Note: This column appears in the 4/2 issue of The Glendale Star and the 4/3 issue of the Peoria Times
Last week, for the first time ever, my wife and I went to Trader Joe’s.
For those unaware, Trader Joe’s is a grocery store that prides itself on selling independently grown and manufactured foods with natural ingredients, as well as other environmentally friendly products. It is essentially a grocery store for hippies.
Are we hippies? It’s difficult to say. I often feel that my wife and I are this strange hybrid –- pun intended –- of old-world conservatism and postmodern realism. (Side note: I have no idea what “postmodern realism” means. So please don’t email me.) Our lives are either one big contradiction of ideals or the perfect balance of extremes. For example, we’re vegetarians, but we live in Arizona. We’re Yankees fans, but we love the underdog. We’re indignant at Republican corruption, but not that confident about Democrats. We’re Catholic, but we watch “The Hills.”
I think it’s a generational thing, as both of us were molded mostly by our parents and partly by our education and an advancing and “progressive” popular culture. We take each issue as it comes and our opinions aren’t predetermined by any affiliation. But the one realm where we are free to express our hippy side is food.
As mentioned, we are vegetarians. This is a difficult concept for many people to grasp, especially people around here. Who hunt. Which is apparently everyone. (True story: Outside of Dunkin Donuts a few weeks ago, a guy sitting next to me introduced himself and then immediately told me a story about how he had just killed a mountain lion. Apparently I don’t put out a vegetarian vibe.) In becoming vegetarians we forced ourselves to appreciate the non-meat food groups. Like cheese. And pasta. And pasta with cheese on it. You see, giving up meat doesn’t automatically make you healthier.
Which is why, since discovering there was a Trader Joe’s on Bell Road in Glendale, we had been meaning to go there. We wanted to break the habit of our usual grocery shopping tendencies. We liked the idea of eating healthier, and now we wanted to actually try it.
From the moment we walked in, they had me at “organic cashew butter.” I didn’t even feel like I was grocery shopping –- it’s not a cavernous, aisle-filled arena, but more like a friendly neighborhood produce store. Yet I could have spent all day in there.
Hand-rolled wheat pita bread? I’ll take it. Organic veggies? Yes, please. Fake Cheerios with dried fruit mixed in? I think I’ll mix that with some soymilk. Tofu? Why of course. Pre-packaged sushi? Under any other circumstances, absolutely not. But I trust Trader Joe. (And he didn’t betray me –- delicious!) They also have organic meats, if you’re into that sort of thing.
Contrary to popular belief, it wasn’t any more expensive than a regular grocery-shopping trip. We even got entered in a raffle for bringing our own bags. Also, we stopped global warming. But then it came back. Maybe. Who knows.
You can also probably tell how much healthier I feel by the manner and speed in which I wrote this column. Trader Joe’s was made for hippies like me. In fact, I’m not sure if I can ever go back to the big chain supermarkets ever again. I’ll stick with the little guy, thank you very much.