Trader Joe's

The families in my neighborhood exchanges little gifts at Christmas, and I usually make an assortment of homemade cookies and candies for each family. This year I am not baking for them, and it’s all Joe’s fault – Trader Joe’s, that is.

I was introduced to TJ’s by my sister-in-law shortly after moving to California (yes, the one that mailed me spices) and soon became, well, enamored. Flatbread, tzatziki sauce and hummus, organic blue corn tortilla chips and fresh salsa, fresh organic fruits and veggies, scrumptious soups (tomato and roasted red pepper is a personal fav) and a plethora of other tasty items with ingredients I could both pronounce and recognize – I soon did most of my grocery shopping at TJ’s. I was bummed when I moved back to Virginia and realized the closest one to my house was an hour away. But, I was determined to have my cranberry crunch cereal, Thai peanut sauce and organic haricot vert (green beans) and would make the trek once a month, cooler and reusable shopping bags in tow, over the river and through the woods to Trader Joe’s I’d go. Imagine my elation when rumors started to swirl that we were getting one right here in town. Speculation abounded as to where it would go and exactly when it would open. TWO YEARS after the initial rumblings, I finally stood in a blocks-long line of fellow TJ’s aficionados waiting for my chance inside the grand opening.

Now I can go whenever I have the need. I try to stick to the necessities, but who can with such a fabulous range of unique items. For instance, I go in for whole wheat pita bread, strawberry kefir (a probiotic yogurt-type drink my kids love), quinoa (a delicious alternative to couscous or rice) and chocolate soymilk (another favorite of the kids) and walk out with five bags filled with sesame honey almonds, creamy corn and roasted red pepper soup, sparkling blueberry juice, Double Gloster cheese with chives and more – and forget the pita bread.

This is what happened to my traditional cookie gift. It went by the wayside when I saw the array of distinctive Christmas items at TJ’s. I couldn’t stop myself. My cart was soon filled with elegant tins of sipping chocolate, chocolate truffles, chocolate oranges, and peppermint Jo Jo’s (far tastier than Oreo’s, in my opinion). This year the neighbors are all getting an assortment of TJ-made chocolate treats. Somehow, I don’t imagine they will mind.

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