I’m not sure how I managed to get this old without setting
foot in a Trader Joe’s but somehow I had never even seen one. Maybe it had
something to do with being an Air Force wife and living in so many off-the-map
places that had nothing but an Air Force base and a commissary. Whatever the
reason, I had no idea why people were so enthusiastic. When the rumors of a TJ
coming to Germantown first circulated, I may have been the only person in
Memphis who was not excited.
Still, the hype eventually piqued my interest, and when the
store finally opened last week, I started to make a list. I asked everyone I talked to about their TJ
favorites, and I soon had a long list, but one invariably topped by two items: Mandarin
Orange Chicken and Cookie Butter. Other treats jostling for top sport were
Triple Gingersnaps and something called Ginger Chews. Then came bagel seasoning
and various exotic produce items.
Armed with my list, a friend and I ventured out to explore.
No one warned me about the traffic—not outside, but in the aisles. Related
images kept flashing through my mind as I struggled to push my cart into a
slow-moving line of discriminating shoppers.
Imagine the Santa Ana Freeway at rush hour; an inbound evacuation route
as a hurricane bears down on the coast; the Salmon River during spawning season.
I hear it’s a beautiful store, but all I saw were people and
whatever happened to be at eye-level on the shelves as I passed by. And if I missed an item and wanted to go back
. . . well, imagine being a car going the wrong way on that rush hour freeway.
Just turning around caused a ripple effect of clashing carts.
Eventually I gathered most of my items without spending too
much money and came home to indulge in some sampling. The results were . . .
instructive. First came a Ginger Chew, which sent puffs of peppery steam right
through the top of my skull. Too late, I read the bag, which recommended these
as a cure for travel sickness. Maybe so! Hoping for something a little milder I
tried a Gingersnap, which turned out to have three kinds of ginger and not much
else. A peanut butter pretzel cooled my taste buds, and I decided to try the
orange chicken for dinner. You guessed it. The most prominent flavor was ginger.
Still searching for the ultimate TJ high, I tried their
plain yogurt for breakfast. Not even raspberries and granola could add any
sweetness to it. So I turned to a
crumpet (yes, a TJ crumpet) topped with cookie butter. That wasn’t too bad, but
you probably don’t need to be told that cookie butter tastes like gingerbread.
What is it with these people? Have they never heard of garlic? Oh, yes, there’s always the bagel seasoning.
Will I go back? Of course. It’s the next best thing to
visiting a street market in Morocco. Besidesnow I understand the origins of the
word “gingerly,” which means to do something with extreme caution.