settled for pizza.  A variety of pizza (high-end pies, slices from hole-in-the-walls, even frozen pizza) but pizza nonetheless.  Consequently, a steak salad would break the pizza rut and satisfy the variety requirement.

So, I began my steak salad crusade at Publix, a national chain and a two-minute drive from home.  I prefer red-leaf lettuce over the pedestrian iceberg because of its color and texture.  And, due to the infrequency I buy lettuce, I assumed its cost would remain at around two dollars.

When I saw the $4.99 price, my heart sank.

Lettuce at Publix.

I felt like Michael Corleone in The Godfather II  after he learns that Fredo betrayed him.  I knew Publix had higher prices than most stores but this bordered on the absurd.  I wanted to pick up the head of lettuce, kiss it and declare, “You broke my heart, Publix.”  

The Publix motto is, “Where Shopping is a Pleasure” and convenience is certainly pleasurable.  However, I took no joy from this shopping trip.

At this point, the steak salad had become secondary.  Wanting to find out the price of lettuce surpassed the need for variety.  Moreover, the craving for knowledge outweighed the lusting for a steak salad.

Consequently, I left Publix and went to the City Farmers Market, only a ten-minute drive.  City Farmers Market is a Vietnamese-owned local chain catering to a Latino market. They also have more reasonable prices than the national chains.  To illustrate, while Publix charges $4.99 for strawberries, City Farmer’s Market charges $1.79.

I entered the market and walked through the bins of produce. The lettuce section was a straight shot through mounds of frozen durian, piles of daikon and heaps of Chinese bitter melons. 

Approaching the lettuce, I expected to see a price of around $2.99. This seemed more in line with the cost comparison between the two stores.  Publix has 1,300 stores versus the five City Farmers Markets in the Atlanta area.  As a result, the $5.99 price tag taped above the lettuce perplexed and astounded me.

Lettuce at city farmers market.

The price gave me the same feeling that Luke Skywalker had in “The Empire Strikes Back.” When Luke learns that Darth Vader is his father,  he despondently moans “No.  Nooo.  That’s not true.  That’s IMPOSSIBLE!!!”  The revelation of the lettuce’s price gave me the same destitute feeling.

City Farmers Market bills itself as “Your next door international supermarket.”  Nonetheless, we couldn’t reach an international trade agreement.

Since the lettuce at the most inexpensive market in the city was so costly, I decided to go highbrow.  So, I made the five-minute drive to Whole Foods.  The upscale market has the nickname “Whole Paycheck.”  With good reason.

Each Whole Foods Market is sleek, spotless and attractively laid out.  Appearances are expensive.  In addition, the Whole Foods website boasts 20,000 organic products.  And, producing organic goods is expensive, too.  Hence, the pricey stuff.

So, lettuce was $4.99 at Publix and $5.99 at City Farmer’s Market. Therefore, I expected Whole Foods to run a credit check to determine lettuce purchase eligibility.  Wrong.

To my astonishment, lettuce at Whole Foods was only $2.99. Furthermore, it was organic. 

Lettuce at Whole Foods.

I contemplated the lettuce.  The final scene of The Sixth Sense came to mind.  Dr. Malcom Crowe has calmed down after the realization that he’s dead has worn off.  Now, he lovingly gazes down at Anna and whispers, “I think I can go now.”  After this baffling quest, I felt the same way.

I went home but didn’t make the steak salad.  Instead, I settled on a frozen pizza and watched old movies.

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