PRET A MANGER and the like

Corporations often get a bad rap, especially during this wildly crazy political season, but I think there are a lot of good ones. I’m retiring next month from a very good one, Crate and Barrel. More importantly, I recently discovered one that makes my mind and tummy shout: yes!

I’m always looking for places where I can find good vegan or vegetarian options. I’ll ask you in advance: if you know of any in your neighborhood, let me know, please!

To balance my healthy appetite, I exercise a lot. On Friday mornings I swim at the Boston Sports Clubs. For months I walked by the establishment next door whose French name always caught my eye: PRET A MANGER. I am a sucker for all things French. And a linguist, of sorts. My mind’s eye automatically put in the accent circumflex over the ê and an accent grave over the à. But that’s just me. What matters is that it means, as you probably know, ready to eat. And in this case, the food is also great.

So finally one day I couldn’t resist. The familiar smell of baked goods hit me as soon as I opened the door. Croissants, of course. But, not eating dairy these days, what else did they have? Could I even eat there? And the answer was resoundingly, yes. Phew.


Straight ahead at the counter were their croissants, bagels, muffins. In the corner I noticed a fresh fruit stand and to the right were the shelves of … this was the make-it-or-break-it moment … prepared food items. To my delight, I immediately noticed they had freshly prepared 5-grain and steel-cut oatmeal, coconut-based yogurt, and cups of fresh fruit (like a three-inch mixture of oranges, mango and kiwi that looked like it had just been sliced, topped with pomegranate seeds. Yum). PRET, as it is affectionally known, does not purport to be vegan. It’s pricey but as I looked at the “wall art,” I found a philosophy I was willing to pay for.


This is as close to a restaurant as any quick, pick-up-something-healthy place can be. Plus it’s fun, modern, vibrant. This is not a fast-foods venue that brings in food from who knows where that has been frozen, stored and shipped “fresh” each week. Each location has its own kitchen or one near by. They slice and dice vegetables all day long. There are no expiration dates on the sandwiches because there is no need of one.

I know I sound like a sales rep but these things mean a lot. Fresh, organic, baked on the premise, cooked, sliced, prepared by hand are all important.

The only person looking out for my health is me. Yes, corporations are there to make money but I happen to like the fact that PRET A MANGER is riding the “it’s good for you” wave. The latest food slogan seems to be “Clean and Green” and PRET is all that. It makes it easier for those of us who are hungry and on the go (without either food at home or the inclination to cook) and who want a healthy option. We know other temptations are out there. I could fill the rest of this page with those choices.

No one is perfect and I personally don’t think we should be. Those occasional food treats are the spice of life. It’s the day-to-day we should pay attention to, making as many good choices as we can.

I’m excited that PRET A MANGER is successful. I was in New York City recently and saw a couple of them there. That means the demand is out there for tasty, fresh food. And if the demand is there, good corporations will provide it.

What’s in your neighborhood?? I’ve told you about one of mine, what’s near you?? Restaurant, lunch place, grocery store, bakery? Where would you go for healthy, delectable options?

Send me, in the comment section, at least one place that you know. We all eat out. This way we can share. Thanks and bon appétit!




10 Reasons to Buy Locally Grown

I picked up a 2015 Local Food Guide at the rec center where I do Zumba. It’s a great booklet celebrating and featuring all the local farms, ocean harvesters, artisan foods, markets and restaurants. On the back cover, they gave these 10 reasons to buy locally grown. I had to share them. These reasons work for your area as well.

1. LOCALLY GROWN TASTES AND LOOKS BETTER. The products are usually picked at their peak and sold within 24 hours (as opposed to imported from afar and transported in trucks or planes and stored first in warehouses)

2. LOCAL FOOD SUPPORTS LOCAL FAMILIES. That’s great. Some of them may even be your neighbors or someone you know.

3. LOCAL FOOD BUILDS TRUST. There’s not a question of food safety when you can look your farmer in the eye and see his or her products.

4. LOCAL FOOD BUILDS COMMUNITY. I know this one from my parents who were local retailers. Getting to know the folks who grow your food is important. You might be surprised who the farmers are. I would suggest even a trip to the farm to see how the food is grown. You’ll never look at a zucchini the same way again.

5. LOCAL FOOD PRESERVES OPEN SPACE. We need the air and the green. We have plenty of city space.

6. LOCAL FOOD KEEPS TAXES DOWN. According to this Buy Fresh Buy Local Cape Cod guide ( several studies show farms contribute more in taxes than they require in services (the opposite of residential developments).

7. LOCAL FOOD BENEFITS THE ENVIRONMENT AND WILDLIFE. Imagine a patchwork of farms with fields, meadows, woods, streams and ponds. That’s priceless for the wildlife and our eco system.

8. LOCAL FOOD MAKES A LIGHTER CARBON FOOTPRINT. We’ve heard a lot about that. The average non local food travels about 1500 miles from farm to plate.

9. LOCAL FOOD PRESERVES GENETIC DIVERSITY. Remember the actual taste of a tomato and smell of a rose? Industrial agriculture is bred for uniformity and to survive harvesting and transport. I want taste and flavor and good nutrition.

10. LOCAL FOOD IS AN INVESTMENT IN YOUR COMMUNITY’S FUTURE. Yep, buying local supports, preserves and strengthens the character of the community for the next generation of farmers. And for us.