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Park Slope Food Coop vs. The Soviet Union / How the Brooklyn grocery store reminds of the ´Evil Empire,´ only with better bean sprouts (NEW YORK DAILY NEWS OP-ED) BY ALEXANDER NAZARYAN 03/28/12)Source: http://www.nydailynews.com/opinion/park-slope-food-coop-soviet-union-article-1.1051947 NEW YORK DAILY NEWS NEW YORK DAILY NEWS Articles-Index-TopPublishers-Index-Top
Democracy was the word I most often kept hearing at the Park Slope Food Coop’s contentious Tuesday night vote on whether to consider a ban on Israeli products.

Proponents of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement argued that it was only democratic to have all 16,000 of the progressive supermarket’s members vote on the issue. Meanwhile, the pro-Israel contingent countered that Israel was itself a democracy and any attempts to compare it to apartheid South Africa needed to cease for good.

But another word kept occurring to me: communism. No, I don’t mean the lazy Park Slope stereotype of a neighborhood rife with Brown graduates who vote Green. I mean actual communism, marching in colonnades down Red Square.

Yes, I just compared a supermarket that sells organic arugula to the so-called “Evil Empire” of Lenin and Stalin. But the comparison is not an outlandish one. This is a grocery store that offers "amnesty" to lapsed members, summoning images of some refusenik returning to his Moscow apartment from the Gulag.

I left the Soviet Union some two decades ago, having spent my formative years in Leningrad. And I left the Park Slope Food Coop in the late 2000s, having had enough of its long lines and mandated monthly work shifts, not to mention a pervasive rudeness that one might expect to hear from a Chelyabinsk boor, but not a woman decked out in Kate Spade and pushing a Bugaboo stroller down an aisle of artisanal cheese.

I very briefly rejoined the coop this week purely in order to hear the Israeli debate (the general meeting at which that debate was held is members-only; and though press was forbidden, I ventured forth in the pursuit of truth, as did fellow journalists from other outlets). The proposal was voted down last night; I watched the vote and then left the Coop for what I think will be the last time. Somehow, the squat grocery store at 782 Union St. reminds me a little too much of the socialist paradise — in the worst possible way.

To be fair, it started as a good idea. In 1973, 56 years after the Bolsheviks stormed the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg, a group of well-meaning red diaper babies in Brooklyn decided to start a grocery store that presciently coalesced around revolutionary ideas about eating that, much later, Michael Pollan would make famous. They ate well before eating well was hip.

They would buy local and organic, from small farms when they could.

They would buy responsibly, too. In its first year, the coop refused to buy sugar from South Africa. Later, Coca-Cola would be removed from coop shelves for “exploitative” activities in Latin America. And both meat and alcohol were not stocked initially in deference to members’ cultural tastes. (© Copyright 2012 NYDailyNews.com. 03/28/12)


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