Wednesday, July 12, 2006

From Lookout Joe to Trader Joe's

I brought two pounds of Lookout Joe out here with me, and they're almost gone... there are about 3 tablespoons left. It is the end of my five-year era of drinking no other type of coffee. Goodbye, Mount Lookout. Out here is the land of Trader Joe's. I had been to the one in Kenwood a couple times and found it irritating; first, you have to go to Kenwood, find the right shopping-center driveway and park by David's Bridal. Then you walk in with your grocery list and find that half the stuff you want is either not currently in stock or has never been in stock. "But try these fantastic chocolate-covered frozen strawberries!" a brightly colored sign will say. I am not that kind of grocery shopper. If the store is trying to push strawberries on me, by God I want to know what's the matter with those strawberries that they want to get rid of them so fast. What kind of sucker do they think I am? I am here to buy vinegar, dammit.

So when I got out here and was told to visit Trader Joe's, I did so with some trepidation. The one near our hotel in Pasadena - which, according to a (brightly colored) sign, was the Very First Trader Joe's Ever! - is exactly like the one in Kenwood. I suspect the "handmade" signs are the same. (This was confirmed when I spotted three identical ones with different cheese names written in, prompting me to go "AHA!" and alarm the other customers.) One day I went with a shopping list of not-quite-basic things- rice vinegar, soy sauce, sesame oil - so I could make my favorite peanut sauce. Well, forget it. Trader Joe does not want you making your own peanut sauce. He wants you to buy his Special Recipe in a reasonably priced jar with an amusing label! However, the goddamn place is winning me over. I have to shop somewhere, and I can't go to Bigg's anymore. The orange juice is reasonably priced and quite good. So is the milk. And the yogurt, and the bread. And, of course, the wine. I picked up some Trader Joe's Bock intending to laugh at it and actually ended up liking it. And I've gotten a couple packages of Prepackaged Fun Exotic Foods and found them fine - not as good as I can make, but adequate for a temporary kitchen. When Art Boy left here a few weeks ago, I was complaining about the store and snarling about its jaunty little signs that reminded me of college. When he got back, he found a weird object in the dryer and said "What's this?" I told him it was a Trader Joe's Lavender Laundry Sachet, of course. He looked at me for a minute and then walked off, shaking his head and going "I leave for ten days."

Anyway, I'm sure they have some simply adorably packaged coffee, perhaps sold by "Trader Juan" or some shit. It will probably be fair-trade, organic, reasonably cheap and quite good. Goddammit.

Today's book: "Unexplained Laughter," by Alice Thomas Ellis. Two London women spend a few weeks in a Welsh cottage and are creeped out by the locals, particularly someone's mad sister who's kept in her room when she's not roaming freely around the countryside spying on everyone. Mainly the women talk between themselves about love and death, and the sister interjects italicized commentary remarking that she herself is pretty much dead. Nobody actually dies, unlike in some of Ellis' other short novels. There's not much plot to speak of, but it's worth reading for the acerbic conversations and eerie setting. It reminded me of her excellent "Fairy Tale," except without the storyline; it felt like deleted scenes from that book. I highly recommend Ellis' "Home Life" column over at; I'd link to it if I weren't on the coding-unfriendly Mac.


Kelly said...

Hurrah! I have Internet again!

For about a week, I considered making Trader Joe's my default grocery store. My rationale was that I am a grocery-store addict, and I never buy quite as much stuff there as anywhere else - but I still buy enough to live on. Clearly, that plan could not last for long.

But it is still my first choice for coffee; buying fair trade coffee is the one and only socially responsible grocery choice I make, and it's cheaper at Joe's than at Wild Oats. (And forget about the other stores, where fair-trade choices can be counted on two fingers. Once I couldn't find any at all in Meijer; the imaginary dialogue between me and the invisible store employee was piercing and strident.)

I hope you're settling in well in the land of actual Two-Buck Chuck (as opposed to $3.29 Chuck).

AE said...

Yes, having the Chuck actually be Two-Buck is pretty nice. I've totally converted to Joe's now, although for coffee I'm hooked on Peet's. Joe's meat is surprisingly good, considering it's all shrink-wrapped and not in a Butcher Counter Display like at your larger grocery stores. Mainly at Joe's, I end up buying lots of premade food and lots of wine. It's fun. If only the store weren't so damn tiny.

I do miss Meijer, though, in a weird way.