These two weeks of October mark the high holy days of the Jewish year. After sitting in temple yesterday, i was feeling bittersweet and a little remorseful for all the gentiles out there who don't get to experience the small, wonderful perks of being jewish. So in the spirit of this wonderful time, i'm going to let everyone in on one of the best kept secrets of the Jewish culture:
"How to Save Money by Eating Entire Meals From the Free Sample Trays at Whole Foods."
Now, to the unlearned and thoroughly unJewish layman, certain questions would almost definitely arise at this statement. "is this ethical?" "am i taking advantage of something that is meant for everyone to share?" "seriously, matt, am i getting anywhere NEAR the amount of nutrients i need for a healthy diet?" The answer to all these questions is a fervent, unequivocal, very-yes! If the idea of free food at the expense of others is not enough to get you out of the house and over to that bastion of gleaming organic over-pricedness that is Whole Foods, then maybe this will: under federal law, not taking advantage of a free sample station is tantamount to treason. Still not enough for you? I'll walk you through it. Baby steps, people.
Enter the Union Square whole foods through the main entrance. Walk in about 50 feet, and you should see the dessert/bakery/pastry area directly to your left. Typically, you will see a sample tray on the counter by the register, which consists of one of three things: 1) Monster Oatmeal cookies. Not made from an actual monster, the name comes from their size. In sample form, though, they're much smaller. It's ok though, take 7. If you want to be bold and mark your territory, look the cashier right in the eye, as you blindly grab at the tray. This will let them know that you aren't blithely rude, but in fact, are completely aware and cognizant of your decision to smash the rules of societal etiquette. 2) Piroulines (chocolate wafer sticks), or 3) puffed fudge pastries. Some may debate the wisdom of having dessert first, but i find that the tart taste of chocolate/oatmeal cleanses your palette from whatever was lingering before you walked into the store, and readies you for a fuller experience with the other samples. To be cute, we'll call them "samplies".
On to more samplies. Continue straight, hugging the left hand wall, and you'll encounter the sushi area. If you don't like sushi, skip this section. sushi samples are the rare flight of fancy for the discriminating sample connoisseur, as i sometimes find myself wondering how long the fish has been sitting in those little paper cups. Also, they simply aren't there often. once a week, i'd say. It's more of a weekend thing, i imagine. Try my very own jewel of the Nile: the salmon, shrimp, and avocado roll. It's delicious.
As you curve to the right along the left hand wall, you'll straighten out and move crossways across the store. This is the meat section, and you can find a daily variety of samples: meatloaf cubes, brisket squares, and marinated steak tinies are standard fare here. Eat your fill: 4 or 5 should do you fine. Avoid eye contact with other patrons trying to get one. You don't need to be contaminated with their negative energy. Stay positive. you're here for a reason. **AUTHOR'S NOTE: always remember that in ANY deli (not just whole foods), you can always ask for a taste of any deli meat. Next time you're late for class and you need a snack, pop into the local deli, scan the meat display for a few seconds and say the follow magic words: "hi...um...can i try a taste of your honey ham? boar's head, please". Open Fucking Sesame. Then, when you taste the cut, pretend you don't like it, and ask for a second choice. After eating that one, say "ok, thank you...i'll be back after class." Don't go back.
At this point, you're pretty much done with the upstairs. BE WARNED: the fresh food bar(s) is also located in this area. Do NOT be tricked: this is FOOL'S GOLD. There are employees watching for potential snackers trying to take a taste of the exotic faire. If you are caught, you'll be flagged for attention for at LEAST the remainder of that day. Be a ghost in the night, a passing thought, a shadow on the wind. Don't attract attention to yourself.
Let's recap: you've hit up the cookies, sushi (hopefully), and meats. There might be a secondary meat sample out, but that's also usually a weekend thing. At this point, you've garnered a good amount of your breads (cookies, rice in the sushi), your meats (fish and meat samples), but only a little bit of vegetables (seaweed in the sushi). Dairy has been discounted altogether. It's time to round you out, n00b. Let's go downstairs.
take the escalator down or, if you're a fucking caveman, the stairs. Once you're downstairs, you're in the clear. The downstairs area, i would estimate, is packed about 3.2 times more densely with products than the upstairs. This means one important thing in terms of your mindset for raping the free samplies. Point of fact: more products require more upkeep. The employees downstairs are much busier than upstairs, as they must be constantly stacking the shelves, helping customers, texting their ho's at home, etc. This will make it much easier for you to achieve that "ghost in the night" thing i was telling you about. With renewed spirit, push forth off the escalator and into my personal favorite: the cheese section.
Your servings of dairy are about to get buttfucked in this section (that's a good thing). Waft over to the cheeses. I would not be surprised if they had a mediocre Irish cheddar on display, or perhaps an aged Stiltson. Not like you'd even know, rookie. I mean, look at you: you don't care. It's tangy, that's all you know. (sigh). Anyway... Typically, the cheese will be cubed, and more often than not, there will be toothpicks already stuck into the blocks for you. Execute the Cyrznciek maneuver. For those of you not in the know, the Cyrznciek maneuver is a method of snagging food by stretching your hand and palm open as wide as you can, and then wrapping the fingers, one after the other, quickly around the desired food while simultaneously yanking backwards. This was originally coined in 1938 from holocaust survivor Moishe Cyrznciek. The legend says that he had covertly accessed the pantry in the concentration camp where he was interned. Alone, and with only moments to spare, he swiped over 8 pounds worth of food in less than 7 seconds. He brought the food back to those sharing his barracks with him and saved their lives. Skeptics say that for this maneuver to have actually worked in that situation, all the food in the pantry would have to have been stuck with toothpicks. I say that a little faith is required, and it's the spirit of the story that counts, not the literal interpretation. Just like the bible.
Following the display counter away from the cheeses, you'll head into the sauce section. Usually nothing here, but i've been known to destroy a pesto sampling station that once occupied this demilitarized zone. If there happens to be an attendant dishing out sauces of some kind, once again, look him/her right in the eye as you taste every sauce 2 to 3 times. This will make him/her piss his/her pants and certainly pave the way for you to walk all over him/her on your next encounter (hopefully with a different product). As you eat the spread, think to yourself "you can't step to my nuts, bitch".
I feel as though this primer has been enough to get you on your feet. I've notated the known sample depositories, but that doesn't mean there won't be wildcards. Be sure to search every aisle in the downstairs maze. The fruits of labor are sweet, and come to those that earn them. When i say fruits, i mean it metaphorically...the hidden samples you find may not necessarily be fruits at all.
So there you go. you're well on your way to healthy, delicious, free eats. I'll be back soon with more wonderful tips and tricks. Don't say i never did anything for you.
Remember: if anyone, Whole Foods employee or otherwise, calls you on your behavior: look them in the eye and tell them you're jewish.