We were down to hamburger buns, a can of tuna, and one lone artichoke, so Pa and I headed to town this morning for supplies. Pittsburgh, that is. Trader Joe’s, baby. The quintessential General Store.
Grocery shopping is complicated here in Podunkville for a pseudo-vegetarian on a low-fat, low-sodium diet. No one store sells everything that I like and can eat. We have a Super Wal-Mart that doesn’t believe in selling reduced-fat cheese or lettuce with a sell-by date of later than yesterday, but carries acceptable organic grape tomatoes; a local chain store that has a sprinkler aimed directly at the Brussels sprouts and a bread manager who’s never heard of pita bread (and if you’re looking to make banana bread, trust me, you’ll find the ripest bananas here all day every day), but they’re the only place in a 50-mile radius that carries light butter; a small butcher shop that has the best hams around (for my carnivore husband and kids), but is infested with fruit flies year-round and whose mushrooms prove that even fungus can go bad; and a small health-food store where I can at least buy low-sodium vegetable broth and Newman’s Own organic pretzels. Oh, and red lentils.
Shopping here is frustrating. That’s why every few weeks I gas up the Subaru, load up the cooler with ice, and head to Da’burgh and stock up on real food – artichokes the size of a small child’s head, organic beets, sliced mangos, low-fat parmesan ranch dressing, whole grain crackers, ahi tuna, mahi mahi, Thai noodles, Fage yogurt, korma sauce, peppered cashews, and the one food that I know I should ban from my house, but I can’t resist: horseradish hummus.
TJ’s is the Tiffany’s of grocery shopping without the expensive price tag. Bring your own bags and you get a little ticket to sign up for a $50 gift certificate. Everyone’s friendly, too. Not Wal-Mart friendly, but fun friendly, like they actually get paid more then $5.50 an hour.
After hitting Panera for lunch, Dick’s for a couple pairs of spandex shorts, and Best Buy so Pa could spend his Christmas gift certificate on an Allman Brother’s DVD, we grabbed some coffee at Starbucks and headed home. The traffic wasn’t bad on the twisty winding road home. Only got stuck behind two dump trucks as opposed to the usual: three semis, an Amish buggy, and the wide-load hauling a used double-wide to its destination at some exotic-sounding trailer court in the suburbs of Podunkville.
I realize I’m not being very fair in my assessment of Podunkville. Despite its lack of culinary necessities, it is quiet, relatively crime-free, and we have a coffeehouse that truly rivals Starbucks. My friends are here, I’m living in my favorite house ever, and we have a high-speed internet connection that allows me to shop in my pajamas at Old Navy and Gap and Eddie Bauer without putting on makeup or spending $3 a gallon driving there.
Now excuse me, I hear some soy non-dairy frozen vanilla yumminess in my freezer that is most definitely calling my name. And what else is that I hear? TJ’s dark chocolate mint drops? Is that you?
I’m outta here. Happy food dreams, everyone!