December 29, 2013
I've been taking a bit of a blog holiday, both from reading and writing. It started when we took a short East Coast trip and I didn't have my computer, and then just kept going, and going. My schedule has been disrupted by holiday hours, and my mind had been taken over by Doctor Who. The Doctor is still honing in on my time, but I'm trying to take back at least a small portion of my brain. So....
I read a post on Carrie on vegan about her top ten things to buy at Trader Joe's, and it got me thinking. Back before I moved to Seattle, and before TJ's was in Wisconsin, we used to come to Seattle to visit our oldest son, and TJ's was on the 'tourist list'. Back then it seemed so unique, and we loved going there to see what interesting items they had. I used to buy chocolate-covered coffee beans to bring back to my office mates, and just having a Trader Joe's label made them a novelty. (I know. Some of us are easily entertained.)
When Trader Joe's opened a store two blocks from our house in Madison, we couldn't get near the place for weeks. Our normally popular neighborhood became a destination, and we watched in wonder as people rolled stacked cases of wine down the sidewalk to their cars. Even TJ's was shocked at the response — they could barely keep the shelves stocked. The neighbors held off for a couple of months before shopping, until the 'outsiders' calmed down, then it became our neighborhood grocery store. We had our favorite items to buy there, but one thing that can make TJ's both frustrating and interesting, is that the stock keeps changing, and the new product that becomes a favorite can disappear at any time.
So jump to the present, and here we are living in Seattle about a mile from a Trader Joe's store, but we seldom go there, preferring our local co-op and Whole Foods. After reading Carrie's post, I decided we needed to check in with TJ, and see what we could find. We picked up a few of Carrie's faves, like organic Turkish apricots (excellent!), soy milk, fire-roasted no-salt salsa and fermented black garlic. (Fermented black garlic? Have you used it? How?) We also bought some of our old TJ staples like frozen mango, roasted unsalted pistachios, kimchee, bourbon vanilla extract, organic limes, mushrooms, gluten-free pasta, avocados and paper towels along with some new TJ finds like cooked baby beets, organic clementines, ruby red grapefruit, organic d'anjou pears and organic broccoli florets. I think it was our largest single haul ever from Trader Joe's, and all I can think of is we must have been hungry when we went shopping. So far everything I've tried — grapefruit, avocado, pears, clementines, pistachios, noodles, broccoli and apricots — have been great.
After we got home, I came across two articles about Trader Joe's that provide food for thought. The first was an article about the origins of Trader Joe's and its parent company, Aldi, in Germany. It's an informative and entertaining account of brotherly competition, rivalry and success. We don't have Aldi yet in Washington, but I suspect it's coming in the next couple of years as it's in Southern California now.
The second article was not entertaining, and made me wish that we had at least made our own kimchee and cooked our own beets. It concerned the grim plight of a dead sperm whale that washed up on a beach in Spain, its belly full of plastic traced back to Aldi — a sad example of failure to protect the environment with the conscientious use of materials and proper recycling. It wasn't just Aldi that was at fault, but several European-based grocery chains that were involved in failing to monitor the materials used to grow and package greenhouse-grown winter vegetables. I try to do what I can to support ethical, cruelty-free, environmentally responsible businesses, but sometimes I just feel overwhelmed by the enormity of the problem. Where do you draw the line? Do you express your concerns to stores about their business practices? Do you buy only in bulk and only what's in season locally? We've become so used to excess packaging, that I think it's again time for me to take a closer look at how and where we shop, and how we respond to stories about environmental irresponsibility.
On a lighter note, I hope everyone had a pleasant holiday (as in time-off from work, and visits with family and friends if you don't celebrate Christmas), and a very Merry Christmas, if you celebrate. Wishing you a Happy New Year filled with love, peace and serenity!
Labels: shopping at trader joe's