Lots of people get off the A/C at Nostrand Avenue, a hazy divider between Crown Heights and Bed-Stuy-Crown Stuy, my super punk hairstylist/realtor called it. Its home to a variety of stores, especially variety stores, and an astounding collection of roti, hipsters, church ladies and couture-tacky jewelry. And you should see the brownstones. Unless you’re a hipster, and you already bought one. Oh, I love Nostrand, especially its arsenal of natural foods. I mean, dumping an entire bag of chia seeds into a 4 serving bowl of amaranth cereal is decidedly unnatural, but you dig.
There’s a 5 or so block radius in which you can get all the agave, psyllium husk and Daiya products you think you need (though you definitely need less psyllium than you think, take it from me) for a fraction of their prices at Whole Foods.
When you climb out of the station onto Fulton, skip the Papaya King/Gray’s Papaya knockoff. I think it might be called ‘Fulton Papaya Corp.’ Ok. Anyway, don’t go in. Or do, because they have the bomb chili dogs, but After THAT, go next door to Fresh Health Food Emporium for a glut of gluten free products. And, until you eat half a loaf of Udi’s bread in one sitting, you’re deeply appreciative of wheat’s absence in your GI system and the freedom from Candida! When you leave, buy a belt from the guy sitting outside. Or a 3 pack of Hanes. You probably need some more Hanes.
Head down Fulton towards New York, an avenue worth a walk for the dazzling mansions alone. But before you turn onto that street, there’s Tony’s Country Life. Oh, Tony’s. How many pairs of Bob’s Oat Bars have I bought from you, telling myself the 2nd one is for tomorrow. But they never are, are they, Tony’s? No…they’re not.
Besides that double hitter of fiber from the front counter, Tony’s is fabulous for dairy substitutes, bulk nuts and walls made of Yogi Tea bricks. There’s a small counter for hunks of prettily colored soaps and oils and there’s always a trio of giggling girls behind the counter and a 12 man team ready to help you get a can of soy chunks down from a high shelf.
We all scream for soy chunks, right? If you went up Nostrand, you hit the frankly named Health Food Supermarket at Pacific Street. A bell tinkles as you enter and a fridge with Kombuchas – priced charmingly out-of-date – sits across from a TV that Judge Joe Brown always seems to be presiding over. A tiny girl whose eyes barely peep out over the counter will guide you in choosing tonics, supplements, whole wheat cookies shaped like tigers. I usually get some tigers and senna leaves, explaining to her why I need it and her not caring. What’s best about this place is that they don’t care why you need this much Psyllium, but they will listen, because you can’t see them drumming their hands on a stool beneath the counter. And the soy, THE SOY. They have cans of soy, strips of soy, dried soy. There’s tvp and mycoprotein.
They have bagged bulk soy nuggets, as disappointing-looking outside an expensive vegan restaurant as you’d expect. Gnarled, brown, pressing hopelessly against the plastic bag like mutable stucco, the only thing distinguishing ‘chicken soy’ from ‘lamb soy’ is its sad beige color. What unites them is their need for rehydratation. If you’re not in the mood to rehydrate your own Textured Vegetable Protein (and who has the time, really?) and you want to retain the magic of having soy approach you, already gossamer and plump, keep heading south down Nostrand to Imhoptep’s.
Going past rows of boxed milks, flax and whey, you’ll find a skinny glass counter and two plastic tableclothed-tables (and beyond that, I think there’s a living room, a toddler sometimes darting out to smile shyly). Press your wannabe palms sweatily against the glass and choose between trays of soy duck, soy oxtail, soy patties. Soy soy. A small plate with 2 sides and a cup of the cleanest, tangiest sorrel will set you back less than $9. Their website suggests that their food lets you eat guilt free and fat free- the oily pools in some of the stews imply otherwise, but at least no real oxtails or patties were harmed. For this, you can feel good, and for the stroll back to Nostrand to pick up some 3 inch shorts from pretty Girl for $5, even better. Just take it easy on the Udi’s if you want to fit in them.
Also it is Fulton Papaya Corp., I just looked.
Imhotep’s Health & Living
734 Nostrand Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11216-3674
Fresh Health Food Emporium
1276 Fulton Street, Brooklyn, NY
Tony’s Country Life
1316 Fulton Street, Brooklyn, NY
Health Food Supermarket
there’s not even an address online, but whatever. Pacific and Nostrand. And you don’t have to call.
Photo Credit: Me