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I found Stephanie Mencimer’s article on Fresh Fields (“You Aren’t What You Eat,” 1/21) to be a mixed bag. I am a regular shopper at the one in Georgetown, and I can’t wait until the one at 15th and P opens up so I don’t have to make that long trek every other week by bus or cab. Granted, I think Mencimer’s comments about people shopping at Fresh Fields as a sign of status are somewhat accurate. I can tell you that when I first started shopping there, I felt like a kid in a candy store. My grocery bill was sky-high and I would spend at least an hour and a half in the store, because of all the “status” goodies in every aisle.

Nowadays, my shopping trips are more routine and much shorter, and, believe it or not, they fit into my budget. As a matter of fact, what I spend on food per month is lower than the food budgets of most of the people I know who are my age and single—because I don’t eat out a lot and cook 90 percent of what I eat. Granted, my need for status is still present every time I shop at Fresh Fields, but it is certainly not as bad as it once was.

However, Mencimer admits that Washington, D.C., has bad produce. I have lived here for four years, and I have yet to go to a Safeway, Giant, or Shoppers Food Warehouse that has decent produce. Fresh Fields has the best produce I have seen in this area—as attested by its longer shelf life in my refrigerator. Also, I have yet to get sick from the free-range chicken that I buy from Fresh Fields.

I am not going to argue about what Consumer Reports or the Department of Agriculture says. All I know is that when I was shopping at Safeway and Giant, I had more health problems and couldn’t function as well. I buy similar foods at Fresh Fields and I don’t have as many problems. That is the primary reason I shop at Fresh Fields. And no, I don’t buy into their let’s-save-the-world routine, either. I was aware of that mixed message the minute I walked into a Fresh Fields store. I don’t buy any of the cosmetics, paper products, or toiletries there because of their sky-high price tags and my experience that they don’t work any better than their less expensive counterparts at CVS or Rite-Aid.

And, like the gentleman who said, “So [the cheese] doesn’t have nitrates in it. But it will kill you anyway,” I have found many foods at Fresh Fields that are just as harmful for you as what you find at Safeway and Giant. There are just some foods that are not good for you regardless of whether they are organic. At least the author of the article was honest about her own potential to succumb to this nonsense in the first place.

My biggest problem with Mencimer’s article is that she doesn’t seem to understand that many times things in life are trade-offs. Granted, there is a lot of hype surrounding the ability to shop at Fresh Fields, and every aisle you walk down you are bombarded by all these mixed messages. However, you are just as immersed in hype and mixed messages when you shop at a Safeway or Giant. The question is, Which messages do you listen to? People who shop at Fresh Fields aren’t the only ones guilty of conspicuous consumerism, you know.

Scott Circle