Arriving in the DH newsroom this week was a box big enough to hold a bowling ball plus a pair or two of bowling shoes.
What was inside, however, was a plastic bag containing four really whole-grain looking, heavily seeded organic bagels, surrounded by what seemed several cubic yards of packing in the form of the kind of brown paper used to make grocery sacks.
“Organic my ass,” I said to city editor Karen Petersen, noting that all of that filler inside the box was decidedly non-earthy. “An ancient forest perished to create all this packaging.”
Still, as long as they were here, I figured there was no harm in trying one. I am something of a bagel connoisseur, as we will get to momentarily, so I pulled out of the plastic bag and took it to the microwave in the break room.
My opinion: They weren’t bad, far from inedible, but the texture wasn’t quite as dense as I like, and all of the seeds and grain sort of conjured up images of livestock feed — not that I have ever eaten, say, goat chow.
Anyway, all of this bagel talk reminded me of something I had written long ago, when Albany’s Safeway was just about to move from its old Pacific Boulevard location. I used to shop there for bagels, with just a bit of frustration as you will see if you have a few minutes to read the reproduction below, originally published in the DH proper on July 13, 1999:
Through the eye of a bagel: Another view of store’s departure
There’s been a lot of commotion lately over Safeway’s impending move, and as near as I can tell, the issue has divided the citizenry into two camps.
In Camp One you’ve got people who are angry because their neighborhood store is changing locations, angry enough to try to “Save Our Store” by boycotting it and picketing it (I admit I’m not completely sure how that’s supposed to work).
In Camp Two are the people who, through letters to the editor and other forms of comment, are pretty much telling Camp One that it is overreacting to a move that represents about 1.5 miles in distance and approximately five minutes in driving time.
More or less apart from either camp is myself, a Safeway shopper who can only hope that in its new location the store will do a better job of knowing how much its own products cost.
You see, as I mentioned in an earlier food page article, I eat bagels. Lots of them. About a “baker’s dozen” per week (remember that term; it will be useful later).
The bagels I like best are the ones made in the Albany Safeway’s bakery. I’ve tried the ones cooked at the Corvallis Safeway, I’ve even sampled ones from a Salem Safeway, and they simply don’t measure up to the bagels I can get here.
However, buying bagels at the Albany Safeway store can be a maddening experience. Almost without fail, after I’ve packaged up my two bags of bagels (regularly sold at 50 cents per bagel) and headed to the checkout line, some variation of the following conversation ensues:
Checker: How many bagels do you have?
Checker: That will be $6.50.
Me: No, actually it’s $5.99. You get a special deal if you buy a baker’s dozen.
Checker: A dozen is 12.
Me: No, a baker’s dozen. That’s 13.
Checker (Picking up the phone, calling the bakery): Do you have a special going on bagels if they buy 13. Oh, OK. What’s the code for that? (Begins flipping through a list of price codes).
Me: It’s 5621.
Checker (after punching in the numbers): Wow, you’re right. You’re pretty good.
Me: I get a lot of practice.
I decided to memorize the code in self-defense because I grew tired of grinding checkout lines to a halt. And the snags I hit at times bordered on the ridiculous. The deal formerly was 13 for $5.49, and in the early days (before I’d committed the code to memory), the price was advertised prominently — so prominently that I could practically read the sign from the register in the deli section, where I once found myself engaged in a mildly contentious exchange with the clerk.
Me: But it says $5.49 right on the sign. You can almost read it from here.
Checker: A dozen is 12.
Me (Trying to stay calm): A baker’s dozen is 13. Ask one of the bakers.
Checker: All right, 13. I wonder what the code for that is.
Me: Why can’t you just punch in $5.49?
Checker: I need the code.
Though Safeway’s heavy reliance on code makes it seem like an arm of the CIA, and though I’d obviously rather the store remained in its current spot because the new location is twice as far from the Democrat-Herald, from which I launch my weekly bagel expeditions, I will continue to patronize the store after it makes its easterly move.
As for the bulk of my family’s grocery shopping, it is done by a different person at a different store, several miles from Safeway and also several miles from our home near Adair Village.
My wife could, of course, lobby me to do our shopping since I’m fairly close to a store every day, but I hate to shop, and she knows that if she forced me to do so, then I’d suggest that she replace me as our family’s official designate for cleaning up dog vomit, unplugging toilets, removing the chewed-up rodent carcasses the cat leaves in the garage, etc.
Regarding the inconvenience of a longer drive to the new Safeway, I’ve come to accept roadblocks as a way of life as far as my food habits go. If I like something, it’s a given that it will become difficult or impossible to obtain. I used to eat large amounts of a cereal called Raisin Nut Bran until the makers changed the formula and effectively ruined the product. For years I enjoyed eating at Mazzi’s in Corvallis, and it closed down.
For that matter, the only reason I started eating Safeway bagels in the first place was because the company that made the bagels I used to buy apparently went out of business.
So to the people who are mad at Safeway for moving and by extension mad at me because I plan to keep shopping there, I can only say I’m sorry, and please don’t picket my desk; you might wake someone up. But if you do picket, bring bagel samples. If you find me one that I like better than Safeway’s, and one that gives me fewer headaches at the cash register, I won’t shop there anymore either.