I had the pleasure of discovering the Park Slope Food Coop the other day located here in Brooklyn, just a short walk from Jay’s apartment. It is one of the oldest and largest food coops in the nation, boasting over 12,000 members and established in 1973. What a treat to find a haven of organic, local food in the city.

After moving out here, Jay told me how disappointed he was with the grocery store options. It is so hard to imagine coming from Oregon where we have our choice of gourmet, privately-owned stores. There is a Whole Foods in Manhattan and a handful of Trader Joe’s scattered around, but they are not in abundance and not very convenient to the apartment.

For the most part, the run-of-the-mill grocery stores are small and carry a rather pathetic selection of processed foods, junk white breads, factory farmed meats, and very few organic, or even fresh, options. And even with low quality of grocery items, everything seems over-priced to my Oregon eyes. Most likely because the rent is so high and the cost of transporting goods into the city is expensive.

But a friend of Jay’s belonged to the coop and brought Jay through as a visitor. You are not allowed to shop there unless you are a member, but walking through with his friend was enough to convince Jay to become a member as soon as possible. You must sit through an orientation before receiving membership, which can take anywhere from weeks to months depending on the waiting list. Eventually Jay was accepted and he works 2-3 hours a month in exchange for his membership doing things like stocking shelves.

I walked through with Jay as his “guest” very soon after arriving here for the holidays and was overwhelmed at the fabulous selection of really good, often locally grown food. We filled our bags with fabulous cheese, meats, fresh vegetables, free-range eggs and the like. The prices were extremely reasonable when compared with other NY groceries and the quality was excellent. I can’t wait to become a member next summer when I am living out here.

Unlike many New Yorkers, we cooked all of our meals at home last week with all the loot from the coop. Such a challenge when you are working with 12″ of counter space, a mini oven, and very few cooking utensils, but we managed some delicious and successful meals. As we entertain guests over the next few weeks, we will have our fair share of eating out at New York’s fine restaurants. But having a week of healthy, home-cooked meals was exactly what I needed to re-energize myself.

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Written by Renee Wilkinson