It's been a while since we had a good, old-fashioned, Brooklyn-hippie-yuppie mocking of Park Slope Food Coop story—it was last spring, in fact, right around this time, that we were all abuzz about the vote about whether or not there would be a vote about boycotting products from Israel. It was decided there would be no vote, and then Adrian Grenier got our attention for a bit, and now, suddenly, it's a year later, and our Coop carts feel a little bit empty. Fortunately, the dearth of Coop-talk has been remedied by the New York Daily News with the article, "Park Slope Food Coop and the Holy Kale." This article is primarily interesting because it's ridiculous, taking all the Park Slope Food Coop tropes we've ever known and loved and making them larger than life. Because who among the Daily News readership and beyond does not want to mock these kooky Brooklyn hippies? (Don't read the comments.)
We can take our easy chuckles from this article, but I sense there may be something deeper afoot. Might this piece be an indicator—even to me, a frequent writer about the Park Slope Food Coop—that Park Slope Food Coop mockery is on the tip of jumping the shark? Or that, perhaps, it's gone way over the shark and is now deeply embedded in a net of fresh-caught sustainable seafood?
From the very first paragraph, the description of the 16,000-strong coop, born in 1973 to bring affordable, healthy food to its members, is a form of delicious farce:
"A kale shortage incites widespread panic. A 4-year-old melts down when his parents won’t buy him dried papaya spears. And members debate natural childbirth while bagging nuts.... It’s tales from the front lines of the Park Slope Food Coop, temple to locally grown, antibiotic-free, passive-aggressive grocery shopping where you’ll find equal doses of corn and scorn."
Scroll down some and you get this Daily Show-worthy bit:
"It attracts all kinds of Brooklynites - from grungy hipsters to fortyish vegan moms chiding their multiracial children in French as they jostle for locally grown rhubarb. Recently, customers searched for filtered coconut water to prepare for a snowstorm and another was breathlessly seeking chocolate goat's milk."
And, yes, on a bleak day in which there was no more kale to be had, "people were ready to burn the co-op to the ground," said one anonymous source who wouldn't reveal his name for fear of being kicked out. "The intercom went crazy with 'Do we have kale!?' 'Do we have kale!?' 'Someone needs to get fired!' It was doomsday." (True story though: Brooklyn abounds with kale-freaks, in the Coop and out of it.)
Other Coop-scoops from the Daily News: Everyone's neurotic (another anonymous member reports); people talk about hippy-dippy stuff like "natural childbirth" (oh no); there are rules and procedures governing membership and working shifts (it's a coop with thousands of members); and there may be snotty intercom conversations discussing a search for, say, vegan macaroons (yeah). All this sounds a lot like "artisanal Brooklyn" (or even parts of Manhattan) in general. And other aspects of it just sound like New York: "The coop is so popular that claustrophobic conditions and endless checkout lines lead to 'cart rage,' as one member puts it."
The point is, ask anyone who's a member, the bargains—20 to 40 percent less than are to be had elsewhere, in many cases—are well worth whatever neuroses or "personalities" do exist within. One member tells me, "Haters gonna hate. Can’t make fun properly unless you’ve done the time."
Are people who shop at the Coop really as "crazy" as all that? Or are the rest of us just "crazy" for continuing to obsess and parse out every nitty-gritty detail about how a bunch of people in Brooklyn do their shopping? I guess we all have to get our metaphorical vegan macaroons somewhere.